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NEWS | June 26, 2017

This Week in History: 315th reactivated 44 years ago

By Michael Dukes 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

This week marks an important milestone in the 315th Airlift Wing’s history; July 1, 1973, 44 years ago, the 3-1-5 was reactivated as the 315th Military Airlift Wing, Associate, at Charleston Air Force Base.

The 315th MAW, commanded by Col. Richard McFarlane, was comprised of 300th Military Airlift Squadron, the 701st MAS, 707th MAS.
During the fall of 1973 the 315th MAW took part in Operation Nickel Grass, a critical airlift resupply mission for the nation of Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. The unit’s actions earned the Air Force Association’s Outstanding Group Award. 

The 1970s continued to be a busy decade for the 315th MAW and its members continued to distinguish themselves.

In 1975, the first all Reserve aircrew, commanded by Capt. John Tomkins, assisted in the evacuation of refugees from Saigon, South Vietnam. During a 17-day period, a total of five evacuation flights were flown from Saigon to the Philippines and Guam.

The 315th’s tradition of humanitarian airlift to countries in need essentially began Feb. 21, 1976, when a 707th MAS aircrew delivered supplies and aid to the people of Guatemala. The Central American nation had been devastated by an earthquake earlier that month that measured 7.6 on the Richter scale. Over 22,000 people were killed and another 74,000 were injured in this natural disaster.

A 300th MAS aircrew flew to Las Palmas in Spain’s Canary Islands on March 29, 1977 to assist in transporting survivors of a collision between two Boeing 747 jets. The incident, which occurred at Tenerife, Canary Islands, claimed 583 lives and is the deadliest aircraft disaster to date.

In an operation that began on Nov. 18, 1978, the 31st Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron participated in the treatment and evacuation of personnel from Georgetown, Guyana. These survivors were victims of a mass suicide that had occurred at Jonestown, Guyana on the same date.

(Editor’s Note: Information in this article was from the historical files of the 315th Airlift Wing)