Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Military Air Transport Service

Military Air Transport Service (MATS)

From: Encyclopedia of American Military History.

The Military Air Transport Service came into being in June 1948 through a merger of the Air Transport Command (ATC) and the Naval Air Transport Service. These military airlifters are charged with the transportation of almost anything anywhere at any time and in all kinds of weather. MATS has played an important role in both war and peace, despite substantial cutbacks in peacetime.

The first challenge MATS faced came with the Berlin blockade of 1948–49 and the need to supply the western zones of the city by air. MATS met the challenge, learning important lessons in the experience, including the fact that fewer large transports were more effective than more numerous smaller ones. MATS had originally been flying Douglas C-47 and Douglas C-54 Skymaster aircraft.

The next major challenge for MATS came in 1950 with the Korean War. Major General William H. Tunner, who had directed the Berlin Airlift, organized the Combat Cargo Command for the Far East Air Force, which was responsible for Korea. MATS even provided direct military support. During two days in November 1950 it dropped 140 tons of ammunition to marines engaged in desperate fighting at the Changjin/Chosin Reservoir. During the marines' withdrawal, Combat Cargo Command brought in 273 tons of supplies and evacuated 4,600 wounded. MATS grew substantially in size, and during the entirety of the war it transported 391,763 tons of cargo, 2.6 million passengers, and 310,000 medevac patients. The new Douglas C-124 Globemaster aircraft played a key role.

Following the war, budget cutbacks threatened to do away with MATS all together, and some in Congress wanted civilian airlines to transport passengers and goods. However, the 1960 crisis in the Formosa (Taiwan) Straits showed this to be impractical, and the idea was dropped. In February 1960 Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy created a military airlift policy, giving MATS responsibility for the nation's air transport in times of peace and war. This remained in effect until President Ronald Reagan's national airlift policy of June 1987.

The expansion of MATS coincided with President John F. Kennedy's policy of flexible response, which sought highly mobile conventional forces able to move at a moment's notice. New aircraft included the C-130 Hercules and the Boeing C-135. The Lockheed C-141 StarLifter began development. By the time America entered theVietnam War, the C-130 was the standard MATS workhorse. Suited for a variety of missions, it lifted personnel and cargo, and also served as a gunship, tanker, and medevac aircraft. It continues in use today as the C-130J. General Howell M. Estes, Jr., commander of MATS from 1964 to 1969, developed rapid turn-around procedures known as "quick stop" and "quick change." Howell also established a command post that connected MATS headquarters to the lowest field commanders to monitor airlift operations.

In January 1966 MATS was redesignated the Military Airlift Command (MAC). By 1967 and the height of the Vietnam War, MAC was moving 65,350 passengers and 42,296 tons of cargo per month in South Vietnam. MAC was also involved in combat operations. Operation Blue Light involved landing 2,952 troops and 4,749 tons of equipment of the 3d Infantry Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division from Hawaii directly to Pleiku, South Vietnam. During the 1968 Tet Offensive, MAC rendered particularly important service, transporting additional resources to South Vietnam. Concurrently, in Operation Combat Fox, MAC transferred troops to South Korea from the United States, Japan, and Southeast Asia as a consequence of the Pueblo incident. Other notable operations included delivery of supplies during the 1967 siege of Khe Sanh, the airlift of supplies to South Vietnamese forces during the 1972 Easter offensive, and the evacuation of U.S. personnel after the 1973 Paris cease-fire. MAC also carried out Operation Homecoming, the repatriation of U.S. POWs. In Operation Frequent Wind, MAC evacuated American and foreign nationals when the Republic of Vietnam collapsed in April 1975.

Today MAC continues its mission of serving as the U.S. military's air transport service. Recent successful operations include Operation Desert Shield, the military buildup before the 1991 Gulf War, and operations in Bosnia in 1996.
Boyne, Walter J. Beyond the Wild Blue: A History of the United States Air Force, 1947–1997. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997
Clayton, Knight. Lifeline in the Sky: The Story of the United States Military Air Transport Service. New York: William Morrow, 1957
Ulanoff, Stanley M. MATS: The Story of the Military Air Transport Service. New York: F. Watts, 1964
Williams, Nicholas M. Aircraft of the United States Military Air Transport Service, 1948 to 1966. Leicester, U.K.: Midland, 1999.
Text Citation (Chicago Manual of Style format):
Halin, Jason M. "Military Air Transport Service (MATS)." In Tucker, Spencer C., gen. ed. Encyclopedia of American Military History. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2003. American History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
ItemID=WE52&iPin=EMHII0274&SingleRecord=True (accessed July 9, 2014).


The Military Air Transport Service was activated 1 June 1948. It was created by consolidating the Air Transport Command and the Naval Air Transport Service under the control of the newly created United States Air Force (USAF). The first test of the newly created MATS was the Berlin Airlift--"OPERATION VITTLES". The Soviets 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 June 26, 1948, the airlift began. MATS transports from around the globe began making their way to Germany, including 2 of the U.S. Navy's air transport squadrons assigned to MATS. This operation would continue for some 15 months until the Soviets lifted the blockade. MATS would provide numerous humanitarian airlifts of global proportions.

Within MATS there were other technical services such as Air Weather Service (AWS), Air Rescue Service (ARS), Special Airlift Mission (SAM), Air Photographic and Charting Service (APCS), and the Aeromedical Transport Wing (AMTW). The U.S. Navy was an integral part of MATS, providing 5 transport squadrons to the joint service effort.

In the early days of MATS, there were 3 divisions, Atlantic, Pacific, and Continental. A later reoganization called for just 2 divisions -- Eastern Transport Air Force (EASTAF) and the Western Transport Air Force (WESTAF). To accomplish the global mission required, MATS has used many different aircraft. The C-47 "Gooney Bird", C-46 Curtis Commado, C-135 Stratolifter, C-141 Starlifter, C-130 Hercules, C-133 Cargomaster, C-124 Globemaster, C-118 Liftmaster, C-121 Super Constellation, C-74 Globemaster I, C-97 Stratofreighter, and the C-131 Samaritan just to name a few. Each of the individual technical MATS services had their own specific aircraft to carry out their mission.

On January 1, 1966 MATS was deactivated and the Military Airlift Command was created to continue the traditions MATS had began.

source: some infomation adapted from the book, "MATS: The Story of the Military Air Transport Service." by Stanley M. Ulanoff.
1964: The Moffa Press, Inc.

The History of the Military Air Transportation Service


The Military Air Transportation Service, commonly referred to as MATS, is an inactive Department of Defense Unified Command. Although it is no longer active, the Military Air Transportation Service played a crucial role in the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War. Upon its disestablishment, the Air Force components were reassigned to the Military Airlift Command, and the Navy components were reassigned to the U.S. Navy.

Why Was the Military Air Transportation Service Created?

During World War II, the United States Army Air Forces Air Transport Command was used to meet the urgent demand for reinforcements at U.S. military bases across the globe. An air supply system was utilized instead of traditional, land based transportation. The end of World War II brought the end to this command, however, as it was deemed to be only a necessity during a time of war.

When the United States Air Force was separated from the army and became its own entity in 1947, the Air Transport Command was scrapped. However, the newly created Department of Defense believed that the Air Force needed this troop deployment method, and the Military Air Transportation Service was born.
How Was the Military Air Transportation Service Different From the Air Transport Command?
Although not formally listed as a military mission, the Military Air Transportation Service was controlled primarily by the U.S. Air Force. To further the mission and directive of the Military Air Transportation Service, the Naval Air Transport Service was consolidated into this service as well. This consolidation put the sanctioning power of the Military Air Transportation Service in the hands of the Department of Defense, instead of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force sanctioning two identical services separately.
What Roles Did the Military Air Transportation Service Play in Conflicts?

During the Korean War, the Military Air Transportation Service played a vital role in offering support to the United Nations troops. They operated from the United States to Japan, supplying routes into Japan and providing troop carrier services throughout the war.

With the Cuban Missile Crisis in full swing, the Military Air Transportation Service air lifted thousands of troops for rapid deployment. Additionally, they transported thousands of tons of military gear and other necessities from around the United States to Florida and Guantanamo Bay.

The Vietnam War was also heavily aided by the Military Air Transportation Service. Not only did they provide needed supplies and equipment for the war, but they also helped more than 14,000 troops receive proper medical attention and treatment by transporting them to medical facilities.

Why Did the Military Air Transportation Service Cease Operations?

In 1965, the U.S. Navy withdrew its components to reallocate its resources to different programs. This led to the Military Airlift Command being activated, which took over all responsibilities of the once commissioned Military Air Transportation Service. The method of deployment and functionality of the program stayed the same, but fell under specific U.S. Air Force command and assumed a new name.

Created as a result of consolidating two different programs, the Military Air Transportation Service played a crucial part in all military action taken by the United States from 1948 to 1966. Although the program has changed names and branch delegations a number of times, the basic functionality of air lifting troops and providing equipment and resources is still carried out by the U.S. military today.

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