108th Air Refueling Wing

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= 108th Air Refueling Wing


caption= 108th Air Refueling Wing emblem
dates= 1952-Present
country= United States
allegiance=
branch= United States Air Force
type= Air Refueling
role= Combat Support
size=
command_structure=Air National Guard
current_commander=
garrison= McGuire Air Force Base
ceremonial_chief=
colonel_of_the_regiment=
nickname= "Jersey Thunder"
patron=
motto=
colors=
march=
mascot=
battles=
anniversaries=
The 108th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) is a unit of the New Jersey Air National Guard that is responsible for aerial refueling. It is based at McGuire Air Force Base. The current Commander of the 108th is [http://www.ngb.army.mil/ngbgomo/library/bio/1859.htm Brigadier General Michael L. Cunniff] .

Units

The New Jersey Air National Guard's 108th Air Refueling Wing consists of four component units.

* 141st Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135E) "New Jersey", Blue Fin Flash
* 150th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135E) "New Jersey", White Fin Flash
* Detachment 1, 108th Air Refueling Wing
* Detachment 2, 108th Air Refueling Wing (C-135B)

The wing operates a total of 20 KC-135E tankers and Detachment 2 108th Air Refueling Wing flying a single C-135B transport version of the KC-135.

Detachment 1, 108th Air Refueling Wing, manages the Warren Grove Gunnery Range in Ocean County.

The wing is one of only three Air National Guard super tanker wings composed of more than one KC-135 squadron and is part of the North East Tanker task force.

History

The 108th Air Refueling Wing was originally established 24 May 1946 as a redesignation of the World War II 348th Fighter Group (348th FG), the most successful P-47 Thunderbolt group in the South West Pacific Theatre. Its commander, Colonel Neel Ernest Kearby was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in combat. Over a dozen of the groups pilots became Flying aces.

Lineage

* Constituted as 348th Fighter Group on 24 September 1942: Activated on 30 September 1942: Inactivated on 10 May 1946
* Redesignated 108th Fighter Group and allotted to New Jersey Air National Guard on 24 May 1946: Extended federal recognition on 16 October 1946
* Established as 108th Strategic Fighter Wing, 1948: Redesignated 108th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, 1952: Redesignated 108th Tactical Fighter Wing, on 1 July 1960: Redesignated 108th Air Refueling Wing on 27 September 1991

Bases assigned

* Mitchel Field, New York, 30 Sep 1942
* Bradley Field, Connecticut, 4 Oct 1942
* Westover Field, Massachusetts, 29 Oct 1942
* Providence Airport, Rhode Island, 3 Jan 1943
* Westover Field, Massachusetts, 28 Apr - 6 May 1943

* Port Moresby, New Guinea, 23 Jun 1943
* Finschhafen, New Guinea, 16 Dec 1943
* Saidor, New Guinea, 29 Mar 1944
* Wakde, 22 May 1944
* Noemfmr, 26 Aug 1944
* Leyte, 16 Nov 1944
* San Marcelino, Luzon, 4 Feb 1945
* Floridablanca, Luzon, 15 May 1945
* Ie Shima, 6 Jul 1945
* Itami, Japan, Oct 1945-10 May 1946

* Trenton-Mercer Airport, New Jersey (1946-1951)
* Turner AFB, Georgia, 14 Mar 1951
* Godman AFB, Kentucky, 6 Dec 1951- 1 Dec 1952
* McGuire AFB, New Jersey (1952-Present)

Major Commands

* First Air Force (1942 - 1943)
* Fifth Air Force (1943 - 1945)
* Far East Air Forces (1945-1946)
* Strategic Air Command (1946-1952)
* Air Defense Command (1952-1960)
* Tactical Air Command (1960-1991)
* Strategic Air Command (1991-1992)
* Air Mobility Command (1992-Present)

Aircraft operated

* P-47D Thunderbolt (1942-1944, 1946-1952): Redesignated F-47D after June, 1948
* P-51D Mustang (1944-1945)
* F-51H Mustang (1952-1955)
* F-84E Thunderjet (1955-1958)
* F-84F Thunderjet (1958-1962)
* F-86H Sabre (1962-1964)
* F-105B Thunderchief (1964-1981)
* F-4D Phantom II (1981-1985)
*F-4E Phantom II (1985-1991)
*KC-135 Stratotanker (1991-Present)

Operational history

348th Fighter Group



thumb|First Lieutenant Lawrence F. O’Neill of the 342nd Fighter Squadron, in the cockpit of his Republic P-47D Thunderbolt 42-22903, which he christened “Kathy/Veni Vidi Vici,” following his quadruple victory on December 26, 1943. O'Neill survived the war and reached Ace status with a total of 5 aerial victories.The 348th Fighter Group was first activated on 30 September 1942 at Mitchel Field, New York and was equipped with the P-47 Thunderbolt. The 348th was one of the first USAAF groups to be equipped with the P-47.

After an extended period of training in the northeast United States, the personnel boarded the Army transport ship Henry Gibbons and left the wharf at Weehawken, New Jersey on 15 May 1943. They groups personnel all thought they were heading for the European theatre of war. However, they went through the Panama Canal instead and crossed the Pacific Ocean reaching Brisbane, Australia on 14 June 1943. They moved to Archer Field (Archerfield airfield) and waited for their aircraft to arrive.

The group's P-47D Thunderbolts began to arrive in Brisbane in the same month, and by the end of July after they had "run in" their engines on local training flights, the group began long-range missions to strike at Japanese targets in New Guinea. In mid-June the 348th's three squadrons (340th, 341st, 342d) made the 1,200-mile flight from Brisbane to Port Moresby, New Guinea. The group operated from New Guinea and Noemfoor until November 1944, flying patrol and reconnaissance missions and escorted bombers to targets in New Guinea and New Britain. The 460th Fighter Squadron, stationed at Noemfoor, New Guinea, was also later attached to the 348th Fighter Group on 23 September 1944 .

The arrival of the 348th as the first P-47 group in the Southwest Pacific area coincided with the opening of the Allied offensive in New Guinea. During the summer of 1943 the P-47 missions were chiefly as cover for bombers in the Lae-Salamaua area, and for transports carrying supplies to the new mountain locked airstrip at Tsili, only a few miles from the Japanese held Markham Valley. The group met its first air combat over Tsili on August 16, 1943, when two squadrons tangled with the fighter cover of an enemy bomber formation, and shot down three aircraft.

In September the 348th's planes provided cover for the paratroop landing at Nadzab in the Markham valley, and with the capture of Nadzab and Lae the group entered into one of the most spectacular phases of its overseas career, in a series of fighter sweeps, generally by flights of four planes, over the Japanese stronghold of Wewak.

Lt. Colonel Neel Kearby, the Commanding Officer of the 348th Fighter Group shot down his first Japanese aircraft on 4 September 1943. He shot down a second aircraft on the 15 September 1943. Colonel Kearby was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for action over New Guinea on 11 October 1943. After leading a flight of four fighters to reconnoiter the enemy base at Wewak, Col Kearby sighted a Japanese bomber formation escorted by more than 30 fighters. Despite the heavy odds and a low fuel supply, and although his mission had been accomplished, Kearby ordered an attack, personally destroying six of the enemy planes.

For covering Allied landings and supporting ground forces on New Britain, 16-31 December 1943, the group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation. In 1944 the group began to attack airfields, installations, and shipping in western New Guinea, Ceram, and Halmahera to aid in neutralizing those areas preparatory to the US invasion of the Philippines. The group's pilots shot down 100 Japanese planes without the loss of a single pilot in aerial combat. From Finchhaven the group flew its first fighter-bomber missions. In the early spring of 1944, while the group was at Saidor, fighter-bomber work began in earnest with attacks on the Japanese concentrations in the Hansa Bay region just ahead of the advancing Australian troops

After 18 months in New Guinea the 348th boarded ship and plane for the Philippines. One squadron, the 460th, arrived several weeks before the other three, and proceeded to roll up an imposing score of enemy planes, shipping, and personnel destroyed, providing cover for convoys, flying patrols, escorted bombers, attacked enemy airfields, and supporting ground forces. During a three week period it sank 50,000 tons of enemy shipping, which was slightly more than one-tenth of all the shipping sunk by the entire Fifth Air Force during the year 1944. On one mission seven planes of the 460th squadron wiped out a convoy loaded with an estimated 10,000 enemy troops en route to reinforce the Japanese army on Leyte. The squadron's planes were the first of the Army Air Force to fly over occupied Manila after the Japanese capture of the Philippines. A flight led by Colonel Dunham, made the first return flight on 17 November 1944.

The group's greatest day, in point of total of enemy planes destroyed, was 14 December 1944 when, in protection of the invasion fleet heading to Mindoro, 5 Japanese planes were shot down, an estimated 75 were destroyed and 20 more damaged, on the airfields of Negros Island only a few minutes flight from the Allied invasion force, which landed on Mindoro the following morning.

In aerial combat at the 348th's best day came on December 24 1944 when its planes escorting B-24 Liberator heavy bombers in one of the first bomber strikes on Clark Field, met an attempted interception by an estimated 100 Japanese fighters. 32 of the enemy aircraft were definitely destroyed, 7 probably destroyed, the remainder were driven off, and the bombers proceeded undamaged to carry out their mission.

Early in December 1944, while the group's planes were operating from Taoloban strip, the majority of group personnel were camped inland near Burauen when the Japanese landed several hundred paratroops on a uncompleted airstrip less that a quarter of a mile from the group's camp, cutting the only road leading from the camp. For several days the camp was isolated between the paratroops on the East and the Japanese patrols on the West. Two men on guard post were surprised and killed by an enemy patrol, but the camp defense's prevented any breakthrough and the paratroops were finally wiped out by infantry and tanks.

When U.S. troops landed on Luzon the 348th, now in process of conversion from P-47's to P-51 Mustangs, began operation from San Marcelino airstrip a few days after the landing at San Marcelino and Subic Bay. From this location the unit entered upon what many of its members consider its most outstanding work of the war, bombing and strafing in close support of ground troops. This work lacks the excitement and glamour of serial combat, or even of bombing and strafing of seen targets. Bombs and bullets are poured into areas where the enemy is reported to be, and day after day the mission reports stated "Results unobserved due to foliage". Only rarely were advancing ground troops able to tell what part of the damage found was done by a particular air strike.

At the time the 348th began ground support operations from San Marcelino, the infantry had taken Subic Bay and Olongapo and had started east with the objective of sealing off Bataan so that the Japanese, retreating southward from Lingayen, could not use the Bataan Peninsula's defensive strength as did the U.S. forces in 1942. However, a few miles East of Olongapo stubborn Japanese resistance suddenly had been met in Zigzag Pass, where the road climbed in a series of hairpin turns overlooked by the enemy's positions. Our ground forces had suffered some casualties, had dug in, and in four days had been unable to make any appreciable gain.

On Leyte the 348th had done experimental bombing with a new and highly effective firebomb weapon, and it was proposed that it be used to break the deadlock in Zigzag Pass. However the infantry division occupying the west end of the pass was uncertain about the use of the bomb in close support of their troops, for fear of inaccurate bombing. So a Japanese supply area, well back of their front line, was bombed as a demonstration of accuracy, and was left neatly blanked with flame. There was no further lack of confidence. American infantry proceeded to direct our pilots to bomb and strafe just ahead of their front line, and for seven days advanced steadily until their mission of scaling off the Bataan Peninsula had been accomplished.

Occasionally the curtain of "unobserved results" would lift. One strike, directed by Filipino guerillas who set off smoke pots to mark tan enemy bivouac area, was later found to have caused 700 Japanese casualties.

After another strike west of Fort Stotsenburg, ground troops were able to move in quickly and found 574 Japanese, all killed by the single air attack. Neigher of those missions involved more than 32 sorties and 30 missions a day. It would be impossible to estimate how many other thousands of enemy dead were covered with the phrase "results unobserved".

During the month of April 1945 the 348th net a record for tonnage of bombs dropped on the enemy, with a total of 2091.5 tons. Total ammunition expended was just under two million rounds. So far as is known, this bomb tonnage is the greatest every dropped in one month by any group, either fighter or bomber, and the accuracy of the bombing attested repeatedly by reports from ground observers. Most of the record tonnage was dropped in the Ipo Dam area northeast of Manila, and helped pave the way for the infantry's capture of that vital control-point of Manila's water supply. From San Marcelino the 348th also flew missions over French Indochina, Hainan, China, and Formosa.

In May 1945 the group moved to Floridablanca airfield, west of Ft. Stotsenburg, and from there continued attacks on Japanese ground troops, chiefly in the Cagayan Valley in northern Luzon. By the middle of June the enemy forces had disintegrated and scattered so that profitable targets were hard to find, So operations of the 348th were redirected to the Ryukyus, and the group began operations from Ie Shima in mid-July.

Contrary to expectations the Japanese air forces did not choose to fight, and in the following month only 15 enemy planes were shot down without loss to the 348th in air combat. However there was an abundance of ground and shipping targets in Kyushu and North China, and the group's P-51's took a constant toll of enemy transportation on water and land before the afternoon of August 14 when the planes of the 348th delivered the last bombs dropped on Japan before the order was given to "cease firing".

Colonel Kearby went on to score 22 aerial victories. Other aerial aces of the group were Lt. Colonel W.D. Dunham - 16, Lt. Colonel William M. Banks - 9, Colonel R.R. Rowland - 8, Major W.G. Benz - 8, Lt. Colonel E.F. Roddy - 8, Major S.V. Blair - 7, Captain G.A. Davis Jr. - 7, Captain M.E. Grant - 7, Major J.T. Moore - 7, Major E.S. Popek - 7, Major N.M. Brown - 6, Captain R.H. Fleischer - 6, and Captain W.B. Foulis - 6.

In the immediate postwar era, the group moved to Itami Airfield, Japan in October 1945 as part of Far East Air Forces, performing occupation duty.

The 348th Fighter Group was inactivated at Itami Airfield on 10 May 1946.

108th Fighter Group/Wing

After a short period of inactivation, the unit was allocated to the New Jersey Air National Guard on 24 May 1946, being stationed at Trenton-Mercer Airport. It was redesignated as the 108th Fighter Group and assigned P-47D Thunderbolts. It was extended federal recognition on 16 October 1946. Its flying component was the redesignated 141st Fighter Squadron (formerly 341st).

The 108th FG was allocated to the new Strategic Air Command (SAC) if activated. For several years the group trained, and in 1948, was redesigneated as the 108th Strategic Fighter Wing, with the transfer of the group to the new United States Air Force.

As a result of the Korean War, the wing was federalized and brought into active service on 1 March 1951, It was assigned to the SAC 40th Air Division at Turner AFB, Georgia. In its activated configuration, the wing was composed of the 141st Fighter Squadron (New Jersey ANG), 149th Fighter Squadron (Virginia ANG) and the 153rd Fighter Squadron (Mississippi ANG). During its federal service period, the wing trained to conduct long range bombardment escort missions. On 9 December 1951, the wing was reassigned to Godman AFB, Kentucky. It was relieved from active service on 1 December 1952 and returned to the control of the New Jersey ANG, being assigned to McGuire AFB.

Shortly after its return to state control, the unit was transferred to Air Defense Command (ADC) and redesignated as the 108th Fighter-Interceptor Wing. In addition to the now redesignated 141st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, the wing added the 119th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. Both squadrons were re-equipped with the long-range North American P-51H Mustang fighter and Designed for the invasion of Japan, the P-51H was the last variant of the famous P-51 Mustang of World War II, but was produced too late to see any wartime combat. Not used in Korea due to it not being believed as "rugged" as its famous "D" model predecessor, the P-51H was used instead to equip Air National Guard units into the 1950s as an ADC interceptor.

In 1955, the wing entered the jet age, with the arrival of the Republic F-84F Thunderjet, and then to F-84E Thunderjets in 1958. This was followed by the 119th FIS's move to Atlantic City Airport. On 1 July 1960, the wing was reassigned to Tactical Air Command (TAC) and redesignated the 108th Tactical Fighter Wing.

On 1 October 1961, as a result of the Berlin crisis, the 108th TFW was again ordered to active federal duty. When activated, the 108th consisted of three squadrons, the 119th TFS at Atlantic City Airport, the 141st TFS McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, and the 149th TFS from the Virginia ANG at Byrd Field, near Richmond, Virginia. All three squadrons were flying the F-84F Thunderstreak.

Once activated, the wing was deployed to Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base, France. However, only a portion of the 108th TFW deployed to France due to DOD budget limitations. This consisted of 28 F-84F's of the 141st TFS and officers and airmen from all three squadrons, with the remaining aircraft and personnel remaining on active duty at their home stations. The first elements of the 108th deployed to Chaumont from McGuire AFB on 16 October with the last aircraft and personnel arriving on 6 November. The ground units deployed by sealift, with the deployed elements reaching Chaumont by 17 November.

In France, the deployed elements of the 108th TFW were designated the 7108th Tactical Wing on 20 November due to the reduced strength of the wing in Europe. The primary mission of the 7108th was to provide close air support to the Seventh Army in Europe under the direction of Ground Forward Air Controllers. To accomplish this mission, up to 30 sorties were flown each day. Pilots and aircraft were rotated back and forth from Atlantic City and Richmond in order for all pilots in the wing to become familiar with flying conditions at Chaumont and to teach USAFE operational procedures.

The deployment to France ended in October 1962 and the wing returned to New Jersey state control. The 119th TFS expanded to group size with the activation of the 177th Tactical Fighter Group. Immediatley following this action, their F-84Fs were replaced by North American F-86H Sabres. The 141st TFS, having left their F-84F's in France, were re-equipped with F-86H's upon their return.

In April 1964, the 108th traded their Sabrejets in for the F-105B "Thunderchief". the 108th was the first Air National Guard unit to fly twice the speed of sound. In May 1981, the F-4D Phantom II replaced the F-105s, and in 1985, they were ugraded to the F-4E Phantom II.

In 1989, the 108th was declared the best Air National Guard flying unit and awarded the coveted Spatz Trophy. It participated in numerous exercises and made six overseas deployments as a fighter unit, to France, Greece, Ecuador and three times to Norway.

108th Air Refueling Wing

The 108th Air Refueling Wing is relatively new, only dating back to 27 September 1991, when the unit was re-designated. The 108th received its first KC-135E Stratotanker on 27 September. Yet, a scant 69 days later, on 6 December, it flew its first refueling mission. Forty one days later, on January 16, 1992, it flew its first operational mission - a night, air refueling of an E-3B "Sentry" bound for the Persian Gulf.

1992 was a busy year for the 108th. They flew their first passenger airlift mission on February 27; its first overseas mission (Costa Rica) on March 13; its first European mission, Germany May 28, (South Korea) on July 20, and its first humanitarian mission on September 1, (three Stratotankers filled with critically needed supplies to "Hurricane Andrew" (Florida) victims).

The Wing was certified combat ready on December 3, 1992. The very next day it was tasked with two missions - its first operational deployment - nothing less than spearheading and establishing the U.S. - Somalia air bridge for OPERATION RESTORE HOPE. It not only deployed an air refueling detachment to Moron Air Base, Spain, but also airlifted active duty air crews to Cairo West Air Base, Egypt. In January 1993, while deployed at Moron AB, Spain, the Wing off loaded its one millionth pound of fuel.

On October 1, 1993, the 170th Air Refueling Group NJANG consolidated with the 108th Air Refueling Wing. The 170th Air Refueling Group, including the 150th Air Refueling Squadron was established at Newark Airport, NJ, on February 1, 1956 and transferred to McGuire AFB in July 1965. The 108th welcomed the 150th Air Refueling Squadron's 37 years experience in airlift and air refueling operations, and its 130,454 accident-free flying hours, recognized as the worlds safest flying record.

During the Vietnam War, the 150th, then equipped with the C-121 "Constellation" flew many airlift missions from the U.S. to Southeast Asia. It was the first air refueling unit in the Nation to launch tankers to establish the now famous U.S. Saudi Arabia "Air Bridge" during OPERATION DESERT Shield-DESERT STORM. Literally hours after President Bush ordered U.S. forces to the Persian Gulf, the 150th aircrews were refueling fighters and cargo transports winging their way nonstop from the U.S. to the Persian Gulf. Shortly thereafter, and again, prior to certain units personnel being activated, the 150th deployed aircraft, aircrews, maintenance and support personnel to Saudi Arabia. It also provided urgently needed medical, security police and support personnel to U.S. air bases to assist active duty personnel and serve as "back-fill" for those already rushed to the combat theater.

In September 1994, for over 30 days, five aircraft and 300 members deployed to Pisa, Italy for DENY FLIGHT. The 108th replaced the 126 ARW of the Illinois Air Guard. Supported by 15 active duty Air Force personnel, the 108th ARW was the first Air Guard Unit to take full responsibility during that period.

May through August 1995, 13 members of the 108th and 170th Clinic deployed to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba for a humanitarian mission, Operation SEA SIGNAL.

References

* Some of this text in an early version of this article was taken from pages on the [http://www.108arw.ang.af.mil/resources/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=10900 108th Air Refueling Wing website] , which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource.
* Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
* Steaaway, John C. (1997). Kearby's Thunderbolts: The 348th Fighter Group in World War II. Schiffer Publishing. ISBN: 0764302485
* Donald, David (2004). Century Jets: USAF Frontline Fighters of the Cold War. AIRtime. ISBN 1880588684
* Wistrand, R. B. (1945). Pacific Sweep: A Pictorial History of the Fifth Air Force Fighter Command. F. H. Johnson ASIN: B000ZUS7DW
* [http://home.att.net/~jbaugher/usafserials.html USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present]
* [http://home.att.net/~jbaugher1/p51_13.html North American P-51H Mustang]

External links

* [http://www.108arw.ang.af.mil 108th Air Refueling Wing: New Jersey Air National Guard]


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