Happy 70th Birthday 374th Airlift Wing
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- On 12 November 1942, seventy years ago and nearly a year after the start of WWII, the 374th Troop Carrier Group was quietly activated in Brisbane, Australia under the 5th Air Force. From those harrowing days supporting Australian troops in Papua New Guinea, to flying essential airlift during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, to handling multiple humanitarian missions and providing continuous support of Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines into to the present, the 374th Airlift Wing and its Airmen have played a key role in many significant conflicts and events in this part of the world for seven decades.
It is worth pointing out that the 374th Airlift Wing's core mission of airlift has not changed once since the 374 TCG was activated in November 1942. Look at the wing's emblem for a visual manifestation of this 70-year heritage: There is a winged foot representing swiftness and movement through flight, and an armored hand emblematic of force and strength portraying the qualities of the wing. The hand holds a dagger, a weapon of authority, with the wheat stalk and arrow representing the 374th's mission of supply, equipment and organization. Yes, this describes our wing perfectly.
Likewise, the 374th's general area of responsibility has changed little over the last 70 years. During WWII the unit was stationed in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. After the war it moved to Guam, and then Japan where it served throughout the Korean War and into the Cold War. The 374th was temporarily inactivated until June 1966 when it was reactivated on Okinawa where it played an outsized role in the Vietnam Conflict. In May 1971 the wing moved to Taiwan, and then to the Philippines in November 1973. In October 1989 it put down roots at Yokota where it has been stationed ever since. Considering that all of these moves have occurred in the local area we might say that the 374th Airlift Wing has the western Pacific in its DNA.
That also goes for humanitarian support, which has long been a foundational mission for the wing. Whether repatriating POWs during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, transporting refugees out of South Vietnam after that country's collapse in 1975, moving Americans out of the Philippines when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, participating in relief efforts after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2008 Burma cyclone, or, most recently, assisting our Japanese friends in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake disaster, the 374th has always been ready to help its neighbors.
Besides its numerous Outstanding Unit Awards the 374th has garnered multiple honors starting in late 1942. The 374th's WWII decorations consist of Distinguished Unit Citations for Papua and Wau, as well as the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. It also earned campaign streamers for the Air Offensive of Japan, Papua, New Guinea, Northern Solomon Islands, the Bismarck Archipelago, Western Pacific, Leyte, Luzon, and Southern Philippines. During the Korean War the wing picked up the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation and even more campaign streamers: The United Nations Defensive, the UN Offensive, the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) Intervention, the First UN Counteroffensive, the CCF Spring Offensive, the UN Summer-Fall Offensive, the Second Korean Winter, the Korea Summer-Fall 1952, the Third Korean Winter, and the Korea Summer 1953. The 374th's myriad activities during the Vietnam War resulted in more decorations: Presidential Unit Citation Vietnam, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, and another Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation.
For seventy years the 374th has been a part of this region of the world in ways that few other Air Force units can lay claim. From its humble origins in Australia in 1942, to Operation Tomodachi just last year, our wing has a long and storied history of which we can all be proud.