355th Fighter Wing

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355th Fighter Wing
355th Fighter Wing - Emblem.png
Active 12 November 1942 — present
Country United States
Branch Air Force
Part of Air Combat Command
Garrison/HQ Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
Nickname Steeple Morden Strafers
Motto Our Might Always
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg DUC
Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg PUC
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA w/ V Device
Vietnam gallantry cross unit award-3d.svg RVGC w/ Palm
Commanders
Current
commander
Colonel John A. Cherrey
Notable
commanders
John D. W. Corley
Michael Dugan
George B. Simler
Bud Anderson

The 355th Fighter Wing (355 FW) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the Air Combat Command's Twelfth Air Force. It is stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, where in operates the A-10 Thunderbolt II. The wing's mission is to provide close air support (CAS), air interdiction (AI), forward air control (FAC), combat search and rescue (CSAR), ground based tactical air control, and airbase operations.

Subordinate organizations[edit]

Four Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt IIs from the 355th Operations Group fly in formation over Arizona. 79-0176 and 81-0982 identifiable

355th Operations Group (355 OG)

355th Maintenance Group (355 MXG)

  • 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (355 AMXS)
  • 355th Maintenance Operations Squadron (355 MOS)
  • 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron (355 EMS)
  • 355th Component Maintenance Squadron (355 CMS)

355th Mission Support Group (355 MSG)

  • 355th Civil Engineer Squadron (355 CES)
  • 355th Communications Squadron (355 CS)
  • 355th Contracting Squadron (355 CONS)
  • 355th Logistics Readiness Squadron (355 LRS)
  • 355th Force Support Squadron (FSS)
  • 355th Security Forces Squadron (355 SFS)

355th Medical Group (355 MDG)

  • 355th Dental Squadron (355 DS)
  • 355th Medical Operations Squadron (355 MDOS)
  • 355th Aerospace Medicine Squadron (355 AMDS)
  • 355th Medical Support Squadron (355 MDSS)

History[edit]

World War II[edit]

Cold War era 355th Fighter Group (Air Defense) patch
Republic P-47D-2-RE Thunderbolt 42-8400, 354th Fighter Squadron. Photograph probably taken from a B-17 or B-24 bomber with the fighter on an escort mission inbound to a target in Occupied Europe in 1943. Note the external auxiliary fuel tank.
North American P-51B-15-NA Mustang, 42-105950, 354th Fighter Squadron. Note the D-Day invasion markings and the English bubble canopy installed for better pilot visibility
North American P-51D-5-NA Mustang 44-73294, 357th Fighter Squadron with 10 enemy kills noted. Taken at Gablingen, Germany in 1945. Note the postwar orange/yellow occupation stripes on the fuselage
355th TFW Republic F-105D-30-RE Thunderchief 62-4234 in flight with a full bomb load of 750 lb bombs. Note the natural aluminum finish, photo probably taken in 1965 or 1966 before USAF aircraft adapted the Southeast Asia camouflage livery. This aircraft was lost on 24 December 1968 over Laos.
A-7D-9-CV 70-1051, 358th TFS, Davis Monthan AFB, AZ, March 1972. Note the "DD" squadron tail code, rather than the 355th TFW "DM" code adapted IAW AFM 66-1 in June 1972.

The 355th Fighter Group was first activated 12 November 1942. Originally equipped with P-47 Thunderbolts, the group began using P-51 Mustangs in 1944 and quickly gained acclaim as the "Steeple Morden Strafers," a reference to its base in England and its lethal accuracy at low level. The group was under the command of the 65th Fighter Wing of the VIII Fighter Command, Eighth Air Force. Aircraft of the group were identified by white around their cowling and tail.

The group consisted of the following squadrons:

The 355th FG flew its first combat mission, a fighter sweep over Belgium, on 14 September 1943 and afterwards served primarily as escort for B-17/B-24 bombers that attacked industrial areas of Berlin, marshalling yards at Karlsruhe, an airfield at Neuberg, oil refineries at Misburg, synthetic oil plants at Gelsenkirchen, locks at Minden, and other objectives. The group also flew fighter sweeps, area patrols, and bombing missions, striking such targets as air parks, locomotives, bridges, radio stations, and armoured cars.

On 5 April 1944, shortly after converting from P-47's to P-51's, the group successfully bombed and strafed German airfields during a snow squall, a mission for which the group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation.

The group provided fighter cover for Allied forces landing in Normandy on 6 June 1944, and afterwards hit transportation facilities to cut enemy supply lines. Hit fuel dumps, locomotives, and other targets in support of ground forces during the breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July.

The 355th Fighter Group flew its last combat mission on 25 April 1945. On 3 July the group transferred to Gablingen, Germany for duty with United States Air Forces in Europe as part of the army of occupation. Transferred, without personnel and equipment, to Mitchel Field New York on 1 August 1946. It was inactivated on 20 November due to the Air Force's policy of retaining only low-numbered groups on active duty after the war, the unit being redesignated as the 14th Fighter Group in an administrative redesignation.

The fighter group destroyed or damaged 1,500 enemy planes, making it the top strafing outfit in the VIII Fighter Command during World War II.

Cold War[edit]

In the mid-1950s, the group was reactivated and assigned to the Air Defense Command as the 355th Fighter Group (Air Defense). It was assigned to McGhee Tyson AFB, near Knoxville Tennessee, replacing the 516th Air Defense Group. Flying the F-86D Sabre, the group provided fighter defense for the Oak Ridge Atomic Energy Plant, the Tennessee Valley Authority dams, and the eastern region of the United States. Regular Air Force operations at McGhee Tyson AFB ended on 8 January 1958. The 354th FIS inactivated in that date. The 355th Fighter Group remained until 1 July 1960 when it was inactivated along with the F-86D interceptor squadrons, and the base turned over to Tennessee Air National Guard control.

Vietnam era[edit]

On 13 April 1962 the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing was established and activated at George AFB, California, being equipped with the new F-105 Thunderchief. After a period of organization at George, the wing was assigned to McConnell AFB, Kansas, becoming the host unit at the base.

The unit transferred to the Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand in 1965. During the next five years, it flew more than 101,000 sorties over North Vietnam, dropping 202,596 tons of bombs and destroying 12,675 targets. The wing's pilots were credited with twenty airborne kills of MiG aircraft and eight aircraft destroyed on the ground. Nicknamed "PACAF's Pride," the unit received three Presidential Unit Citations and three Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards with the combat "V" device. It is also noteworthy that, of the twelve airmen awarded the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War, two belonged to the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing: Majors Merlyn H. Dethlefsen and Leo K. Thorsness.

The 355th was inactivated at Takhli on 10 December 1970 as part of the drawdown of US Forces in Southeast Asia in the early 1970s.

The 355th was reactivated at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in 1971, being assigned to Tactical Air Command. Initially, the wing had four squadrons (333d, 354th, 357th and 358th) equipped with the new A-7D Corsair II ground air support aircraft. It achieved operationally-ready status in 1972. In late 1972, the 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed its Corsairs to Korat Royal Thai Air Fore Base, Thailand and was attached to the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing (Forward Echelon), which had deployed to Korat from Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina. From Korat, the 354th, and later the 357th, which replaced the 354th TFS in June 1973, conducted combat operations first in South Vietnam, then in 1973, in Cambodia, supporting the Lon Nol Government until 15 August 1973 when US combat operations in Southeast Asia were halted by Congress.

Post Vietnam[edit]

Withdrawing from Thailand in 1974, the wing began to send its Corsairs to the Air National Guard, and transitioning to the new A-10 Thunderbolt II. By 1979, the wing had completely transitioned to the A-10 and achieved operationally ready status. On 1 September 1979, Tactical Air Command took the 355th off deployment status and redesignated it as the 355th Tactical Training Wing becoming the USAF's A-10 Thunderbolt II Operational Training Unit.

In 1984 the 355th Fighter Group was consolidated with the Wing, giving the 355th Tactical Training Wing the history, honors and lineage of the World War II and Cold War organization.

As the wing entered the 1990s, it continued to train A-10 crews for assignments to units in the United States, England, and South Korea. The 355th Wing regularly participated in air support exercises such as Air Warrior and weapons competitions such as Long Rifle, in which it consistently captured top A-10 honors. However, the wing's excellence wasn't limited to the cockpit; in 1990, it received the TAC Commander's Award for top aircraft maintenance, in the A-10 category, for the third consecutive year.

The wing's training program paid off when in 1990 squadrons were deployed to King Fhad International Airport in Saudi Arabia, being assigned to the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional) during operation Desert Shield. In 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, when 355th-trained A-10 pilots destroyed 1,000 tanks, 2,000 vehicles, 1,200 artillery pieces, and two helicopters. While the wing as a whole did not deploy to the Persian Gulf, more than 250 members augmented forces in theater and filled shortages in the United States.

Modern era[edit]

On 1 October 1991, the 355th Tactical Training Wing was redesignated as the 355th Fighter Wing under the "Objective Wing" concept adapted by the Air Force as the lines between tactical and strategic forces blurred and the Air Force leadership began to merge these forces under Air Combat Command. The flying components of the wing were reassigned to the newly established 355th Operations Group. As part of this restructuring, on 1 May 1992, the 355th became a composite wing, absorbing elements of the 602nd Air Control Wing, the 41st Electronic Combat Squadron, and of most other activities currently operating at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. With these diverse units as part of the organization, the designation was changed to the 355th Wing on 1 May 1992.

An era came to a close when on 30 September 2002 the 42d Airborne Command and Control Squadron was designated inactive. The 355th Wing then underwent an extensive reorganization of forces on 1 October 2002. During this reorganization, new squadrons were added to the existing wing structure, while some squadrons were realigned under new group commanders. The 355th Wing also inherited the 48th, 55th, and 79th Rescue Squadrons equipped with HC-130 aircraft and HH-60 helicopters.

Another change saw the 41st and 43d Electronic Combat Squadrons fall under the operational control of the 55th Electronic Combat Group, 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. On 1 October 2003, the three combat search-and-rescue squadrons fell under the command of the 563d Rescue Group.

The 355th Fighter Wing currently provides air assets to Air Expeditionary unit commanders involved in operations around the globe, as part of the Global War on Terrorism.

Lineage[edit]

  • Established as 355th Fighter Group, and activated, on 12 November 1942
Inactivated on 20 November 1946, aircraft/personnel/equipment reassigned to 14th Fighter Group
  • Redesignated 355th Fighter Group (Air Defense) on 20 June 1955
Activated on 18 August 1955 by inactivation and reassignment of aircraft/personnel/equipment of 516th Air Defense Group
Inactivated on 8 January 1958
  • Consolidated (31 January 1984) with the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, which was established, and activated, on 13 April 1962
Organized on 8 July 1962
Inactivated on 10 December 1970
  • Activated on 1 July 1971
Redesignated: 355th Tactical Training Wing on 1 September 1979
Redesignated: 355th Fighter Wing on 1 October 1991
Redesignated: 355th Wing on 1 May 1992
Redesignated: 355th Fighter Wing in 2006

Assignments[edit]

Components[edit]

Wings

  • 4453d Combat Crew Training: attached 1 July – 30 September 1971.

Groups

  • 1st Air Support: 15 June 1992 – 1 February 1994
  • 3d Air Support: 15 June 1992 – 1 February 1994
  • 355th Operations Group: 1 May 1992–present

Squadrons

Stations[edit]

Aircraft operated[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the television series The West Wing, White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry flew F-105s for the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing during the Vietnam War. In the fifth season episode An Khe, his mission over Southeast Asia in which he is shot down and evades capture, is depicted.[1]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The West Wing, Episode 3.05: War Crimes. Original airdate: 7 November 2001.

References[edit]

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

  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • Marshall, William. Angels, Bulldogs & Dragons: The 355th Fighter Group in World War II. Mesa, Arizona: Campion Fighter Museum, 1984.
  • Wells, Ken. Steeple Morden Strafers: 355th Fighter Group, 1943 - 1945. Baldon, Hartfordshire, UK: Egon Publishing Ltd., 1994.

External links[edit]