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The 51st Fighter Wing (51 FW) is a wing of the United States Air Force and the host unit at Osan Air Base, South Korea. The wing has been based entirely in the Far East during its entire existence, including its combat role was as the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing during the Korean War.

51st Fighter Wing
51st Fighter Wing.png
Active18 August 1948 — present
CountryUnited States
BranchAir Force
Part ofPacific Air Forces
Garrison/HQOsan Air Base, South Korea
Motto(s)Leading the Charge (1993-present); Deftly and Swiftly (former motto)[1][2]
Engagements
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal ribbon.svg Korean Service Medal ribbon.svg
  • World War II
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (1941–1945)
  • Korean Service (1950–1954)
DecorationsOutstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA
Presidential Unit Citation (Korea).svg ROK PUC
Commanders
Current
commander
Colonel John F. Gonzales
Col John F. "Gonzo" Gonzales, 51st Fighter Wing Commander
Notable
commanders
Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.
Francis S. "Gabby" Gabreski

The 51st Fighter Wing is under Pacific Air Forces' Seventh Air Force. The unit is the most forward deployed wing in the world, providing combat ready forces for close air support, air strike control, counter air, interdiction, theater airlift, and communications in the defense of the Republic of Korea. The wing executes military operations to bed-down, maintain and employ follow-on forces for the combined arms base that includes three major flying tenants and large multi-service fighting units.

The wing is equipped with General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II squadrons and myriad base support agencies conducting the full spectrum of missions providing for the defense of the Republic of Korea.

MissionEdit

The mission of the 51st FW is to provide mission-ready Airmen to execute combat operations and receive follow-on forces. The wing accomplishes this mission through:

  • Conducting exercises to ensure our forces maintain the highest degree of readiness to defend Osan AB against air and ground attack.
  • Maintaining and administering U.S. operations at Osan and five collocated operating bases—Taegu, Suwon, Kwang Ju, Kimhae and Cheong Ju – for reception and bed-down of follow-on forces.
  • Providing timely and accurate air power in support of military operations directed by higher headquarters.

UnitsEdit

The 51st Fighter Wing is composed of four groups each with specific functions. The Operations Group controls all flying and airfield operations. The Maintenance Group performs maintenance of aircraft, ground equipment and aircraft components. The Mission Support Group has a wide range of responsibilities but a few of its functions are Security, Civil Engineering, Communications, Personnel Management, Logistics, Services and Contracting support, whilst the Medical Group provides medical and dental care.

HistoryEdit

For additional history and lineage, see 51st Operations Group

In 1948, assumed air defense of Ryukyu Islands.

Korean WarEdit

 
F-80C of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing taking off from Suwon AB with a JATO bottle
 
North American F-86E-10-NA Sabres of the 25th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (51st) FBG over Korea. Identifiable is serial is 51-2742.

With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, elements of the 51st FIW were dispatched first to Japan, then to South Korea. Korean War operational squadrons were:

  • 16th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron: duration (F-80C, F-86F)
  • 25th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron: duration (F-80C, F-8)
  • 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron: attached 1 June 1952- (F-80C, F-86F)
  • 68th Fighter-All Weather Squadron: attached 25 September – 9 October 1950 (F-82F/G)
  • 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron: attached 25 September – 20 December 1950 (F-80C)

It entered combat service flying the F-80C Shooting Star on 22 September of that year, when it moved to Itazuke AB, Japan, to support the breakout of the Eighth U.S. Army from the Pusan Perimeter. For nearly 4 years thereafter, the 51st FIW played a key role in the defense of South Korea despite moving to four different locations within a year and operating under austere conditions.

The wing moved to South Korea in October only to return to Japan in December, leaving combat elements behind. In May 1951, the 51st FIW moved to Suwon Air Base, southwest of Seoul, but retained maintenance and supply elements at Tsuiki AB, Japan, to provide rear echelon support. In November 1951 the 51st FIW transitioned to the F-86 Sabre with two squadrons (16th, 25th), adding a third squadron (26th) the following May.

The group operated a detachment at Suwon AB, Korea, beginning in May 1951, and relocated there in October 1951, with maintenance and supply elements remaining in Japan until August 1954. The wing ceased combat on 27 July 1953. The 51 FIW's war record was impressive. Wing pilots flew more than 45,000 sorties and shot down 312 MiG-15s; this produced 14 air aces including the top ace of the war, Captain Joseph C. McConnell. The ratio of aerial victories to losses was 10 to 1. Unfortunately, the wing lost 32 pilots to enemy action; however, nine that became prisoners of war were repatriated later.

Korean War AcesEdit

 
Capt Joseph McConnell, lead US Ace Pilot during the Korean War, achieving 16 Aerial Victories. Official US Air Force Photo.
Aerial Victories Rank Name Unit Ace Double Ace Triple Ace / Notes:
16 Capt Joseph C. McConnell 39FIS 16 February 1953 24 April 1953 18 May 1953; Top USAF Ace of the Korean War
10 Capt Harold E. Fischer 39FIS 24 January 1953 21 March 1953
9 1st Lt Cecile G. Foster 16FIS 3 May 1952
8 Lt Col George I Ruddell 39FIS 18 May 1953
7 1st Lt Henry Buttelmann 25FIS 30 June 1953 2nd youngest Ace (24y/o)
6.5 Col Francis S. Gabreski 51FIW 1 April 1952 Wing Commander; Top WWII US Ace in European Theater
6.5 Maj Donald E. Adams 16FIS 3 May 1952
6 Maj John F. Bolt 39FIS 11 July 1953 USMC Exchange Pilot
5.5 Maj William T. Whisner, Jr. 25FIS 23 Feb 1952 First 51FIW Ace; 15.5 Aerial Victories in WWII
5 Col Robert P. Baldwin 51FIG 22 June 1953
5 Capt Iven C. Kincheloe, Jr. 25FIS 6 April 1952 Youngest Korean War Ace (23yrs, 9mos)
5 Capt Robert H. Moore 16FIS 3 April 1952
5 Capt Dolphin D. Overton 16FIS 24 January 1953
5 Maj William Wescott 25FIS 26 April 1952

Cold WarEdit

 
Three 36th Fighter Squadron McDonnell Douglas F-4E-37-MC Phantoms in flight. Serials 68-0328 and 68-0365 identifiable.
 
Three 36th Fighter Squadron F-16Cs in flight.

On 1 August 1954, the 51 FIW returned to Naha Air Base to resume air defense coverage of the Ryukyu Islands. Operational squadrons were:

At the same time, the wing demonstrated its mobility readiness in response to three regional crises.

From August 1958 to January 1959, the 51 FIW deployed eight F-86Ds to Ching Chuan Kang Air Base Taiwan to fly combat air support missions for Nationalist Chinese forces after mainland Communist Chinese forces shelled the Nationalist-held islands of Quemoy and Matsu. Six years later, the wing deployed 12 F-102s to the Philippines and South Vietnam from August to October 1964 for air defense against possible Communist North Vietnamese air attacks.

During the Vietnam War, crews of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing provided air defense of Naha AB, Okinawa, with F-102s. During the 1968 Pueblo crisis, the wing deployed 12 of is 33 aircraft to Suwon AB. On 31 May 1971, the 51st FIW was inactivated, ending almost 17 years of service in the Pacific from Naha when it was inactivated as the Air Force began scaling down its activities in Southeast Asia. In 1975 Naha Air Base closed.

 
Two Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt IIs from the 25th Fighter Squadron and two F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 36th Fighter Squadron fly over Osan AB in formation, 2010

The 51st was inactive for only five months. On 1 November 1971, the wing was redesignated the 51st Air Base Wing and activated at Osan Air Base, South Korea. At Osan, the 51st assumed the host responsibilities of the inactivated 6314th Support Wing to include the Koon-ni range and a variety of remote sites. Operational squadrons of the 51st at Osan have been:

Fighter Squadrons

On 1 October 1993, after a half-dozen name changes, the wing returned to its original and current designation as the 51st Fighter Wing. Since then, the 51st has continued operating as a fighter/ground attack wing and continues to be tasked to receive and integrate follow-on reinforcing forces to the peninsula in the event of crisis.

LineageEdit

  • Established as 51 Fighter Wing on 10 August 1948
Activated on 18 August 1948
Redesignated 51 Fighter-Interceptor Wing on 1 February 1950
Inactivated on 31 May 1971
  • Redesignated 51 Air Base Wing on 20 October 1971
Activated on 1 November 1971
Redesignated: 51 Composite Wing (Tactical) on 30 September 1974
Redesignated: 51 Tactical Fighter Wing on 1 July 1982
Redesignated: 51 Wing on 7 February 1992
Redesignated: 51 Fighter Wing on 1 October 1993.

AssignmentsEdit

Attached to Fifth Air Force, 25 September 1950 – 1 August 1954
Further attached to 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 25 September – 12 October 1950

ComponentsEdit

Groups

Squadrons

StationsEdit

 
Historical Aircraft of the 51st Fighter Wing; Poster created by L. Vance Fleming, Historian for the 51st Fighter Wing. The photos used were from open-source sites. Not all aircraft were specifically assigned to the 51st Fighter Wing but are representative of the type of aircraft that were assigned.

Aircraft AssignedEdit

The 51st FW's aircrews have flown a variety of aircraft, including the P/F-51 Mustang, F-80 Shooting Star, F-82 Twin Mustang, F-86 Sabrejet, F-94 Starfire, F-102A Delta Dagger, F-4E Phantom II, RF-4C Phantom II, F-106A Delta Dart, OV-10 Bronco, A-10 and OA-10 Thunderbolt II and several versions of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.


CommandersEdit

The list of commanders for the 51st Fighter Wing and its predecessors includes a wartime hero, Colonel Francis Gabreski, and an aviation pioneer, Tuskegee Airman Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr. This list includes those who only held command briefly as interim commanders. [4]


 
The Wall of Mustang 1s - Former Commanders of the 51st Fighter Wing, located in the wing headquarters at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea.
Number Command Rank Name Call Sign Command Start Command End Notes:
1 Brig Gen Hugo P. Rush - 18 August 1948 24 March 1949 Commanded 301st Fighter Wing from April 1947; 51FIW activated at Naha Air Base, Okinawa
2 Col John F. Egan - 25 March 1949 31 March 1949
3 Col Richard M. Montgomery - 1 April 1949 18 September 1949
4 Col John W. Weltman - 19 September 1949 23 April 1951 Commanded 51FIW as it entered the Korean War (Japan / Korea / Japan / Korea)
5 Col Oliver G. Cellini - 24 April 1951 31 October 1951
6 Col William P. Litton - 1 November 1951 2 November 1951 Crashed 2 November 1951, on mission, missing and presumed dead
7 Col George R. Stanley - 2 November 1951 5 November 1951
8 Col Francis S. Gabreski - 6 November 1951 12 June 1952 Lead Ace of WWII - European Theater; Ace in Korean War with 6.5 Aerial Victories
9 Col John W. Mitchell - 13 June 1952 30 May 1953 "Robinson Crusoe of MiG Alley"
10 Col William C. Clark - 31 May 1953 8 August 1953 Commander when Korean War Armistice was signed
11 Col Ernest H. Beverly - 9 August 1953 10 September 1953
12 Col William C. Clark - 11 September 1953 11 November 1953
13 Col Benjamin O. Davis Jr. - 12 November 1953 1 July 1954 Former Commander of the Tuskeegee Airman
 
Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., commander of the 51st FIW, leads a formation of F-86F Sabres over Korea in 1954
14 Col Barton M. Russell - 2 July 1954 31 July 1954 Relinquished command in Korea as last units returned to Naha AB
15 Col Travis Hoover - 1 August 1954 8 August 1954 51FIW returns to Naha AB
16 Col Hilmer C. Nelson - 9 August 1954 15 August 1954
17 Col Edwin C. Ambrosen - 16 August 1954 14 November 1955
18 Col John H. Bell - 15 November 1955 1 February 1957
19 Col Paul E. Hoeper - 2 February 1957 3 May 1957
20 Col Robert L. Cardenas - 4 May 1957 14 July 1957
21 Col Walter V. Gresham Jr. - 15 July 1957 31 July 1957
22 Col Elliott H. Reed - 1 August 1957 14 August 1957
23 Col Walter V. Gresham Jr. - 15 August 1957 21 November 1957
24 Col Lester J. Johnsen - 22 November 1957 24 March 1960
25 Col William W. Ingenhutt - 25 March 1960 23 July 1962
26 Col Lester C. Hess - 24 July 1962 June 1965
27 Col Lloyd R. Larson - 11 June 1965 7 April 1967
28 Col Frank E. Angier - 8 April 1967 12 June 1968
29 Col John B. Weed - 13 June 1968 29 June 1968
30 Col Roy D. Carlson - 30 June 1968 31 May 1971 Wing inactivated at Naha AB.
31 Col Hewitt E. Lovelace Jr. - 1 November 1971 31 July 1972 Wing Reactivate at Osan Air Base.
32 Col John H. Allison - 1 August 1972 6 June 1973
33 Col Billie J. Norwood - 7 June 1973 30 April 1974
34 Col Alonzo L. Ferguson - 1 May 1974 29 September 1974
35 Col Glenn L. Nordin - 30 September 1974 11 August 1975
36 Col Vernon H. Sandrock - 12 August 1975 14 June 1977
37 Col Fred B. Hoenniger - 15 June 1977 17 June 1979
38 Col James T. Boddie Jr. - 18 June 1979 15 May 1980
39 Col John C. Scheidt Jr. - 16 May 1980 19 February 1981
40 Col Eugene Myers - 20 February 1981 15 July 1982
41 Col Thomas R. Olsen - 16 July 1982 25 May 1983
42 Col Marcus F. Cooper Jr. - 26 May 1983 17 October 1983
43 Col Barry J. Howard - 18 October 1983 19 July 1984
44 Col Charles D. Link - 20 July 1984 11 August 1985
45 Col Henry J. Cochran - 12 August 1985 11 June 1987
46 Col John C. Marshall - 12 June 1987 29 June 1989
47 Col James J. Winters - 30 June 1989 16 July 1990
48 Col Thomas R. Case - 17 July 1990 22 June 1992
49 Brig Gen Robert G. Jenkins - 23 June 1992 30 January 1994
50 Brig Gen Robert H. Foglesong - 31 January 1994 20 November 1995
51 Brig Gen Steven R. Polk - 21 November 1995 14 May 1997
52 Brig Gen Paul R. Dordal - 15 May 1997 14 September 1998
53 Brig Gen Robert R. Dierker - 15 September 1998 21 May 2000
54 Brig Gen David E. Clary - 22 May 2000 17 March 2002
55 Brig Gen William L. Holland - 18 March 2002 28 September 2003
56 Brig Gen Maurice H. Forsyth - 29 September 2003 7 July 2005
57 Brig Gen Joseph Reynes Jr. - 8 July 2005 14 June 2007
58 Col Jon A. Norman - 15 June 2007 14 October 2008
59 Col Thomas H. Deale - 15 October 2008 6 December 2009
60 Col Patrick C. Malackowski - 7 December 2009 14 July 2011
61 Col Patrick McKenzie Smack 15 July 2011 12 July 2013
62 Col Brook Leonard Tank 13 July 2013 15 June 2015
63 Col Andrew P. Hansen Popeye 16 June 2015 26 June 2017
64 Col William D. Betts Wilbur 27 June 2017 17 June 2019
65 Col John F. Gonzales Gonzo 18 June 2019 Present [5]


Notable MembersEdit

  • Buzz Aldrin, Served in the 16th Fighter Squadron during the Korean War; attained two aerial victories.
  • Lt Col William A. Campbell, Commanded the 25FIS in 1954; served with the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII, flying 106 missions with one aerial victory.
  • CMSAF James A. Cody, assigned to the 51st Operations Support Squadron from May 1993 - May 1994; became the 17th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.
  • Gen Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., former commander of the Tuskegee Airmen who became the wing commander and was promoted to General Officer (four-star) post-retirement.
  • John Glenn, served as a branch exchange pilot from the USMC to the 25th Fighter Squadron, with three aerial victories in the Korean War.
  • Chuck Norris, assigned to Osan security forces where he first started his martial arts practice.
  • CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright. assigned to the 51st Dental Squadron from 1994 - 1995 and 2007 - 2009; became the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.


ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Ravenstein, p. 85.
  2. ^ Okonski, John (26 July 2007). "Wing's shield preserves long heritage". 51st Fighter Wing History Office.
  3. ^ Fisher, Franklin (26 March 2004). "Osan airmen practice 'hot pit refueling'". Stars and Stripes. Not shutting off the engines saves turnaround time, said Capt. Dominick Martin, officer in charge of the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, part of the 51st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  4. ^ "Experienced commanders have led 'Mustang Stampede'". 51st Fighter Wing History Office. 26 July 2007. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  5. ^ https://www.osan.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1879129/new-commander-takes-rein-of-51st-fighter-wing/

  This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present
  • This article contains information from the Osan Air Base factsheet which is an official document of the United States Government and is presumed to be in the public domain.
  • Maurer, Maurer (1961). Air Force Combat Units of World War II History and Insignia. Zenger Publishing. ISBN 978-0-89201-092-9.
  • Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-0-88740-513-6.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A.; United States Air Force, Office of Air Force History (1984). Air Force combat wings lineage and honors histories, 1947-1977. Air Force History & Museums program. ISBN 978-0-912799-12-4.
  • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85780-197-2.
  • Thompson, Warren (1999). F-86 Sabre Fighter-Bomber Units Over Korea Frontline Color 1. Osprey Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-85532-929-4.
  • Thompson, Warren (2001). F-80 Shooting Star Units Over Korea. Osprey Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-84176-225-8.

External linksEdit