Plaque Dedication Air Force Museum 26 Sept. 2003
Bill Lloyd, President 317th Veterans Group
I would like to welcome all of you to this dedication ceremony honoring the 317th and the veterans who so proudly served. This is a historic event for the 317th and the veterans who contributed to its long and proud history. The 317th now takes it place in this Memorial Park along side our fellow Air Force units and one of our 317th veterans, Col. William Jones III, who is honored here at the Medal of Honor Wall.
We have several special guests I would like to recognize and thank them for being here today. Col. Pascal Valentin, FAF, Base Commander of Base Aerienne 105, Evreux, France; Col. David Chandler, Commander of the 40th Airlift Squadron 317th Airlift Group; the airmen of the 40th Airlift Squadron, Col. Patrice LeMao, President of the Evreux French American Veterans Association;
Invocation by 317th Veterans Group Chaplain, Hank Winters
Now I want to give a brief overview of the 317th.
The 317th ‘s long and distinguished history began in 1942 as the 317th Troop Carrier Group at Duncan Field near San Antonio, Texas. The group immediately began training on its primary aircraft, the C-47, preparing for operational duty in the Pacific theater. The 39th, 40th, 41st and 46th Troop Carrier Squadrons made up the operational squadrons.
As one of the first Troop Carrier Groups to see extensive service in the Pacific theater during the war, the 317th transported personnel and equipment into hostile combat zones and evacuated the wounded. As the war progressed, the group operated out of Australia, the Pacific Islands, and the Philippines. The 317th earned two Presidential Unit Citations for its efforts during the war.
After the war, the 317th spent several years in Japan and Korea until it moved to Celle, Germany in 1948. Flying C-54s, the 317th participated in the Berlin Airlift. In 1952 the 317th was redesignated a Troop Carrier Wing and moved to Rhein Main as one of the first troop carrier units of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In 1953 the 317th moved to Neubiberg flying the C-119s.
The 317th was relocated to Evreux-Fauville Air Base in France in 1957, with the first C-130 arriving in September of that year. The wing returned to the U.S. in 1963 to Lockbourne Air Force Base and for the next four years rotated squadrons back to Evreux until the base was turned over to the French Air Force.
In 1967 the 317th became a part of the Tactical Airlift Command and became the 317th Tactical Airlift Wing. At Lockbourne, the unit continued to support European deployments and provided training for aircrews bound for Vietnam. The 317th got its opportunity to serve in Vietnam and was among the first to airlift troops and supplies into Da Nang.
The 317th remained at Lockbourne until 1971, and then moved to Pope Air Force Base. At Pope AFB the unit supported operations by the US Army’s 18th Airborne Corps.
In 1993 the wing was deactivated until 1997, when it was reactivated as the 317th Airlift Group at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas where it remains today. The 317th has literally circled the globe and is now back where it started. They are still flying the C-130 aircraft meeting worldwide humanitarian, disaster relief and wartime operational commitments and is one of the busiest C-130 units in the Air Force. They are Air Mobility Command’s prime C-130 unit.
Has the 317th made a difference, you bet it has!
In 1943 the unit participated in the first airborne operation in the Pacific dropping over 1800 paratroopers of the 503rd Regiment at Nadzab to cut supply routes and seize airbases; writing itself into history as the first unit to conduct paratrooper airdrops in the Southwest Pacific. In 1944 they carried the vanguard of Gen. McArthur’s forces back to the Philippines and airdropped airborne troops on Corregidor which led to the opening of Manila Bay in Feb. 1945.
During the Berlin Airlift the unit flew over 28 thousand missions moving over 290 thousand tons of supplies to the blockaded city.
The humanitarian relief efforts the 317th was involved in over the years are to many to list all of them, but to just to mention a few were the Mercy Missions to Holland, Italy, Greece, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, India, Pakistan, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the US.
Here are just a few of the more well know missions that the 317th participated in:
Continuous flights through the Berlin air corridors to keep the airways open.
The Lebanon airlift for the UN peacekeepers
The Congo airlift to bring in food, rescue the Europeans and transport the UN peacekeepers.
The Lady Be Good mission as prominently told here in the Museum where almost all of the artifacts on display were donated by 317th vets.
The support missions for NASA’s Project Mercury. 13 Airmen were lost in the crash at Nairobi supporting Scott Carpenter’s Aurora 7 space flight. A new crew was dispatched the following day from Evreux so the Aurora 7 flight could go on as scheduled.
The India airlift to transport Indian troops to Leh airfield in the Himalayan Mountains.
Participated in Operation Homecoming, the release and return of the American POWs from Vietnam.
The rescue of the American students in Grenada
Operation Just Cause in Panama
The evacuation of Americans from Somalia
The first airlift unit to deploy to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield and supported Operation Desert Storm and Desert Calm.
Multiple operations in Bosnia and Kosovo to bring in medical supplies, food and the peacekeeping forces.
There were thousands of missions like these that did not make the headlines or the history books, but were just as important to the people being helped and they are forever embedded in the memories of the airmen who flew them. The smiles and warm welcome were a sufficient thank you.
For its meritorious service, the 317th has been awarded 12 Air Force Outstanding Unit Citations, 3 Distinguished Unit Citations, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation and numerous campaign streamers.
The plaque we are dedicating today features the original WWII 317th crest that was designed by Gerald Matarazzo in 1943. Gerald is a member of the 317th Veterans Group and unfortunately could not be with us today. The motto “I Gain by Hazard” came about as the 317th was flying out of Australia and New Guinea and had to pioneer new, unfamiliar, and often unsuitable landing fields. No useable charts of the region existed and they literally had to develop their own charts as they went along.
Our proud tradition continues with the 317th Airlift Group. Their extraordinary airlift support in Afghanistan and Iraq is currently going into the history books as the latest major airlift milestones in the storied history of the 317th.
Be it quelling hunger with pallets of food or aggressiveness with aerial assault, the men and women of the 317th have always been prepared to accept the challenges dealt them and take the 317th’s legacy to whatever worldly destinations fate determines.
As we dedicate this plaque to the 317th and its veterans, let us be proud of our service with this unit and thankful of the life long friendships we gained while serving our country.
With the unveiling of the plaque, Maj. Gen. (Ret) Charles Metcalf, AF Museum Director accepts the plaque for the Museum.