711th Special Operations Squadron

711th Special Operations Squadron

PZL C-145 Skytruck of the 711th Special Operations Squadron
Active 1943–1945; 1949–1951; 1955–1957; 1971–present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Role Special Operations
Part of Air Force Reserve Command
10th Air Force
919th Special Operations Wing
919th Special Operations Group
Garrison/HQ Duke Field, Florida
Engagements European Theater
Operation Just Cause
Operation Desert Storm
Decorations Gallant Unit Citation Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Major General Richard S. Haddad[1]
711th Special Operations Squadron Emblem (approved c. 1977)[2]
Fuselage Code and Squadron Color[3] IP
447th Bombardment Group tail marking Square K

The 711th Special Operations Squadron (711 SOS) is part of the 919th Special Operations Wing at Duke Field, Florida. It is an Air Force Reserve Command unit that is operationally gained by Air Force Special Operations Command if called to active duty.

The squadron was first activated during World War II as the 711th Bombardment Squadron. After training in the United States, it deployed to the European Theater, where it engaged in strategic bombardment missions against Germany. 2d Lieutenant Robert E. Femoyer, of the 711th Bombardment Squadron, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during a mission over Merseburg, Germany, on 2 November 1944. The group returned to the United States following the war and was inactivated.

The squadron was activated in the reserves as a light bomber unit in 1949 and served until it was called to active duty in 1951 as a result of the Korean War and its personnel used as fillers for regular units.

In 1955, the squadron was again activated in the reserves as the 711th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. It trained with Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars and North American F-86 Sabres until being replaced by the 69th Troop Carrier Squadron in 1957.

The squadron activated in 1971 as the 711th Tactical Airlift Squadron at Duke Field, Florida with the mission of intratheater airlift, using Lockheed C-130 Hercules Aircraft. Three years later, it converted to the AC-130 gunship model of the Hercules and became the 711th Special Operations Squadron. In 1995 it converted to a third type of C-130 when it began to fly the MC-130 Combat Talon model. In 2013 it re-equipped with PZL C-145A Skytrucks and its mission became one of providing training and support for friendly nations.


In May 2013 the 711th SOS ended its 42-year mission operating the Lockheed C-130 aircraft to transition to an aviation foreign internal defense mission flying PZL C-145A Skytrucks.[4] In 2015, the 711th SOS shares a building, flightline, aircraft and mission with the active-duty 6th Special Operations Squadron at Duke Field.[5] The 6th SOS moved from Hurlburt Field to Duke Field in 2012, as the 711th transitioned from the MC-130E to the FID role, the two units jointly assuming the new mission. "As the only two Air Force operational squadrons performing this mission, their deployment tempo is best described as continuous averaging around one deployment a month."[6]


World War II

711th Bombardment Squadron emblem (approved 6 September 1943)[7]

Training in the United States

The squadron was first activated on 1 May 1943 at Ephrata Army Air Base, Washington as the 711th Bombardment Squadron, one of the four squadrons of the 447th Bombardment Group.[7][8]

The original mission of the squadron was to be an operational training unit.[9] However, by the time the 447th group reached full strength in October it had been identified for overseas deployment and its key personnel were assigned to the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics at Orlando Army Air Base, Florida for advanced tactical training. The cadre trained at Brooksville Army Air Field with the 1st Bombardment Squadron, engaging in simulated attacks against Mobile, Charleston and New Orleans. The squadron then trained at Rapid City Army Air Base, South Dakota with the 17th Bombardment Training Wing. In June 1943 the group moved to Harvard Army Air Field, Nebraska for Phase I training.[10] The unit sailed on the RMS Queen Elizabeth on 23 November 1943 and arrived at the Firth of Clyde on 29 November 1943.[11] The squadron's B-17s began to move from the United States to the European theater of operations in November 1943.[7]

Combat in the European Theater

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress 42-97392 711th BS, 'Ramblin Wreck'

The squadron was stationed at RAF Rattlesden, England, from December 1943 to August 1945. It flew its first combat mission on 24 December 1943 against a V-1 missile site near Saint-Omer in Northern France.[12]

From December 1943 to May 1944, the squadron helped prepare for the invasion of the European continent by attacking submarine pens, naval installations, and cities in Germany; missile sites and ports in France; and airfields and marshaling yards in France, Belgium and Germany.[13] The squadron conducted heavy bombardment missions against German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20 to 25 February 1944.[8]

The unit supported the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 by bombing airfields and other targets.[8] On D-Day the squadron bombed the beachhead area using pathfinder aircraft.[14]

The squadron aided in the breakthrough at St. Lo, France, and the effort to take Brest, France, from July to September 1944.[8] It bombed strategic targets from October to December 1944, concentrating on sources of oil production.[8] It assaulted marshalling yards, railroad bridges and communication centers during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945.[8] In March 1945 the group bombed an airfield in support of airborne assault across the Rhine. The unit flew its last combat mission on 21 April 1945 against a marshalling yard at Ingolstadt, Germany.[15]

On 2 November 1944, 2d Lieutenant Robert E. Femoyer, a navigator with the squadron, was flying a mission to Merseburg, Germany. His B-17 was damaged by flak and Lt. Femoyer was severely injured in his back and side. He refused morphine to relieve the pain of his injuries in order to keep his mind alert to navigate the plane out of the danger from heavily defended flak areas and then to a place of safety for his crew. Because he was too weak to climb back in his seat, he asked other crew members to prop him up so he could read his charts and instruments. For more than two hours he directed the navigation of his plane back to its home station with no further damage. Shortly after being removed from his plane, Lt. Femoyer died of his injuries.[8][16]

The 711th redeployed to the United States during the summer 1945. The air echelon ferried their aircraft and personnel back to the United States, leaving on 29 and 30 June 1945. The squadron ground echelon, along with the 709th squadron sailed 3 August 1945 on the SS Benjamin R. Milam, from Liverpool. Most personnel were discharged at Camp Myles Standish after arrival at the port of Boston. A small cadre proceeded to Drew Field, Florida[17] and the squadron inactivated on 7 November 1945.[8]

Pre-Korean War reserve operations

The squadron was redesignated as a light bomber unit and activated in the postwar reserve at Long Beach Municipal Airport and assigned to the 448th Bombardment Group. It had no tactical aircraft assigned, but flew twin engine trainers[2] and trained with the 2347th Air Force Reserve Training Center.[18] The squadron was called to active duty for the Korean War in 1951. The squadron's personnel were reassigned to other organizations, then the unit was inactivated a few days later as a paper unit.[7]

Reserve fighter operations

The squadron was redesignated the 711th Fighter-Bomber Squadron and again activated as a reserve unit in 1955 at Hensley Field, Texas when the 448th Fighter-Bomber Wing replaced the 8709th Pilot Training Wing at Hensley Field, Texas. The wing took over the T-28 Trojan aircraft of the 8709th, but soon re-equipped with Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars. The squadron flew the F-80 until 1957, when it began converting to the North American F-86 Sabre.[18] However, later that year, the 711th[7] and the remainder of the 448th wing were inactivated[18] when reserve operations at Hensley converted to the airlift mission and the 69th Troop Carrier Squadron moved to Hensley from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.[19]

Reserve special operations

711th Lockheed AC-130A Hercules on display at Eglin AFB. This is the first Hercules built

The unit reactivated in 1971 at Duke Field, Florida as the 711th Tactical Airlift Squadron, a reserve intratheater airlift squadron equipped with the Lockheed C-130A Hercules. Its mission was the airlift of personnel and cargo as well as airdrop support for Army paratroopers during exercises.[2]

In late 1974, the squadron began transitioning to the AC-130A Spectre aircraft[2] and when transition to gunships was complete the squadron was redesignated as the 711th Special Operations Squadron in the summer of the following year.[2] Close air support of conventional and special operations ground forces became the unit's primary duty, but additional capabilities included the ability to perform armed interdiction, reconnaissance, and escort, forward air control and combat search and rescue in conventional or unconventional warfare settings.[20]

Because the Spectres' advanced sensors were useful in range reconnaissance and range clearing tasks, the 711th also provided missile range support to the Air Force's Eastern Range at Cape Canaveral AFS from 1979 to 1989 and space shuttle support to National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Kennedy Space Center from 1981 to 1988.[2][20]

An MC-130E of the 711th Special Operations Squadron drops the last operational BLU-82 at the Utah Test and Training Range in 2008

The 711th flew pre-strike reconnaissance, fire support, escort, and air base defense sorties during Operation Just Cause, the United States intervention in Panama from 8 December 1989 to 7 January 1990, for which it earned an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.[2]

The 711th again flew combat missions during Operation Desert Storm in Southwest Asia from February through March 1991.[2] The squadron deployed five aircraft and eight aircrews to King Fahd International Airport, near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, arriving on 7 February and flying its first sortie two days later.[21] On 26 February three of the squadron's AC-130As attacked the Jahra to Basra road, which was being used by fleeing Iraqi troops. Fighter aircraft had struck the road, and numerous vehicles were backed up on the road, struggling to make their way north. Ghost 10 was the first squadron aircraft to attack, but it had to depart the area after destroying five vehicles due to its low fuel situation. It was replaced by Ghost 06 and Ghost 07, which destroyed an additional 29 vehicles, including four armored personnel carriers. The squadron flew 59 sorties during the war, and performed airlift as well as gunship missions. It departed the theater on 12 March and arrived at Duke on 19 March.[22]

The squadron's primary mission changed in late 1995 as the unit transitioned to the MC-130E Combat Talon I aircraft. In its new role, the squadron provided long-range clandestine delivery of special operations forces and equipment. It periodically deployed personnel and aircraft to support special operations contingency operations worldwide, as well as numerous humanitarian missions.[2] Beginning on 1 October 1997, the 711th also provided the flight portion of MC-130E Combat Talon I training for both Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Force Reserve Command.[2]

After September 2001, the 711th frequently deployed aircraft and personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.[23]

The squadron ended forty-two years of operating with the Hercules in 2013, when it transitioned into the PZL C-145 Skytruck short takeoff and landing aircraft.[24] The unit's new mission is aviation foreign internal defense. Aviation foreign internal defense is a special operations forces mission employing airmen as combat aviation advisors to assess, train, advise and assist foreign nations in aviation. It supports friendly nations to assist the United States in achieving strategic political and military goals. In this mission the squadron is a reserve associate unit operating and maintaining aircraft of the 6th Special Operations Squadron a colocated regular unit.[25]


Activated on 1 May 1943
Redesignated 711th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy on 20 August 1943
Inactivated on 7 November 1945
Activated in the reserve on 27 June 1949
Ordered to active service on 17 March 1951
Inactivated on 21 March 1951
Activated in the reserve on 18 May 1955
Inactivated on 16 November 1957.
Activated in the Reserve on 30 July 1971
Redesignated 711 Special Operations Squadron on 1 July 1975



  • Ephrata Army Air Base, Washington, 1 May 1943
  • Rapid City Army Air Base, South Dakota, 13 June 1943
  • Harvard Army Airfield, Nebraska, 1 August-11 November 1943
  • RAF Rattlesden (AAF-126),[26] England, 1 December 1943-c. 1 August 1945

  • Drew Field, Florida, 14 August-7 November 1945
  • Long Beach Municipal Airport, California, 27 June 1949 – 21 March 1951
  • Hensley Field (Dallas Naval Air Station), Texas, 18 May 1955 – 16 November 1957
  • Duke Field (Eglin Air Force Auxiliary Field No. 3), Florida, 30 June 1971–present


  • Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, 1943–1945
  • Beechcraft AT-7 Navigator, 1949–1951
  • Beechcraft AT-11 Kansan, 1949–1951
  • North American T-28 Trojan, 1955

  • Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star, 1955-1957
  • Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star, 1955-1957
  • North American F-86 Sabre, 1957
  • Lockheed C-130A Hercules, 1971–1975

  • Lockheed AC-130A Spectre, 1975–1995
  • Lockheed MC-130E Combat Talon I, 1995–2013
  • PZL C-145A Skytruck, 2013–present

Awards and campaigns

Award streamer Award Dates Notes
Gallant Unit Citation19 October 2001-1 July 2003711th Special Operations Squadron[27]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award30 July 1971-31 March 1973711th Tactical Airlift Squadron[2]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award1 July 1975-31 January 1977711th Special Operations Squadron[2]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award1 June 1987-31 May 1989711th Special Operations Squadron[2]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award8 December 1989-7 January 1990711th Special Operations Squadron[2]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award1 June 1990-31 May 1992711th Special Operations Squadron[2]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award1 June 1992-31 May 1994711th Special Operations Squadron[2]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award1 June 1994-31 May 1996711th Special Operations Squadron[2]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award1 June 1996-31 May 1998711th Special Operations Squadron[2]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award1 June 1998-31 May 2000711th Special Operations Squadron[27]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award1 October 2003-31 December 2004711th Special Operations Squadron[27]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award1 January 2005-31 December 2005711th Special Operations Squadron[27]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award1 January 2006-31 December 2006711th Special Operations Squadron[27]
Campaign Streamer Campaign Dates Notes
American Theater1 May 1943 – 11 November 1943711th Bombardment Squadron[7]
Air Offensive, Europe29 November 1943 – 5 June 1944711th Bombardment Squadron[7]
Normandy6 June 1944 – 24 July 1944711th Bombardment Squadron[7]
Northern France25 July 1944 – 14 September 1944711th Bombardment Squadron[7]
Rhineland15 September 1944 – 21 March 1945711th Bombardment Squadron[7]
Ardennes-Alsace16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945711th Bombardment Squadron[7]
Central Europe22 March 1944 – 21 May 1945711th Bombardment Squadron[7]
Just Cause20 December 1989 – 31 January 1990711th Special Operations Squadron, Panama[2]
Defense of Saudi Arabia [a 2] 711th Special Operations Squadron
Liberation and Defense of Kuwait 9 February 1991 – 19 March 1991 711th Special Operations Squadron[2]


Explanatory Notes

  1. The 919th Special Operations Group is not the same unit that the squadron was assigned to from 1971 to 1993. That unit is now the 919th Special Operations Wing. Endicott, Judy G. (8 July 2008). "Factsheet 919 Special Operations Wing (AFRC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved January 24, 2014.
  2. The 711th received credit for this campaign. However unit histories show that the squadron did not deploy until the campaign ended. Endicott, Judy G. (1 August 2008). "Factsheet 711 Special Operations Squadron (AFRC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved January 24, 2014.


  1. "United States Air Force Biography Major General Richard S. "Beef" Haddad" (PDF). House of Representatives. 2013-04-16. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Endicott, Judy G. (1 August 2008). "Factsheet 711 Special Operations Squadron (AFRC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved January 24, 2014.
  3. Watkins, Robert (2008). Battle Colors: Insignia and Markings of the Eighth Air Force In World War II. Vol I (VIII) Bomber Command. Atglen, PA: Shiffer Publishing Ltd. pp. 92–93. ISBN 0-7643-1987-6.
  4. King, TSgt Samuel (2013). "Air Force Combat Talons fly for last time". 919 Special Operations Wing. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  5. King, Jr., Samuel, Tech. Sgt., USAF, 919th SOW / Public Affairs, Eglin Flyer, Beacon Newspapers, Bayou Enterprises, Niceville, Florida, Friday 17 April 2015, page 1.
  6. King, Jr., Samuel, Tech. Sgt., USAF, 919th SOW / Public Affairs, Eglin Flyer, Beacon Newspapers, Bayou Enterprises, Niceville, Florida, Friday 17 April 2015, page 1,6.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) [1969]. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 712–713. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) [1961]. Air Force Combat Units of World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 321–322. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. LCCN 61060979.
  9. Surridge; Dooley, Edward C., eds. (1946). Pictorial History of the 447th Bombardment Group (H). World War II Regimental Histories No. 107. Tampa, FL. p. 18. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
  10. Surridge & Dooley, pp. 19-21
  11. Freeman, Roger A. (1970). The Mighty Eighth: Units, Men and Machines (A History of the US 8th Army Air Force). London, England, UK: Macdonald and Company. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-87938-638-2.
  12. "Abstract, History 447 Bombardment Group May 1943-Apr 1944". Air Force History Index. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
  13. "447th Air Expeditionary Group". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  14. "Abstract, History 447 Bombardment Group Mar-Jun 1944". Air Force History Index. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
  15. "Abstract, History 447 Bombardment Group Apr 1945". Air Force History Index. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
  16. Freeman, p. 180
  17. Surridge & Dooley, pp. 214-215
  18. 1 2 3 Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings, Lineage & Honors Histories 1947-1977 (PDF). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. p. 244. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  19. Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 258
  20. 1 2 Endicott, Judy G. (8 July 2008). "Factsheet 919 Special Operations Wing (AFRC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  21. Bergeron, TSG Randy G. (2001). Desert Shield/Desert Storm: Air Force Special Operations Command in the Gulf War (PDF) (Reprint ed.). Hurlburt Field, FL: Air Force Special Operations Command History Office. pp. 39–40. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  22. Bergeron, pp. 104-106
  23. See "919th Special Operations Wing". 919th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs. 9 June 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  24. "Rolling in". 911th Special Operations Wing. December 31, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  25. Comtois, Col. Anthony (October 13, 2012). "State of wing, future of Duke". 911th Special Operations Wing. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  26. Station number in Anderson, Capt. Barry (1985). Army Air Forces Stations: A Guide to the Stations Where U.S. Army Air Forces Personnel Served in the United Kingdom During World War II (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  27. 1 2 3 4 5 "Air Force Recognition Programs". Air Force Personnel Center. Retrieved January 25, 2014.


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

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