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President Bill Lloyd's Speech at the Plaque Dedication Ceremony
26 September 2003


History 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, and 41st 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, where it served as a courier and ferrying unit moving personnel and equipment throughout the region. It also conducted operations out of the Pacific Islands and the Philippines. For its efforts during the war, the 317th earned two Presidential Unit Citations.

After the war, the 317th spent several years in Japan until it moved to Celle, Germany in 1948. Redesignated as the 317th Troop Carrier Wing (Heavy) in August 1948, unit personnel participated in Operation Vittles, the Berlin Airlift. The unit inactivated in Sept. 1949. When the unit activated at Rhein Main Air Base, as the 317th Troop Carrier Wing in July 1952, it became the first US Air Force unit assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The 317th moved to Neubiberg, Germany in 1953 where it continued to support NATO, UN and USAFE missions while flying the C-119 aircraft.

The 317th was relocated to Evreux-Fauville Air Base in France in 1957, with the first C-130 arriving in September of that year as it continued to support NATO, UN and USAFE missions. The wing returned to the U.S. in 1964 to Lockbourne Air Force Base. The connection to Evreux had not been completely severed and for the next three 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 C-130 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, when it then moved to Pope Air Force Base.

At Pope AFB the unit supported operations conducted by the US Army’s 18th Airborne Corps. The most notable accomplishment in the early 70’s was the development, testing and acceptance by the Air Force of the Adverse Weather Aerial Delivery System for high altitude airdrops in zero ground visibility.

The 317th inactivated in 1993 and remained so until April 1997, when it was activated 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 are 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!

Group personnel played a vital role in the liberation of New Guinea in 1943, airdropping 1800 paratroopers of the 503d 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 delivering over 290 thousand tons of supplies to the blockaded city.

The humanitarian relief efforts the 317th has participated in over the years are too many to list, but to just to mention a few were the Mercy Missions to Holland, Italy, Greece, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Kenya, Somalia, 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.

NASA’s Project Mercury. When 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.

Some of the operations in which the 317th has participated in read like a CNN headline:
317th sends C-130s to rescue American students in Grenada.

317th sends C-130s to fly initial assault and subsequent resupply missions as part of Operation Just Cause in Panama.

317th becomes the first tactical airlift unit to deploy to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield and supported Operation Desert Storm and Desert Calm.
Other operations in which the 317th has participated include:

  • The humanitarian relief effort for Iraqi Kurds in Northern Iraq.
  • The international famine relief effort and the rapid projection of forces to quell clan fighting and establish order in Somalia.
  • The movement of forces to Haiti to support the return of Haitian democracy.
  • 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, three Distinguished Unit Citations, a 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.


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