‘War Eagle’ plane awarded Purple Heart
By Mark Stephenson
The 908th Airlift Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base is the only reserve unit in the state of Alabama. The C-130 is the aircraft the wing operates. “Due to the extraordinary design, the C-130 remains in production after more than 60 years. More than 60 air forces around the world operate this versatile aircraft,” says Lt. Col (Ret.) Jerry Lobb.
According to Lt. Col. Steve “Stretch” Catchings, aircraft commander, a C-130 (tail number 85-0040) known as ‘War Eagle’ took a hit from a rocket propelled Grenade (RPG) while on take off from an airbase in Mosul, Iraq in 2005. With the number 2 engine shut down, the plane continued to another airstrip where it landed safely with 55 passengers and underwent field repairs. It was flown back to Qatar before returning to Maxwell AFB. The fire damage was still visible. ‘War Eagle’ was awarded the Purple Heart for the damage it sustained.
With 31 years and more than 12,000 hours of service, ‘War Eagle’ was retired in 2017 and the Auburn flag was transported to its replacement C-130 (tail number 91-9142) in a Transfer of Heritage ceremony by Auburn University’s Air Force ROTC detachment. C-130, tail number 42, is now known as ‘War Eagle.’