Orly Air Base - History - United States Air Force Use

United States Air Force Use

Remaining in American hands after the war, the first postwar unit at Orly was an Air Transport Command (predecessor to MATS) unit, the 1408th Army Air Force (AAF) Base Unit which arrived in early 1945. After Orly was turned back to the French government in 1946, the 1630th Air Base Squadron (ATC) took over the American Mission and operated a terminal for the USAFE European Air Transport Service. Orly was reactivated as a commercial airport on 1 January 1948, however the United States Air Force's 1630th Air Base Squadron (MATS) leased a small portion on the east side of the Airport and operated the American military air terminal.

Post World War II international diplomatic and military travel was changing from ship and rail to aircraft transportation, requiring a special air terminal in the Paris area for NATO meetings. The first NATO tenant at Aeroport Orly-Paris was the United States Air Force Military Air Transport Service in June 1950. Agreement was reached on 10 November 1950 on a new lease to allow for aircraft parking. Also located on this parcel were five usable Quonset huts.

On 1 April 1951 the Air Base Squadron was expanded to support the air transport needs of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), which was activated on the same day in Fontainebleau. Another important mission developing at Orly Air Base was providing aircraft and facilities to maintain the flying proficiency of USAF pilots assigned to the Paris region. On 10 October 1951 the 1630th AB Squadron was upgraded to the 1606th Air Base Group.

By October 1951, the expansion of Orly's facilities was so great as to require a higher headquarters organization; accordingly the 1630th was upgraded to the 1606th Air Base Group (Military Air Transport Service).

On 1 July 1952, HQ USAFE assumed command of Orly Air Base because the majority of its work was in support of USAFE missions. The 7415th Air Base Group was formed as part of USAFE, the MATS unit was reduced to a detachment and made a tenant of the 7415th to manage passenger traffic. Its new designation was the 1602d Air Transport Wing Detachment. The 1606th ABGp was redesignated as the 7415th Air Base Group.

The 1950 lease was expanded to provide additional property for a headquarters building. officers club, NCO club, airmen's service club, personnel office, a new passenger terminal, billeting for 450 troops, a 500-man mess hall, motor vehicle shop, aircraft parking apron for fifteen assigned aircraft, and an expanded dispensary with twenty-five hospital beds. Additional construction during 1954/55 completed the largest USAF air terminal in France, a new AFEX snack bar, a large service club, group headquarters building, fire station, Air Police center, officers open mess, BOQ, VIP billets, and a vehicle repair shop. Most buildings were single story concrete masonry construction, however a few portable prefab buildings were erected to save construction time and funds.

In July 1952 when t Through the years, the detachment grew in importance and in January 1957 it became the 1622nd Support Squadron (MATS). The 1622nd was responsible for handling passengers, cargo and mail passing through the base. During its first year (1957) the 1622nd processed a total of more than 103,000 passengers, 49,000 tons of cargo, 4,290 aircraft and 12,100 tons of mail.

Also present at Orly AB was Detachment 2 of the 7370th Flight Service Squadron with headquarters located at Rhein Main AB,Germany. Other detachments of the Flight Service Squadron were located in Uxbridge (London), Rome, Madrid, Istanbul, Casablanca (Morocco) and Wheelus AB, Libya. The various centers maintained control over US Military air traffic. The center processed flight plans, monitored departure and arrival information and oversaw diplomatic clearances.

Clearances for diplomatic flights were processed through Chateauroux AD prior to 1 July 1957. After that date Orly AB was designated as a foreign clearance base, thereby reducing request time for diplomatic clearances into the Middle East and Africa.

The primary mission of the 7415th ABG was meeting and. greeting VIPs visiting the Paris region. VIPs were later defined as distinguished visitors (DV). DVs included President Eisenhower, the Secretaries of State and Defense, and an army of curious visitors to attend international meetings and attend NATO meetings in Paris. From 1955 through 1959 approximately 800 DV per month passed through Orly AB. Some summer months over 200 Congressmen would stop in Paris. A summit meeting in Europe could draw 1,100 to 1.350 DV guests. The 7415th protocol officers would have to provide aircraft parking, transportation and drivers, luncheons, photographers, press rooms, secure telephone communications, and security police. There are no reports of any Congressman requesting a driver and staff car to visit a main USAF air base in France. At four summit meetings, arrangements were made with Orly Airport management to close an active runway and use it for DV aircraft parking. Space at Orly was becoming critical in the late 1950s.

An official base newspaper "The Orly Diplomat" (6 pages 13 by 8 inches) was begun in June 1953 by TSGT John R. German, off a "rickety, ink-stained mimeo machine. The publication was renamed "The Orly Oracle" in 1955 and grew gradually until its final edition on September 15, 1958. TSGT John R. German, presided over the final, "souvenir" edition.

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