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USAFE celebrates 65 years of airpower

U.S. Air Forces in Europe officials celebrate 65 years of service Jan. 19. Since 1942, command Airmen have maintained a presence in the European theater with the oldest, continuously active Air Force major command. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Mike Carabajal)

U.S. Air Forces in Europe officials celebrate 65 years of service Jan. 19. Since 1942, command Airmen have maintained a presence in the European theater with the oldest, continuously active Air Force major command. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Mike Carabajal)

West Berliners watch as a U.S. cargo plane delivers desperately needed supplies during the Berlin Airlift.  (File photo)

West Berliners watch as a U.S. cargo plane delivers desperately needed supplies during the Berlin Airlift. (File photo)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNEWS) -- United States Air Forces in Europe celebrates 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 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 9/11, USAFE members have supported operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom with airlift, tankers, fighters and people -- today, 70 aircraft and 2,000 Airmen fight the war on terrorism. Last summer, USAFE assisted 14,000 Lebanon evacuees during the Hezbollah-Israel conflict.

"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," said Gen. William T. Hobbins, the USAFE commander.

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 flew 8,722 combat sorties gaining air superiority and disrupted 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 Eldorado Canyon against Libyan terrorists involved 18 Royal Air Force 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, 55 percent of its aircraft and 33 percent of its munitions used toward the war while Spangdahlem AB'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 the humanitarian airdrops over Afghanistan, loading more than two million humanitarian rations as planes flew daily missions from Ramstein AB to Afghanistan.

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