353d Special Operations Group

353d Special Operations Group

Emblem of the 353d Special Operations Group
Active 1944–1946; 1967–1970; 1989–present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Special operations forces
Role Special operations
Garrison/HQ Kadena Air Base, Japan
Nickname(s) BATCATS



AFOUA w/V Device
RVGC w/ Palm

A Lockheed MC-130H Combat Talon II (88-0195) from the 1st Special Operations Squadron flies a training mission

The 353d Special Operations Group (353 SOG) is an operational unit of the United States Air Force Special Operations Command. It is stationed at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

The 353 SOG is the United States Air Force special forces contribution to the U.S. Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC), a subcommand of the United States Pacific Command.

The group's origins date to 1944 as the 3d Air Commando Group. The unit was assigned to Fifth Air Force in the Philippines in 1944 for operations with P-51 Mustangs, C-47 Skytrains, and L-5 Sentinel aircraft. It attacked Japanese airfields and installations in the Philippines, supported ground forces on Luzon, and provided escort for missions to Formosa and the China coast. It also made raids on airfields and railways on Formosa, and furnished cover for convoys. In addition, the group transported personnel, dropped supplies to ground troops and guerrilla forces, evacuated casualties from front-line strips, adjusted artillery fire, and flew courier and mail routes.


The 353d Special Operations Group consists of the following squadrons:


World War II

When activated, the 3d Air Commando Group trained to establish and maintain an airstrip behind enemy lines, to provide for its own supply and air defense, to attack targets in the enemy's rear areas, and to furnish air support for ground operations. The group's headquarters, liaison, and airdrome squadrons, as well as its medical dispensary and the ground echelons of the 3d Fighter Squadron and 318th Troop Carrier Squadron sailed from the west coast in early November 1944, arriving on Leyte on 1 December 1944. The ground echelon of the 4th Fighter Squadron sailed a week later and arrived on Leyte in early January 1945. The flying personnel of the 3d and 4th Fighter Squadrons, as well as some enlisted members of their engineering sections, were air-transported to Nadzab, New Guinea, where they received the group's new P-51 aircraft.

The separated squadrons flew patrol missions in New Guinea until joining the group on Leyte in January 1945. Began combat in the Philippines by flying bombing and strafing missions against airdromes on Mindanao. Later, on Luzon, the fighters continued bombing and strafing missions. In addition, the group provided air support to ground forces, flew fighter sweeps to Formosa, and escorted heavy bombers on bombing missions to Formosa and the China coast. The air echelon of the 318th Troop Carrier Squadron flew their C-47s across the Pacific, arriving at Nadzab, New Guinea, in late October 1944. The squadron carried cargo and passengers and air-evacuated wounded soldiers to Australia until it moved to Leyte in mid-January 1945. While on Luzon, this squadron also para-dropped supplies to ground forces. The liaison squadrons received their L-5s in late January 1945, and thereafter evacuated wounded from advanced points, flew courier, search and rescue, and reconnaissance missions, spotted for signal aircraft warning battalions, and dropped supplies to allied and guerrilla forces.

In April 1945, the Group, less the liaison squadrons, moved from Mandaldan, on the Lingayen Gulf, to Laoag, in northwest Luzon, in recently captured territory 150 miles behind enemy lines. The group operated the base and the 318th Troop Carrier Squadron provided most of the resupply. The group set up air-ground support stations that directed aircraft to targets and tactical radio ground stations situated with U.S. and guerrilla ground forces. In June 1945 Laoag became the staging field for flights to Okinawa.

In August 1945, the group moved to Ie Shima, in the Ryukyus, from where the fighter squadrons flew surveillance missions over Japan. The 318 TCS participated in the evacuation of allied prisoners of war from Japan. By the end of October 1945, the group moved to Chitose AB, Japan. By February 1946 the squadrons were reduced to paper strength and the group inactivated the next month.

Vietnam War

Beginning in February 1967, the 553d Reconnaissance Wing trained to support a special electronic reconnaissance program utilizing 30 Lockheed EC-121R "Batcat" aircraft, with a C-121G used for pilot and flight engineer training. Moved to Thailand in increments beginning mid-September 1967 and began day and night unarmed reconnaissance missions over Southeast Asia on 25 November 1967. A wing detachment at Nakhon Phanom Airport, Thailand, performed combat evaluation of YQU-22A aircraft and associated equipment, December 1968 – August 1969. From July to early September 1970 the wing provided combat evaluation of the QU-22B aircraft and on 1 October 1970 the QU-22Bs were placed in full operation, reducing the need for EC-121s.

Strength of the wing was reduced in both personnel and equipment, and in mid-December 1970 the 553d Reconnaissance Wing inactivated. One reconnaissance squadron, the 553d Reconnaissance Squadron, was reassigned to the 388TFW and stayed at Korat RTAFB. The 554th Reconnaissance squadron was inactivated with that squadron number then assigned to what was Detachment 1 at Nakon Phanom RTAFB. The last 553d Reconnaissance EC-121R mission occurred on 6 December 1971.

Modern era

The 353d Special Operations Wing activated in April 1989 in the Philippines to train for unconventional warfare and special operations activities in the Pacific area of operations. Maintained capabilities by participating in joint/combined and other theater exercises and training opportunities. Also maintained helicopter air refueling operations and supported humanitarian and disaster relief operations, as well as performed some search and rescue and aeromedical evacuation missions.

Following the destruction of Clark AB during the volcanic eruptions of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991 the group temporarily operated from bases on Okinawa, then officially relocated there in February 1992, with one squadron moving forward to South Korea. Redesignated to group level in December 1992, but continued operations as before.

In February 1996 developed Taegu AB in South Korea as a special operations training base. Gained a weather flight in April 1996 and began providing weather support for U.S. Army Special Forces at Torii Station, Japan.

From December 1996 periodically deployed aircraft and personnel to Italy to support NATO operations in the Balkans and to Southwest Asia to support allied operations against Iraq.

Throughout its history, the unit has been extremely active in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. In 2005, the unit supported Operation UNIFIED ASSISTANCE, the relief effort from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. In 2011, the unit supported Operation TOMODACHI, the relief effort from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. In 2013, the unit supported Operation DAMAYAN, the relief effort from Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.


Activated on 1 May 1944
Inactivated on 25 March 1946
Disestablished on 8 October 1948
Organized on 25 February 1967
Inactivated on 15 December 1970
Activated on 6 April 1989
Redesignated 353d Special Operations Group on 1 December 1992.


Under operational control of 308 Bombardment Wing, 26 January 1945–
Remained under operational control of 308 Bombardment Wing through 28 May 1945
Under operational control of 309 Bombardment Wing, 29 May-c. 8 August 1945 and c. 27 October 1945 – 25 March 1946

Attached to Thirteenth Air Force, 19–30 October 1967
Under operational control of Seventh Air Force entire period


World War II
Vietnam War
Modern era


Squadrons operated from Atsugi Airfield, Japan, 20 September – 7 October 1945

Operated from U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, Thailand, 30 January – 28 February 1969
Operated from Okinawa, July 1991-4 February 1992


  • YQU-22, 1968–1969
  • QU-22, 1970
  • MC-130E/H, 1989–present
  • HC/MC-130P/N, 1989–2014
  • MC-130J 2014-present
  • C-130E, 1989–?
  • CH/HH-53, 1989–1990
  • MH-53, 1990–2001


Award streamer Award Dates Notes
Philippine Presidential Unit CitationWorld War II
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm1 Apr 1967 – 15 Dec 1970
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/ "V" Device1 Apr 1967 – 31 May 1968
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/ "V" Device1 Jul 1968 – 15 Apr 1969
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award6 Apr 1989 – 5 Apr 1991
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award1 Jun 1993 – 31 May 1995
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award1 Sep 1995 – 31 Aug 1997
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award16 Oct 1998 – 31 May 2000
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award13 Oct 2000 – 1 Sep 2002
Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation31 Jan 2002 – 31 Jul 2002
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award2 Sep 2002 – 1 Sep 2004
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/ "V" Device2 Sep 2004 – 1 Sep 2006
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/ "V" Device1 Oct 2006 – 30 Sep 2008
Air Force Meritorious Unit Award1 Oct 2010 – 30 Sep 2012[1]


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

  1. Dreyer, Kristine (30 December 2012). "BATCATS earn Meritorious Unit Award". 353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs. Retrieved 5 October 2016.

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