|47th Air Division
|Active||1940–1941; 1942–1945; 1951–1987|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Motto(s)||Sustineo Libertatem Latin I Sustain Freedom (1943-1945)|
|Engagements||European Theater of World War II|
|47th Air Division emblem [note 1]|
|47 Bombardment Wing World War II emblem|
The 47th Air Division is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with Strategic Air Command at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. It was inactivated on 27 February 1987.
The unit's origins begin with its predecessor, the World War II 47th Bombardment Wing was part of Fifteenth Air Force. Although earmarked for Eighth Air Force, it served instead with the Twelfth, and later, Fifteenth Air Forces, first as a fighter wing, then as a medium bomb wing, and finally as a heavy bomb wing. In the 1942 early 1943 period many of its assigned components did not actually operate under wing control, while other components were temporarily attached. Its components supported the bombing of Pantelleria Island and the invasions of Sicily, Italy, and southern France in 1943–1944. Wing aircraft also flew missions to the Balkans, Austria, France, and Germany, with the Rumanian oil fields as primary targets from April–August 1944. The final mission on 25 April 1945 struck marshalling yards at Linz, Austria. It returned to the United States in May 1945 to prepare for bombardment operations in the Pacific as a very heavy bombardment wing. On 7 September 1945, the wing became a paper unit and in mid Oct inactivated at Sioux City, Iowa.
Reactivated an intermediate command echelon of Strategic Air Command in June 1952, the 47th Air Division served as an intermediate echelon between Strategic Air Command's Eighth Air Force and operational units in the field. From April 1955 to March 1970, it filled the same role for the Fifteenth Air Force and from March 1970 to July 1971, for the Second Air Force. In July 1971 the 47th returned to Fifteenth Air Force control where it continued to supervise subordinate unit training and other activities.
The eruption of Mount St Helens in the state of Washington in May 1980 seriously affected division operations. Aircraft were dispersed to various bases while around the clock shifts removed the volcanic ash. The division as inactivated in February 1987 as a result of budget restraints.
The organization traces its origins to the 7th Pursuit Wing which was activated on 19 October 1940 as part of General Headquarters Air Force. It was assigned to the Northeast Air District and its mission was air defense of the Northeastern United States, based at Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York. In August 1941, the wing was inactivated and its personnel used to form the 1st Air Support Command.
After a short period of inactivation, the unit was reactivated by the United States Army Air Forces in May 1942 as the 7th Fighter Wing as part of First Air Force, based at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as a command and control organization, preparing fighter groups to be deployed to the European Theater.
After activation, the 7th Pursuit Wing concentrated on training three pursuit groups and in participating in field maneuvers. It completed training in the United States as a fighter wing and moved to North Africa in Nov 1942. Although earmarked for Eighth Air Force, it served instead with the Twelfth, and later, Fifteenth Air Forces, first as a fighter wing, then as a medium bomb wing, and finally as a heavy bomb wing.
Shortly after the Allied landings, the Wing established its headquarters in Casablanca, French Morocco on 11 November 1942, and commenced combat operations, being attached to the Moroccan Composite Wing (Provisional). The 7th Fighter Wing moved its headquarters and units to Algeria in January 1943 as the Allies moved eastward across North Africa, its units flying Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, and long-range Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, attacking German and Italian targets in advance of the ground forces. In the 1942 to early 1943 period, many of its assigned components did not actually operate under wing control, while other components were temporarily attached.
In January 1943, the wing was reassigned to XII Bomber Command and was redesignated as the 47th Bombardment Wing (Medium). (The reason for the designation change was that Seventh Air Force in Hawaii was reorganizing the air defense forces for the islands, and wanted to designate the wing there as the "seventh".) The wing was assigned Martin B-26 Marauder medium and Douglas A-20 Havoc light bomber groups, employing them in tactical roles across Algeria and Tunisia. Throughout 1943, the wing began to have heavy (Consolidated B-24 Liberator) units attached, eventually becoming a heavy bomber organization. Its components supported the bombing of Pantelleria Island and the Allied invasion of Sicily and the Allied invasion of Italy, moving to Manduria Italy in October 1943.
The wing was transferred to the new Fifteenth Air Force on 1 November 1943 along with four B-24 Bomb Groups (98th, 376th, 449th and 450th). The 47th Bomb Wing was named "The Pyramidiers", as the groups aircraft all carried a Pyramid symbol on their vertical stabilizers.
Its groups flew missions to the Balkans, Austria, France, and Germany, with the Romanian oil fields as primary targets from April through August 1944. The wing's groups flew missions over Southern France in August 1944 in support of Operation Dragoon, the Invasion of Southern France. The final combat mission on 25 April 1945 struck marshalling yards at Linz, Austria.
With the war in Europe ended, the 47th Bomb Wing returned to the United States in May 1945 to prepare for bombardment operations in the Pacific as a very heavy bombardment wing. It was assigned to Continental Air Forces, Second Air Force and was redesignated as a "Very Heavy" wing. The 47th Bomb Wing was and assigned first to Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota, then to Sioux City Army Air Base in Iowa to organize the Boeing B-29 Superfortress groups it would command under Eighth Air Force in the Pacific Theater.
The Atomic bombings and the end of World War II in August 1945. All personnel was transferred out of the wing on 17 September and the wing was inactivated on 15 October 1945.
Redesignated as an Air Division, the 47th served as an intermediate echelon between Strategic Air Command's Eighth Air Force and operational units in the field, consisting of bombardment wings, strategic wings, strategic missile wings and strategic aerospace wings. From April 1955 to March 1970, the division filled the same role for Fifteenth Air Force and from March 1970 to July 1971, for Second Air Force. In July 1971 the 47th returned to Fifteenth Air Force control where it continued to supervise subordinate unit training and other activities.
In January 1975, Colonel (later Brigadier General) Eugene D. Scott was selected to command the 47th Air Division. What made this selection, and his subsequent assumption of command in February 1975, particularly noteworthy was that in lieu of being a Command Pilot, Colonel Scott was a Master Navigator, making him the first navigator in USAF history to assume command of an Air Force combat flying organization.
The May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington seriously affected both 47th Air Division and 92d Bombardment Wing operations at Fairchild AFB, resulting in dispersal of Fairchild's B-52 and KC-135 aircraft to various bases while around-the-clock shifts removed the volcanic ash from facilities within the base perimeter."
Air Divisions were gradually phased out of the Air Force command structure after the end of the Vietnam War, with the Numbered Air Forces assuming direct command of its subordinate Wings. The 47th Air Division was one of the last few remaining air divisions to be inactivated, doing so in February 1987 due to a combination of organizational restructuring and budget restraints. Following the 47th's inactivation, SAC's remaining air divisions existed into the early 1990s until their usage ended with the 1992 major reorganization of the USAF Major Commands and the inactivation of SAC itself.