53d Airlift Squadron Plaque
A carefully carved and hand painted plaque of the 53d Airlift Squadron.
14 inches in length.
The 53d Airlift Squadron is part of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. It operates Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft for airlift and airdrop operations.
The squadron was first activated in June 1942 as the 53d Troop Carrier Squadron. After training in the United States, it deployed to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, where it participated in the airborne assault on Sicily, for which it earned a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC). It moved to England, where it participated in the D Day airborne assault, for which it earned a second DUC, and in Operation Market Garden, the attempt to secure a bridgehead across the Rhine River in the Netherlands. Following V-E Day, it participated in the movement of American troops back to the United States before inactivating in July 1945.
The squadron was reactivated in France in 1946, moving to Germany, where it participated in the Berlin Airlift. It returned to the United States in 1950, but soon deployed to Japan, where it provided airlift during the Korean War. The squadron was inactivated in 1966, but reactivated as the 53d Milita+ry Airlift Squadron in 1972. Except for a brief period of inactivation in 1993, it has been a strategic airlift unit since then.
World War II
Activated in June 1942 as a I Troop Carrier Command Douglas C-47 Skytrain troop carrier squadron, trained in the United States. Assigned to Twelfth Air Force and deployed North Africa during May 1943. The squadron’s aircraft flew supplies to front-line units in Algeria and Tunisia during the North African Campaign as soon as suitable landing strips were available and evacuated casualties back to rear area field hospitals.
Squadron engaged in combat operations, dropping airborne units into Sicily during the Operation Husky invasion and later into areas around Anzio, Italy as part of Operation Shingle, the invasion of mainland Italy and the initiation of the Italian Campaign, January 1944. Moved north though Italy, in 1943 in support of Allied ground forces, evacuated wounded personnel and flew missions behind enemy lines in Italy and the Balkans to haul guns, ammunition, food, clothing, medical supplies, and other materials to the partisans and to drop propaganda leaflets.
Was moved to England in February 1944, assigned to IX Troop Carrier Command. Prepared for the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. In June 1944, subordinate units dropped paratroops in Normandy, subsequently flying numerous missions to bring in reinforcements and needed supplies. During the airborne attack on The Netherlands (Operation Market Garden, September 1944), the squadron dropped paratroops, towed gliders, and flew resupply missions. Several of its subordinate units also participated in the invasion of southern France in August 1944. The 50th supported the 101st Airborne Division in the Battle of the Bulge by towing gliders full of supplies near Bastogne on 27 December 1944.
When the Allies made the air assault across the Rhine River in March 1945, each aircraft towed two gliders with troops of the 17th Airborne Division and released them near Wesel. The squadron also hauled food, clothing, medicine, gasoline, ordnance equipment, and other supplies to the front lines and evacuated patients to rear zone hospitals.
In late May 1945, after V-E Day, the squadron was moved to Waller Field, Trinidad and attached to Air Transport Command. From Trinidad, the squadron ferried returning military personnel to Morrison Field, Florida, where they were sent on to other bases or prepared for separation after the war.
The squadron participated in the Berlin Airlift, 1948–1949.
It conducted aerial transportation from the U.S. to Japan from August–December 1950, and between Japan and Korea from 13 December 1950 – November 1952.
It conducted worldwide airlift operations from 1953 to 1966, including resupply to Antarctica from 1957 to 1958, and missions to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The 53d again conducted worldwide airlift from 1972 to 1993 flying missions into Grenada, 23 October 1983 – 9 November 1983, during the invasion of Panama, 20 December 1989, and to Southwest Asia, August 1990 – June 1991. The squadron was inactivated in 2008 and detached from AETC. It was reactivated in October 2008 as a part of the 19th Airlift Wing.