54th Troop Carrier Wing and the 11th Airborne Division

54th TCW patch

The 54th Troop Carrier Wing was established on 26 February 1943 [one day after the 11th A/B Div. at Camp MacKall] and commenced air transport and medical air evacuation operations in support of Fifth Air Force on 26 May 1943. advancing as battle lines permitted.

The unit took part in the airborne invasion of Nadzab, New Guinea in September 1943 by dropping the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, as well as Australian engineers and heavy equipment.

The wing employed C-47’s almost exclusively, but during late 1943 and much of 1944 also used 13 converted B-17E’s for armed transport missions in enemy-held territory. The 54th supported every major advance made by the allies in the Southwest Pacific Theater operating from primitive airstrips carved from jungles and air-dropping cargo where airstrips unavailable.

In July 1944, the wing dropped 1,418 paratroopers on Noemfoor Island to aid the allied invasion forces. Then assumed the task of handling all freight and personnel moving in troop carrier aircraft in the Southwest Pacific, in addition to scheduled and unscheduled air movement of cargo and troops, and air evacuation of wounded personnel.

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In preparation for airborne operations in the Philippines, the 54th TCW conducted joint training with the 11th Airborne Division.  August and September 1944 were held in Nadzab.  Due to the demands of transport resources in building up Allied strength in Netherlands, New Guinea, the wing rotated the squadrons in Doboduru where they received refresher training in paradrops and aerial supply.  The training proved to be of great value at Tagaytay Ridge, Corregidor and in the Cagayan Valley, Luzon, when the 11th A/B need a lift for their paratroopers and gliders.

Early December 1944, the 5th Air Force HQ was attacked as well as the 44th Station Hospital.  The 187th HQ Company [Smitty was there], set up a perimeter.  They stood there through the night, rifles ready.  By morning there were 19 dead enemy soldiers.  Col. Pearson sent out patrols that located another 17 Japanese hiding out in the rice paddies..

By late 1944 and during the early months of 1945, most wing missions were flown to the Philippines.  In February 1945, the wing flew three more airborne operations, all in the Philippines, to help encircle Japanese concentrations.   For the 11th A/B Division’s jump on Aparri in north Luzon, the first plane off the ground was piloted by Col. John Lackey. Wing C-47s dropped napalm on Caraboa Island in Manila Bay in March 1945.

When hostilities ended on Luzon, the wing moved the entire 11th Airborne Division (11,300 personnel) from the Philippines to Okinawa on short notice.  It would take the 54th Troop Carrier Wing two days to transport the 11th Airborne using 351 C-46s, 151 C-47s and 99 B-24s; with their bombs removed and crammed with troopers. The planes had carted the men; 1,161,000 pounds of equipment and 120 special-purpose jeeps for communication and supply.

The 54th then began transporting occupation forces into Japan, beginning with General Swing, the 187th Regiment (and Smitty).  On the first day, 123 aircraft brought 4,200 troopers to Atsugi Airfield.  During September 1945, the wing also evacuated over 17,000 former prisoners of war from Japan to the Philippines.

General R. L. Eichelberger, at right, with Maj. Gen. J. M. Swing, Commander, 11th
Airborne Division, receives the report of Japanese officers at Atsugi airfield,
during the initial landings.

The wing served as part of the occupation forces in Japan from 25 September 1945 to about 26 January 1946, while continuing routine air transport operations and a scheduled courier service. Beginning in December 1945 and continuing into mid-1946, most of the wing’s components were reassigned to other units or inactivated, and on 15 January 1946 the wing became a component of the Far East (soon, Pacific) Air Service Command.

Moving to the Philippines, the wing gained new components and flew scheduled routes between Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and the Hawaiian Islands.  Replaced by the 403rd Troop Carrier Group on 31 May 1946 and was inactivated.

Further, more detailed information can be found in the publications by the IHRA.

This article incorporates material from the US Air Force Historical Research Agency, “The Angels: The History of the 11th Airborne Division” & “Rakassans”, both by Gen. E.M. Flanagan; Wikipedia and US Airborne Commando Operations.

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From:  GP Cox to all my readers, friends and occasional drop-ins…

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Military Humor – 

‘I count only four parachutes. Where’s Mr. Simms?’

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Farewell Salutes – 

George ‘Pete’ Buckley – Salem, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, glider pilot

DeArmond Canada (100) – US Army, WWII

Forest M. Dickson – Cheyenne, WY; US Air Force, Korea, Airman 2nd Class

Walter Ferris – Armagh, No.IRE; British Royal Engineers, WWII / Indian Army, Bombay Sappers, CBI

Joseph M. Gasper (102) – Elwood City, PA; US Army, WWII, PTO, SSgt., 3 Bronze Stars

Frank ‘Buck-shot’ Kipp – St. Louis, MO; US Army, WWII, ETO, mine clearing

George Monthan – Tucson, AZ; US Navy, WWII, Comdr. VF-103, ‘Air Boss’ USS Saratoga / Joint Chief of Staff

Kenneth O’Hare – Ainsworth, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ Co./11th Airborne Division

Margaret (Callihan) Prince (100) – Doddridge County, WV; Civilian, WWII, Dupont/Manhattan Project

William Salley – Springfield, SC; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Lt. Colonel (Ret.), Purple Heart

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About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on December 31, 2020, in Post WWII, SMITTY, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 152 Comments.

  1. Thank you very much to share the nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am glad to see your article. Thanks a lot to share with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrier wings and air lift squadrons seem to get forgotten. I owe this bunch of men for helping to train my father enough that he came home. Thanks for reading about them!

      Like

  3. Sometimes I have a hard time sorting out all the details, but two things jumped out at me here. The first was your comment about “operating from primitive airstrips carved from jungles.” I’ve flown out of and into a couple of those, hacked out of the bush with machetes. A couple of them had 30 degree slopes: great fun.

    The other’s that hilarious “rough neighborhood” cartoon. One of my uncles was from New Jersey. One day he had a flat on one of the bridges going into Manhattan. I think it was the George Washington. He went around to the trunk to get out the spare, and when he returned to the front of the car, there was a guy already busily at work, who said, “Hey, man. You take the back and I’ll take the front.” That joke is based in reality!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Similar ones like that about NYC too!! I know a long time ago, someone times a street crew stripping a car and it was done in a matter of seconds – kinda makes you wonder why it takes so long at the mechanic’s with your car, doesn’t it?

      Like

  4. We should never forget such valiant service.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank You Gp, for another information post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The 54th Troop Carrier Wing has done ihis job very good

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Happy New Year.
    Hoping for a much better 2021 😊
    x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Just a little note to say thank you GP for providing me with historical nuggets of information of the wars. I appreciate the effort you put into researching and summarising for a reader like me to digest it easily. Reading about wars is never pleasant but the slant you take as a a historian, makes it easy. Plus after the seriousness of the subject, there is always the military humor that lightens the mood. Big Garfield thanks! May 2021 bless you and your family with love, peace and good health. Take care and sorry for being lengthy in my comment here.

    Liked by 1 person

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