Happy 72nd Birthay: 355th Fighter Wing
By Larry "Doug" Herndon, 355th Fighter Wing History Office
/ Published November 12, 2014
DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
The legacy and heritage of the 355th Fighter Wing began on 12 November 1942 when it was activated as the 355th Fighter Group in Orlando Army Air Base, Florida. The 355 FG became fully operational on 9 September 1943 at Steeple Morden, England. By war's end the 355 FG logged more than 17,000 sorties in P-47Thunderbolt and P-51Mustang aircraft and destroyed 868 enemy aircraft. The unit was inactivated 20 November 1946.
Nearly nine years later, on 18 August 1955, the 355 FG reactivated at McGhee-Tyson Airport, Tennessee, operating the F-86D Sabre Jet under the Air Defense Command. For two years, the 355 FG participated in numerous readiness exercises and provided fighter defense for the Atomic Energy Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the ALCOA Aluminum Plant, and the Tennessee Valley Authority dams, as well as, the eastern region of the United States. The unit inactivated 8 January 1958.
On 13 April 1962, the 355th was activated again at George AFB, California under a new name, the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW). Their mission was to operate the Republic F-105 Thunderchief. By November 1965 the unit had transferred to Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand. Before inactivating on 10 December 1970, the 355 TFW amassed over 101,300 sorties over North Vietnam, delivered 202,596 tons of bombs, and destroyed 12,675 targets. Assigned pilots were also credited with 22 MiG aerial victories, eight MiGs destroyed on the ground, and another nine damaged.
The 355 TFW reactivated 1 July 1971 at Davis-Monthan AFB flying the A-7D Corsair II aircraft. In early 1975, the 355 TFW prepared for conversion to the A-10A Thunderbolt II and received the first four A-10As in March 1976. In the 1990s, the 355th continued to train A-10 crews for assignments to units in the United States, England and Korea.
During this period, the wing deployed Airborne Forward Air Controllers (FAC) in A-10 aircraft to Operation Desert Storm, providing nearly 100% of this capability to the war.
The 355th was redesignated as the 355th Wing on 1 May 1991. In 1995, the 355th Wing began supporting Operation Southern Watch with deployments to Al Jaber AB, Kuwait to ensure compliance of the 32nd parallel southern no-fly zone. The initial deployment in 1995 required 12 A-10s. That number, however, doubled to 24 for the 1997 deployment. In 1998 the wing deployed 16 A-10s while the final deployment in 1999 required 14 A-10s to sustain operations.
After the attacks of 9/11 and the execution of Operation Enduring Freedom, eight A-10s from the 355th Wing were deployed in late 2001 to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan to fly close air support missions reinforcing multinational ground forces. More six month deployments to Bagram Airfield followed in 2003, 2005, 2007, and the unit's latest deployment in 2012. The wing also supported six month Air Expeditionary Force deployments to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan in 2009 and to Osan AB, Republic of Korea, in 2011.
Losses: World War II, POW 58; KIA 80; MIA 14
Vietnam: POW 40; KIA 54
Operation Desert Storm: POW 1(repatriated); KIA 1