354th Fighter Wing [354th FW]
The 354th Fighter Wing's history dates back to its activation at Hamilton Field in California on November 15, 1942. The 354th Fighter Group trained in P-39 aircraft there and other Army airfields for nearly a year. In October 1943, the 354th moved to Greenham Common, England. The first group to use the new P-51 Mustang, the 354th commenced combat action in December. From then through the end of the war, the Pioneer Mustang Group wreaked havoc on the German Luftwaffe; altogether, pilots of the 354th scored 599.25 combat victories. Lt. Col. Glenn Eagleston was the leading ace, downing 18.5 aircraft.
For a four-month period in late 1944 and early 1945, the 354th flew P-47s and switched its focus from escort and air superiority to fighter-bomber missions, strafing and dive-bombing enemy targets in Belgium, France and Holland. Its efforts during the war earned the 354th two Distinguished Unit Citations and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm. After V-E Day, the group served with the army of occupation; in February 1946 it was transferred back to the United States and inactivated.
On Nov. 19, 1956, the Air Force resurrected the unit as the 354th Fighter-Day Group and stationed it at Myrtle Beach AFB, S.C. It was redesignated the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing in July 1958.
Initially flying RF-80 aircraft, and by 1959, F-100 Super Sabres, the 354th remained at Myrtle Beach until mid-1968. During that span, the wing's flying units deployed to the Dominican Republic for that country's crisis in 1965, and to Japan and Spain as replacement units for those involved in Vietnam. In 1966, one of its units deployed to South Vietnam, leaving the 354th with but one assigned flying squadron. That unit left for Southeast Asia in April 1968.
From mid-1968 until June 1970, the 354th served at Kunsan AB, South Korea, as host-wing for rotating Air National Guard F-4 squadrons. It then returned without personnel or equipment to Myrtle Beach, charged with combat crew training in T-33s and with becoming proficient in A-7 aircraft. In 1972 the wing split into rear and advance echelons, the latter commencing combat operations from Thailand in October 1972. The 354th earned the Presidential Unit Citation for its service from October 1972 through April 1973. It recombined at Myrtle Beach in 1974.
The 354th converted to A-10 aircraft in 1977. For better than a decade, it conducted routine A-10 missions, to include numerous deployments and exercises. That routine came to an abrupt end in August 1990, when the 354th deployed as one of the first units in the Persian Gulf to support Operation Desert Shield. When Desert Storm's air war began in January 1991, wing pilots initially flew against early-warning radar and Scud missile sites. The 354th also flew search and rescue missions; Capt. Paul Johnson earned the Air Force Cross when he and Capt. Randy Goff, also of the 354th, rescued a downed Navy pilot 200 miles inside Iraq.
As the conflict evolved, the wing turned its attention to deep interdiction missions and the Iraqi Republican Guard. Finally, when the ground war commenced in late February, the 354th performed the mission it had been trained to do before the war -- close air support. In the process, the wing suffer one casualty, losing one officer, Capt. Steve Phyllis.
The 354th returned home from the Gulf in March 1991 and was redesignated the 354th Fighter Wing in October of that year. Because of the impending closure of Myrtle Beach AFB, the unit was inactivated in March 1993.
Less than five months later, on Aug. 20, 1993, the 354th Fighter Wing replaced the 343rd Wing as host-unit at Eielson AFB, Alaska.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Eielson Air Force Base, AK. The 354th Fighter Wing's assigned A-10 aircraft would be distributed to the 917th Wing Barksdale Air Force Base, LA (three aircraft); to a new active duty unit at Moody Air Force Base, GA (12 aircraft); and to backup inventory (three aircraft). The 354th Fighter Wing's F-16 aircraft would be distributed to the 57th Wing, Nellis Air Force Base, NV (18 aircraft). Eielson's (11) military value was high because of its close proximity to valuable airspace and ranges. Eielson was, however, an expensive base to operate and improve (build). The Air Force recommended realigning Eielson, but keeping the base open in a "warm" status using the resident Air National Guard units and a portion of the infrastructure to continue operating the base for USAF/Joint/Combined exercises. The Air Force would distribute the F-16s to Nellis (13) a base with high military value, and the A-10s to Moody (11-SOF/CSAR), which also ranked high in military value.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|