6th Operations Group

The 6th Operations Group (6 OG) is the operational flying component of the 6th Air Mobility Wing, stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

The mission of the 6th OG is the planning and executing global aerial refueling, combatant commander airlift, and specialized missions for US and allied combat and support aircraft. The group extends US global power and global reach through employment of a mix of KC-135R and C-37 aircraft.

The 6th Operations Group is a successor organization of the 6th Group (Composite), one of the 15 original combat air groups formed by the Army before World War II. During World War II, the 6th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy), was a B-29 Superfortress group assigned to Twentieth Air Force flying bombardment operations against Japan. Its aircraft were identified by a "R" inside a Circle painted on the tail.

6th Operations Group
Boeing KC-135R-BN Stratotanker 62-3552 assigned to the 6th Air Refueling Wing, 91st Air Refueling Squadron, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., flies a training mission over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay, Florida.
Active1919–1948; 1951–1952; since 1996
CountryUnited States
BranchUnited States Air Force
EngagementsWorld War II
6th Operations Group emblem


  • 6th Operations Support
Provides airfield operations management, air traffic control, weather services, intelligence support, combat tactics development and training, mission development, and manage aircrew training support operations. Manage flight records and KC-135R simulator training.
Operates the KC-135R Stratotanker. The KC-135R is a long-range tanker aircraft capable of refueling a variety of other aircraft in mid-air, anywhere in the world and under any weather condition. MacDill KC-135’s have supported US military operations all over the world including refueling coalition aircraft during the war in Bosnia.
Operates the KC-135R Stratotanker. The KC-135R is a long-range tanker aircraft capable of refueling a variety of other aircraft in mid-air, anywhere in the world and under any weather condition. Active duty associate unit with the 117th Air Refueling Wing at Birmingham IAP, Alabama.
Operates three C-37A aircraft utilizing highly experienced crews to provide global airlift on special assignment missions directly supporting the Combatant Commanders of U.S Central Command, U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Joint Forces Command, and U.S. Strategic Command.


For additional history and lineage, see 6th Air Mobility Wing


The 6th Operations Group's origins begin on 30 September 1919 as the United States Army Panama Canal Department 3d Observation Group, being stationed at France Field in the Panama Canal Zone. The unit was a command and control organization of numerous miscellaneous light observation squadrons established by the Air Service to provide protection for the Panama Canal area.

In 1921 the group was redesignated the 6th Group (Observation) and in 1922, the 6th Group (Composite). The 6th flew such aircraft at the Curtiss R-4, DeHavilland 4-B, SE-5A, MG-3A, Piper L-4, P-12B and Martin B-10 and Douglas B-18 Bolo aircraft.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930 the group participated in maneuvers, flying patrol missions, photographing the canal area, staging aerial reviews and making good-will flights to Central and South America. In 1933, the group became part of the larger 19th Composite Wing, which provided a central command and control organization for the Air Service units. In 1937, as the mission of the 6th moved toward bombardment, the War Department renamed it the 6th Bombardment Group. They continued to operate in the Canal Zone under the VI Bomber Command of the Sixth Air Force at Rio Hato AB, Albrook Field and Howard Field.[1]

World War II

6th Bombardment Group B-29s 1945
6th Bombardment Group B-29 Formation 1945. In foreground is Snuggiebunny Boeing B-29-55-BW Superfortress 44-69667. Aircraft survived the war and flew combat missions with the 98th Bomb Group in Korean War.
Boeing B-29A-45-BN Superfortress 44-61784 6 BG 24 BS - Incendiary Journey
Boeing B-29A-45-BN Superfortress 44-61784 6 BG 24 BS – Incendiary Journey 1 June 1945 mission to Osaka,Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Surcouf FRA
Free French Surcouf

As events in Europe and the Far East unfolded, the 6th Bomb Group and its units moved towards a war footing. Starting in May 1940, ground training for junior officers, newly arrived at France Field, became of major importance. Local courses on armament, use of flares and the delicate and seldom practiced fusing of bombs were made practically daily matters of practical application. Communications were also being stressed, as qualified radio operators were in short supply, while the squadrons rotated in and out of Rio Hato Army Air Base on "live" bombing practice.

On 4 June 1941, the first four-engine Boeing B-17B Flying Fortress was assigned to the Group. By November, all four of the B-17Bs had been assigned to the 7th Reconnaissance Squadron.

Many alerts and false alarms of enemy aircraft were recorded in the first three months after the Japanese Pearl Harbor Attack, although, of course, these proved to be false alarms. As the early months of the war swept by, and as VI Bomber Command struggled to apportion its scarce resources to best advantage.

In 1941 it was assigned to the new VI Bomber Command[2] of Sixth Air Force with an antisubmarine mission on both the Caribbean and Pacific approaches to the Panama Canal. By 1943, the antisubmarine mission was taken over by the United States Navy, and the group was disbanded in November 1943.[1]

Author James Rusbridger examined the records of the 6th Heavy Bomber Group operations while in Panama. The records show the sinking of a large submarine the morning of 19 February 1942. Since no German submarine was lost in the area on that date, it is assumed the large submarine was the Free-French Surcouf, which was the largest submarine in the world at the time. Rusbridger suggested that a collision reported by the American freighter Thompson Lykes on the night of 18 February, sustained damaged to the submarine's radio antenna with the stricken vessel limping towards Panama.[3]

On 19 April 1944, the 6th Bombardment Group was reactivated at Dalhart Army Air Field, Texas, being formed as a B-29 Superfortress Very Heavy bombardment Group. The reactivated group was initially assigned four newly constituted bomb squadrons, the 24th, 39th, 40th and 41st as its operational components.

Due to a shortage of B-29s, the group was equipped with former II Bomber Command B-17 Flying Fortresses previously used for training heavy bomber replacement personnel. In May shortages in aircraft and equipment led to the 41st Bomb Squadron being inactivated, with its personnel being consolidated into other group squadrons and the 6th becoming a three squadron group (the 41st would be reactivated a month later as part of the 501st Bombardment Group, but was inactivated a second time, finally being deployed into combat with the 448th Bombardment Group). The 6th was eventually equipped with newly manufactured B-29 Superfortresses at Grand Island Army Airfield, Nebraska during the summer of 1944.

In November the group was deployed to the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO), being assigned to the XXI Bomber Command 313th Bombardment Wing, being stationed at North Field, Tinian, The group entered combat by flying navigational escort for a major attack force bound for Iwo Jima. The 6th then began engaging in very long range bombardment missions over the Japanese Home Islands, striking Tokyo and other major Japanese cities and facilities during daylight high-altitude bombing raids, with crippling, non-stop incendiary raids which destroyed lines of communication, supply, and numerous kamikaze bases.

On 25 May 1945, the 6th flew a low-altitude night mission through alerted enemy defenses to drop incendiary bombs on Tokyo, for which they received their first Distinguished Unit Citation. In addition to incendiary raids, the 6th also participated in mining operations. By mining harbors in Japan and Korea in July 1945, the group contributed to the blockade of the Japanese Empire earning their second Distinguished Unit Citation. The 6th's final World War II mission came on 14 August 1945, with the dropping of 500-pound general purpose bombs on the Marifu railroad yards at Iwakuni.

Postwar era

With the war over, the 6th dropped food and supplies to Allied prisoners of war and took part in show-of-force flights over Japan. The unit remained on Tinian until February 1946 during which time the group largely demobilized as part of the "Sunset Project", with some aircraft being sent as reclamation on Tinian; others being returned to the United States for storage at aircraft depots in the southwest. By Christmas, the group fleet was reduced to 30 or fewer planes. Many of the remaining veterans signed for "any conditions of travel" to get home, arriving three weeks later in Oakland, California, where troop trains scattered them for points of discharge close to their homes.

The unit moved to Clark Field in the Philippines where it was reassigned to the postwar Far East Air Forces 1st Air Division. At Clark its remaining aircraft and personnel were consolidated into other units. It was again reassigned in June 1947 to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa as a paper unit where it was inactivated in 1948.

In January 1951, the group was activated as the operational component of the new 6th Bombardment Wing at Walker AFB, New Mexico as part of Strategic Air Command's Fifteenth Air Force. However all of the group's B-29 Superfortress were attached directly to the Wing organization, with the group having only one officer and one airman officially assigned to group headquarters. It was inactivated in June 1952 as part of the implementation of the postwar Tri-Deputate organization as all operational flying squadrons were assigned directly to the 6th Bombardment Wing.

Current era

Activated on 1 October 1996 with an air refueling mission as part of the Objective Wing structure of the 6th Air Refueling Wing.

Elements deployed to Southwest Asia in July 1998 to refuel aircraft engaged in no-fly operations over northern Iraq. After January 2001, the group also provided airlift for the commanders of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command. It also refueled fighters providing security over the southeastern United States as part of homeland security after terrorist attacks against the United States in September 2001. Since 2001, personnel and aircraft deployed around the world to fulfill air refueling and aeromedical missions.

The 6th has twice won the Air Mobility Rodeo Best Air Mobility Wing Award; in 2000 and 2005.


The group's emblem, approved in 1924, reflects its Panama Canal Zone origins with a ship sailing through the Gaillard Cut and an airplane flying overhead.


6th Composite Group - Emblem
Emblem of the 6th Composite Group
  • Established as 3d Observation Group, and organized, on 30 September 1919
Redesignated: 6th Group (Observation) on 14 March 1921
Redesignated: 6th Group (Composite) in June 1922
Redesignated: 6th Composite Group on 25 January 1923
Redesignated: 6th Bombardment Group on 1 September 1937
Redesignated: 6th Bombardment Group (Medium) on 6 December 1939
Redesignated: 6th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 12 December 1940
Disestablished on 1 November 1943. Reestablished, and consolidated (29 June 1944) with the 6th Bombardment Group, Very Heavy, which was established on 28 March 1944
Activated on 1 April 1944
Inactivated on 18 October 1948
  • Redesignated 6th Bombardment Group, Medium on 20 December 1950
Activated on 2 January 1951
Inactivated on 16 June 1952
  • Redesignated: 6th Strategic Group on 31 July 1985 (Remained inactive)
  • Redesignated: 6th Operations Group on 1 July 1996
Activated on 1 October 1996.


Attached to 17th Bombardment Operational Training Wing (Very Heavy), c. 19 May–18 November 1944



20th Air Force

  • 24th Bombardment Squadron: 1 April 1944 – 18 October 1948; 2 January 1951 – 16 June 1952 (detached 2 January 1951 – 16 June 1952)
  • 39th Bombardment Squadron: 1 April 1944 – 18 October 1948; 2 January 1951 – 16 June 1952 (detached 2 January 1951 – 16 June 1952)
  • 40th Bombardment Squadron: 1 April 1944 – 18 October 1948; 2 January 1951 – 16 June 1952 (detached 2 January 1951 – 16 June 1952)
  • 22d Photographic Laboratory Squadron

United States Air Force



  • During 1917–1919 period, included JN-4, R-3 (R-9), and R-4
  • During 1919–1931 period, included JN-4, DH-4, HS2L, OA-1, O-2, NBS-1, P-12, SE-5, MB-3, and PW-9.
  • During 1928–1932 period, included LB-5, LB-6, and LB-7
  • During 1930–1936 period, included OA-4. O-19 1930–1937
  • Keystone B-3 1931–1936
  • Keystone B-6 1936–1937
  • Martin B-10, 1936–1939
  • B-18 Bolo, 1938–1943
  • LB-30 Liberator, 1942–1943


  1. ^ a b Conaway, William. "6th Bombardment Group (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45.
  2. ^ Conaway, William. "VI Bombardment Command History". Planes and Pilots Of World War Two.
  3. ^ Rusbridger, James. Who Sank the "Surcouf"?: The Truth About the Disappearance of the Pride of the French Navy. Ebury Press. ISBN 0-7126-3975-6.
  4. ^ Conaway, William. "3rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45.
  5. ^ Conaway, William. "397th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45.
  6. ^ Conaway, William. "25th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45.
  7. ^ Conaway, William. "29th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45.
  8. ^ Conaway, William. "74th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45.

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

External links

117th Operations Group

The 117th Operations Group is a unit of the Alabama Air National Guard, stationed at Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base, Alabama. If activated into federal service, it is gained by Air Mobility Command.

310th Airlift Squadron

The 310th Airlift Squadron (the Flamingos) is part of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. It operates C-37 aircraft providing executive airlift for Combatant Commanders.

50th Air Refueling Squadron

The 50th Air Refueling Squadron was reactivated in October 2017 at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, where it will fly the Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker under the 6th Air Mobility Wing, assigned to the 6th Operations Group.

It is a former USAF C-130H squadron that was inactivated in April 2016. It was previously one of four operational flying Air Mobility Command squadrons stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas under the 19th Airlift Wing. The Fightin' 5-0 along with sister squadrons, the 41st, 53d and 61st Airlift Squadrons, was assigned to the 19th Operations Group.

6th Air Mobility Wing

The United States Air Force's 6th Air Mobility Wing is the host wing for MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. It is part of Air Mobility Command's (AMC) Eighteenth Air Force. The wing's 6th Operations Group is a successor organization of the 3d Observation Group, one of the seven original combat air groups formed by the United States Army Air Service shortly after the end of World War I.The 6th Air Mobility Wing provides day-to-day mission support to more than 3,000 personnel along with more than 50 mission partners, including the United States Central Command and United States Special Operations Command. It is a force capable of rapidly projecting air refueling power anywhere in the world. The 6 AMW is organized into four unique groups and three operational flying squadrons to carry out its mission to be provide air refueling, airlift, and air base support.

911th Air Refueling Squadron

The 911th Air Refueling Squadron is part of the 916th Air Refueling Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina. The squadron is the Air Force’s very first active duty squadron that is under the command of a reserve wing. In October of 2016, the 911th, formerly geographically separated from the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill AFB, FL and operated as the active duty associate to the 916th Air Refueling Wing, became the first “I-Wing” or Integrated Wing.

The squadron is one of the oldest in the United States Air Force. Its origins date to 15 May 1917, when it was organized at Kelly Field, Texas. The 21st Aero Squadron served in France as part of the 3d Aviation Instructional Center, American Expeditionary Forces, as a pilot training squadron during World War I.

The squadron was activated as the 21st Observation Squadron in 1923, but received few, if any, personnel before being disbanded in 1933. In 1935 a new 21st Observation Squadron was organized at Langley Field, Virginia. In 1939, it moved to Florida and began to fly Neutrality Patrol missions over the adjacent waters.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor it flew antisubmarine patrols in the Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic Coast. It then became a heavy bomber training unit until 1944. In 1944 it converted to Boeing B-29 Superfortresses and saw combat in the Pacific during World War II, where it was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its actions during the strategic bombing campaign against Japan.

It became part of Strategic Air Command (SAC) during the Cold War, maintaining a portion of its strength on alert. It frequently deployed a portion of the unit to support SAC operations, including combat operations in Southeast Asia. Members of the squadron participated Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 1991 it transferred to Air Combat Command as the United States Air Force reassigned and combined units to maintain a single wing on each base. It continued to support contingency operations after transferring to Air Mobility Command until it was inactivated in 2007.

Today, the squadron operates the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft conducting air refueling missions worldwide as an active component of the Air Force’s first Integrated Wing, flying the aircraft of the reserve 916th Air Refueling Wing.

91st Air Refueling Squadron

The 91st Air Refueling Squadron is part of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. It operates the Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft conducting air refueling missions.

The squadron was first activated in January 1941 as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Langley Field, Virginia. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the squadron performed antisubmarine patrols. In the spring of 1942 it was renamed the 391st Bombardment Squadron and became part of the 34th Bombardment Group, to which it had been attached since activation. The squadron moved to the western United States and trained until April 1944 when it moved to the European Theater of Operations, where it participated in combat until VE Day. It returned to the United States in the summer of 1945 and was inactivated.

99th Air Refueling Squadron

The 99th Air Refueling Squadron is part of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, but is stationed at Birmingham Air National Guard Base, Alabama. It is an Active Associate Unit, an active duty component attached to the Alabama Air National Guard's 117th Air Refueling Wing. The 99th Air Refueling Squadron works with, supports and flies the 117th Air Refueling Wing's Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft.

The first predecessor of the squadron was organized during World War II as the 9th Reconnaissance Squadron. Redesignated the 399th Bombardment Squadron, it served as a crew training unit until inactivated in May 1944.

The 99th Air Refueling Squadron was activated in July 1957 and served with Strategic Air Command (SAC) until 1973, and again from 1983. In 1985, it was consolidated with the 399th Bombardment Squadron. When SAC was inactivated in 1992, the squadron became an element of Air Mobility Command. The squadron was inactivated in 2008, but was reactivated as an associated unit the following year.

MacDill Air Force Base

MacDill Air Force Base (MacDill AFB) (IATA: MCF, ICAO: KMCF, FAA LID: MCF) is an active United States Air Force installation located 4 miles (6.4 km) south-southwest of downtown Tampa, Florida.

The "host wing" for MacDill AFB is the 6th Air Mobility Wing (6 AMW), assigned to the Eighteenth Air Force (18AF) of the Air Mobility Command (AMC). The 6 AMW is commanded by Colonel Stephen Snelson.

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