355th Fighter Squadron

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355th Fighter Squadron
355fs patch.jpg
355th FS Insignia
Active Organized 15 November 1942
Inactivated 31 March 1946
Reactivated 19 November 1956
Inactivated 31 March 1992
Reactivated 20 August 1993
Inactivated 15 August 2007.
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Role Attack
Part of Pacific Air Forces
354th Fighter Wing
Garrison/HQ Eielson Air Force Base
Nickname "Fightin' Falcons"
Engagements World War II
Vietnam War
Operation Desert Shield
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom

The 355th Fighter Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was that of a subordinate unit of the 354th Fighter Wing based at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, flying the Republic A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. The squadron was inactivated on 15 August 2007 as a result of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) 2005.

History[edit]

World War II[edit]

World War II squadron emblem

Activated on 15 November 1942 at Hamilton Field, California, initially equipped with P-39 Aircobras and assigned to IV Fighter Command for training. Moved to several bases in California and Nevada then to Portland Army Air Base, Oregon in June 1943 and re-equipped with new P-51B Mustangs. Transitioned to the Mustang throughout the summer of 1943 the deployed to the European Theater of Operations (ETO), being assigned to IX Fighter Command in England.

In late 1943, the strategic bombardment campaign over Occupied Europe and Nazi Germany being conducted by VIII Bomber Command was taking heavy losses in aircraft and flight crews as the VIII Fighter Command's P-38 Lightnings and P-47 Thunderbolts lacked the range to escort the heavy B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator bombers deep into Germany to attack industrial and military targets. The P-51 had the range to perform the escort duties and the unit's operational control was transferred to Headquarters, Eighth Air Force to perform escort missions. From its base at RAF Boxted, the unit flew long-range strategic escort missions with VIII Bomber Command groups, escorting the heavy bombers to targets such as Frankfurt, Leipzig, Augsburg, and Schweinfurt, engaging Luftwaffe day interceptors frequently, with the P-51s outperforming the German Me-109 and Fw-190 interceptors, causing heavy losses to the Luftwaffe. Remained under operational control of Eighth Air Force until April 1944, when sufficient numbers of P-51D Mustangs and arrived from the United States and were assigned to VIII Fighter Command units for escort duty.

Was relieved from escort duty and was re-equipped with P-47D Thunderbolts, and reassigned to RAF Lashenden on the southern coast of England. Mission was redefined to provide tactical air support for the forthcoming invasion of France, to support the Third, and later Ninth United States Armies. Flew fighter sweeps over Normandy and along the English Channel coast of France and the Low Countries, April–June 1944, then engaged in heavy tactical bombing of enemy military targets as well as roads, railroads and bridges in the Normandy area to support ground forces in the immediate aftermath of D-Day.

North American P-51B-1-NA Mustang Serial 43-12408 of the 355th Fighter Squadron, photo probably taken at RAF Boxted, England, early 1944.

Moved to Advanced Landing Grounds in France beginning at the end of June 1944, moving eastwards to combat airfields and liberated French airports supporting Allied Ground forces as the advanced across Northern France. Later, in 1944, the squadron became involved in dive-bombing and strafing missions, striking railroad yards, bridges, troop concentrations, and airfields. Participated in attacks on German forces in Belgium in the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge, then moved eastward as part of the Western Allied invasion of Germany. The squadron flew its last mission of the war on 7 May 1945 from the captured Luftwaffe airfield at Ansbach (R-45).

Remained in Occupied Germany as part of the United States Air Forces in Europe XII Tactical Air Command occupying force after the German Capitulation, being stationed at AAF Station Herzogenaurach. Was inactivated on 31 March 1946.

Korean War[edit]

North American F-86 Sabres from the 335th in Korea, April 1952. The F-86E-10-NA 51-2769 was shot down by a MiG-15 on 4 July 1952. The pilot ejected and was rescued.

Cold War[edit]

Reactivated by Tactical Air Command, United States Air Force on 19 November 1956, being assigned to the reactivated 354th Fighter-Day Group at the new Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina. Equipped with North American F-100 Super Sabre fighters, the squadron participated in exercises, operations, tests, and firepower demonstrations conducted by the Tactical Air Command within the US and abroad. The unit frequently deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy and Wheelus Air Base, Libya. Was deployed to Europe during the 1958 Lebanon crisis and was moved to McCoy AFB, Florida in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Vietnam War[edit]

Former 355 TFS North American F-100D-80-NH "Super Sabre" 56-3374 on a mission into North Vietnam from Phu Cat AB, South Vietnam
In-flight formation of 3 LTV A-7Ds (S/N 70-0967, 70-0983 and 71-296) of the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 354th Tactical Fighter Wing (Forward) deployed to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand in December 1972.

On 3 February 1968 the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron was deployed to support the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing at Phu Cat Air Base, South Vietnam for five months' Temporary Duty (TDY).

At the end of the TDY on 5 July, the 355 TFS was permanently assigned to the 37th, with activated New Jersey and District of Columbia Air National Guard personnel from the 113 TFW at Myrtle Beach replacing them and manning the unit.

On 15 May 1969 with the reassignment of the 612th and 174 TFS, it was decided to convert the 37th to an F-4 wing. The F-100 equipped 355th, along with the 416 TFS were reassigned to the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Tuy Hoa Air Base, replacing the ANG 136th and 188th TFSs which were returning to New York and New Mexico, respectively.

At Tuy Hoa, the tail code of the 355th F-100s was changed to "SP", and deployed Air National Guard personnel from New York and New Mexico and regular Air Force personnel manned the 355th until its inactivation on 30 September 1970.

During its time in Vietnam, the 355th flew more than 17,000 combat sorties flying close air support, interdiction, search and rescue, and helicopter support missions. The squadron was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm for its service.

On 1 November 1970, the 355 TFS was reactivated at Myrtle Beach AFB, SC as part of the 354 TFW. Upon its return, the unit transitioned to the new A-7D Corsair II aircraft before redeploying to Southeast Asia in the fall of 1972 as the first A-7 unit to fight there. In 10 weeks of combat before the end of that conflict, the squadron participated in the Linebacker II campaign, generated more than 4,000 sorties, and was credited with 22 rescues of downed airmen. The unit returned to Myrtle Beach in April 1974.

Post-Vietnam era[edit]

355th Tactical Fighter Squadron Personnel - March 1991 - King Fahd International Airport after victory in Operation Desert Storm

In February 1978, the 355 FS transitioned to the new A-10 Thunderbolt II, a close air support aircraft, becoming the second operational squadron in the nation's first A-10 wing.

Duty called again in August 1990 when the unit deployed to King Fahd International Airport, Saudi Arabia in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. There, the squadron's pilots inflicted heavy damage to Iraqi armor and artillery emplacements, helped cut off enemy supply lines, and conducted search and rescue missions. The squadron contributed greatly to the 4,200 artillery, tank and other vehicle kills credited to A-10s during the war.

Modern era[edit]

Inactivated at Myrtle Beach AFB on 31 March 1992, the 355 FS was reactivated on 20 August 1993, replacing the inactivating 11th Tactical Air Support Squadron at Eleison AFB, Alaska. The unit's primary missions included air strike control, close air support, interdiction, joint air attack team, escort, and combat search and rescue.

With a dual role A/OA-10 squadron commitment and night vision goggles, the squadron had the ability to deploy forward air controllers with attack aircraft for a complete day and night employment capability.

The 355th FS also provided air liaison officers for the 172d Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), providing advice, as ground forward air controllers, on the use of fighters and the tactical employment of close air support assets.

In October 1998, the 355 FS deployed to support Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. Only two months later, the Warthogs saw their second tour of combat duty over Iraq while participating in the 16–19 December 1998, Operation DESERT FOX strike missions. In 2.5 months, the 355 FS flew 597 combat and combat support sorties leading up to, then conducting, National Command Authority directed strikes on Iraqi military facilities and suspected weapons of mass destruction storage areas. They achieved 100 percent target hit rate.

An A-10 Thunderbolt II of the 355th Fighter Squadron sits on the tarmac at Eielson before a mission, 2004

The unit deployed to Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, January–March 2001. The 355 FS also exercised at Hurlburt Field, Florida, to train with Special Forces units, October 2003.

In Spring 2004 the unit deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The unit redeployed there again early 2006. During both deployments the unit was responsible to provide close air support to Army ground forces and convoys in Afghanistan.

Base realignment and closure[edit]

On 13 May 2005, The Department of Defense proposed a major realignment of the base as part of the Base Realignment and Closure program. The A-10 aircraft will be distributed to the 917th Wing Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana (three aircraft); to a new active-duty unit at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia (12 aircraft); and to backup inventory (three aircraft).

Lt Col Quentin “Q-Tip” Rideout, 355th Fighter Squadron Commander, flew the last operational A-10 sortie at Eielson AFB on 31 July 2007.

The last three A-10 aircraft departed Eielson AFB on 15 August 2007. Lt Col Kevin "Crotch" Blanchard flew 81-0944, Capt Sean "Shark" Hall flew 79-0172, and Capt Dale "Porkchop" Stark flew 80-0259. Although the aircraft were originally scheduled to depart at 0700, they were delayed until 0830 because of foggy conditions. Lt Col Blanchard was the first to lift off, followed closely by Capt Hall. When Capt Stark took off, and shortly before disappearing into the clouds, he tipped the wings of his jet, a final farewell salute to Eielson AFB and the 355th Fighter Squadron.

Lineage[edit]

  • Constituted 355th Fighter Squadron on 12 November 1942
Activated on 15 November 1942
Redesignated 355th Fighter Squadron, Single Engine, on 21 August 1944
Inactivated on 31 March 1946
  • Redesignated 355th Fighter-Day Squadron on 28 September 1956
Activated on 19 November 1956
Redesignated 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron on 1 July 1958
Inactivated on 30 September 1970
  • Activated on 1 November 1970
Redesignated 355th Fighter Squadron on 1 November 1991
Inactivated on 31 March 1992
  • Activated on 20 August 1993
Inactivated on 15 August 2007

Assignments[edit]

Stations[edit]

Major aircraft assigned[edit]

Campaign streamers[edit]

  • World War II: Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe; Air Combat, EAME Theater.
  • Vietnam War: Vietnam Air Offensive, Phase II; Vietnam Air Offensive, Phase III; Vietnam Air Ground; Vietnam Air Offensive, Phase IV; TET 69/Counteroffensive; Vietnam Summer-Fall, 1969; Vietnam Winter-Spring, 1970; Sanctuary Counteroffensive; Southwest Monsoon; Vietnam Ceasefire.
  • Southwest Asia: Defense of Saudi Arabia; Liberation and Defense of Kuwait.

Decorations[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links[edit]