Pacific Air Forces

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Pacific Air Forces
Pacific Air Forces.png
Pacific Air Forces emblem
Active 3 August 1944 – present
Country United States of America
Branch United States Air Force
Type Major Command
Part of United States Pacific Command
Garrison/HQ Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii
Nickname PACAF
Engagements
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg Army of Occupation ribbon.svg
Korean Service Medal - Ribbon.svg Vietnam Service Ribbon.svg AFEMRib.svg
  • World War II
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (1944–1945)
  • Army of Occupation
Japan (1945–1952)
  • Korean Service (1950–1953)
  • Vietnam Service (1961–1973)
  • Expeditionary Service
Cambodia (1973)
Commanders
Current
commander
General Herbert J. Carlisle
Notable
commanders
General Earle E. Partridge

Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) is a Major Command of the United States Air Force. PACAF is also the air component of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM). PACAF is headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Hawaii. It is one of two USAF Major Commands assigned outside of the Continental United States, the other being the United States Air Forces in Europe. Over the past sixty plus years, PACAF has been engaged in combat twice during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

The mission of Pacific Air Forces is to provide ready air and space power to promote U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region during peacetime, through crisis, and in war. PACAF organizes, trains, and equips the 45,000 Total Force personnel with the tools necessary to support the Commander of United States Pacific Command. PACAF comprises four numbered Air Forces, nine main bases and nearly 375 aircraft.

The command's area of responsibility extends from the west coast of the United States to the east coast of Asia and from the Arctic to the Antarctic, more than 100,000,000 square miles (260,000,000 km2). The area is home to nearly two billion people who live in 44 countries.

History[edit]

Far East Air Forces[edit]

Not to be confused with Far East Air Force (United States), the military aviation organization of the United States Army in the Philippine Islands from 1941 to 1942.

PACAF traces its roots to the activation of Far East Air Forces (FEAF) on 3 August 1944, at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.[1] FEAF was subordinate to the U.S. Army Forces Far East and served as the headquarters of Allied Air Forces Southwest Pacific Area.[2] The creation of FEAF consolidated the command and control authority over United States Army Air Force units widely deployed throughout the southwest Pacific in World War II. On 15 June 1945, all United States Army Air Forces numbered air forces in the Pacific theater were assigned to FEAF to support combat operations in the Pacific, these being:

Although engaged in combat operations against Japan, Tenth Air Force stationed in India and Fourteenth Air Force stationed in China were not part of Far East Air Forces. Twentieth Air Force was assigned directly to Headquarters USAAF at The Pentagon and also was not part of Far East Air Forces. However, the combined Army Air Forces in both the China Burma India Theater and the Pacific theater were the largest and most powerful military organization ever fielded by any country in the world.[3]

With the end of World War II in September 1945, the USAAF found its units deployed throughout the Pacific, from Hawaii to India, from Japan to Australia, and based on a hundred island airstrips, along with bases in China and Burma. A realignment of these forces was needed by the USAAF to better organize its forces in the Pacific for peacetime. On 6 December 1945, Far East Air Forces was redesignated Pacific Air Command, United States Army (PACUSA), and its Air Forces were redeployed as follows:

  • Fifth Air Force: Assigned to Tokyo, Japan.
Its primary mission performing occupation duty on the Japanese Home Islands and the Korean peninsula.
Returning to its prewar mission for the defense of the Hawaiian Islands, including Midway Island; the Marshall Islands and other Central Pacific islands
Defense of the Ryukyu Islands, including Iwo Jima
  • Thirteenth Air Force: Assigned to Clark Field, Philippines
Defense of the Philippines, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Reassigned to PACUSA 6 December 1945. Provided a strategic deterrent for the entire Western Pacific region.

With this realignment and reassignment of forces, PACUSA controlled and commanded all United States Army Air Forces in the Far East and Southwest Pacific, and all air forces were placed under one Air Force commander for the first time.[4][5][6]

In November 1945 the 509th Composite Group left Tinian and was reassigned to Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico, taking the Atomic Bomb delivery capability of PACUSA to the United States. Shortly afterwards, Eighth Air Force was reassigned to the new Strategic Air Command (SAC) on 7 June 1946 and its strategic units reassigned to the 1st Bombardment Division.

The major mission of PACUSA in the postwar years (1946–1950) was occupation duty in Japan and the demilitarization of the Japanese society in conjunction with the United States Army. In addition, PACUSA helped to support Atomic Bomb testing in the Pacific Proving Grounds beginning with the Operation Crossroads test on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1946.

FEAF Emblem, 1954

With the establishment of the United States Air Force, PACUSA was redesignated Far East Air Forces (FEAF) on 1 January 1947. On that same date, Seventh Air Force in Hawaii was inactivated with its organization absorbed by HQ, FEAF.[7]

PACUSA/FEAF deployments to Korea prior to the 1948 partition of the country helped in the establishment of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), along with the transfer of surplus military equipment and other aid to French Indochina as well as aid to the Nationalist Chinese during the Chinese Civil War which resumed after the end of World War II (1945–1949).

Korean War[edit]

  for information concerning aircraft flown by FEAF in the Korean War; bases, and units engaged in combat operations.

On 25 June 1950, the armed forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) invaded South Korea. On 27 June the United Nations Security Council voted to assist the South Koreans in resisting the invasion. President Harry Truman authorized General Douglas MacArthur (commander of the US occupying forces in Japan) to commit units to the battle. MacArthur ordered General George E. Stratemeyer, CIC of FEAF to attack attacking North Korean forces between the front lines and the 38th parallel.[8]

Order of Battle, June 1950[edit]

Despite the post-World War II demobilization of United States forces the United States Air Force still had substantial forces in the Pacific to oppose the North Korean military. When the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel 25 June 1950, FEAF consisted of the following primary units*:[9][10][11]

At that time, the combat units of the FEAF were equipped with the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star fighter, the North American F-82 Twin Mustang all weather escort fighter, the Douglas B-26 Invader light attack bomber, the Lockheed RF-80A tactical reconnaissance aircraft, and the Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bomber.

During the Korean War (1950–1953) FEAF's Fifth Air Force was the main United Nations combat air command until the Korean Armistice Agreement ended the combat 1953.

* Elements of the 2d and 3d Air Rescue squadrons, attached to FEAF by the Military Air Transport Service (MATS), were located at various bases where they could best perform emergency rescue services with their SB-17's. The 512th and 514th Weather Reconnaissance Squadrons (2143d Air Weather Wing) were located at Yokota and Anderson. All USAF units engaged in combat during the Korean War were under the overall command of Far East Air Forces.
** The 31st Photo Reconnaissance squadron was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) organization, attached to FEAF for operations. On 29 June 1950 the unit began flying combat missions over the Korean Peninsula to provide FEAF Bomber Command with target and bomb-damage assessment photography.

Cold War[edit]

C-124 at Hamilton AFB, California being prepared to load a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter being transported to Formosa, 1958.

With the 1953 Korean Armistice, the deployed SAC and TAC units to Japan and Korea were gradually withdrawn, and returned to the United States. Twentieth Air Force was inactivated on 1 March 1955, leaving FEAF with two Air Forces, the Fifth in Japan and the Thirteenth in the Philippines, although units were maintained on Guam and Okinawa.[9]

On 1 July 1954 The Pacific Air Force (PACAF) was activated at Hickam Air Force Base, Territory of Hawaii, and assigned to Far East Air Forces (FEAF), which was headquartered in Japan. Pacific Air Force at Hickam functioned primarily as the Air Force staff component and planning element of U.S. Pacific Command. On 1 July 1956, Pacific Air Force was redesignated Pacific Air Force/FEAF (Rear). Headquarters FEAF began preparations to move from Japan to Hawaii. Smith assumed additional responsibilities as deputy commander, Far East Air Forces.

Tensions between the Communist Chinese on the mainland and the Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan dominated FEAF during the mid to late 1950s. The 1954 and 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis both threatened to break out into a war, and USAF F-104C units were deployed to Kung Kuan Air Base on Taiwan in 1958.[12] The question of "Matsu and Quemoy" became an issue in the 1960 American Presidential election when Richard Nixon accused John F. Kennedy of being unwilling to commit to using nuclear weapons if the People's Republic of China invaded the Nationalist outposts.[13]

On 1 July 1957 United States Far East Air Forces was redesignated Pacific Air Forces and transferred its headquarters to Hickam AFB, Territory of Hawaii. By 1960, PACAF maintained a combat-ready deterrent force of some 35 squadrons, operating from 10 major bases in a half-dozen countries.[9]

Vietnam War[edit]

F-4 of the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang Air Base
Republic F-105F/G-1-RE Thunderchief Serial 63-8319 of Det 1, 561st Tactical Fighter (Wild Weasel) Squadron, Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base
North American F-100F-20-NA Super Sabre Serial 58-1213 of the 352d Fighter Squadron at Phan Rang Air Base, South Vietnam, 1971

In the early 1960s communist military strength and firepower in Vietnam increased. As a result, PACAF began a buildup in the area with the addition of troops and better arms and equipment.

In response to what has become known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, Tactical Air Command pilots and support personnel found themselves deployed from the CONUS to PACAF bases such as Da Nang Air Base and Phan Rang AB in South Vietnam. Bases in Thailand (Takhli RTAFB, Korat RTAFB) were also used by deployed TAC fighter squadrons.[14]

As the American effort in Southeast Asia increased, TAC permanently reassigned entire wings of aircraft from CONUS bases to PACAF and increased the number of rotated tactical fighter and recon squadrons on rotating Temporary Duty commitments to PACAF bases in Vietnam and Thailand, along with units to South Korea, Japan and the Philippines. On a daily basis, flight crews would hurl themselves and their planes at targets across the area of operations over the skies of North and South Vietnam.[14]

At the height of the Vietnam War (1968), PACAF commanded forces at major air bases in the following countries:[15]

  • Japan (Fifth Air Force)
  • South Korea (Fifth Air Force)
  • Philippines (Thirteenth Air Force)
  • Taiwan (Thirteenth Air Force)
  • South Vietnam (Seventh Air Force)
  • Thailand (Seventh/Thirteenth Air Force)

In 1962, PACAF activated the 2d Air Division to be the main warfighting organization in South Vietnam. As the conflict escalated, Seventh Air Force was activated on 1 April 1966, replacing 2d Air Force. PACAF units in Thailand were under the command of Thirteenth Air Force beginning in 1964, then in 1973 a joint Seventh/Thirteenth Air Force headquarters was established in Bangkok to direct PACAF forces in Thailand operating in Indochina (until 15 August 1973), and Thailand until the final USAF withdrawal from Southeast Asia in the beginning of 1976.[15][16]

Further information: Seventh Air Force

for the PACAF order of battle in South Vietnam

Further information: Thirteenth Air Force

for the PACAF order of battle in Thailand

By 1970 the war was winding down as the conflict was being Vietnamized. Units from the South Vietnamese Air Force (SVNAF) took on more and more combat to defend their nation. PACAF tactical air strength was being reduced as several air bases were turned over to the SVNAF. Combat aircraft of PACAF flew their last strikes in Cambodia 15 August 1973, writing the final chapter to the long and costly history of active American participation in the Indochina War. The Paris Peace Accords of 1973 ended PACAF's use of South Vietnamese bases, and by 1976 bases in Thailand were turned over to the Thai government. In 1979, normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China led to the withdrawal of PACAF personnel from Ching Chuan Kang Air Base, Republic of China (Taiwan).[15]

Post Cold War[edit]

South Korea based 51st Fighter Wing F-16Cs in flight.

The post-Vietnam era found the command focusing on improving its readiness, and PACAF's organizational structure saw a marked period of rapid and extensive changes. Inactivated at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, Seventh Air Force was reactivated at Osan Air Base, South Korea in 1986 to take over Fifth Air Force activities in South Korea. Andersen AFB was reassigned from Strategic Air Command in 1989, and Eleventh Air Force became a part of the command in late 1990. Following the volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Clark AB, the Philippines, was closed and Thirteenth Air Force relocated in 1991.[9]

In 1992, changes took place in force structure within PACAF as the command assumed control of theater-based tactical airlift wings, theater C-130 aircraft and crews, and associated theater C-130 support. PACAF also gained control of all operational support aircraft and all aeromedical airlift assets in the Pacific.[9]

In 1986, the Goldwater-Nichols Act reworked the command structure of the United States military. With the creation of Unified Combatant Commands (UCC) organized either on a geographical basis (known as "Area of Responsibility", AOR) or on a functional basis, Pacific Air Forces became a part of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM).

Throughout its history PACAF has played a vital role in world events. In addition to its key combat role in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, PACAF units fought in Desert Storm in 1991, and they continue to deploy to Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Italy for peacekeeping operations. PACAF provided its expertise, aircraft, personnel and equipment to facilitate the new Expeditionary Air Force, especially as it applied to successful airbridge operations spanning the vast Pacific Ocean. Following the 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, PACAF again demonstrated its intrepid spirit through its units deployed in support of Operation Noble Eagle and Operation Enduring Freedom.[9]

Since 1944, the command has participated in more than 140 humanitarian operations within its area of responsibility and beyond. In these operations PACAF people quickly and efficiently airlifted food, medicine and other supplies to areas devastated by storms, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural disasters.[9]

In December 2012, the USAF will choose a new backup runway in the Marianas.[17]

Lineage[edit]

  • Established as Far East Air Forces (Provisional) on 31 July 1944
Reestablished: Far East Air Forces on 3 August 1944
Activated on 3 August 1944
Redesignated: Pacific Air Command, United States Army, on 6 December 1945
Redesignated: Far East Air Forces on 1 January 1947
Redesignated Pacific Air Forces on 1 July 1957

Assignments[edit]

  • Southwest Pacific Area, 3 August 1944
  • US Army Forces, Pacific, 6 December 1945
  • United States Air Force, 26 September 1947 – present

Operational Components[edit]

Commands

  • Far East Air Forces Bomber Command, Provisional: 8 July 1950 – 18 June 1954
  • Far East Air Forces Combat Cargo Command, Provisional: 20 August 1950 – 25 January 1951
  • Far East Air Forces Materiel Command (later, Far East Air Logistics Force): 18 August 1944 – 1 October 1955

Force

  • Japan Air Defense: 1 March 1952 – 1 September 1954

Air Forces

14 July 1945 – 1 January 1947; 5 January 1955 – 1 July 1957; 1 April 1966 – 30 June 1975; 8 September 1986 – present

Air Divisions

Wings

Stations[edit]

Current Operating Units[edit]

The command controls four Numbered Air Forces, which function as the senior war-fighting components of PACAF. These are:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The United States Far East Air Forces was a separate command from the World War II Far East Air Force (United States) (28 October 1941 – 5 February 1942) which fought in the Philippine and Dutch East India campaigns. Initially it was composed mostly of aircraft and personnel from the Philippine Army Air Corps. It was largely destroyed during the Battle of the Philippines (1941–42). The surviving personnel and aircraft were later re-organised in Australia, as the U.S. Fifth Air Force.
  2. ^ Globalsecurity.org, PACAF History Fact Sheet
  3. ^ Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate, 1948–58, The Army Air Forces in World War II. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
  4. ^ Chronology of the Occupation
  5. ^ Army Air Forces in World War II Vol. VII: Services Around the World CHAPTER 17 REDEPLOYMENT AND DEMOBILIZATION
  6. ^ USAF Historical Research Agency
  7. ^ PACAF page, AFHRA
  8. ^ American Caesar, Douglas MacArthur 1880–1964, William Manchester, Little, Brown, 1978.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Air Force Historical Research Agency PACAF History Factsheet
  10. ^ Final Cut: The Postwar B-17 Flying Fortress: The Survivors, Scott A. Thompson, Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1993.
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Second Taiwan Strait Crisis Quemoy and Matsu Islands
  13. ^ 1960 Presidential Debates @ CNN.com
  14. ^ a b Futrell, Robert F. with the assistance of Blumenson, Martin (1991) The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia: The Advisory Years to 1965, Office Of Air Force History, United States Air Forceriority in Korea. Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2005. ISBN 1-59114-933-9.
  15. ^ a b c Schlight, John (1996) A War Too Long: The History of the USAF in Southeast Asia, 1961–1975, Office Of Air Force History, United States Air Force
  16. ^ Glasser, Jeffrey D. (1998). The Secret Vietnam War: The United States Air Force in Thailand, 1961–1975. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-0084-6.
  17. ^ Kelman, Brett. "AF seeks backup runway in western Pacific." Pacific Daily News, 11 October 2011.

References[edit]

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

  • This article includes content from Pacific Air Forces website, which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource. That information was supplemented by:
  • Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM
  • Fletcher, Harry R. (1989) Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6
  • 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.
  • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers—1908 to present

External links[edit]