7406th Support Squadron History


From October 1948 to May 1955 there had been a 7499th Support Squadron, first at Furstenfeldbruck AB then at Wiesbaden AB, Germany, that was involved in surveillance (ELINT & photo), of Eastern Europe. This activity was to expand, but the squadron had reached capacity. It was decided to make three new squadrons with the 7499th as Group Headquarters. These units were as follows:
  1. 7499th Support Group. Stationed at Wiesbaden, Germany. The 7499th Support Group was inactivated as of 1 March 1972.

  2. 7405th Support Squadron. This squadron would take over the duties and equipment/men of the 7499th Support Squadron at Wiesbaden, Germany. This squadron had, in 1955, the following aircraft: B-26C, C-47, RC-54D, C-97A, & C-118.

    In 1975 this squadron was renamed as an Operations Squadron, moved to Rhein-Main Airbase, Germany, and operated three C-130Es. In 1977 it became part of the 7575th Operations Group. It was inactivated in January 1991.

  3. 7406th Support Squadron. This would be a new squadron stationed at Rhein-Main Airbase (Frankfurt Airport), Germany. This squadron would operate & maintain the aircraft and front-end crew, other personnel (back-end crew from the 6911th Radio Group (mobile)) would accomplish airborne radio surveillance. See below for aircraft. The 7406th squadron was inactivated 30 June 1974.

  4. 7407th Support Squadron. This would be a new squadron stationed at Rhein-Main Airbase, Germany. This squadron would accomplish airborne photo surveillance . They used RB-57A, then RB-57D, and finally RB-57F aircraft at Rhein-Main. This squadron had a Detachment 1 organized at Bitburg Air Base, Germany using five (5) RF-100A aircraft. This Detachment was inactivated in July 1958. The 7407th squadron was inactivated 1 October 1968.


On the 10 May 1955, the 7406th Support Squadron was formally activated. The squadron was placed under the operational control of the 7499th Support Group, Wiesbaden Air Base, Germany, and attached to the 60th Troop Carrier Wing, Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, for logistical support. The squadron was assigned facilities in the "Hutment" area at Rhein-Main Air Base. Captain William P. Fisher, USAF, was assigned as first Commanding Officer.

Captain Fisher had one airman present for duty. On 17 June 1955, the first shipment of office equipment arrived and squadron headquarters operations were set up in building T-314.

Facilities at Rhein-Main
The airport at Frankfurt has two main runways 07L/25R & 07R/25L. The north side of the runways was used by the City of Frankfurt and was called "Frankfurt International Airport". The south side of the runways was used by the U.S. Air Force and was called "Rhein-Main Air Base", "The Gateway to Europe".

The control tower, fire station, TDY aircraft etc. were at the midpoint of the runway, across from the main gate to the air base. Running east-west from the control tower was the frontage road. At the end of this frontage road were the maintenance facilities and flight operations center for the 7406th Support Squadron. At first, access to the flight line was guarded by armed 7406th personnel. This "guard duty" was dropped in 1958.

Next, (east) of the 7406th facilities were the 7407th Support Squadron facilities. In early 1960 the flight operations buildings were rebuilt and reoccupied in July. The 7406th flight engineer/scanner lounge and the security office were installed in part of the 7407th building. All of the buildings, except the nose dock, were built of wood, large 4X8 panels and a low roof line. The buildings had a prefab look. The flight officers lounge was a small building in front of ops (it use to be a garage for ground equipment). The new ops building had a large conference room with a stage and sliding wall maps. The maintenance building was a large U shaped affair with a new nose dock built just south of it. The nose dock was built of steel. Prior to 1960 all aircraft maintenance had to be done on the ramp.

The barracks were about 1/4 mile south of the flight line. It was a large two story U shaped building with a basement. This was a former WW-II Luftwaffe barracks. This building was built of cinderblocks & stucco with a tile roof. The building had four large open bays on the first & second floors, with supply and small rooms in the basement. The 7406th & 7407th shared this building. There were no U.S. Army facilities at Rhein-Main, so in 1969 the Army enlisted men (back-enders for the Caribou) shared the building with the 7406th. The 7407th was disbanded in 1968, and the 7406th expanded into its facilities.

In early 1972, after the changeover from the 7499th Support Group to the 322nd Tactical Airlift Wing and the transition from the C-130A to the C-130B the physical location of the squadron was moved from Building 438 to Building 69. The chow hall was across the street next to the parking lot (west side). The Rocket Club (lower four enlisted club) was about two blocks to the east. After the close of the 7406th Squadron in 1974 the 7405th Squadron, in 1975 moved to Rhein-Main AB. In October 2005 the US formally returned Rhein-Main Air Base to the German government. On December 31, 2005 USAF Brig. Gen. Mike Snodgrass gave the keys to Rhein-Main Air Base to the operator of Frankfurt International Airport. The 120 buildings on the base are to be bulldozed to make way for a third terminal for Frankfurt International Airport.

The B-50 looked similar in appearance to the B-29, but the B-50 had thicker skin; the wings were 16% stronger, 26% more efficient, & 650 pounds lighter. The tail was five feet taller and could fold down. The engines, R4360, had 59% more horsepower than the R3350 but were not as reliable. The squadron was to start with seven (7) RB-50 aircraft. Operationally, the squadron was to be divided into two flights known as Flight "A" or "Half-Track" with two RB-50D aircraft, and Flight "B" or "Dream-Boat" with five RB-50D aircraft. The squadron was expected to be operational by 15 March 1956. On 13 Sept 1955 Lt Col George J. Byars, USAF, was assigned as Squadron Commander. Present for duty were 5 Officers and 32 Airmen. On 19 October 1955 Capt Stanley B. Klein, USAF, was assigned Operations Officer. On 19 November 1955 Major Joseph F. Herrmann Jr, USAF, was assigned Operations Officer. Maintenance personnel were sent to the 97th Bombardment Wing at Lakenheath Air Base, England, for familiarization on B-50 aircraft.

Flight "A" (Half-Track):
These RB-50D aircraft had two pilots (AC & copilot), two navigators (radar & radio), a flight engineer, a radio operator, two scanners/gunners (the aircraft had two upper & two lower gun turrets), and a tail gunner.

The RB-50D had a single large molded plastic nose with a flat bomb-aimer's window in the lower portion. The aircraft also had a droppable 700 gallon tank under each wing and a single-point fueling system; this system was not used on the 7406 Squadron aircraft. On 6 March 1956 the first "Half-Track" RB-50D, 49-312, piloted by Captains Kirkbride & Jeremica, arrived from the ZI. On 3 April 1956 the second "Half-Track" RB-50D, 48-107, arrived. This aircraft was in such poor condition that it was cannibalized for parts. On 26 May 1956 the third "Half-Track" RB-50D, 49-307, piloted by Jessie DeHay & George Berg, arrived. These aircraft were aluminum-colored. They were modified by Goodyear (General Dynamics) at Akron, OH. On 1 June 1956 the squadron started flying "Half Track" operational missions. The squadron had 29 Officers and 86 Airmen.

"Half-Track" was ATRAN (Automatic Terrain Recognition And Navigation) the back-end crew consisted of two persons. These two sat in the scanner/gunner compartment, aft of the bomb bays, during take off & landings. During missions these two sat on a platform in the forward bomb bay. These missions were designed to collect radar images of actual terrain over which the Martin TM-61 Matador tactical missile would fly. The missile's on-board radar would compare what it saw with these images, and keep the missile on its correct course. Low level flights commencing from points in Western Germany were flown to the East German border. Continuation of the flight pattern would be simulated on a "sand table" and attached to the Half-Track negative film.

This entire program was compromised with the publication of one Aviation Week magazine article in August 1956 all "Half-Track" missions stopped. In January 1957 the squadron was relieved of flying "Half Track" missions. With the end of the "Half-Track" missions, aircraft 48-107 & 49-312 were returned to the ZI but 49-307 was kept as a training aircraft. At first 49-307 did flight training, but it was then used mainly as a serviceable engine stand. These engines were used to keep mission aircraft serviceable. In the training modification all the guns and fuel drop tanks were removed.

Flight "B" (Dreamboat):
Three aircraft were RB-50E, 47-120, 47-126, & 47-129. The other two aircraft were RB-50Gs 47-136 & 47-157. These aircraft had additional radar equipment and no droppable fuel tanks or single-point fuel system and no upper or lower gun turrets, but they retained the tail guns. Four Dreamboat aircraft were painted a flat black on the bottom, typical of SAC bombers of the early 50s.One aircraft, 47-157, was painted all flat black. These aircraft were modified by TEMCO at Majors Field, Greenville, TX. There were 6 back-enders in these aircraft. Five radio operators (linguists) and one radio technician. Their stations were in the scanner/gunner compartment aft of the bomb bays. In December 1956 the first "Dreamboat" aircraft RB-50G 47-157 arrived, piloted by Maj. Paul H. Swanson, copilot Capt. Fred L. McDowell Jr., navigator 2nd Lt. Lawrence L. Lively, navigator Maj. Francis B. Shaffer, flight engineer MSgt. Frank C. Martin, radio operator SSgt. John D. Mulkey, gunner/scanner MSgt. Lawrence Gumenski, gunner/scanner SSgt. Neil W. Hurley, & 6911th NCOIC radio operator TSgt. Stanley E. Kresge. On 1 January 1957 the squadron had 41 Officers and 161 Airmen. The first "Dreamboat" mission was flown on 12 January 1957. The squadron then had only one "Dreamboat" aircraft.

West Germany: Fly as straight a line as possible from middle Germany to the East/West German border at 500ft and 1000ft absolute alt. Pull up at the border. At times an aircraft would return to Rhein-Main with tree limbs wrapped around the aircraft tail skid.

Missions were generally at 24,000 ft. with a duration of 12 to 14 hours.

The main missions were:

  1. Rhein-Main to Baltic Sea. Up the middle of the Baltic Sea east of Gotland to a point east of Stockholm then orbit between Sweden and Finland and return.

  2. Triangular track in Germany.

  3. Rhein-Main to Adriatic en route to Incirlik and return to Rhein-Main.

  4. Adana to Black Sea orbit hugging the coast line area.

  5. Adana to Trapson orbit to Lake Van.

  6. Some missions were flown over the Eastern Mediterranean south of Cyprus with British back-enders, primarily during the Lebanon crisis.

  7. Norway: The 7499 Group designated Bodo, Norway as "7406th Support Squadron Det #2" in 1956 and a RB-50 flew there on a training mission. In August 1958 a C-130A-II (aircraft 56-528) flew there on a training mission. A request was put into the Norwegian government to operate SIGINT missions out of Bodo, Norway to within 100 miles of the Russian coast but the Norwegians would not allow foreign units to be stationed on Norwegian soil. The designator "7406th Support Squadron Det #2" was closed out in 1964.

All 7406th C-130 missions were called Creek Grass missions after 1966.

Missions were flown at 28,000 ft for a duration of 8+40 hours. Due to increases in C-130A-II weight, mission duration was down to 7+30 hours by 1970. Missions returned to 8+40 hours with the introduction of the C-130B-II.

NORTH (Baltic Sea) - Leave Rhein-Main and head northeast to Kiel Bay, then East and over Bornholm, Denmark. Then north between Gotland and mainland Sweden. If time permitted orbit in an area west of North Gotland then return to Rhein-Main. About 1963 this route was changed to the middle of the Baltic Sea, east of Gotland, up to a point east of Stockholm, simpler than the RB-50 route. The Baltic missions ended in June 1973.

CENTRAL (Germany) - Leave Rhein-Main and head East then Southeast to the Bohemian Forest and orbit for eight hours. Return to Rhein-Main.

SOUTH (Adriatic Sea) - Leave Rhein-Main and head south across Austria at Innsbruck to Venice, Italy, then southeast and orbit over the Adriatic Sea next to Yugoslavia. Sometimes overnight at Aviano or Naples, Italy. Return to Rhein-Main.

TO TURKEY- Leave Rhein-Main and head south across Austria at Innsbruck, then southeast over the Adriatic Sea to Kerkira, then northeast and east across northern Greece just south of Yugoslavia & Bulgaria. Orbit in this area if time permitted. Then to Istanbul and on to Adana, landing at Incirlik. In December 1965 all missions to/from Turkey ceased.

Flight crews were sent to Turkey for two weeks TDY. There were five flight areas from Incirlik: Romania, Crimea, Sochi, Armenia, & Caspian Sea.

ROMANIA- Leave Incirlik and head north. Just above Sivas head northwest to about midpoint in the Black Sea then orbit north & south facing Bulgaria & Rumania. Return to Incirlik.

CRIMEA- Leave Incirlik and head north. At midpoint in the Black Sea orbit east & west facing the Crimea. Return to Incirlik.

SOCHI- Leave Incirlik and head north. Just above Sivas head northeast to about midpoint in the Black Sea then orbit north & south facing Sochi. Return to Incirlik

ARMENIA- Leave Incirlik and head north. At Kayseri head east to just above Lake Van, then orbit north & south facing Armenia. Return to Incirlik.

CASPIAN SEA- Started May 1963. Leave Incirlik to Bitlis, then to Mehrabad air port, Tehran. Stay at Tehran two days flying missions day and night due to mission requirements. Daytime heat would at times require that some missions would start with top hatches open to reduce aircraft cabin heat. When cabin temperature was at 95 deg. F or above the backenders could not turn their radios on. Fly all missions within 12 miles of Iran coast. Return to Tehran.

EAST MED- Started in 1967. Leave Athens and head south. At Crete head east to a point just east of Cyprus. Turn south off the coast of Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, then turn west off the coast of Egypt, then northeast to a point just south of Cyprus. Orbit when requested by back-end crew. Return to Athens. During crisis times (1967, early 1970 & late 1973) when Arabs and Israelis were shooting at each other, more than one mission would be flown per day. During the 1967 war the U.S. Navy flew EC-121Ms out of Rota, Spain, and in the 1970 & 1973 wars the U.S. Navy flew P-3s out of NAS Sigonella, Sicily, that covered one eight hour period while the 7406th covered the other two eight hour periods to provide round the clock coverage in the East Med.

CENTRAL MED- Missions were flown round robin out of Athens. One or two missions per month. Off the coast of Libya turn west and follow coast through Gulf of Sidra to Tripoli. Turn north to point off Malta.

WEST MED- (Started in 1972) Missions started and ended in Catania/Sigonella NAS, Sicily, and/or Napoli/Capodichino NAS, Naples, Italy. Later changed to RONs at Rota NAS, Spain.

Some missions flew from Rhein-Main to a point off Sicily, turn west off the coast of Tunisia, Algeria & Morocco, then RON at Rota NAS, Spain. After leaving Rota, fly a Central Med mission on the way home to Rhein-Main.

Caribbean missions operated out of MacDill AFB FL. At first (February 1964) it was under the 15th Tactical Fighter Wing (TAC), then in February 1966 the 4409th Support Squadron was set up. At one time or another seven 7406th Support Squadron aircraft were assigned there:

  1. Aircraft 58-0711, Feb 64 - Nov 66
  2. Aircraft 56-0530, Nov 65 - Aug 66
  3. Aircraft 56-0538, Mar 66 - Jun 67
  4. Aircraft 56-0525, Nov 66 - Nov 68
  5. Aircraft 56-0540, Apr 67 - Apr 70
  6. Aircraft 56-0541, Jul 68 - Dec 68
  7. Aircraft 56-0534, Dec 69 - Aug 71
The mission area was the north coast of Cuba with a coordinated U-2 mission. At first 7406th flight crews, on TDY, trained TAC & 4409th flight crews. As more 7406th personnel transferred to the 4409th the TDY training stopped. The 4409th also had C-130B-II aircraft from Yokota, Japan.

On 19 February 1967 two aircraft, 56-0534 & 56-0541 and four air crews departed TDY to HQ 41st Air Division (PACAF) at Yokota Air Base, Japan, on Operation "Creek Mark" to assist the Airborne Communication Reconnaissance Program (ACRP) mission there.

The 556th Reconnaissance Squadron was stationed at Yokota with the C-130B-II. They had missions areas in Korea, China Sea, Gulf of Tonkin, and Vietnam. The 7406th C-130A-IIs flew local missions out of Yokota over the Sea of Japan, relieving the C-130B-IIs to fly missions in Southeast Asia - This made maintenance more doable because A-model maintenance was a problem in Vietnam. In June 1967 aircraft 56-0541 and 56-0534 and the four crews returned to the 7406th squadron at Rhein-Main.

Coordinated Missions
The 7406th C-130s did run coordinated missions with other people, but some of the details are still sensitive.

In December 1959 the new nose hanger at Rhein-Main was completed and turned over to the squadron. In December 1959 location TUSLOG, (Turkish U.S. Logistics Group) Detachment 72, was activated at Adana, Turkey with one officer and two airmen. In 1960 Major Harold B. Murray became squadron operations officer. On the 4th July 1960 the squadron received it's last C-130A-II, 56-0535. In December the first aircraft to complete IRAN (Inspect & Repair As Necessary) was returned to the squadron. At the end of 1960 the squadron had 68 officers and 220 airmen.

On 8 May 1963 Det 0001 of the 7499th Support Group was established at Tehran, Iran. On 3 August 1964 Lt Colonel Robert E. Crowley assumed command. In October 1964 aircraft 56-535 was assigned to HQ AF Logistics Command, Wright-Patterson AFB OH. In April 1965 aircraft 56-535 was reassigned to the 7406 Support Squadron. On 14 December 1965 the 7407th Squadron lost an RB-57F (63-13287) over the Black Sea. At this time all 7499th Group (including the 7406th) missions to/from Turkey ceased. All missions in the Caspian Sea area ceased. Missions now started from Athens, Greece. On 4 March 1966 aircraft 56-538 was deployed from Rhein-Main AB to the 4409th Support Squadron (TAC) at MacDill AFB FL. In April 1967 there was a change in the Greek government. The 7406th missions mostly moved from Athens, Greece to Rhein-Main, Germany. Some missions were flown from Sigonella, Sicily into the East Med, then in 1968 normal missions resumed from Athens into East Med. A few missions were flown from Capodichino NAS, Naples, Italy - some of which were West Med missions.

In 1967 Evreux Air Base closed. All C-130 training in Europe had been done there. All C-130 training was now done in the ZI at Sewart AFB, Tennessee, and at Lockborne AFB, Ohio. In spring of 1967 all engines received from depot were now T56-A9B types which utilize solid state circuitry in the fuel control system. In June 1967 the squadron had 65 officers & 310 airmen. On 16 June 1967 aircraft 56-0530 had a near miss with a Soviet An-12 in the Baltic Sea. On 30 June 1967 aircraft 56-538 returned to Rhein-Main from MacDill AFB FL On 10 July 1968 Lieutenant Colonel Thomas L. Allard assumed command. On 1st of October 1968 the Squadron operations section moved into the previous location of the 7407th Support Squadron at Rhein-Main. The 7407th was disbanded.

On August 1st 1968, the Detachment in Athens, Greece - designated Det #1 of the 7499th Support Group - was re-designated as Det #3, 7406th Support Squadron with Major Ralph C. Erchinger as Commander. In August 1968 aircraft 56-0541 was turned over to the "sister Squadron" 4409th at MacDill AFB, Florida. In September 1968 aircraft 56-0541 returned to the 7406th at Rhein-Main.

Facilities at Incirlik
INCIRLIK- In 1957 personnel began going TDY from Rhein-Main. They were housed in ten-man tents near the base front gate. In 1958 two Quonset huts (three counting the toilet/shower) replaced the tents. One hut was for NCOs & one for airmen The toilet was connected to the two huts by a walkway. For heat they had a 55 gallon drum with oil at the bottom. The area was called the "Happy Lizards". In December 1959 an officer and two airmen were assigned to Incirlik, but additional maintenance personnel, on TDY, came from Rhein-Main.. There was one building on the flight line, a prefab affair with three rooms: one office, a large conference room & a supply room. All aircraft work was done on the line.

Facilities at Athens
There were no hanger facilities. The area was designated Det #1 of the 7499th Support Group. The 7406th had two hotels in Glifada with two to a room. This was just north of Athens and the airport and across the road from a beautiful beach. Uniforms were not permitted off base.

In June 1969 Capt Walter Snyder assigned Operations Officer for Det 3 in Athens. In December 1969 aircraft 56-534 was turned over to the 4409th Support Squadron at Homestead AFB, FL. On 1 January 1970 Lt. Col. Samuel I. Sifers, Jr. was assigned Sq Operations Officer. On 26th January 1970 Lt. Col. Paul L. Smith was assigned Commander. Starting in May 1970 two missions per day were scheduled for Eastern Mediterranean Missions continuing through August 1970. This commitment resulted with 90 percent of the missions operating out of Athens. In the spring of 1970 the electrical shop installed Intruder Alarm System on all aircraft. In August 1970 the average mission duration was 7.5 hours. The ideal mission profile still showed 8.7 hours. Increases in aircraft basic weight, added at each IRAN, had reduced the allowable fuel load. IRAN was required on all mission aircraft every 18 months for radio calibration. 1959-62 = thicker skin panels & reinforcement to increase cabin pressure, 1962-63 two 450 gallon fuel tanks installed in the life raft areas. These fuel tanks were not connected to the single point refueling system, they had to be filled over the wing, and pumped their fuel into the adjacent main fuel tanks. 1964-68 = four auxiliary seats installed on the left cargo door & two auxiliary seats installed fwd of the aft left exit door (fwd of the portable drinking water tank), Airline type toilets were reinstalled in place of the honey buckets. 1968 = sleeping bags installed in survival kits. The two LOX converters above the compartments were replaced with one converter.

Aircraft 56-0535 had the #2 radio compartment lined with lead sheets. This aircraft was called the "Lead Sled". On 17 July 1971 Major Louis E. Bartrand was assigned as commander of Det. 3 at Athens. In July 1971 the 7406th Squadron was informed that all C-130A-II aircraft were to be replaced by C-130B-II aircraft from Yokota AB, Japan. In August 1971 aircraft 56-534 was returned to the 7406th Squadron.

C-130A-II date of departure:

C-130B-II aircraft arriving date:

On 10 September 1971 Lt. Col. Robert C. Burns was assigned commander of the 7406 Squadron.

In October 1971 six more crew members attended C-130E model school at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas.

On 1 November 1971 fund responsibility moved to the 322nd Tactical Airlift Wing.

In November the last pilot was sent to Little Rock AFB to attend C-130E training. The first B model operational mission was scheduled for 1 January 1972.

On 15 November 1971 the 7406th Support Squadron was assigned to the 322nd TAC. Standardization - Evaluation function was now dissolved and control was now administered through Wing. The squadron appointed Major Robert Reneau as squadron Stan/Eval officer to help administer flight checks.

In the last half of 1971 over 50% of the missions were flown from Athens airport. At one point all available flight crews were sent to Athens due to increased mission requirements.

On 1st March 1972, the 7499th Support Group was inactivated.

In spring of 1972 ceased operations out of Naples.

On 25th April 1972 Lt. Col. Willis B. Conable was assigned Squadron Operations Officer and Capt. M. G. Whitaker was assigned Administrative Officer.

On 11 May 1972 maintenance & supply personnel of the 7406 Squadron were consolidated with the 322nd Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

In early 1972 the aircraft scanner position (2nd flight engineer) was eliminated. In summer of 1972 the 7406th began operations out of Rota NAS, Spain.

In November 1972 Lt Col Marvin D. Bixby was assigned Squadron Operations Officer.

On January 1973 the 7406th squadron reported to the 322nd TAW as an Operations Squadron.

In May 1973 Lt Col Peter T. Dicroce was appointed Squadron Commander.

By June of 1973 all operational missions were flown out of Athens. The mission of the squadron was reduced and four of the eight aircraft were assigned to the Air Force Reserve. The unit was flying only Med missions by this time mostly East Med.

In June 1973 the Baltic Sea area reconnaissance was assumed by SAC RC-135 aircraft from RAF Mildenhall, England.

On 14 June 1974 the squadron flew its last USAFE-scheduled mission.

On 26 June 1974 the last four C-130B-II aircraft 59-1524, 59-1531, 59-1532 & 59-1535 departed Rhein-Main AB for CONUS.

30 June 1974 the official date of inactivation. After deactivation of the 7406th Squadron the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (SAC) at Offutt AFB, NE took over the East Med recon missions with RC-135 aircraft.

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