The Blue Barons....
The long and distinguished history of the 62nd Troop Carrier Squadron (TCS) began on December 5, 1942, when the unit was activated at Sedalia Army Air Base, Knob Noster, Missouri. The 62nd TCS later joined with the 50th TCS and the 61st TCS to form the 314th Troop Carrier Group (TCG) at Lawson Field, Georgia. A short five months later, on May 12, 1943, equipped with a full complement of shiny, new C-47s; the 62nd TCS departed for North Africa to begin combat operations in World War II. Their journey would take more than 61 hours, and they would find North Africa to be either very hot and dry, or flooded by infrequent, but torrential rains which would pound their humble camp.
Since World War II, the 62nd Airlift Squadron has proudly borne the nickname and patches of the "Yacht Club." The Yacht Club nickname comes from early attempts at OPSEC during WWII, when each unit had a code name. The code names were used so that tasking might be given over unsecured telephone lines. The 62 TCS was at one time assigned "Yacht Club" as their code name. But that's only part of the story! At a group level meeting, a fellow squadron commander chastised Major Tappan, the then 62 TCS commander, with the comment, "You're running your squadron like a country club. Better still, a Yacht Club!" As news of this conversation made it's way around, these words became a source of pride among the troops, and the name stuck. A glider pilot, Armand Prosperi designed the original squadron logo during that era. It featured a sailboat superimposed on the center of a playing card symbol, the black club. The squadron motto, "Primus in Toto" (First in Everything) was scribed below the hull of the boat. Carrying the nautical theme a step further, the commander, Major Tappan, was often referred to as "Commodore."
The unit's first taste of combat operations came when their first mission was flown from Kairouan, Tunisia, to an area near Gela, Sicily, where paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division dropped from the sky to support land operations south of Italy. That day, the worst threat was the U.S. Navy, who shot down 25% of the returning C-47s in the confusion of battle. All crewmembers were recovered, wet and disgusted, but safe. Once Sicily was secured, the thrust of allied operations moved to mainland Italy. The 62 TCS dropped the 82d Airborne again, this time into Salerno Valley. Once Mussolini capitulated in 1943, the 62d moved their operation North, into Castelvetrano, Italy and provided theater airlift support.
In early 1944, after serving with distinction in the Mediterranean Theater of operations, the 62nd moved with the 314th Troop Carrier Group to Saltby, Lincolnshire, England, where unit members began intensive training in preparation for D-Day. The 62d TCS was part of the initial airborne assault that spearheaded the June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy -- the largest invasion force ever assembled in modern warfare. Over 882 airlift aircraft flew on D-Day, dropping troops amid intense enemy gunfire and low visibility. In all, almost 2200 men were dropped that first morning on the Cherbourg peninsula of France. The accomplishments of the 314th TCG and the 62nd during the Normandy Invasion are best described by a quote from the Presidential Unit Citation received for the period of June 5-7, 1944: "... accomplished 106 sorties, thereby, distinguishing themselves through extraordinary heroism, determination, and esprit de corps, in a flawlessly coordinated group effort in which troop carrier airplanes spearheaded the allied invasion of the European continent."
For the remainder of "the war to end all wars," the 62nd continued to serve heroically in support of vital air and land campaigns, including the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of Holland, and the supply of liberated Paris. During Operation MARKET GARDEN, the 62nd AS dropped British troops near Arnhem, Holland, in an effort to liberate Holland and end the war in Europe. Those brave paratroopers descended into a holocaust: one of the most heroic, but bloodiest battles of the British Army. In February 1945, the squadron relocated yet again; this time to Poix, France, and valiantly flew in Operation VARSITY. This was the first combat mission in which the squadron towed CG-4A gliders. During this invasion of Wesel, Germany over 885 successful glider sorties were flown, placing over 4800 paratroopers on the ground and delivering over 2000 tons of equipment into Germany. The 62nd TCS flew 20 C-47s, towing Waco gliders constructed of wood and steel tubing covered with fabric. Following V-E Day, the 62nd TCS transported liberated American, French, and British POWs. The squadron was ordered home to the U.S. in February 1946. As World War II came to a close, the 50th, 61st and 62nd squadrons were deactivated and the 314th Troop Carrier Group relocated to Bolling Field, Washington, D.C.
In July 1948, the 314th transferred to Smyrna AFB, Tennessee, and reorganized as the 314th Troop Carrier Wing in September 1949. On September 20, 1949, the 62nd was re-designated and, one month later, activated as the 62nd Troop Carrier Squadron (Medium). That same month, the C-47 Skytrain was replaced by the new airlift mainstay, the C-119 Flying Boxcar.
In August 1950, the 62nd went out on the road for what was intended to be a 60-day temporary duty assignment to Japan. It was to become a four-year stay in sunny, scenic Ashiya, Japan. The unit was originally tasked to join United Nations forces in the Korean conflict as a rotational unit. However, as the fighting on the Korean peninsula escalated, the commitment of the 62nd TCS to theater operations expanded and the squadron remained in Japan for approximately 4 years. During the Korean Conflict, while assigned in Ashyia, the 62d temporarily became known as the "Blue Barons." The blue portion of their emblem derived from their squadron color. "Baron" was chosen because history designates a baron as one of high position and honor, and a leader in the line of peers. The 62nd, having earned nearly every major honor and award for participating in the Korean War, returned from Ashiya, Japan to Sewart AFB, Tennessee, with a distinctive title that captured the true spirit of the squadron.
The 62nd was re-equipped with the new airlift workhorse, the Lockheed C-130A "Hercules" on May 19, 1957. Four years later, in September 1961, the C-130B arrived, and the squadron became combat-ready in the new aircraft in fewer than 90 days. Less than 1 year later, the Blue Barons tested their combat-ready status once again when they deployed to Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines to support the United States' response to the Laotian crisis.
In December 1964, in order to bring all unit personnel up to combat-ready status, the 62nd TCS formed an aircrew training flight. The program was so successful that it was quickly expanded to train all aircrew personnel in the wing. The concept of concentrated, focused training and continuity paved the way for the development of the first Replacement Training Unit (RTU) to train C-130 aircrew members worldwide.
The ensuing years until the present time has held constant activity and change for the 62nd. The squadron was re-equipped once again, as the newest Hercules in the inventory, the C-130E, arrived in February 1965, just a few short months before the 62nd made its first combat airdrops in support of the United States' involvement in the Vietnam conflict. In May 1965, the Blue Barons took part in the largest peacetime airborne operation ever held in Europe -- Operation SOUTHERN ARROW. The following year, the unit supported Operation RAPID STRIKE, a test and evaluation project which refined old procedures and helped pave the way for the new developments in C-130 operations and training.
In May 1967, the 62nd was redesignated as the 62nd Tactical Airlift Squadron (TAS). Two years later, in March 1970, the unit transferred from Sewart AFB, Tennessee, to Little Rock AFB, Arkansas. In June 1971, Headquarters Tactical Air Command issued orders designating the 62nd as the formal C-130 aircrew Replacement Training Unit. The 62nd TAS went on to prove its skill and professionalism by capturing top honors in three consecutive VOLANT RODEO international airlift and tanker competitions. Between 1981 and 1983, the 62nd was recognized as the home of the best C-130 airdrop crew in the world.
Between August 1990 and August 1991, as Iraq and Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait, the 62nd was tasked to provide aircrew support for Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM in the Persian Gulf. The unit responded in the true tradition of the Blue Barons, in spite of the continued requirement for aircrew training, flying missions in support of the United Nations effort to defend the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from Iraqi aggression. Crews staged out of such areas as Rhein-Main and Ramstein Air Bases in Germany, Zaragoza and Torrejon Air Bases in Spain, and Riyadh, Dhahran, Jeddah, and King Fahd in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The countries of Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain were also used. Following Operation DESERT STORM, the squadron deployed personnel and equipment for Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, providing much needed humanitarian aid to Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey.
On December 1, 1991, the 62nd TAS was redesignated as the 62nd Airlift Squadron (AS), the designation the squadron uses to this day, and operations and maintenance activities were merged into one fully functional, cohesive team. In September 1993, the 62nd AS was realigned, along with the rest of the 314th Wing, under Air Combat Command. Since the Persian Gulf War, the unit has actively participated in a myriad of real-world contingencies, including Operation RESTORE HOPE in Somalia. In September 1994, the 62nd Airlift Squadron reconstituted for the first time since World War II. Members of the unit answered the call to duty and deployed to various locations in support of Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY, the planned invasion to restore democracy in Haiti. On October 1, 1994, the squadron received four extra C-130 aircraft and additional personnel as the 34th Combat Airlift Training Squadron became the United States Air Force Combat Aerial Delivery School, shifting the scope of responsibility for tactical airlift instructor training to the 62nd AS.
As the environment in today's military has evolved, so has the 62nd Airlift Squadron, transitioning from Air Combat Command into Air Education and Training Command on April 1, 1997. As part of this change, the Blue Barons have continually refined their essential role in providing the worldwide C-130 community with highly skilled tactical airlift crewmembers, and at the same time, evolving to meet the needs of a peacetime military force.
The tradition of excellence continues for the men and women of the 62nd Airlift Squadron. Despite significant changes in the world around us, the Blue Barons remain Primus in Toto -- First in Everything!
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