The 317th Troop Carrier Group served in the Pacific theatre, taking part in the long New Guinea campaign and in the re conquest of the Philippines.
The group was formed in the US in February 1942 and moved to Australia at the end of the year, with 52 new C-47s. Although it was officially based in Australia from the start of 1943 until September 1943, soon after arriving in the theatre the group moved forward to operate from New Guinea. It was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for operations on 30 January-1 February 1943, when it flew reinforcements into the threatened base at Wau, close to the Japanese bases at Lae and Salamaua.
When the group moved back to Australia it left its new C-47s behind on New Guinea, where they were used by the experienced 374th Troop Carrier Group and received a mix of older aircraft. The group provided a mix of services in this period, including regular passenger routes and carrying troops and supplies to New Guinea, where air was often the only way to move any significant distance. On 5 September 1943 the group took part in the attack on Nadzab, the first airborne assault in the Southwest Pacific, and part of the final attack on Lae and Salamaua.
The group was based on New Guinea until November 1944, moving west as the Allies advanced along the vast island. For most of this period it was used as a regular transport unit, linking the Allied bases on New Guinea, New Britain, Guadalcanal and the Admiralty Islands. The group also took part in the battle of Noemfoor, towards the end of the New Guinea campaign, dropping reinforcements and supplies on 3-4 July 1944. In two missions the group dropped 1,424 paratroops on Kamiri airfield. The operations weren't a great success. On the first day the paratroops suffered an injury rate of 9.74%, mainly because many of them landed in debris alongside the airfield. On the second day the injury rate was 8.17%, this time including a number of broken bones caused by landing on the hardened surface of the airfield. After an investigation the 317th was cleared of any fault, and airfields were no longer selected as suitable landing zones for paratroops.
In November 1944 the group moved to the Philippines to support the American armies fighting on those islands. It was used to fly supplies to regular US troops on Luzon, Leyte and Mindoro and also to supply guerillas fighting on Mandinao, Cebu and Panay.
Eight C-47s from the group supported the invasion of Leyte, where a lack of airfield space prevented more aircraft from being used. In one month this detachment dropped nearly 300 tons of supplies but lost two aircraft to ground fire. The original plan had been to move the entire group onto the island, so the ground echelon eventually arrived by sea only to find it had little to do.
The group took part in two airborne missions during the fighting around Manila. On 3-4 February 1945 the group dropped paratroops south of Manila to block road routes into the city. The drop was rather scattered, with only 38.4% of the paratroops landing in the correct place, but the injury rate was low and the mission achieved its objectives.
On 16-17 February they dropped the 502nd Regiment on Corregidor. This operation involved low altitude drops against a heavily defended target and won the group a second DUC. On this occasion the drop was impressively accurate, although an island is a rather easier target than a random patch of the mainland.
The group also carried out two bombing missions, on 12 and 15 April 1945, when they dropped napalm on Carabao Island.
On 23 June 1945 the group took part in a final airborne operation when it dropped 994 men from the 511st Regiment near Aparri to stop Japanese forces retreating into northern Luzon.
After the end of the war the group became part of the Far East Air Forces, before moving to Germany in 1948 to take part in the Berlin air lift. It was inactivated in Germany on 14 September 1949.
1942-43: Douglas C-47 Skytrain
1943-: C-39, Douglas C-47 Skytrain , Douglas C-49 Skytrain , Lockheed C-60 Lodestar , Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Consolidated LB-30 Liberator
Sept 1943-1945: Douglas C-47 Skytrain
1945-47: Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain
1947-48: Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-54 Skymaster
1948: Douglas C-54 Skymaster
|2 February 1942||Constituted as 317th Tranport Group|
|22 February 1942||Activated|
|July 1942||Redesignated 317th Troop Carrier Group|
|Dec 1942-Jan 1943||To Australia and Fifth Air Force|
Col Samuel V Payne: 22
Col Robert L Olinger: 21 Jun 1944
Col John H Lackey Jr: 2 Oct 1944
Lt Col Robert I Choate: 31 Aug 1945
Duncan Field, Tex: 22 Feb
Bowman Field, Ky: 19 Tun 1942
Lawson Field, Ga: 11 Oct 1942
Maxton, NC: 3-12 Dec 1942
Townsville, Australia: 23 Jan 1943
Port Moresby, New Guinea: c. 30 Sep 1943
Finschhafen, New Guinea: Apr 1944
Hollandia, New Guinea: Jun 1944
Leyte: 17 Nov 1944
Clark Field, Luzon: c. 17 Mar 1945
Okinawa: 24 Aug 1945
Kimpo, Korea: 31 Oct 1945
1942: 52nd Troop Carrier Wing; US Based
1943-46: 54th Troop Carrier Wing; Fifth Air Force