Definition

Military Air Transport Service

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Military Air Transport Service


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MATS Navy Lockheed R7V-1 BN 131654


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MATS Air Force Douglas C-133A-5-DL Cargomaster 54-0139]]
Active 1948-1966
Country

Def United States
Type Major Command
Role Strategic Airlift
Part of Department of Defense Unified Command
Insignia
Emblem of the Military Air Transport Service

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The Military Air Transport Service (MATS) is an inactive Department of Defense Unified Command. Activated on 1 June 1948, MATS was a consolidation of the United States Navy Naval Air Transport Service (NATS) and the United States Air Force Air Transport Command (ATC) into a single joint command. It was inactivated and discontinued on 8 January 1966 when the Air Force and Navy set up separate strategic airlift commands.

In 1982, the World War II Air Transport Command (ATC) (1942-1948) and the Military Air Transport Service were consolidated with Military Airlift Command (MAC) (1966-1992).

Overview

The Military Air Transport Service (MATS) was activated under United States Air Force Major General William H. Tunner, in order to harness interservice efforts more efficiently. It was an amalgamation of Navy and Army air transport commands, jointly placed by the Department of Defense under the control of the newly created United States Air Force (USAF) as a unified command.

During World War II, the Army Air Force's aerial transportation requirements were performed by the Air Transport Command which had a dual function of ferrying new aircraft from factories to combat theaters and transportation of troops and supplies, also organized by Tunner. The Naval Air Transport Service focused on supporting deployed Naval and Marine personnel transporting vital cargo, specialist personnel and mail to the Fleet and ground forces, especially in advanced areas of operation.

MATS was the first Joint-Service command and Naval aircrews participated in every major MATS airlift operation. MATS would organizationally be under the Department of the Air Force, as the vast majority of its equipment and personnel of ATC had been inherited by the Air Force with the inactivation of the USAAF.

During the Berlin Airlift, Naval aviators flew transport aircraft from the United States to European supply depots; in the Korean War, MATS Navy Squadrons airlifted some 17,000 battle casualties. In its original organization, a Rear Admiral commanded the MATS Pacific Division and another rear admiral served as MATS vice-commander. During the 1958 reorganization, senior Naval officers were on the staffs of the commanders of both EASTAF and WESTAF, and at MATS Headquarters.

In 1965 conflicting views of the Air Force and Navy triggered by the demands of the Vietnam War led to the services returning to separate airlift commands. In turn, MATS was disbanded and superseded in the Air Force by the Military Airlift Command, during a 1966 restructuring.

History

Origins

With the end of World War II, the United States Army Air Forces Air Transport Command found itself in limbo. Senior USAAF authorities considered ATC to be a wartime necessity that was no longer needed, and expected its civilian personnel, including former airline pilots, to return to their peacetime occupations. Senior ATC officers, on the other hand, thought that ATC should be developed into a national government operated airline, an idea that was soundly opposed by the airline industry. While the war had firmly established the necessity of a troop carrier mission, most military officers believed the role performed by ATC should be provided by contract carriers.

When the United States Air Force was established as a separate service in 1947, the Air Transport Command was not established as one of its major commands. The ATC commander and his staff took it upon themselves to convince the new civilian leadership of the newly created Department of Defense (DOD) (and Secretaries of the Army and Air Force) that ATC had a mission. They seized upon testimony by former I Troop Carrier Command commander Major General Paul L. Williams that the Air Force should have a long-range troop deployment capability, and began advocating that ATC transports could be used to deploy troops. Williams had been pressing for the development of a long-range troop carrier airplane when he made his statement.



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A U.S. Navy Douglas R6D-1 Liftmaster operating for the Military Air Transport Service in the 1950s.

The DOD believed it should have its own air transport service and decided that ATC should become the Military Air Transport Service (MATS), supported by the Air Force, even though not listed as a formal military mission. Also, as a cost-saving measure, MATS would combine the resources of Air Transport Command with those of the Naval Air Transport Service. This way the command would be sanctioned by the Department of Defense, and not by either the Air Force or the Navy.

Although MATS was under the operational control of the United States Air Force, the United States Navy was a full partner in the command and operational components of the organization. Major naval components of MATS were naval air transport (VR) squadrons. VR-3 was assigned to McGuire AFB and VR-22 was assigned to the Naval Air Transport Station at Naval Station Norfolk/Chambers Field, Virginia. Together they constituted MATS EASTAF's Naval Air Transport Wing, Atlantic. On the Pacific Coast, Naval Air Transport Wing, Pacific, consisted of Air Transport Squadron VR-7 and Maintenance Squadron VR-8, both at Naval Air Station Moffett Field, California. A detachment of VR-7 was also stationed at Tachikawa Air Base, Japan.

Naval aviators flew scheduled MATS routes to Newfoundland, Iceland, Scotland, West Germany, Italy, Puerto Rico and Africa. In the Pacific, MATS naval aviators flew to all MATS stations from Hawaii to Japan to South Vietnam, Bangkok, India and to Saudi Arabia.

Air Force pilots flew Navy MATS planes, just as naval aviators could be found piloting Air Force MATS transport aircraft.

Organization



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Routes of the Eastern Transport Air Force, 1964



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Route map of the Western Transport Air Force, 1964



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MATS Lockheed C-141A-10-LM Starlifter 63-8090 in 1965 just after delivery to the 1501st Air Transport Wing at Travis AFB. Retired on 7 August 1996, Scrapped 29 July 2003.



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Douglas C-133B-DL Cargomaster (s/n 59-0529) of the 1501st Air Transport Wing over San Francisco Bay in 1960. Retired 1971. This aircraft was on display at New England Air Museum, Bradley, Connecticut (USA), but was destroyed by a tornado on 3 October 1979. Nose and other pieces now at AMC Museum, Dover AFB

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Douglas C-124C Globemaster II 52-1036



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C-97 in MATS markings



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Douglas C-54E-10-DO Skymaster 44-9093. Converted to MC-54M in 1951. To civil registry as N4989K. Last known still in service by Contract Air Cargo, Fort Lauderdale, Florida flying in Africa.



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MATS United States Navy R5D-3 Skymaster transports from VR-8 evacuating wounded from South Korea, 1952



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63d TCW C-124 at Hamilton AFB, California being prepared to load a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter being transported to Formosa, 1958

During World War II, the USAAF Air Transport Command provided worldwide transport service to every continent on the globe. Inheriting that legacy, MATS continued that service and organized it into three major transport divisions;

.*Note: Eliminated on 1 July 1958, with mission divided between Eastern Transport Air Force, (EASTAF) and Western Transport Air Force (WESTAF)

MATS also amalgamated several other missions into its organization:

The Special Air Mission was the transport of the President of the United States; Vice-President; Cabinet Members; Member of Congress; Senators, and designated other individuals, such as Foreign Heads of State.

Provided rescue of downed military service members in enemy occupied areas; humanitarian relief to civilians in emergency conditions (floods, hurricanes, earthquakes)

Weather forecasting for military airfields; hurricane hunters.

Mapping the world providing accurate aerial charts to military aviators wherever they need to be. Also producing all Air Force training films; public relations films; monthly newsreels, and coordinating with private filmmakers with regards to use of Air Force equipment and facilities.

Evacuation of wounded military personnel from combat zones; transport of critically ill military personnel (and dependents) to military medical facilities for treatment.

Performed unconventional warfare missions during the Korean War and early years of the Cold War (19501956).

Major operations

Berlin Airlift (19481949)

MATS was established on 1 June 1948, less than a month before the commencement of the Berlin Airlift -- "OPERATION VITTLES" where at peak operations, planes were landing and departing every ninety seconds or so shuttling in thousands of tons of supplies, food, and fuel each day - but they were not MATS airplanes. The Soviet Union had blocked all surface transportation in the western part of Berlin. Railroads tracks were destroyed, barges were stopped on the rivers, and highways and roads blocked. The only avenue left was through the air. On 26 June 1948, the airlift began. Troop carrier transports from around the globe began making their way to Germany, where they were assigned to United States Air Forces, Europe. Squadrons transferred from as far away as Hawaii and Japan, and included two of the U.S. Navy's air transport squadrons assigned to MATS. MATS itself was not "in charge" of the airlift, although several MATS staff officers were sent to Germany to serve in the Airlift Task Force in an administrative role. Lt. General William H. Tunner was placed in overall command of airlift operations, reporting to the commander of United States Air Forces, Europe. The airlift itself was a USAFE operation and all airplanes assigned to it were assigned to one of five troop carrier groups that were sent to Europe to operate the airlift. MATS played a supporting role, including ferrying C-54s to and from the airlift bases and maintenance depots in the United States and the MATS C-54 training school trained pilots for temporary duty in the airlift. MATS transports delivered crucial aircraft parts to the airlift bases in Europe. This operation would continue for some 15 months until the Soviets lifted the blockade. MATS would provide numerous humanitarian airlifts of global proportions. The U.S. Navy was an integral part of MATS, providing five transport squadrons to the joint service effort, but they operated under USAFE while they were part of the airlift.

Korean War (19501953)

The organization's next major test was the bootstrap supply operations supporting the United Nations troops under General Douglas MacArthur in the country of South Korea which was nearly overrun by the time UN forces were mobilized. The MATS role was purely logistical, and operated from the United States to Japan. Theater transport forces assigned to the Far East Air Forces Combat Cargo Command, which became the 315th Air Division, operated supply routes into Japan and provided troop carrier services for UN forces.

June 25, 1940
In recognition of the global air-transport responsibilities assigned at its creation in 1948, the Military Air Transport Service was charged to provide an Air Weather Service and an Airways and Air Communications Service (AACS) which would girdle the globe.

 At the outset of the Korean war Air Weather Service and Airways and Air Communications Service units were under FEAF's control for the performance of their assigned functions in the Far East. As the war progressed, both functions were increasingly vital to the accomplishment of the United Nations Command's mission.


When the war began in June 1950, the 2143rd Air Weather Wing was responsible for weather services in the Pacific theaters of operations. From his headquarters in Tokyo Colonel Thomas S. Moorman, Jr., commander of the 2143rd Wing, commanded three ground weather squadrons-


the 20th Weather Squadron in Japan,
the 15th Weather Squadron serving the Philippines, Okinawa, and Guam, and the 31st Weather Squadron in Hawaii and the Marshall Islands.


He also commanded two weather reconnaissance squadrons-
the 512th at Yokota in Japan and
the 514th on Guam.


In addition to the meteorological reports obtained by its own units, the 2143rd Wing received weather data from stations of the Japanese national weather service and from the Ryukyuan weather service. The wing also monitored the international meteorological broadcasts emanating from Russian weather stations, which would continue during the Korean war. The wing received no weather reports from Communist China, for even before the beginning of the war the Red Chinese government had ceased to share its weather with the remainder of the world. #123

#123 Hist. Air Weather Service, July-Dec. 1950, chap. 8; Tokyo Weather Central, Korean Weather Throughout the Year, Nov. 1951, pp. 1-6.

June 25, 1950
Like the other members of the Military Air Transport Service family, the Airways and Air Communications Service (AACS) was a global command which provided airways-communications facilities, navigational aids, and flight services for the Air Force. As a secondary mission, the AACS provided communications for the Air Weather Service.

For the performance of their mission, AACS organizations operated control towers, direction finders, radio ranges, ground-controlled approach (GCA) and instrument-landing systems, radio and radar beacons, air-to-ground and point-to-point radio, message centers, crypto centers, and military air-traffic control (MATCon) centers. Like the air-route traffic-control center, which was its civilian counterpart in the United States, the MATCon established routes and altitudes for all aircraft flying over a given control area, kept record of the flights of such aircraft, and generally ensured against air collisions in the control area.

When the Communist invaders struck in June 1950, Colonel Charles B. Overacker's 1808th AACS Wing, which had its headquarters in Tokyo's Meiji building, was responsible for airways and air-communications services in the Far East and Pacific. Under the 1808th Wing were the 1809th AACS Group at Nagoya, the 1810th Group at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, and the 1811th Group at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.

Each of these groups was divided into squadrons, which were subdivided into detachments at various airfields. In June 1950 the undermanned 1809th AACS Group was operating ten control towers, three direction-finder stations, and two MATCon centers at Tokyo and Fukuoka in Japan.

The only navigational aid in Korea was a low-power homing beacon at Kimp'o Airfield. The system was capable of handling slow-flying conventional aircraft in the moderate number of flights usual during the occupation, but FEAF was beginning to be concerned about the system's inadequacy for controlling jet air traffic. At the beginning of hostilities air traffic suddenly tripled at Tokyo and quintupled in the Fukuoka area, and new AACS facilities were immediately required for the additional airfields occupied in Japan and in Korea.

Because of economy considerations, USAF had not permitted the 1808th Wing to establish a mobile AACS squadron in 1948, an organization which would have provided a most efficient means for handling the suddenly increased demands of the Korean air war. #132   

June 25, 1950

When the Communist invaders struck in June 1950, Colonel Charles B. Overacker's 1808th AACS Wing, which had its headquarters in Tokyo's Meiji building, was responsible for airways and air-communications services in the Far East and Pacific. Under the 1808th Wing were the 1809th AACS Group at Nagoya, the 1810th Group at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, and the 1811th Group at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.

Each of these groups was divided into squadrons, which were subdivided into detachments at various airfields. In June 1950 the undermanned 1809th AACS Group was operating ten control towers, three direction-finder stations, and two MATCon centers at Tokyo and Fukuoka in Japan.

The only navigational aid in Korea was a low-power homing beacon at Kimp'o Airfield. The system was capable of handling slow-flying conventional aircraft in the moderate number of flights usual during the occupation, but FEAF was beginning to be concerned about the system's inadequacy for controlling jet air traffic. At the beginning of hostilities air traffic suddenly tripled at Tokyo and quintupled in the Fukuoka area, and new AACS facilities were immediately required for the additional airfields occupied in Japan and in Korea.

Because of economy considerations, USAF had not permitted the 1808th Wing to establish a mobile AACS squadron in 1948, an organization which would have provided a most efficient means for handling the suddenly increased demands of the Korean air war. #132   


 
#132 Hist. Airways and Air Communications Service (AACS), July-Dec. 1950, pp. 5-7, 100; FEAF Rpt., II, 103.

June 25, 1950 1200

Korean_War

During the day North Korean Yaks strafed Kimp'o and the Sŏul Municipal Airfield, MATS C-54 which was grounded for repairs. [Dumb shits, Kimps and Sŏul Airfield are the same place] The North Koreans evidently meant to exploit their air superiority. Reporting the first day's activities, Ambassador Muccio informed the State Department and General MacArthur that the

June 25, 1950 1200

Korean_War

During the day North Korean Yaks strafed Kimp'o and the Sŏul Municipal Airfield, MATS C-54 which was grounded for repairs.  The North Koreans evidently meant to exploit their air superiority. Reporting the first day's activities, Ambassador Muccio informed the State Department and General MacArthur that the

"future course of hostilities may depend largely on whether the United States will or will not give adequate air assistance."

June 25, 1950 1700 3AM Washington

Korean_War Korean_War

But at 1700 hours the Yaks returned. Two. of them strafed Kimp'o, hitting the control tower, a gasoline dump, and an American Military Air transport Service (MATS) C-54 which was grounded with a damaged wing. Four other Yaks strafed the Sŏul Airfield and damaged seven out of ten trainer airplanes which the ROK Air Force had there.

At approximately 1900 hours six other North Korean fighters again strafed Kimp'o. This time they completely destroyed the hapless MATS transport.#20

American Ambassador to Korea Muccio conferred with President Syngman Rhee, who said that the ROK Army would be out of ammunition within ten days. Muccio quickly cabled MacArthur, for replenishment. The Ambassador had already directed the acting chief of KMAG, Colonel Wright to request an immediate shipment of ammunition for 105-mm. howitzers, 60-mm. mortars, and .30-caliber carbines. [04-18]

June 25, 1950 1900

Korean_War Korean_War

At approximately 1900 hours six other North Korean fighters again strafed Kimp'o,. This time they completely destroyed the hapless MATS transport.#20