The "Blackcats" of the 41st Airlift Squadron have a long and distinguished heritage as befits the third oldest and one of the most heavily decorated airlift squadrons in the Air Force. The squadron was first organized on 18 February 1942 as the 41st Transport Squadron. In July of 1942, the unit was redesignated the 41st Troop Carrier Squadron and assigned to the 317th Troop Carrier Wing. As part of the 317th, the 41st participated in nearly every major campaign in the Pacific Theater, logging many airlift firsts. The Blackcats flew some of the first airborne assaults of World War II during the recapture of Corregidor, performed the first airfield resupply airdrops and were the first to use transport aircraft to bomb enemy positions using drums of gasoline with hand grenades as detonators. A 41st C-47 was the first US transport to land in Japan after the formal surrender.
In 1948, the squadron moved from Japan to West Germany to support the Berlin Airlift. The 41st was deactivated in September 1949 after having flown the C-47, C-48, and C-54 aircraft. The squadron was reactivated in July 1952 at Rhein-Main AB, West Germany, flying the C-119 Boxcar. In 1957, the unit relocated to Evereux, France, and received their first C-130 Hercules.
During the Vietnam conflict, the 41st relocated to Southeast Asia and spent five years in theater. The Blackcats flew missions from Thailand into North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos as well as throughout the rest of the theater, most notably the relief efforts of the Marine encampment at Khe Sanh. August 1967 brought another name change, this time to the 41st Tactical Airlift Squadron.
In 1971, the 41st rejoined the 317th Tactical Airlift Wing at Pope AFB. Since then, the Blackcats have participated in every major contingency. The 41st led the way for both URGENT FURY, the Grenada invasion, and JUST CAUSE, the invasion of Panama. The 41st was the most forward deployed airlift unit in DESERT SHIELD/STORM and flew both the first airdrops into Iraq and the first airland mission into Kuwait. 1992 continued to be a busy year with the 41st being tasked for numerous humanitarian mission: PROVIDE PROMISE in the former Yugoslavia, PROVIDE RELIEF in Somalia, PROVIDE COMFORT in Turkey, PROVIDE HOPE in the former Soviet Union, and SUPPORT HOPE in Uganda.
During the Black cat's 1994 Southwest Asia rotation, the squadron executed Operation TIGER RESCUE, the successful evacuation of several hundred American citizens endangered by the civil war in Yemen. Later that year, the 41st was tasked to lead a 32-ship personnel formation to seize Port-au-Prince during the recalled Haiti invasion, Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY. Shortly thereafter, crisis brought the 41st back to Saudi Arabia for VIGILANT WARRIOR, thwarting renewed Iraqi aggression.
Nineteen ninety-six saw the Black cats flying into Bosnia and other former Yugoslavian states during Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR. A short two months after their return from Europe, the 41st again deployed to the Saudi Arabian Peninsula in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, achieving unprecedented sortie effectiveness. On 1 April 1997, the 41st was reassigned to Air Mobility Command under the 43rd Air Wing.
The squadron is the recipient of six Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards and six Mobility Airlift Command Outstanding Airlift Squadron Awards. Today, the 41st is one of only three squadrons worldwide trained and equipped to use the Adverse Weather Aerial Delivery System which enables it to airdrop troops and equipment safely without support in inclement weather. This special airdrop qualification allows the 41st to live up to its motto of "Anywhere, Anytime."