As one of the Army Air Force's oldest combat units, it seemed only natural that military planners reserved a place for the 1st Fig ter Group in the nation's postwar air arm. The 412th Fighter Group at March Field, California, was inactivated on 3 July 1946. Its personnel and equipment were assigned to the 1st Fighter Group activated at March on the same date. At the time of its activation, the group's three squadrons (the 27th, 71st1 and 94th Fighter Squadrons) flew P-80 Shooting Stars America's first operational jet fighter. The group was further assigned to Twelfth Air Force and Tactical Air Command on 3 July.
The next twenty-four years were a difficult time for the 1st Fighter Group. From July 1946 to February 1952 the group found itself attached to the newly organized 1st Fighter Wing, three numbered air forces, three regional air defense organizations, an air division, and four major commands. It experienced difficulty adiusting to the administrative changes caused by this organizational instability. The group also made three permanent changes of station and one temporary duty move during the same period and helped to introduce two new jet fighters, the F-80 and the F-86, into the Air Force's operational inventory. (The United States Air Force was established on 18 September 1947. The Air Force revised its fighter designation from "P" to "F" on 11 June 1948.) A new organizational scheme for the air defense forces led to the inactivation of both the wing and group headquarters in February 1952. The group headquarters was activated again in 1955, as was the wing headquarters the following year. The organizational situation stabilized after 1956, although the group was inactivated again in 1961. The wing went through another spate of organizational changes in 1969 and 1970, but by then forces were at work that would ultimately lead to the wing's return to the tactical air forces in 1970.
Few members of the 1st Fighter Group foresaw these difficulties in the summer of 1946 as they trained with their new jet fighters. The 412th had reported in the summer of 1945 that the P-80 would be well suited for bomber escort, counterair, and ground support. The 1st Fighter Group trained for these and other possible strategic and tactical missions. Pilot inexperience and mechanical difficulties combined to give the P-80 a high accident rate, while parts shortages curtailed operational training. Even so, the 1st Fightr Group mamtamed a heavy schedule of demonstration flights that served to introduce the fighter to a curious public.
While the group carried out what were, for it, traditional operations that called to mind the unit's experiences between the two world wars, planners considered the peacetime organization of the Army Air Force. The group/squadron structure that had served well for years seemed suitable for operational units, but the experience of World War II suggested that the traditional approach to providing support to these operational organizations might prove less useful. A variety of "Base Units" provided a wide range of support services, but a divided chain of command created administrative and operational difficulties for both the flying units and the support organizations. In an effort to address these difficulties, Headquarters, Army Air Forces, issued AAF Regulation 20-15, "Reorganization of AAF Base Units and Installations," on 27 June 1947. This regulation, which laid out what became known as the "Wing" or "Wing-Base" plan prescribed a standard organizational setup for all Army Air Force bases worldwide. The plan called for the creation of a wing headquarters that established policy and supervised four functional groups: an operational group, an air base group, a maintenance and supply group, and a medical group. This plan offered better operational control and promised to provide improved mobility, since the wings were administratively, logistically, and operationally self-sufficient.
The reorganization plan affected the 1st Fighter Group. The 1st Fighter Wing was activated at March Field and assigned to Twelfth Air Force and TAC on 15 August 1947. Headquarters, 1st Fighter Group and the 27th, 71st, and 94th Fighter Squadrons were assigned to the wing as its tactical component on the same date. The wing's subordinate maintenance, supply, and support organizations were also organized on 15 August. These included Headquarters, 1st Maintenance & Supply Group; Maintenance Squadron, 1st Maintenance & Supply Group; Supply Squadron, 1st Maintenance & Supply Group; and Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, 1st Airdrome Group, with six component squadrons, designated A-F, which handled communications, security, civil engineering, food services, transportation, and base services. March Field was also the home of the 608th Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron, Headquarters, 506th Aircraft Control & Warning Group, and Headquarters, 67th Reconnaissance Group. These units were also assigned to the wing.
In early April 1948, Headquarters, Twelfth Air Force issued a mission statement for the 1st Fighter Wing. Its complexity reflected both the wide range of the wing's responsibilities and the experimental nature of its work with new aircraft and new organizational forms. The mission statement directed the wing to:
1. Prepare and assign missions to all units of the 1st Fighter Wing. 2. Attain and maintain the highest efficiency within the means available. 3. Maintain a highly mobile organization at all times. 4. Provide units for demonstration missions in accordance with directives from higher headquarters. 5. Cooperate with 12 AF, TAC, and other Air Force organizations in developing, testing, and improving the equipment, tactics, and techniques of fighter aviation. 6. Assume direct responsibility for units assigned or attached to the 1st Fighter Wing. 7. Aid in the development of air-ground cooperation techniques and doctrines, and to conduct training necessary for operation with ground and other Air Force units. 8. Provide units for active support of other commands for defense missions. 9. Prepare personnel designated by higher headquarters for overseas movement. 10. Conduct military training and perform special missions directed by higher headquarters. 11. Assist the recruiting program and in the separation of eligible personnel. 12. Keep higher headquarters informed of difficulties encountered and new developments in maintenance, operation, and training in currently assigned fighter aircraft.
The mission statement also noted that each individual assigned to the 1st Fighter Wing should be thoroughly acquainted with the assigned mission and indoctrinated in such a manner that each person concerned feels that his portion of the task is a definite contribution to the accomplishment of the mission.
The 1st Fighter Group's activities throughout the rest of 1948 reflected the many facets of this complex mission. On 1 April the 27th Fighter Squadron learned that it would deploy to Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas, for tactical training with 2d Armored Division. The squadron was busy preparing for that trip when, on 27 April, group headquarters directed it to loan six of its P-80s, five pilots, and support equipment to the 71st Fighter Squadron, which had in the interval been directed to deploy to Spokane, Washington. The 27th feared that it would be unable to make its Texas deployment, but aircraft, pilots, and equipment borrowed from the 94th filled out the 27th's ranks in time for the flight to Bergstrom on 6 May. From 10-15 May the 27th flew air superiority, reconnaissance, and ground-support missions in conjunction with the 2d Armored. From 16 August through 11 November the 1st Fighter Group deployed the 27th and 71st Fighter Squadrons to Eglin AFB, Florida, for a tactical test that involved some 8,500 men and five hundred aircraft. The 1st Fighter Group flew a variety of ground support and tactical demonstration flights. The 27th and the 71st flew F-80s; the 94th remained at March awaiting the arrival of its first F-86s.
In December 1948 Twelfth Air Force was assigned from Tactical Air Command to Continental Air Command (ConAC), established on 1 December 1948. ConAC assumed jurisdiction over both TAC and the Air Defense Command (ADC). This move reflected an effort to concentrate all fighter forces deployed within the continental United States to strengthen the air defense of the North American continent. The move was largely an administrative convenience: the units assigned to ConAC were dual-trained and expected to revert to their primary strategic or tactical roles after the air defense battle was won. The 1st Fighter Wing was subsequently transferred from Twelfth Air Force/TAC to Fourth Air Force/ConAC on 20 December 1948.
Organizational and equipment changes continued throughout 1949. The first F-86, assigned to the 94th Fighter Squadron, arrived on 15 February. By the end of June the wing had received seventy-nine of its eighty-three authorized F-86s. On 1 May the wing transferred from ConAC to Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the Fifteenth Air Force. The wing was subsequently attached to the 22d Bomb Wing on 1 July.
While the wing stayed close to home because of a shortage of mounts for auxiliary fuel tanks and because so few bases were equipped to service the F-86, training and demonstration flights continued in the local area. Accidents plagued the flying units. These mishaps cost many aircraft and lives, but at least one pilot, Lieutenant Robert E. Farley of the 71st Fighter Squadron, gained a degree of notoriety from his misfortune. The squadron claimed that he became the first United States Air Force pilot to use an ejection seat during normal operations when he ejected from an out-of-control F-86 approximately 1,000 feet above the California desert. The new fighter developed numerous teething troubles during its first months of service, but 1st Fighter Group mechanics gradually overcame these difficulties. When the squadrons found themselves able to launch large formations on schedule, they competed to establish various formation records. The 71st struck first in September 1949, when it launched a twelve and later an eighteen-aircraft formation. The 27th and the 94th countered on 21 October. On that day the 94th launched three thirteen-plane formations, but the 27th topped this with two twenty-one plane formations. The purpose of this exercise became clear in early January 1950, when the 1st Fighter Group deployed a sizable contingent of aircraft to participate in the filming of the RKO film Jet Pilot. The group claimed a final formation record on 4 January when it passed a twenty-four plane formation (consisting of eight aircraft from each squadron) before the cameras.
The 1st Fighter Group formed its own aerial demonstration team in January 1950. The team, dubbed the "Sabre Dancers," was composed of five members of the 27th Fighter Squadron. Captain Dwight S. Beckham flew lead, with Lieutenant Clement L. Bittner on left wing, Lieutenant Mervin M. Taylor in slot, and Lieutenant Russell E. Taliaferro on right wing. Taliaferro occasionally flew solo; in that case Lieutenant Robert W. McCormick moved to the wing position. The Sabre Dancers made what was probably their most widely viewed flight on 22 April 1950, when they performed before an Armed Forces Day audience at Eglin AFB, Florida, that included President Harry S. Truman, most of his Cabinet, and numerous other political leaders.
After a winter notable only for a fire of suspicious origin that destroyed the group headquarters building on 25 February 1950, the wing embarked upon yet another series of organizational changes in the spring. Effective 16 April 1950 the 1st Fighter Wing was redesignated the 1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, the same designation that was simultaneously applied to the group and its three squadrons. The wing had, some days previously, been relieved from its attachment to the 22d Bombardment Wing. Later that spring, Captains Richard D. Creighton of the 71st, Wyman D. Anderson of the 94th, and John D. Smith of the 27th shaved more than sixteen minutes off the San Francisco to Los Angeles aerial speed record on 20 May 1950, but it was something of a "last hurrah" for the early model F-86s the group was still flying. The group's F-86 fleet was grounded in June so that engineers and mechanics from the North American Aviation Company could complete a series of modifications designed to bring the F-86s up to the standards of later models.
The organizational changes the wing had experienced since 1947 paled in comparison to the multitude of changes the unit underwent during the last six months of 1950. As of 30June 1950, the 1st Fighter-Interceptor Group was assigned to the 1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, which was itself assigned to Fifteenth Air Force and SAC. On 1 July the wing was relieved from assignment to Fifteenth Air Force and SAC and assigned to the Fourth Air Force and ConAC. Two days later the wing issued orders establishing advanced parties of its headquarters and component organizations at Victorville (later George) AFB, California:
- Headquarters, 1st Fighter-Interceptor Group -- 27th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron -- 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron -- 94th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Headquarters, 1st Maintenance & Support Group -- 1st Support Squadron -- 1st Maintenance Squadron -- 1st Motor Vehicle Squadron - Headquarters & HQ Squadron, lst Air Base Group -- 1st Communications Squadron -- 1st Air Police Squadron -- 1st Installations Squadron -- 1st Food Service Squadron - 1st Medical Group
The wing made its permanent change of station move to Victorville on 18 July. On 22 July an advance party of personnel from Headquarters, 1st Fighter-Interceptor Group and the 27th and 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons departed for Griffiss AFB, New York. A letter directing the wing to send the group headquarters and the 27th and the 71st to Griffiss for attachment to the Eastern Air Defense Force (EADF), ConAC, arrived on 30 July. Headquarters, 1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing and the 94th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron were assigned to the Western Air Defense Force, ConAC, on 1 August, while the group headquarters and the 27th and 71st were attached to the EADF on 15 August. The wing was attached to the 27th Air Division, WADF, on 20 September. Finally, one month later, the 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron moved from Griffiss AFB to Pittsburgh International Airport, Pennsylvania. As of 31 December 1950 Headquarters, 1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing and the 94th were stationed at George AFB, assigned to the WADF, and attached to the 27th Air Division. Headquarters, 1st Fighter-Interceptor Group, while still assigned to the wing, was stationed at Griffiss AFB with the 27th. The 71st was at Pittsburgh. The units on the East Coast were attached to the EADF.
Changes continued throughout 1951. Air Defense Command was reestablished as a major command on 1 January 1951. Continental Air Command lost responsibility for air defense on that date, and the wing was assigned to ADC. In May, the 27th and the 71st were attached to the 103d Fighter-Interceptor Wing, which provided administrative and logistical support and operational control, although the squadrons remained assigned to the 1st Fighter Group. Headquarters, 1st Fighter Group was relieved from attachment to the Eastern Air Defense Force and moved from Griffiss to George (with a strength of two officers and two enlisted men) on 4 June. Meanwhile, at George AFB, the 188th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was attached to the 1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, which provided administrative support and operational control.
Air Defense Command planners recognized that the policy of deploying squadrons over a wide area negated whatever advantages may have accrued from the establishment of the wing-base plan in 1948. In the case of the 1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, a wing headquarters stationed in California could provide only limited control and virtually no support to a group headquarters and squadrons deployed on the East Coast. While the policy of attaching units to higher headquarters established an ad hoc means of supplying the needed support, it was a cumbersome procedure that blurred organizational lines and did nothing for morale or unit cohesion above the squadron level. While staff officers at the Air Force level still believed that the wing-base plan was central to maintaining tactical mobility, the Air Defense Command staff argued that the need to disperse its air defense squadrons made wing and even group headquarters unnecessary and manpower-expensive organizational levels. The wing's days were numbered.
With the exception of the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, and the three fighter-interceptor squadrons, all 1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing organizations and the group headquarters were 'reduced to a strength of one officer and one enlisted man on 30 November 1951, at which time the wing moved from George Air Force Base, California, to Norton Air Force Base, California. On 2 February 1952, Headquarters, Air Defense Command relieved the operational squadrons from their existing assignments and attachments and assigned them to newly organized "defense wings": the 27th to the 4711th Air Defense Wing (ADW), Eastern Air Defense Force, the 71st to the 4 708th ADW, EADF, and the 94th to the 4 705th ADW, WADF. Headquarters, Air Defense Command inactivated the 1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing and the 1st Fighter-Interceptor Group on 6 February 1952.
The organizational instability of the early 1950s was rooted in the demands of the Korean War. Faced with the need to spread its squadrons out to cover the nation as other units deployed to the Pacific, air defense planners devised new organizational plans to enable the units to fulfill their missions without tying up unacceptably large numbers of personnel in what appeared to be superfluous command levels and support organizations. The "Air Defense Wings" created to replace .operational headquarters were administrative and logistics support organizations which supervised squadrons over a wide geographic area. The squadrons were operationally responsible to regional air defense forces and control centers. With the end of the war in Korea the Air Defense Command found itself in a position to return to a more traditional command structure. On 20 June 1955 the 1st Fighter-Interceptor Group was redesignated the 1st Fighter Group (Air Defense). It was activated and assigned to the 4 708th Air Defense Wing, Eastern Air Defense Force, Air Defense Command, at Selfridge AFB, Michigan. The 71st and the 94th Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons were assigned to the group; the 27th remained at Griffiss, assigned to the 4711th Air Defense Wing, Eastern Air Defense Force. The 1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing was redesignated the 1st Fighter Wing (Air Defense) on 14 September 1956 and activated on 18 October 1956 with the 1st Fighter Group (Air Defense) assigned. Other units assigned to the wing at that time included the 1st Maintenance & Supply Group (1st Supply Squadron, 1st Field Maintenance Squadron, and 1st Transportation Squadron assigned), the 1st Air Base Group (1st Air Police Squadron, 1st Operations Squadron, 1st Food Service Squadron, 1st Installations Squadron, and the 1st Women's Air Force Squadron Section assigned), and the 1st USAF Hospital.
After enduring a six-year period of frequent organizational changes, the wing began a period of stability in 1957. For approximately the next thirteen years it remained at Selfridge AFB, serving as part of the 30th Air Division and, after 1 April 1959, the Detroit Air Defense Sector, all part of Air Defense Command. Both the 71st and the 94th traded their F-86s for F-102 Delta Dagger interceptors between 1958 and 1960.
A major reorganization of wing control and support functions occurred on 1 February 1961. In the most significant change, a newly established wing Deputy Commander for Operations and his staff assumed the functions and responsibilities of the old fighter group headquarters, which was inactivated. The flying squadrons thereafter reported directly to the wing through the operations staff.
Maintenance and support activities were reorganized as well. Three maintenance squadrons - the 1st Field Maintenance Squadron, 1st Organizational Maintenance Squadron, and the 1st Armament & Electronics Maintenance Squadron (activated on 17 October 1958 to replace the 1st Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron) reported to the wing through a Deputy Commander for Maintenance. The 1st Air Base Group supported operations through the 1st Air Police, Civil Engineering, Combat Support, Supply, and Transportation squadrons.
While the wing and its units operated from Selfridge AFB, Michigan, the 27th Fighter- Interceptor Squadron remained on the east coast. As of 31 December 1961 it was stationed at Bangor, Maine, and assigned to the Bangor Air Defense Sector, 26th Air Division. At that time the squadron was equipped with F-106 Delta Darts.
In October 1962 the wing responded to the Cuban Missile Crisis by deploying aircraft, support personnel, equipment and supplies to Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, and Volk Field, Wisconsin. From 19 October through 27 November wing aircraft flew 620 sorties and 1,274 hours, most from Patrick AFB, while maintaining a mission-ready rate of approximately eighty percent. Wing life reverted to more normal training routines at year's end, and the pattern continued through 1963 and 1964. Only one noteworthy organizational change occurred during those years: on 1 April 1963, the 1st Air Base Group was redesignated the 1st Combat Support Group. In April 1964 a detachment of the 71st deployed to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, was shaken by the earthquake that rocked the state. A tornado struck the Capehart military housing area at Selfridge in May 1964, killing four military dependents.
Beginning in about 1965 the wing began to transfer pilots to other units in or en route to Vietnam. While the wing itself did not participate in the war, its units were soon manned by personnel who had completed tours in Southeast Asia. Wing dining-ins held periodically for the rest of the decade invariably featured a presentation ceremony where personnel received various awards and commendations they had earned overseas.
Organizational changes continued to whittle away at the wing's strength in 1966 and 1967. The wing was assigned to the 34th Air Division, First Air Force, on 1 April 1966. In September the 1st Armament & Electronics Maintenance Squadron was organized into two squadrons, the 1st Communications & Electronics Maintenance Squadron and the 1st Munitions Maintenance Squadron. This organization changed again on 16 January 1967, when the 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, which had won top prize in the F-106 category at the 1965 William Tell weapons competition at Tyndall AFB, Florida, was transferred to the 328th Fighter Wing (Air Defense), Tenth Air Force, at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, Missouri. This reorganization left the 1st Fighter Wing (Air Defense), with only one fighter squadron, the 94th.
This reduced alignment made the existing four-squadron maintenance organization unnecessary. On 16 January 1967 the 1st Communications & Electronics Maintenance Squadron, the 1st Field Maintenance Squadron, the 1st Organizational Maintenance Squadron, and the 1st Munitions Maintenance Squadron were inactivated and their functions assigned to the newly-activated 1st Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. By the end of March 1967, the wing was little more than a shadow of its former self. Headquarters, 1st Fighter Wing (Air Defense), supervised the operations of its assigned units through the offices of two deputy commanders (materiel and operations) and the commander of the combat support group. The 94th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, which mustered seventeen single-seat F-106As, two two-seat F-106B trainers, and seven T-33 trainers, reported to the Deputy Commander for Operations. The Deputy Commander for Materiel (formerly Deputy Commander for Maintenance) controlled the 1st Consolidated Maintenance Squadron. The 1st Combat Support Group consisted of the 1st Civil Engineering, 1st Supply, 1st Transportation, and 1st Air Police Squadrons, plus a Headquarters Squadron Section and a Women's Air Force Squadron. The 1st USAF Hospital was also assigned to the wing. The 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was assigned to the 328th Fighter Wing (Air Defense), 30th Air Division, First Air Force, at Richards-Gebaur AFB, Missouri. The 27th was at Bangor, Maine, assigned to the 36th Air Division, lst Air Force.
The reduced wing stayed busy. From 24 July through 4 August 1967 Selfridge became the hub of federal activities mobilized during riots in Detroit. Elements of the 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division and the 2d Brigade, lOlst Airborne Division, a total of some 12,000 combat and support personnel, eventually passed through the base. From 1500 on 24 July to 1500 the next day, the base received 4,700 troops and 1,008 tons of cargo. On 1 August the base handled 363 C-130 sorties, 6,036 troops, and 2,492 tons of cargo. By the time the tactical command post at Selfridge was closed at 1130 on 4 August, the base had processed 1,389 C-130 sorties, 12,058 troops, and 4, 735.6 tons of cargo. 29 In September 1968 the 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was relieved from assignment to the 328th Fighter Wing (Air Defense) at Richards-Gebauer AFB, Missouri, and transferred to the 28th Air Division, Tenth Air Force, at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, where it became a self-contained unit operating on the SAC base. Between 20 May and 5 November 1969, the 94th deployed to Osan Air Base, Korea, for exercise College Cadence. It was to be the 1st Fighter Wing's last major air defense effort.
On 1 December 1969 the 94th was transferred to Wurtsmith AFB, Michigan, (the old 1st Pursuit Group's Oscoda training camp, now put to other uses) pending the inactivation of the 1st Fighter Wing, which was assigned to the 23d Air Division on that date. On 31 December 1969 the wing, with no units under its control, transferred to Hamilton AFB, California, and was assigned to the 26th Air Division. The 1st Combat Support Group and its component squadrons were inactivated; personnel and equipment were transferred to the 4708th Air Base Group, 23d Air Division, at Duluth International Airport, Minnesota, on 1 January 1970.
Although the designation remained the same, the 1st Fighter Wing was barely recognizable as a descendant of the 1st Pursuit. The three fighter squadrons were scattered from Maine to Michigan to Montana. The support organizations were inactive. Moves were underway, however, that would see the "old" 1st Fighter Wing reassembled before the year was out.
Lockheed P-80's, 71st Fighter Squadron
North American F-86D, 94th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
Convair F-102, 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
Convair F-106, 94th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
North American F-86s, 27th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
North American F-86D, 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron