|458th Air Expeditionary Group|
|Active||1943-1945; 1992-1995; 2004; 2006 (twice); 2007 (twice); 2007-2011|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Part of||United States Air Forces in Europe|
|Engagements||European Theater of Operations|
|Decorations||Air Force Outstanding Unit Award|
The 458th Air Expeditionary Group is a provisional United States Air Force unit assigned to United States Air Forces in Europe to activate or inactivate as needed. The most recent known activation of the unit was at Ramstein Air Base, Germany in 2011.
The group was first activated during World War II as the 458th Bombardment Group . After training with Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers in the United States, it deployed to the European Theater of Operations, where it participated in the strategic bombing campaign against Germany. Following V-E Day, the squadron returned to the United States, where it began training with Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, but was inactivated in October 1945.
The squadron was activated as the 458th Operations Group in 1992, when the air refueling mission was transferred from Strategic Air Command to Air Mobility Command in 1992. It was inactivated on-ce its assets were reassigned to air mobility units in 1994. In 2001, the group was converted to provisonal status.
The 458th Bombardment Group was activated at Wendover Field, Utah on 1 July 1943 with the 752d, 753d, 754th and 755th Bombardment Squadrons assigned. Before the month ended, the group moved to Gowen Field, Idaho to begin organizing, drawing its initial cadre from the 29th Bombardment Group. The air echelon of the group's cadre immediately departed for Orlando Army Air Base, where they spent the next two months participating in specialized tactical training. In September 1943, the air and ground echelons of the group were united at Kearns Army Air Base, Utah before proceeding to Wendover to begin the first phase of training with the Consolidated B-24 Liberator.
At Wendover, most of the initial combat crews were assigned to the group. By the end of the year, the 458th completed its training and began moving to the European Theater of Operations. The ground echelon departed its final training base, Tonopah Army Air Field, Nevada, where it had been the first heavy bomber group to train, for the Port of Embarkation at Camp Shanks, New York on 1 January 1944,[note 1] sailing for England on the USS Florence Nightingale (AP-70) while the air echelon assembled at Hamilton Field, then ferried its Liberators to England via the southern ferry route.
The group arrived at its combat station, RAF Horsham St. Faith on 1 February 1944, although aircrews had begun arriving on 24 January and the last bombers of the 458th did not arrive until 16 February. It entered the strategic bombing campaign against Germany during Big Week, but its first missions, flown on 24 and 25 February 1944, were diversionary missions, not strikes against the German aircraft manufacturing industry. On 2 March it began flying strategic bombardment missions. Its targets included an aircraft manufacturing plant at Brandenburg an der Havel, an airfield near Braunschweig, a fuel depot at Dulmen, oil refineries near Hamburg, marshalling yards at Hamm, an aircraft engine manufacturing factory at Magdeburg, the shipping canal at Minden, aircraft factories at Oschersleben and the industrial area of Saarbrucken.
The group was occasionally diverted from the strategic bombing campaign to conduct air interdiction and close air support missions. It helped prepare for Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, by striking artillery batteries, V-1 flying bomb and V-2 rocket launching sites, and airfields in France. On D-Day, it attacked coastal defenses to support the amphibious landings. Afterward, it attacked lines of communication to prevent the movement of enemy personnel and materiel from reaching the battlefield. It attacked enemy troops during Operation Cobra, the breakout from the beachhead through Saint Lo in late July. It also flew support missions during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and January 1945 and during Operation Varsity, the airborne attacks across the Rhine in April 1945. In addition, The group stopped its bombing during September 1944 to transport gasoline to airfields in France to supply Third Army, which had outrun its supply lines (called Operation Truckin'). Although the group flew more than 450 Truckin' sorties to advanced landing grounds in France and lost two aircraft, these were not considered combat missions. The group flew its last combat mission on 24 April 1945. The group flew 240 combat missions, claiming the destruction of 28 enemy aircraft, while losing 47 Liberators.
The group also had the distinction of being the test squadron for the Army Air Forces' first guided bomb project. In May 1944, ten modified B-24s capable of launching Azon bombs were delivered to the 458th Group. On 31 May 1944, the group conducted a raid against several bridges in Normandy.
During May 1945, the group flew 105 "Trolley" missions. These missions transported ground personnel of the group over target areas on the continent to permit them to see the results of their contributions to the group mission. The group returned to the United States in June 1945, with aircraft beginning to depart for Bradley Field, Connecticut on 14 June. The ground echelon sailed on the RMS Queen Mary on 6 July. The group assembled at Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota in July. At Sioux Falls, all personnel who had not been discharged were transferred to other units.
The group reformed at Walker Army Air Field, Kansas, moving to March Field, California in August, once it had achieved 20% manning. At March, it trained with the Boeing B-29 Superfortress very heavy bomber, but never approached 60% of its manning. It was inactivated there in October 1945.
In 1992, Strategic Air Command was inactivated and its bomber and reconnaissance mission was transferred to Air Combat Command (ACC). Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana became an ACC base, but its air refueling squadrons were transferred to Air Mobility Command (AMC). AMC activated the unit on 1 June 1992 as the 458th Operations Group to control its two McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender tanker squadrons at Barksdale. The group was assigned to the 22d Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. From 1 October 1993 until it was inactivated on 1 April 1994, the 71st Air Refueling Squadron, flying Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers was also briefly assigned to the group. While assigned to the group, these squadrons frequently deployed personnel and aircraft worldwide.
In October 1994, the group and its 2d and 32d Air Refueling Squadrons moved to McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey. The group was inactivated on 1 July 1995 when it's KC-10s were reassigned to the 305th Operations Group when Air Mobility Command consolidated its tanker force.
The unit was converted to provisional status in February 2001 and assigned to United States Air Forces in Europe. In September 2002 the group deployed to Air Force Base Waterkloof, South Africa to participate in the first bilateral exercise between the air forces of South Africa and the United States. More than 200 airmen from Royal Air Force Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath in England, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and the Oklahoma Air National Guard participated in the exercise.
The group was again brought briefly to life in 2003, when it was active at Mihail Kog?lniceanu International Airport, 26 km northwest of Constan?a, Romania. The group was active from about March to June 2003, charged with maintaining an airbridge at the base to transport supplies and people to United States Central Command area of responsibility.
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 June 1992-30 June 1993||458th Operations Group|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 July 1994-1 July 1995||458th Operations Group|
|Air Offensive, Europe||1 February 1944 - 5 June 1944||458th Bombardment Group|
|Air Combat, EAME Theater||1 February 1944 - 11 May 1945||458th Bombardment Group|
|Normandy||6 June 1944 - 24 July 1944||458th Bombardment Group|
|Northern France||25 July 1944 - 14 September 1944||458th Bombardment Group|
|Rhineland||15 September 1944 - 21 March 1945||458th Bombardment Group|
|Ardennes-Alsace||16 December 1944 - 25 January 1945||458th Bombardment Group|
|Central Europe||22 March 1944 - 21 May 1945||458th Bombardment Group|