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323d Air Expeditionary Wing
Emblem of the 323d Air Expeditionary Wing
Active 1942–1993
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Role Training
Part of Air Training Command

The 323d Air Expeditionary Wing (323 AEW) is a provisional United States Air Force unit assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe. As a provisional unit, it may be activated or inactivated at any time.

It was last known to be active from 14 March – 30 April 2008 at Balotesti, Romania, serving briefly as the USAF headquarters for a NATO Summit.[1]

During World War II, the group's predecessor unit, the 323d Bombardment Group (Medium) was a B-26 Marauder bombardment group assigned to the Eighth and later Ninth Air Force.


World War II[]

  • Emblem of the 323d Bombardment Group

    Martin B-26 Marauders of the 455th Bomb Squadron line up on the perimeter track standing ready for takeoff. Martin B-26C-15-MO Marauder Serial 41-34871 (foreground) identifiable.

    323d ground crew airmen attend to Martin B-26C-15-MO Marauder Serial 41-34969. This aircraft went on to survive the war with over 150 missions to its credit

    B-26s taxing in after a mission.

    B-26 Marauder of the 323d Bomb Group at RAF Beaulieu, England

    Constituted as 323d Bombardment Group (Medium) on 19 June 1942. Activated on 4 August 1942. Trained with B-26's. Moved to England, April–June 1943. Arrived at RAF Horham in Suffolk on 12 May 1943 from Myrtle Beach AAF South Carolina. The group was assigned to the Eighth Air Force 3d Bomb Wing and flew Martin B-26B/C Marauders with a Horizontal white tail band for its group marking.

    Relocated to RAF Earls Colne and replaced the 94th Bomb Wing on 14 June 1943 and inaugurated medium-altitude bombing missions on 16 July 1943 and during that summer its principal targets were marshalling yards, airfields, industrial plants, military installations, and other targets in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

    In common with other Marauder units of the 3d Bomb Wing, the 323d was transferred to Ninth Air Force on 16 October 1943. Tactical missions were flown against V-weapon sites along the coast of France and attacked airfields at Leeuwarden and Venlo in conjunction with the Allied campaign against the German Air Force and aircraft industry during Big Week, 20–25 February 1944.

    The 323d helped to prepare for the invasion of Normandy by bombing coastal defenses, marshalling yards, and airfields in France and struck roads and coastal batteries on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

    On 21 July the group was moved south to RAF Beaulieu in Hampshire, a move designed to extend their range over western France.

    Within a few days. over 60 B-26s were in residence and operations were well under way. During the following five weeks. 28 missions were flown from Beaulieu without loss, although one B-26 crash-landed near the airfield after running out of fuel.

    Between 16 and 26 August, the 323d moved to Lessay airfield in France (A-20), the main movement of aircraft taking place on the 26th. By VE-Day, the group was based near Gablingen, Germany (R-77) and participated in the disarmament program. It returned to the United States in December and was inactivated on 12 December 1945.

    323d Bomber Group (Air Force Reserve)[]

    In accordance with Tenth Air Force General Order (10 AF GO) #41, 26 June 1947. The 323d Bombardment Group (Light) was allotted to the Air Force Reserve, then activated on 9 September 1947. Ordered to active duty on 10 March 1951 at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma. Operational squadrons were the 453d, 454th, 455th and 456th Bombardment Squadrons.

    Even before the bomb wing’s activation, it was decided that it should be equipped with the respected Douglas A-26 Invader light bombardment aircraft. The bomb wing’s reservists were indeed fortunate to receive several of these light bombers by mid-1948, with the promise of more.

    By April 1948 the 323d Bombardment Group became the 323d Bombardment Wing (Light) on the same date, with Lieutenant Colonel R. Ahern commanding. From that point, the 323d Bombardment Wing became the focal point for Air Force Reserve activities in Oklahoma.

    The wing was ordered to active duty on 10 March 1951 as a result of the Korean War. Personnel and equipment sent to Far East Air Forces as replacements. Inactivated w/p/o/e on 17 March 1951.

    323d Fighter-Bomber Wing[]

    Reactivated at Bunker Hill AFB, Indiana 8 August 1955 and assigned to Tactical Air Command's Ninth Air Force. Initially training with North American F-86Fs, these were quickly upgraded to the North American F-86H Sabre and then to the North American F-100A/D in 1956 to become proficient in tactical air operations. Operational squadrons were:

    The wing's aircraft wore a band on the tail, and around the nose edged with small black checkers.

    In 1955, Strategic Air Command (SAC) began stationing units at the base, and the Eighth Air Force claimed jurisdiction of Bunker Hill AFB in September 1957. With the turnover of the base to SAC, the 323d was phased down and replaced by the SAC 401st Air Base Group on 1 September 1957.

    323d Flying Training Wing[]

    Emblem of the 323d Flying Training Wing

    Reactivated as Air Training Command navigator training wing at Mather AFB, California on 1 April 1973, replacing the 3535th Navigator Training Wing which had existed at Mather since 1946. The 323 FTW also conducted advanced training for winged navigators as navigator-bombardiers and electronic warfare officers. The following operational squadrons were redesignated as a result of the reactivation:

    The 323 FTW also operated Mather AFB as the "host" wing for the installation (Strategic Air Command's 320th Bombardment Wing and the Air Force Reserve's 940th Air Refueling Group, now 940th Air Refueling Wing were "tenant" wings) and published Navigator magazine. The 323 FTW also conducted operational test and evaluation of the T-43A aircraft, 1 August 1973 – 31 October 1973 and began conversion from the T-29 to the T-43 shortly afterwards. As the only USAF school teaching air navigation, the wing served not only the USAF, but also the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and friendly foreign nations.

    With the decommissioning of the U.S. Navy's Training Squadron TWENTY-NINE (VT-29) at NAS Corpus Christi, TX in 1975, the 323 FTW also began training U.S. Navy student Naval Flight Officers, NATO/Allied student naval flight officers under U.S. Navy responsibility and U.S. Coast Guard enlisted navigators in July 1976. Instructor Naval Flight Officers, mostly from the Navy's P-3 community, were also assigned to the 323 FTW, teaching USAF, USN and NATO/Allied students.

    Support of the Marine Aerial Navigation School (MANS) for U.S. Marine Corps enlisted KC-130 navigators also began in July 1976 when MANS moved from NAS Corpus Christi to Mather AFB. However, MANS conducted its own navigation training independently. In view of this influx of naval personnel, Naval Air Training Unit Mather (NAVAIRTU Mather) was established in 1976. In order to place the Navy on par with the 323 FTW commander, a USN Captain or Captain-selectee naval flight officer who had already had command of an operational combat P-3 squadron was placed as the commanding officer of NAVAIRTU, with administrative claimancy over all naval personnel (students, instructors and support staff) assigned to the 323 FTW.

    The 323 FTW began training female USAF navigators in March 1977 and female USN naval flight officers in 1981. Female USAF instructor navigators followed in the 1983–84 time frame. In 1986, LT Kathryn P. Hire, USN a former navigator and aircraft mission commander in the RP-3D oceanographic research aircraft, became the first female USN NFO Instructor in the 323 FTW. Of note is that in 1993, then-LCDR Hire would become the first female assigned to the combat version of the P-3C Orion, and as a CDR and CAPT, would become a NASA astronaut, flying the STS-90 mission in 1998 and the STS-130 mission in 2010.

    On 15 December 1991, the 323d implemented the objective wing concept and the 449th, 450th, 451st, 452d and 432d FTSs were inactivated and the wing was reorganized to a single squadron of aircraft type. All T-43As were assigned to the 445 FTS and T-37Bs to the 455 FTS. On 1 July 1993, following the disestablishment of the Air Training Command, the wing was assigned to the new Air Education and Training Command. The T-43 and T-47 aircraft assigned to the 454th and 455th FTSs were assigned tail codes of "NT", but due to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) closure of Mather AFB on 30 September 1993, the 323 FTW was inactivated, with the wing's mission and T-43 aircraft being reassigned to the 12th Flying Training Wing (12 FTW) and the 558th Flying Training Squadron (558 FTS) at Randolph AFB, Texas. Because of the pre-existing presence of T-37B aircraft at Randolph AFB for T-37 flight instructor training, the Mather T-37s were sent to long-term storage at AMARC at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.

    Modern era[]

    The Wing was provisionally activated for a NATO summit at Balotesti in Romania from 14 March to 30 April 2008.[2]


    • Constituted as 323d Bombardment Group (Medium) on 19 June 1942
    Activated on 4 August 1942
    Inactivated on 12 December 1945
    • Redesignated 323d Bombardment Group (Light). Allotted to the reserve
    Activated on 9 September 1947
    • Established as 323d Bombardment Wing, Light, on 10 May 1949
    323d Bombardment Group assigned as subordinate unit.
    Ordered to active duty on 10 March 1951
    Wing and group inactivated on 17 March 1951
    • Redesignated 323d Fighter-Bomber Wing on 9 May 1955
    Wing and group activated on 8 August 1955
    Wing and group inactivated on 1 September 1957
    • Redesignated 323d Flying Training Wing on 28 July 1972
    Wing activated on 1 April 1973
    323d Operations Group activated on 1 September 1991
    Wing and group inactivated on 1 October 1993
    • Redesignated as 323d Air Expeditionary Wing* and converted to provisional status 14 March 2008.

    *Note: Purely provisional organization classified as a "support" expeditionary organization. Upon inactivation, wing lineage and history terminated, never to be brought back.




    • 386th Fighter-Bomber Group, 8 April 1956 – 9 April 1957 (Attached)



    Note: ALG = "Advanced Landing Ground" designation of temporary airfields constructed or used by the Allies in Europe following the D-Day landings in 1944.


    See also[]


     This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

    • Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now 1994. After the Battle ISBN 0-900913-80-0
    • Freeman, Roger A. (1996) The Ninth Air Force in Colour: UK and the Continent-World War Two. After the Battle ISBN 1-85409-272-3
    • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
    • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
    • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.

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