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Air Commandos gather for 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday

AC-130J Ghostrider gunship flying over a airpark ceremony

An AC-130J Ghostrider gunship flies over a commemoration ceremony held in honor of the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. Five types of 1st Special Operations Wing aircraft participated in individual flyovers at the ceremony. Each aircraft has unique capabilities that pay homage to the original aircraft flown by the first Air Commandos. The first Air Commandos of the 1st Air Commando Group displayed teamwork, destroyed the enemy position, carried assault troops and engineers behind enemy lines, and supplied them until mission completion during Operation Thursday, March 5, 1944. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)

Cv2B Osprey flying over ceremony in airpark.

A CV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft performs a flyover during a commemoration ceremony held in honor of the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. Five types of 1st Special Operations Wing aircraft participated in individual flyovers at the ceremony. Each aircraft has unique capabilities that pay homage to the original aircraft flown by the first Air Commandos. Air Commandos gathered to remember and honor the group of individuals whose actions laid the foundation for the evolution of the 1st Special Operations Wing and Air Force Special Operations Command. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)

Honor guard presenting the color at airpark

The Hurlburt Field Honor Guard presents the colors during a commemoration ceremony held in honor of the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. Air Commandos gathered to remember and honor the group of individuals whose actions laid the foundation for the evolution of the 1st Special Operations Wing and Air Force Special Operations Command. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)

World War II veterans paying respects during color presentation

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Cole, left-sitting, retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. William Cartwright, middle-standing, and former U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Patt Meara, right-standing, attend a commemoration ceremony in honor of the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. Air Commandos gathered to remember and honor the group of individuals whose actions laid the foundation for the evolution of the 1st Special Operations Wing and Air Force Special Operations Command. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)

World War II veterans bow their heads during prayer

World War II veterans, their friends and family bow their heads during prayer at a commemoration ceremony in honor of the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. Air Commandos gathered to remember and honor the group of individuals whose actions laid the foundation for the evolution of the 1st Special Operations Wing and Air Force Special Operations Command. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)

Airman ask questionl/75th anniversary logo in background

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Hannah Walls, a mission analyst with the 11th Special Operation Intelligence Squadron, ask retired World War II veterans about their Operation Thursday experience during a veteran panel discussion and breakfast at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. Operation Thursday took place on March 5, 1944, and was an unorthodox operation where the first Air Commandos worked alongside British “Chindits” to insert troops behind Japanese lines in Burma during WWII. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)

World War II veteran answers question alongside other veterans

Former U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Patt Meara, a B-25H Mitchell gunner during World War II, responds to questions about his role in Operation Thursday during a veteran panel discussion and breakfast at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. Meara was one of three WWII veterans to attend the panel - one of several events held to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday. Operation Thursday was an unorthodox operation when the first Air Commandos worked alongside British “Chindits” to insert thousands of troops behind Japanese lines in Burma during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)

Guest speaker briefs air commandos at podiom/Large US flag in background

Dr. Dennis Okerstrom, English professor at Park University, Parkville, Missouri, talks to Air Commandos about the history of the 1st Air Commando Group, the predecessors of the 1st Special Operations Wing, during a veteran panel discussion and breakfast at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. The breakfast was one of several events held to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday. During Operation Thursday, Air Commando and British “Chindits” traveled more than 200 miles to insert approximately 10,000 men, 1,000 mules and horses, and 250 tons of supplies behind Japanese lines in Burma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)

officers putting streamer on a guidon outside

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, left, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, attaches the distinguished unit citation streamer to the 1st Special Operations Wing guidon during a commemoration ceremony in honor of the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. The ceremony honored Air Commandos who made the ultimate sacrifice during the aerial invasion of Japanese-occupied Burma in World War II. The first Air Commandos of the 1st Air Commando Group displayed teamwork, destroyed the enemy position, carried assault troops and engineers behind enemy lines, and supplied them until mission completion. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Miller)

B-25H Mitchell gunship with a ceremony taking place behind it.
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Members of Hurlburt Field attend a commemoration ceremony in honor of the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. The Air Commandos protected the British “Chindits” by harassing Japanese forces with P-51A Mustangs and B-25H Mitchell gunships. The B-25Hs were equipped with a 75mm cannon in the nose and twin .50-caliber machine guns, used in bombing bridges and parked aircraft, strafing, air-to-air combat, and destroying the communications, transportation and military infrastructure. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Miller)

World War II veterans observing a ceremony
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U.S. Air Force retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole, left, U.S. Air Force retired Senior Master Sgt. William Cartwright, middle, and former U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Patt Meara, right, attend a commemoration ceremony in honor of the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. Air Commandos gathered to remember and honor the group of individuals whose actions laid the foundation for the evolution of the 1st Special Operations Wing and Air Force Special Operations Command. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Miller)

Honor Guard Airman placing a wreath during a ceremony
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U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, speaks during a commemoration ceremony in honor of the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. The ceremony honored Air Commandos who made the ultimate sacrifice during the aerial invasion of Japanese-occupied Burma in World War II. The first Air Commandos of the 1st Air Commando Group displayed teamwork, destroyed the enemy position, carried assault troops and engineers behind enemy lines, and supplied them until mission completion. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Miller)

Honor Guard Airman placing a wreath during a ceremony
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U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, left, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Conley, right, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing, and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Hobbs Sibayan, lead instructor for the base honor guard, lay a wreath during a commemoration ceremony in honor of the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. The wreath was placed in honor of the Air Commandos who made the ultimate sacrifice during the aerial invasion of Japanese-occupied Burma in World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Miller)

Commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing gives closing remarks during a veteran discussion panel
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U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Conley, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing, gives the closing remarks during a veteran discussion panel at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. During the event, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. retired Richard Cole, U.S. Air Force retired Senior Master Sgt. William Cartwright and former U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Patt Meara spoke to Air Commandos about their roles during Operation Thursday. The breakfast was one of several events held to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday. Operation Thursday was an unorthodox operation in which the first Air Commandos worked alongside British “Chindits” to insert thousands of troops behind enemy lines during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kentavist Brackin)

1st Special Operations Wing leadership presenting plaque to WW II veteran.
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U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Conley, left, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing, and Chief Master Sgt. William Adams, right, command chief of the 1st SOW, presents a token of appreciation to U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. retired Richard Cole, during a veteran discussion panel at Hurlburt Field, Florida, March 5, 2019. The breakfast was one of several events held to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday. Operation Thursday was an unorthodox operation in which the first Air Commandos worked alongside British “Chindits” to insert thousands of troops behind enemy lines during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kentavist Brackin)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --

Hundreds of Air Commandos marked the 75th anniversary of Operation Thursday during a commemoration ceremony at the Hurlburt Field Air Park, March 5.

Operation Thursday was an unorthodox operation in which the first Air Commandos worked alongside British “Chindits” to insert thousands of troops behind enemy lines during World War II. 

“Long before Operation Iraqi Freedom, long before Bosnia, long before Desert Storm, Just Cause, Desert One, Son Tay, there was Operation Thursday,” said Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, the commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. “Operation Thursday is acknowledged as the first allied air invasion in military history. [It] laid the capstone for what is AFSOC today.”

The ceremony hosted several WWII veterans including: 
• Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Cole, who served as a C-47 Skytrain pilot 
• Retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. William Cartwright, who served as an enlisted Stinson L-5 Sentinel pilot
• Retired Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Patt Meara, who served as a B-25H Mitchell gunner

“We continue this legacy today and every day,” said Webb. “Air Commando veterans, you are our pathfinders. You are us.”

Five types of 1st Special Operations Wing aircraft participated in individual flyovers at the ceremony. Each aircraft has unique capabilities that pay homage to the original aircraft flown by the first Air Commandos.

“This is a legacy of facing the unknown, overcoming fears, and overcoming challenges with adaptability and innovation,” said Webb. 

Air Commandos and British “Chindits” traveled more than 200 miles to insert more than 9,000 men, 1,000 mules, and 250 tons of supplies behind Japanese lines in Burma. Operation Thursday marked the first time in history that all casualties were successfully evacuated from behind enemy lines.

“It is in these moments, Air Commandos, when unforeseen circumstances threaten failure,” said Webb. “It is in these moments, in particular, that Air Commandos prove their worth.”

The operation is often considered to be the catalyst that pioneered the elite warfighting force that is AFSOC.

“Operation Thursday provided concepts that you and I have perfected over the years and execute on a daily basis around the globe,” Webb said. “We share, at a fundamental level, the same attitude, the same spirit, the same character as the men of the 5318th [Provisional Group (Air)] and now the 1st Air Commando Group.”