Thursday, April 1, 2021

Ga. ANG Converts to Global Transport Mission

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard.


A KC-97, newly assigned to the Ga. Air National Guard's 116th Air Transport Wing, flies over Dobbins Air Force Base in 1961. The aircraft would
subsequently be converted to a C-97G and assigned to the 128th Air Transport Squadron. Georgia National Guard Archives. 

On April 1, 1961, the Ga. Air National Guard’s 116th Air Defense Wing, based at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Ga. was reorganized as the 116th Air Transport Wing (Heavy).[1]

To prepare for the conversion, pilots of the 116th began delivering their F-86L fighter jets to the California Air National Guard in February and March and started the training to transition to the double-deck multi-engine C-97. Flight crews and maintenance personnel completed training in May 1961 at Randolph, AFB, Texas and the 128th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, redesignated the 128th Air Transport Squadron received the first four C-97s in June.

U. S. Air Force photo showing the cargo capacity
of the C-97. Georgia National Guard Archives.

The initial allotment of C-97s were assigned from Strategic Air Command where they had been fitted as airborne refueling platforms and designated KC-97s. Within six months of receipt, technicians removed the refueling equipment and converted the aircraft to the C-97G model. The pressurized cargo aircraft could fly at an altitude of 35,000 feet while carrying 134 fully equipped troops for a maximum distance of 4,300 miles without refueling.[2]

Brigadier General Bernard Davey, commander of the 116th Air Transport Wing noted that the change in aircraft and mission would bring a change in training with crews performing multiple overseas flights.

Colonel Bernard M. Davey, Commander, 116th Fighter Bomber Wing,
arrived by jet at Travis Field, with other pilots of the Georgia
Air National Guard. Shown greeting Davey as he arrives
in his F-84 Thunder Jet, are Col. Joel B. Paris, commander
 of the 128th Fighter Bomber Squadron and future Adjutant
General of Georgia and crew chief Sgt. Robert E. Denman. 

“We will depart from Charleston, AFB S.C., when making over-water flights over route structure assigned to us by the Eastern Transport Air Force, said Davey during a ceremony marking the assignment of the wing’s first C-97s. Davey went on to explain that these routes would include South America, Europe and the middle east with some flights traveling 4,000 non-stop miles.

By the end of 1961, 31 pilots and 29 flight engineers had undergone home-station training on the C-97.[3] Subsequently, the Georgia Air National Guard announced that the Savannah-based 165th Fighter Group would also convert to the heavy transport mission. The 165th received its first C-97 in 1961[4] and was redesignated the 165th MATS Heavy Transport on April 1, 1962.[5]

Among the first pilot crew members from Savannah to be checked out in the C-97 were Capt. Ben Patterson, right, and Capt. Kenneth R. Davis. Patterson
served as the commander of the Ga. Air National Guard from 1975 to 1977.

The Georgia Air National Guard flew the C-97 from 1961 to December 1966 when it was replaced by the C-124.


[1] “First C-97 Stratofreighters Arrive for ANG.” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, June 1961, 4.

[2] “Global Missions Set for Air Guard as Win Converts to Air Transport.” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine. December 1960, 2.

[3] Annual Report of the Adjutant General of Georgia, 1961. (Atlanta: 1961)

[4] “165th Gets First Stratofreighter.” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, April 1962, 6.

[5] “Kuhn’s Fighter Gp in Historic Switch to Transport Role.” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, January 1962, 1.