"What is worth living for is worth defending - and no one should be more deeply convinced of this than the American citizen. That this belief is part of the fiber of the American way of life can be seen in the response to every call to duty by the citizen - soldier since the first days of this nation. The reservist of today can claim kinship with an unbroken line of "minutemen" of the past. This kinship, forged through duty and honor, is today coupled with high standards of performance, patriotism and readiness to provide a legacy for future generations of which each reservist can be justly proud."
Brig. Gen. John S. Bagby
Commander, 512th Troop Carrier Wing
The Cuban Missile Crisis
On the evening of Oct. 27, 1962, Col. Stanley V. Rush, the 512th deputy commander under Gen. Bagby, was informed of a possible extended activation for the wing. Local news radio and television programs aired stories that the Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Robert S. McNamara, had ordered 24 Reserve troop carrier squadrons to active duty for the Cuban Missile Crisis. Col. Rush contacted the wing’s fulltime staff members late that night to tell them an extended activation was probable, and that it could come anytime with little or no notice. He then requested the Air Reserve Technician staff and some civilians report for duty. Upon arrival, they were told to prepare for a possible mobilization.
The actual call to active duty came just three hours later at 1:20 a.m. on Oct. 28, 1962. Headquarters Tactical Air Command at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, called Col. Rush by phone to confirm the activation of the 512th Troop Carrier Wing. He immediately contacted Gen. Bagby and the wing’s detached 328th squadron at Niagara Falls. By 9:00 a.m., Special Order G-153, dated Oct. 28, 1962, activated the 512th under Tactical Air Command. However, the majority of the unit commanders and staff officers had already reported for duty before then. The order activated the wing for one year unless sooner relieved by competent authority. By that evening, 97 percent of the unit members were on base.
Later that day, Gen. Bagby, Col. Rush, and Lt. Col. Allen A. Beaumont, wing operations director, reported to TAC Headquarters at Langley for a briefing on the wing’s missions during the activation.
With Gen. Bagby in command, crews from the flying units deployed to Florida to conduct exercise Sun Shade I. They remained in Florida until Nov. 22, when news came that wing would be demobilized early. Gen. Bagby led a small team back to Florida to take part in a military review for President John F. Kennedy immediately before demobilizing. The wing was relieved by TAC on Nov. 28, 1962; it had been activated for one month.
The Group Concept
When Reserve mobilizations for the Berlin crisis in 1961 demonstrated that the Air Force needed more flexibility to mobilize and employ Air Force Reserve units, the Air Force made plans to create Tactical Groups to administer each flying squadron under each wing … Then the Cuban Missile Crisis happened. Air Force Reserve wings, including the 512th, were mobilized while approval for this massive reorganization was still being made.
To avoid additional administrative disruption, new groups that would acquire squadrons not mobilized for the Cuban Missile Crisis were organized first. The change was delayed for mobilized units until they had returned to reserve status a month later.
Birth of the 913th
Following the demobilization of the 327th Troop Carrier Squadron, reorganization of the 512th under the Group concept was implemented. On Feb. 11, 1963, Special Order G-7 Headquarters Continental Air Command, dated Jan. 22, 1963, ordered the 512th Troop Carrier Wing reorganized under the Group concept.
The 912th and 913th Troop Carrier Groups were stationed at Willow Grove ARF, and the 914th at Niagara Falls Municipal Airport.
The 912th was commanded by Colonel Carl F. Hynek; the 913th by Colonel Charles E. Lewis; and the 914th by Colonel Salvatore A. Mauriello. Each group’s mission was to administer their respective Troop Carrier Squadron. However, the 914th group and its flying squadron would be transferred to another wing just ten months later.
At that time there were only four units under the 913th Troop Carrier Group: the 327th Troop Carrier Squadron, 913th Materiel Squadron, 913th Combat Support Squadron and 913th Tactical Dispensary.
Although a certain amount of confusion attended the reorganization, the closely-knit working relationships between staff sections, ART personnel and reservists enabled the units to make the transition with minimum loss of time and effectiveness. Perhaps the most pressing problem at the time was that of equally realigning the supply of “talent” between the two groups, as the reorganized wing structure called for many more non-rated officer positions. In 1964, a serious lack of pilots and navigators, illustrated the need for an aggressive and sustained recruiting program. Many of the pilots were aging WWII veterans, and the squadrons were heavy in the upper grades.
The wing Information Office had a creative idea. On Friday, Dec. 6, 1963, Mr. Keith B. Hubbard, civilian information officer, and Maj. Thomas T. Darlington, reserve information officer, spoke in a two-hour radio “open-mic” radio program on station WEEZ, Chester, Pa., to an estimated audience of 60 to 70 thousand people. The audience was invited to call in with questions about the Delaware Valley wing in an informal atmosphere. The constant signaling on the switchboard showed wide public interest in the Air Force Reserve program.
Many exercises and humanitarian missions kept the unit employed, while the influx of new Airmen from intense recruiting efforts kept supervisor busy with personnel issues and on-the job training programs. The efforts were highly effective, and while manning turnovers caused some difficult dynamics, the wing pulled together and scored an “Outstanding” rating in the 1965 ORI. The wing was “Ready Now.”
512th Leaves WGARF
In 1964, the Air Force had plans to redistribute Reserve wing headquarters more evenly across the country from east to west, which would lead to the relocation of the 512th headquarters to Carswell Air Force Base, Texas the following year. The 913th remained under the administration of the 512th until Jan. 8, 1965, and then assumed the role as host unit of Willow Grove Air Reserve Facility. Col. Reg L. Anderson became installation commander in addition to his role as group commander. The 912th Troop Carrier Group became a tenant of the Willow Grove Air Reserve Facility, continuing to administer the 326th Troop Carrier Squadron, and both groups were reassigned under the 302nd Troop Carrier Wing, Clinton County Air Force Base, Ohio.
In War, Indispensible … In Peace, Prepared.”
Beginning in 1956, and continuing through the mid-1960s, aircrews of the 326th and 327th Troop Carrier Squadrons performed yeoman service for the Pennsylvania State Game Commission In the harsh winters by airdropping tons of food to starving wildlife.
In January 1965, 44 Airmen from Willow Grove marched in the streets of Washington D.C. for the inaugural parade of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In the fall of 1965, numerous civilian petitions to the Air Force prompted operation “Christmas Star.” Air Force Reserve wings were tasked with moving gifts, letters and cookies to American troops in Vietnam. Between December 1 and December 20, the base supply section processed more than 25,000 lbs of Christmas gifts, and volunteer Grove aircrews hauled it to distribution centers for transport to Asia.
The groups reported to the 302nd until July 1, 1966, and were reassigned to the 514th Troop Carrier Wing at McGuire AFB, New Jersey, under the command of Brig. Gen. Campbell Y. Jackson.
In 1966, the 913th Tactical Airlift Group was awarded the Flying Safety Award by the United States Air Force. Still another highlight was recorded when MSgt. John E. Phipps was named "Airman of the Year" at the Air Force Association convention in Dallas, Texas.
In 1966, 327 TCS was selected by the 514th TCW at McGuire as the Outstanding Aircrew of 1966.
“In addition to accomplishing all of the above during the reporting period, the 913th Aerial Port Flight performed the unit mission under all weather conditions and maintained flexibility and mobility of operations with necessary equipment to landing zones and/or drop zones. Teamwork and group integrity is constantly being displayed. The importance of these attributes during routine operations cannot be overlooked since it is this function that sits the Aerial Port Flight high on the roost of professionalism.” – History of the 913th Tactical Airlift Group, 1967.
In 1967, the 913th Consolidated Maintenance Squadron presented a plan for better aircraft maintenance—the Isochronal Inspection Concept. Up to this time, C-119 inspections were performed on a flying-hours based schedule. As each aircraft was flown, maintainers would inspect and service them based on how many hours it had been flown since the last inspection. With increased flying operations, and sporadic, short-notice schedules, maintenance and inspections occurred at a frenzied pace. Maintenance crews were overworked, and parts ordering became a problem because of the short notice caused by rapidly increasing flying hours.
The maintenance section had a proposal.
They would submit a new scheduling tool, based on calendar days, to make things flow more smoothly. It would require very careful thought and extensive planning and coordination, but the end result would be a predictable work schedule, with parts ordering far enough in advance to allow for manufacturer production and shipping times, and an aircraft availability schedule planned a year in advance. All of this would be accomplished without sacrificing inspection requirements or manhours.
“The attitude of everyone working under Isochronal has been outstanding,” said Maj. Pandis, in his follow-up report to CAC. “Everyone knows what they are doing, how they’re going to do it, and when. The inspection schedule is produced, implemented, and completed as scheduled. This alone is a terrific morale booster. Under the relaxed atmosphere of Isochronal Inspections, all problems that arise are solved in the best way possible, in a cooperative attitude. This speaks well for the ‘system’ of Isochronal Inspections.”
Ultimately, the project was reviewed and adopted by TAC and CAC. “Personnel of the 912th and 913th Tac Alft Gps are to be commended for their outstanding job in developing the proposed test, isochronal inspection, work deck,” said Col. Albert W. Satterwhite, CAC’s deputy chief of staff for logistics.” “... Technical Services personnel have stated that this work deck is superior to similar work decks developed for the C-130 and C-141 aircraft.”
The 913th Consolidated Maintenance Squadron was awarded the 1969 Air Force Reserve Outstanding Maintenance Unit citation.
The program continued to bring noteworthy praise and commendation across the Air Force throughout the decade.
YC-119 comes to WGARF
Early in 1967, Continental Air Command assigned the 913th Troop Carrier Group as the support unit and base for the YC-119K aircraft project. The project, named “Project Peace Lifter,” featured a standard C-119G Flying Boxcar with prototype engine modifications. Two jet engine pods were added, and the existing piston engines were enhanced to produce more power. The enhancements were designed to extend the useful life of the C-119 into the 1970s by adding greater airspeed and shorter takeoff distances.
A 327th crew flew the prototype across the United States on display for high-ranking Air Force officers including Tactical Air Command commander General Gabriel P. Disosway.
By June, the YC left Willow Grove permanently for further testing with the Fairchild-Hiller Corporation.
The YC-119 program at first appeared to offer a stable future and a continued mission for the Boxcar at Willow Grove, but, the C-119 would ultimately give way to the new Lockheed C-130A “Hercules” just two years later.