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U.S. Air Forces in Europe Celebrates 65 Years of Airpower

American Forces Press Service

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, Jan. 22, 2007 – United States Air Forces in Europe is celebrating its 65th anniversary as the oldest, continuously active Air Force major command.

USAFE began Jan. 19, 1942, when the War Department established Headquarters 8th Air Force, and the command continues its forward presence in Europe and Africa - from delivering bombs in World War II to delivering humanitarian supplies to Berlin in 1948 and 1949, from fighting the Cold War to fighting today's war on terrorism, command officials said.

Command airmen deployed for operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, flew missions into Sarajevo in the longest humanitarian airlift in history, then converted to combat missions over Kosovo several years later.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, USAFE members have supported operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom with airlift, tankers, fighters and people. In summer 2006, USAFE assisted 14,000 Lebanon evacuees during the Hezbollah-Israel conflict. Today, 70 aircraft and 2,000 airmen are fighting in the war on terrorism.

"For more than half a century, USAFE airmen have taken the fight to America's and our allies' enemies. All airmen and civilians assigned to USAFE today, like those who came before, should take pride in the fact that every day, their service to our nation adds to this command's proud legacy," Gen. William T. Hobbins, the USAFE commander, said.

Some of the command's significant facts include:

-- First wartime action was Aug. 17, 1942, as airmen began a daylight precision-bombing campaign against Axis Europe.

-- D-Day participation involved 171 fighter squadrons with 3,000 aircraft flying 8,722 combat sorties, gaining air superiority and disrupting German reinforcements and ground movements.

-- World War II Medals of Honor from the command went to 25 aviators, 16 of them posthumously.

-- During the Berlin Airlift, in a 24-hour period, 2,764 flights delivered 12,941 tons of supplies and a cargo plane landed or took off from one of Berlin's three airfields every two minutes.

-- Operation El Dorado Canyon against Libyan terrorists involved 18 Royal Air Force station Lakenheath F-111 Aardvarks that bombed five terrorist targets in Tripoli and Benghazi.

-- Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm saw 15 percent of USAFE airmen deployed, and 55 percent of its aircraft and 33 percent of its munitions used toward the war. Spangdahlem Air Base's F-4 Phantoms destroyed 143 radar sites.

-- Sarajevo relief missions involved USAFE C-130 Hercules aircraft that flew 12,886 relief missions, delivering more than 160,000 metric tons of supplies.

-- Operation Shining Hope provided immediate relief to more than 450,000 Kosovar refugees as USAFE members airlifted food, equipment and medical supplies to the region.

-- Supporting the war on terrorism, USAFE personnel played a key role in humanitarian airdrops over Afghanistan, loading more than 2 million humanitarian rations as planes flew daily missions from Ramstein Air Base to Afghanistan.

(From a U.S. Air Forces in Europe news release.)

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