179th Fighter Squadron

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179th Fighter Squadron
179th Fighter Squadron F-16s over Duluth IAP 2002.jpg
179th Fighter Squadron F-16s over Duluth IAP, 2002
Active 26 May 1943-Present
Country  United States
Allegiance  Minnesota
Branch US-AirNationalGuard-2007Emblem.svg  Air National Guard
Type Squadron
Role Fighter
Part of Minnesota Air National Guard
Garrison/HQ Duluth Air National Guard Base, Minnesota
Nickname(s) "Bulldogs"
Engagements World War II
Insignia
179th Fighter Squadron emblem 179th Fighter Squadron emblem.jpg
Tail Markings Blue tail stripe "Duluth" in white letters Tail Code: MN
World War II Fuselage Code 8L

The 179th Fighter Squadron (179 FS) is a unit of the Minnesota Air National Guard 148th Fighter Wing located at Duluth Air National Guard Base, Minnesota. The 179th is equipped with the F-16C/D Fighting Falcon.

History[edit]

World War II[edit]

Training in the United States[edit]

P-39D as used by the group for training

The squadron was first organized as the 393d Fighter Squadron at Hamilton Field, California on 15 July 1943, as one of the original squadrons of the 367th Fighter Group.[1][2] Several members of its initial cadre were former Flying Tigers with prior combat experience. It was not until late August, however, that the group received its first Bell P-39 Airacobra.[3] After building up its strength, the squadron moved in October to Santa Rosa Army Air Field, California.[2] In December group headquarters and the squadron moved to Oakland Municipal Airport,[1] while the other squadrons of the group were at other locations in northern California. The squadron moved temporarily to Tonopah Army Air Field, Nevada, where it performed dive bombing and gunnery training. Training accidents with the Bell P-39 Airacobra cost several pilots their lives. In January 1944, as it prepared for overseas movement, the 393d was beefed up with personnel from the 328th and 368th Fighter Groups.[4] The squadron staged through Camp Shanks, and sailed for England aboard the SS Duchess of Bedford.[5] The "Drunken Duchess"[note 1] docked at Greenock, Scotland on 3 April and the group was transported by train to its airfield at RAF Stoney Cross, England.[4]

P-38 transition and combat operations from England[edit]

Lockheed P-38 Lightning of the 367th Fighter Group wearing D-Day invasion markings, June 1944.

Having trained on single engine aircraft, the squadrons's pilots were surprised to find Lockheed P-38 Lightnings sitting on Stoney Cross's dispersal pads.[6] Only members of the advance party had any experience flying the Lightning. These pilots had flown combat sorties with the 55th Fighter Group.[7] The change from single engine to twin engine aircraft required considerable retraining for both pilots and ground crew.[6] Although some pilots entered combat with as little as eight hours of flying time on the P-38, in late April the squadron was reinforced by pilots who had trained on the Lightning in the States and were more experienced on the type.[8] However, the lack of instrument training in the P-38 took its toll on the 393d as weather, not enemy action, caused the loss of pilots and airplanes.[9]

On 9 May, the squadron flew its first combat mission, a fighter sweep over Alençon.[10] For the remainer of the month, the unit flew fighter sweeps, bomber escort and dive bombing, missions and suffered its first combat losses.[11]

On D-Day and the next three days the squadron flew missions maintaining air cover over shipping carrying invasion troops.[6] These missions continued for the next three days. The 393d and other P-38 units stationed in England were selected for these missions with the expectation that the distinctive silhouette of the Lightning would prevent potential friendly fire incidents by anti-aircraft gunners mistaking them for enemy fighters.[12] Shortly after the Normandy invasion, on 12 June, the 367th Group was selected to test the ability of the P-38 to carry a 2,000 lb bomb under each wing. The selected target was a railroad yard, and results were mixed.[13] However, on this mission, the squadron scored its first air-to-air victory when Lts James Pinkerton and James Mason teamed up to shoot down a Messerschmitt Me 410 flying near the assigned target.[14]

By mid June German ground forces had withdrawn to defend a perimeter around Cherbourg, a major port whose capture had become more important to the allies with the destruction of Mulberry A, one of the artificial harbors constructed near the Normandy beachhead. An attack by VII Corps on 22 June was to be preceded by low level bombing and strafing attack by IX Fighter Command. Briefed by intelligence to expect a "milk run" The 394th flew at low altitude through what turned out to be a heavily defended area. Within two to three minutes after beginning the attack the squadron lost five pilots. Seven group pilots were killed in action. Nearly all surviving aircraft received battle damage and the entire 367th Group was out of action for several days.[6][15]

Ninth Air Force moved its medium bomber forces to bases closer to the Continent in July, so they would be able to strike targets near the expanding front in France. The 387th Bombardment Group was moved to Stoney Cross, forcing the 394th to vacate their station and move the short distance to RAF Ibsley.[16] From Ibsley the group struck railroads, marshaling yards, and trains to prevent enemy reinforcements from reaching the front during the Allied breakthrough at Saint Lo in July 1944.[1]

Operations on the European Continent[edit]

Starting on 19 July the 367th Group's forward echelon crossed the English Channel to take up stations in Normandy.[17] Group headquarters shared Beuzeville Airfield with the 371st Fighter Group,while the 393d Squadron was at Cricqueville Airfield,[2] advanced landing grounds made from pierced steel planking. After the breakout of ground forces in the Saint-Lô area, the squadron concentrated on close air support of General Patton's Third Army. In late August, the squadron attacked German Seventh Army convoys which, to prevent being surrounded, were withdrawing eastward from the Falaise pocket. Five convoys and 100 Tiger Tanks were destroyed on one day.[6]

On 22 August the group attacked three Luftwaffe airfields near Laon. The 392d Fighter Squadron dive bombed and destroyed two hangars on one airfield but were jumped by twelve Focke-Wulf Fw 190s as they completed their attack. Eighteen Messerschmitt Me 109s and FW 190s engaged the 393d as it reformed from its dive bomb run. After bombing its target, the 394th Fighter Squadron turned to reinforce the 392d. The squadrons of the 367th Group claimed fourteen enemy aircraft in total against a loss of one Lightning.[6]

The 393d received a Distinguished Unit Citation when it returned to the Laon area three days later. That day, the 367th Group attacked Luftwaffe airfields at Clastres, Péronne and Rosières-en-Haye through an intense flak barrage. The group then engaged more than thirty Focke-Wulf 190 fighters that had just taken off. Group claims were 25 enemy aircraft destroyed, one probably destroyed and 17 damaged against the loss of 6 group aircraft.[note 2] Then, despite a low fuel supply, the unit strafed a train and convoy after leaving the scene of battle. Captain Larry Blumer of the 393d destroyed five enemy aircraft becoming an ace on one mission. In the afternoon the squadron conducted a long range fighter sweep of more than 800 miles to airfields in the Dijon-Bordeaux area.[1][6][18]

As Allied forces moved forward across France the squadron began leap-frogging to new bases. In early September they relocated at Peray Airfield, but moved again a week later to Clastres Airfield.[2] From Clastres The 393d supported Operation Market-Garden by escorting troop carrier aircraft and attacking flak positions. For its attacks that fall, the squadron was cited in the Order of the Day by the Belgium Army.[6]

In late October, as Ninth Air Force brought its medium bombers to bases in France, the 393d was bumped from its station for the second time by the 387th Bombardment Group, when it moved to Juvincourt Airfield, north of Reims.[1][19] Juvincourt was a former Luftwaffe base with permanent facilities, in contrast to the advanced landing grounds where the squadron had been based since moving to France.[20] The squadron attacked German strong points to aid the Allied push against the Siegfried Line throughout the fall of 1944.[1]

The German Ardennes Offensive occurred as the holidays approached. A planned move to a field in Belgium was canceled. During the Battle of the Bulge, the 394th, after escorting C-47s on a resupply drop to encircled troops at Bastogne, conducted an armed reconnaissance of the Trier area. The group was engaged by FW 190s and a 40-minute air battle ensued in which the group claimed eight destroyed, two probably destroyed and nine damaged.[6]

Transition to the P-47 Thunderbolt[edit]

The P-47D of the Group commander, Col. Chickering, in 1945

Early in 1945 a desire to standardize the fighter-bombers in Ninth Air Force, the squadron transitioned into Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. Pilots flew Lightings on combat missions while training at the same time with the Thunderbolt. The 393d was the first squadron of the 367th Group to fly a combat missions with the P-47s. Using the Thunderbolt the squadron was again cited in a Belgium Army Order of the Day, earning the Belgian Fourragere.[6]

The 393d received a second Distinguished Unit Citation for action on 19 March 1945. The 367th Group's target was the headquarters of Field Marshal Kesselring, the German Commander-ln-Chief, West,[note 3] at Ziegenburg near Bad Nauheim, Germany. Aircraft of the leading 394th Fighter Squadron would attack at low level to achieve surprise, carrying a 1,000 pound bomb under each wing. The P-47s of the 392d Fighter Squadron would be similarly armed, but would dive bomb from a higher altitude. The bombs were equipped with time-delay fuses intended to crack the concrete roofs of the bunker. The 393d carried napalm intended to seep into the bunkers and burn what remained. The attack was scheduled for a time that intelligence reports indicated would find senior staff and commanders at lunch, the only time they would not be in the reinforced tunnels underneath the castle that housed the headquarters. The target was located in mountainous terrain well defended by antiaircraft artillery. Moreover, to avoid alerting the Germans to the pending attack, photographic reconnaissance aircraft had avoided the area, so detailed target photography was not available. The day of the attack the castle was concealed by ground haze which caused the 394th Fighter Squadron to stray off course at the last minute, preventing them from executing the attack as planned and reducing the element of surprise.[21] Although senior German officers reached the underground bunkers and survived the attack, the group reduced the military complex to ruins, disrupting communications and the flow of intelligence at a critical time.[6]

The squadron struck tanks, trucks, flak positions, and other objectives in support of the assault across the Rhine late in March and the final allied operations in Germany.[1] It was commended by the Commanding Generals of XII Corps and the 11th Armored Division for the close air support the unit provided for their commands. On 10 April the squadron moved to Eschborn Airfield on the northwest side of Frankfurt, Germany. The 393d flew its last combat mission, a defensive patrol, one year after entering combat on 8 May.[22] During its combat tour, the squadron was credited with 22.5 air to air victories over enemy aircraft.[23]

Return to the United States and inactivation[edit]

All hostilities ceased the following day, exactly one year after the squadron became operational. On 4 June the 367th Group led a flyby for General Weyland.[6] On 1 July it was announced the 393d was to redeploy to the Pacific Theater of Operations after it was re-equipped with and trained with long range P-47Ns in preparation for Operation Downfall, the invasion of Japan.[1] The squadron moved to Camp Detroit in France then to a staging area near Marseille. Here it boarded two ships, the USS General C. G. Morton , and the USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194). When Japan surrendered, the Morton was diverted to Newport News, Virginia while the Ericcson sailed for Staten Island, New York.[6] Following leave for everyone, the few personnel that remained in the squadron after transfers and discharges reassembled at Seymour Johnson Field, North Carolina on 2 November and the 393d was inactivated there on 7 November 1945.[1][6]

Minnesota Air National Guard[edit]

The wartime 393d Fighter Squadron was re-activated and re-designated as the 179th Fighter Squadron, and was allotted to the Minnesota Air National Guard on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Duluth Municipal Airport and was extended federal recognition on 17 September 1948 by the National Guard Bureau. The 179th Fighter Squadron was bestowed the history, honors, and colors of the 393d Fighter Squadron. The squadron was equipped with F-51D Mustangs and was assigned to the 133d Fighter Group at Wold-Chamberlain Field, Minneapolis. Its mission was the air defense of the State of Minnesota.

Korean War activation[edit]

A Minnesota ANG F-51D in the early 1950s.

On 1 March 1951 the 179th was federalized and brought to active-duty due to the Korean War. It remained assigned to the 133d Fighter-Interceptor Group and remained at Duluth Municipal Airport through the extent of its activation. It was reassigned to the Air Defense Command 31st Air Division in February 1952, and returned to the control of the State of Minnesota on 1 December 1952.

Cold War[edit]

179th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron F-4D[note 4]

The unit was re-formed by 1 January 1953 and again was returned to the control of Air Defense Command (ADC). It resumed its peacetime mission of the air defense of Minnesota. Was upgraded by ADC in 1954 to the dedicated F-94A Starfire all-weather interceptor. With this new aircraft, the mission of the 179th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron changed from day interceptor to day and night all-weather interceptor. In 1957 the 123d again upgraded to the improved F-89C Scorpion then in 1959, the unit converted to the F-89J Scorpion.

On 1 July 1960, the 179th was authorized to expand to a group level, and the 148th Fighter Group (Air Defense) was established by the National Guard Bureau. The 179th FIS becoming the group's flying squadron. Other squadrons assigned into the group were the 148th Headquarters, 148th Material Squadron (Maintenance), 148th Combat Support Squadron, and the 148th USAF Dispensary.

On 1 July 1960, the 148 FIG assumed a 24-hour alert status in support of the Air Defense Command mission in Duluth. In 1967, the F-102A Delta Dagger replaced the aging F-89J. The F-101B Voodoo came aboard in April 1971 and remained until January 1976 when the unit again saw re-designation, becoming the 148th Tactical Reconnaissance Group with RF-4C Phantom II Mach-2 unarmed reconnaissance aircraft. The new mission entailed all weather, high or low, day or night, selective reconnaissance. This mission also required the unit to have the capabilities to deploy to a wide variety of operating locations. In October 1983, the mission changed again and found the 148th back in air defense and being renamed the 148th Fighter Interceptor Group. The return to alert and air defense brought with it the F-4D Phantom II, tactical fighter, with most of the aircraft being veterans of the Vietnam War.

Modern era[edit]

Airmen from the 148th in front of 179th Fighter Squadron F-16C[note 5]

On March 10, 1990 the 179th Fighter Intercept Squadron received the first ADF variants of the F-16A/B Fighting Falcon to take over for the F-4D. The early markings included Duluth written on the tail as well as an image of the constellation 'Little Bear' which is also better known as the 'Big Dipper'.

Starting on 17 March 1992 the 179th FIS was renamed the 179th Fighter Squadron. A few years later in October 1995 the unit was tasked with a permanent detachment duty. Detachment 1 was an alert status mission based at Tyndall AFB, Florida.

To fit the needs of a newer global environment and shrinking air force in the United States, the squadron dropped the air superiority role and became a general purpose tactical fighter squadron. Proficient in the air-to-air mission, the 179th FS had to be brought up to speed using the F-16 for mud moving using both guided and unguided bombs. Live bombs were dropped for the first time in March 2000 during a training exercise. Due to these role requirements, the base also had to be renovated. During this transition the units tail flash was also changed. The constellation 'Little Bear' was dropped and a tail code adopted.

On September 11, 2001, the 148th FW became very busy as a result of the tragedy that saw the collapse of the two World Trade Center towers in New York City. As an immediate aftermath, the 148th was tasked with air defense at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, with providing Combat Air Patrols over our nation's capital and New York City, and with deploying personnel and aircraft back to its detached alert facility at Tyndall AFB.

Towards the end of 2003 the 'Bulldogs' began conversion to the F-16C/D block 25. Most of the ADF's F-16A/Bs were retired straight to AMARC wearing the unit tail flashes. During the course of the conversion the 179th FS also gave up its requirements for Detachment 1 at Tyndall AFB. Now with the block 25 and multi-mission training led to combat deployments which had in the past excluded the 179th FS from participating.

179th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron patch

As part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 179th was one of the first F-16 unit to be based in Balad AB. Iraq. The 179th deployed more than 200 personnel between April - June 2005. The squadron was mainly tasked with air-to-air and air-to-ground combat operations. Another deployment to Balad AB was set up between September–December 2008. The task was the same, conducting air-to-air and air-to-ground combat operations against insurgents.

On 27 April 2010 the squadron began another conversion being the first ANG unit to operate the block 50 F-16C/D when five aircraft arrived from Spangdahlem AB, Germany. This move saw the combination of both the 22d and 23d FS at Spangdahlem to become the reactivated 480th FS with the surplus aircraft going to the 179th FS. The majority of the block 25s were sent to retirement at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.

Lineage[edit]

  • Constituted 393d Fighter Squadron on 26 May 1943
Activated on 15 Jul 1943
Inactivated on 7 Nov 1945
  • Redesignated 179th Fighter Squadron, and allotted to Minnesota ANG, on 24 May 1946
Extended federal recognition on 17 September 1948
Federalized and placed on active duty, 1 March 1951
Redesignated 179th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 23 March 1951
Released from active duty and returned to Minnesota state control, 1 December 1952
Redesignated 179th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 1 July 1976
Redesignated 179th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 15 November 1983
Redesignated 179th Fighter Squadron on 16 March 1992-Present
Designated 179th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron when deployed as part of an Air and Space Expeditionary unit.

Assignments[edit]

Stations[edit]

Aircraft[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Nicknamed for its unusual rolling motion in heavy weather. Groh, p. 23.
  2. ^ These claims were from an estimated 50 enemy aircraft engaged in the air and on the ground. Chickering, p. 79
  3. ^ Kesselring assumed command the day of the attack. American intelligence believed Field Marshall von Rundstedt was still in command. Groh, p. 136.
  4. ^ Aircraft is McDonnell F-4D-26-MC Phantom serial 65-608. Taken at Duluth Air National Guard Base, Minnesota in 1989.
  5. ^ Aircraft is F-16C block 25 serial 84-1253. Taken at Balad AB on 20 March 2007.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Maurer, Combat Units, pp. 252-254
  2. ^ a b c d Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 483
  3. ^ Groh, p. 12
  4. ^ a b Chickering, p. 78
  5. ^ Groh, pp. 23-24
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Chickering, p. 79
  7. ^ Groh, p. 26
  8. ^ Groh, p. 31
  9. ^ Groh, pp. 50-51
  10. ^ Groh. p. 32
  11. ^ Groh. pp. 32-37
  12. ^ Groh, p. 42
  13. ^ Groh, p. 43
  14. ^ Groh, p. 43
  15. ^ Groh, p. 46
  16. ^ Groh, p. 52
  17. ^ Groh, p. 59
  18. ^ Groh, p. 72
  19. ^ Maurer, Combat Units, p. 274
  20. ^ Groh, pp. 98-99
  21. ^ Groh, p. 136
  22. ^ Groh, p. 158
  23. ^ Newton & Senning, pp. 645-646

Bibliography[edit]

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

External links[edit]