April 26, 2009 (by Mr Jerry Green) - On August 25, 1944, the XVIII Airborne Corps was organized, forming the nucleus of the airborne forces destined to fight in Europe during WWII. The formation of the Corps consisted of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Brigades.
Colonel Merle D. Hart (far right), commander of the 440th AW, and Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn (left), Deputy Commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, applaud as the nose art is uncovered during an aircraft Nose Art Dedication Ceremony at Pope AFB on August 25, 2009. During this ceremony the 440th AW dedicated aircraft tail # 86-0418 to the XVIII AB Corps to honor the history between the two units that dates back to World War II. [USAF photo by SrA Jacqueline Pender]
Just one month later, soldiers from the XVIII Corps would be sent into action in support of Operation Market Garden and Operation Varsity. They were carried into battle by the crews and aircraft of the 440th Troop Carrier Group.
Exactly 65 years later, the XVIII Airborne Corps and what is now the 440th Airlift Wing came together on August 25, 2009 at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., to honor the birth date of the XVIII Corps and the lasting relationship they have with the 440th Airlift Wing that began in 1944. To mark this historic event, the 440th AW hosted a unique aircraft nose art dedication to the XVIII Airborne Corps. The ceremony was held in Hangar 4, one of the oldest buildings on Pope. More than 300 members of the Army and Air Force, along with state and local dignitaries, attended the ceremony and witnessed the unveiling of the aircraft nose art.
The ceremony started as members of the 82nd Airborne Chorus exited from the back of a C-130 performing their unique entrance cadence. This spirited opening was followed by the chorus singing a stirring rendition of the National Anthem.
With the military spirit alive for those in the audience, the emcee for the ceremony, Tech. Sgt. Frank Mason, a flight engineer with the 95th Airlift Squadron, introduced the guest speaker, Maj. Gen. James Rubeor, 22nd Air Force Commander. Gen. Rubeor began his speech acknowledging that this was indeed a historical event. He said, "With this nose art dedication we are celebrating the relationship that ties the bonds of these two great units and their continuing relationship today as it was in 1944. Col. Merle Hart, 440 AW commander, spoke of the commitment he and the members of the 440 AW have to the continuing support of the Corps. "Supporting the XVIII Airborne Corps is an integral part of the 440th mission - today and in the future, said Col. Hart . The strength of the wing and the Corps is a vital link in the war against forces that want to harm the United States."
Col. Hart then turned the podium over to the Deputy Commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn. Gen. Allyn commented on the historic value attached to this nose-art dedication, he said, "The relationship of the Corps and the 440th has indeed come full circle."
Maj. Gen. Allyn and Col. Hart then proceeded to unveil a mock-up of a C-130 tail flash. Gen. Allyn and members of the audience were visibly awed. The panel resembled a smaller version of the C-130 tail section branded with the XVIII Corps insignia and the signature Bragg-Pope tail design of the 440 AW. The audience's attention was directed to the C-130 aircraft, where Staff Sgt. Dale Etter, a 440th crew chief, assisted by Army Specialist Nelson Montalvo, pulled the protective covering from the nose of the aircraft revealing the unique nose art that now adorned the fuselage. Aircraft tail #
86-0418 numerically identifies with the C-130 Hercules aircraft and the 18th Airborne Corps.
After the unveiling, the 440th Airlift Wing's Chaplain, Maj. Montgomery Kirk, offered the invocation asking that the aircraft be protected throughout its service to the country. He asked that the men and women who fly the aircraft remain under his watchful eye and guidance, and to keep safe all who travel on 418 now and forever.
The 82nd Airborne Chorus ended the dedication ceremony with one of their most requested songs, "The Armed Forces Medley." The emcee then invited airmen, soldiers, and guests to stay for refreshments and enjoy the nose art and displays. As the audience moved about the hangar, Col. Hart showed his gratitude to the civilian guests, as well as the 82nd AB Chorus by coining each soldier with a specially designed commemorative challenge coin.
One of the dignitaries attending the ceremony was Mayor Ethel Clark, mayor of the Town of Spring Lake. When asked her thoughts about the dedication, she graciously said, "This has been a wonderful uplifting event and I am proud to have been part of it."
Mr. Tommy Bolton, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army and a member of the Military Affairs Council was elated with the efforts of Col. "Mad Dog" Hart, and the men and women of the 440th who put the event together. He said, "It was a very important day in the continuing integration of the Army here at Fort Bragg and the members of the 440 AW."
Affixing names and painting decorative nose art to aircraft dates back for decades. Pilots would name their aircraft after a mother, girlfriend, wife or favorite pinup icon assuming their aircraft was female in nature.
As the tables and chairs were loaded and hauled away, 60418 sat alone waiting for the tow tractor to take her back to the flight line where she would be readied for the next mission displaying the XVIII Airborne Corps insignia affixed to her nose. Col. "Mad Dog" Hart commented, "where ever this aircraft goes and who ever this aircraft carries, they will see this aircraft and know where she came from and what the nose art signifies. The tail flash says Bragg-Pope and nose art says, 18th Corps."
Today the XVIII Airborne Corps -- the Army's largest war fighting organization -- is the only airborne corps in the defense establishment of the United States and exercises control over approximately 88,000 Soldiers.