The 18th Pursuit Group was first established in the Territory of Hawaii on 21 January, 1927 , beginning operations of the 6th and 19th Pursuit Squadrons at Wheeler Field. The 73rd and 74th Squadrons were formed in 1929, remaining with the 18th Group well into 1932. The 36th and 55th Squadrons were formed in 1931, remaining with the 18th for approximately one year. Flying activities included routine proficiency and gunnery training in DeHaviland DH-4s, Boeing PW-9s and Boeing P-12 biplanes, and Boeing P-26 'Peashooters', finally upgrading into the radial-engined Curtiss P-36, predecessor of the P-40 Warhawk. The fighting cock Group insignia Unguibus et Rostro ... With talon and beak was chosen by 18th Pursuit Group C.O., Major Carlyle H. Wash in February, 1931, and officially approved in 1932 . The unit was renamed "18th Pursuit Group, Interceptor", in 1939, then later became the 18th Fighter Group, SE, indicating Single Engine, while flying P-39s, P-40s and P-400s (export versions of P-39).
Earliest Group Commanders names for the period from 1927 thru 1939, were not available, but we know that Major Kenneth M. Walker (for whom Walker AFB, NM was later named) assumed command in March, 1940, having on his command staff Captain Roger W. Ramey (for whom Ramey AFB was later named), and Lieutenant Bruce K. Holloway, Lieutenant K. P. Berquist, Lieutenant John G. Simpson, and Lieutenant William F. Savidge.
Lieutenant Holloway transferred to interior China shortly thereafter, where he later became 23rd Fighter Group commander under M/Gen. Claire Chennault. Major William R. Morgan followed Major Walker as 18th Group Commander in mid-1941, while part of the Group was re-equipped with Curtiss P-40s just prior to the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese naval aircraft which immediately drew the United States into World War II.
The surprise attack by the Japanese early on Sunday morning, 7 December, 1941, decimated the fighting power of the 18th Pursuit Group while still on the ground. A young 1st Lieutenant, Kenneth M.. Taylor, managed to fly one of only two P-40 Warhawks able to get into the air to meet the enemy; both were promptly put out of action by the attackers. Another young pilot, Lieutenant Kermit A. Tyler, acting Radar Officer, had noted the large aerial formation nearing Hawaii, but logically assumed the blips were from the large formation of B-17s expected in from the States around the same time.
Lieutenant Colonel Aaron W. Tyer assumed command of what was by then, at the end of December 1941, essentially a "paper Pursuit Group". With few Pacific airfields controlled by friendly forces, it was almost two years before the devastated Army Air Corps units could be rebuilt to operational fighting strength and could be re-equipped with P-38s, P-39s, P-40s and P-400s( - an export version of the P-39).
The 70th Fighter Squadron had sailed from San Francisco for the Philippines two days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but had to turn back because status of their destination was uncertain. They arrived at Suva, Fiji Islands on 29 Jan.42, assembled their P-39s and assumed the defense of the Fiji area. The 67th and 68th Fighter Squadrons. deployed to Australia in those early days, and the 67th Squadron then went on to New Caledonia in Mar.42, where they flew P-400s. The 68th assembled P-39s and P-400s near Ipswich, Australia from March until May 42, then moved to Suva, Tongatabu to be equipped with newer P-40Es. The 12th Fighter Squadron with their P-39s, pulled out of Key Field, Mississippi, and sailed to Christmas Island, where it was initially assigned to 15th Fighter Group of 7th AF.
Captain Dale Brannon, 67th Squadron C.O., brought five P-400s to a newly leveled coral landing strip at Guadacanal on 22 Aug.42, where he was assigned to M/Gen. Vandergrifts First Marine Division. (Individual Air Corps squadrons fought under Naval control in the early days of the war). In Nov.42 the 68th Squadrons P-40s joined the 67th. The 12th Squadrons P-39s came from Christmas Island, the 44th was sent from Hawaii and the 70th Fighter Squadrons P-39s arrived at Guadacanal on 21 Dec.42. A new P-38 Squadron, the 339th, was formed with a cadre from the 67th and with newly-arrived personnel. The 339th would be commanded by Captain John W. Mitchell, who was then Operations Officer for the 70th Squadron. The 67th, 68th, 70th and 339th Squadrons were first assigned to the 347th Fighter Group, in Sep.42. The Squadrons which made up the 18th Fighter Group were not assigned until 11 March 1943 at Espiritu Santo Island, when the 12th, 44th and 70th Squadrons were assigned to the 18th Fighter Group as that unit was transferred from 7th AF to 13th Air Force.
With another primitive airstrip, Henderson Field, built, the 18th Group moved to Guadalcanal in Apr.43. Shortly thereafter, on Palm Sunday, 18 April, 43, sixteen pilots of the 12th, 70th and 339th Squadrons, led by then-Major John W. Mitchell, flew an extremely long-range, precisely-calculated intercept mission in their P-38 Lightnings - a mission which resulted in one of the most significant victories of the entire Pacific War - with the loss of but one of the attacking P-38s. After 5 divergent legs, and more than two hours of flight at scorching, wave-top height to avoid enemy radars, the flight climbed for altitude over Bougainville to engage a heavily escorted pair of Japanese 'Betty' bombers. In the ensuing attack, Lieutenant Rex Barber was able to shoot down the Betty bomber carrying Japan's top Admiral, Isoruku Yamamoto; a notable aerial coup of tremendous benefit to the Allies in the Pacific War. Captain Tom Lamphier belatedly fired a burst at the burning Betty before it crashed into the jungle, then claimed shared-credit for one of the most significant aerial victories of the war. Although official Air Force historical records show the credit for Yamamotos shootdown was split between Lieutenant Barber and Captain Lamphier, consensus of the pilots who survived of the mission, as well as Kenji Yanagiya, one of the Japanese escort pilots, concluded that Lieutenant Rex Barber should have been awarded sole credit for downing the Betty with Admiral Yamamoto aboard.
Note: Lieutenant Roger Ames, (who died in June 2000) one of the pilots on the Yamamoto mission, and a member of the 18th FWA, provided much of the background for the description of events in the preceding paragraph. Addresses of five other mission survivors are available. [ Ed, 2/01.]
The 67th, 68th and 339th Squadrons continued to serve under the 347th Fighter Group until the end of World War II, after which the 67th Squadron joined the 18th Fighter Group on Luzon, Philippine Islands.
The 18th Group was commanded by Colonel Wm. H. Council from Dec.43 until Jul.44 when Colonel Milton B. Adams took command and moved the Group to Sansapor, New Guinea on 23 Aug. '44, from where their P-38s escorted bombers to targets in the southern Philippines and Borneo. On 8 Jun.44, the unit designation became 18th Fighter Group, TE (for Twin Engine). The 18th Group received one of several subsequent Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations for their outstanding aerial support at Ormac Bay on 10 Nov.44, when they withstood intense flak and strong opposition from enemy interceptors to attack a Japanese convoy that was attempting to reinforce their units defending against American forces which had landed on Leyte. Moving to Lingayen, Luzon, Philippines in Jan.45, the 18th was able to focus their destructive raids from Borneo to Palawan, west to the China coast, and northward to destroy airfields and rail systems on Formosa. Colonel Harry L. Donicht commanded the Group from May until 1 Aug. 45.
Despite the typical lack of publicity about 13th AF Fighter units during the Pacific war, the 18th and 347th Fighter Groups produced more than a dozen Fighter Aces: Jack Bade, Rex Barber, Truman Barnes, Paul Bechtel, Robert Byrnes, George Chandler, Frank Gaunt, Cyrus Gladen, Bill Harris, Cotsworth Head, Besby Holmes, Tom Lamphier, Joe Lesica, Lucien Shuler (who flew with the 18th again in Korea), Doc Wheaden and Robert Westbrook, the Groups highest scorer with 20 total aerial victories ... all did themselves, their units and their country proud.
The 18th remained in the Philippines to the end of the war, moving from Lingayen to San Jose, Mindoro, Mar '45, then to Zamboanga, Mindanao, May 1945. Lieutenant Colonel Bill Harris, veteran leader of the 339th, commanded the 18th Group from 1 Aug.45 until Lieutenant Colonel Wilbur J. Grumbles took over in Oct.'45 and, after wars end, moved temporarily to Palawan in Nov. '45, where they converted to P-51D aircraft while operating under severe difficulties due to maintenance problems and lack of trained personnel. The 70th Fighter Squadron was inactivated on 26 December 1945, following the end of the war. The remainder of 18th Fighter Group moved to Florida Blanca, sixty miles north of Manila, Luzon, in Mar. '46, where the 437th Fighter Squadron from Laoag, P.I., was merged with the 44th Squadron, and the latter was equipped with part of the first overseas deployment of Lockheed P-80A jet fighters. Colonel Victor R. Haugen assumed command of the Group on 4 Apr.46, with Lieutenant Colonel Earl W. Worley as Deputy.
The Groups P-51Ds were grounded for 20 days from 6 Jun.46, following a succession of similar engine failures. After inspecting each aircraft, limited flying was resumed on 26 Jun.46. Lack of trained specialists and shortage of repair parts were major factors. Despite their personnel problems, the Group managed to fly a forty-plane mass formation while transfering their home base from Palawan to Florida Blanca on 3 July 46, followed later that afternoon by their maintenance and refueling crews. Forty P-51s then flew a 4th of July aerial review over Manila, all returning safely to Florida Blanca. It was recorded that 48 Mustangs were ready for the mass flight, but were not able to be used for the formation due to a pilot shortage, caused by the sudden transfer of 25 Cat V pilots to the US on the previous day. Officer strength dropped to 60, of an authorized 112; and enlisted strength was only 249, of an authorized 336. Living conditions and transportation at Florida Blanca were reported to be wholly inadequate; the group was still living in temporary war-style facilities, and had no vehicles to transport pilots and ground crews to and from their far-distant duties.
Colonel Homer A. Boushey, replaced Colonel Haugen as Group Commander on 7 Aug. '46, and welcomed a contingent of sixteen experienced P-80 pilots from the 412th Fighter Group, March Field, CA, and from Proving Ground Command at Pinecastle, FL. The 18ths newly-assigned, jet powered Lockheed P-80A fighters ...the initial overseas deployment of the United States' first jet fighters, which had arrived in the war zone too late to see action against the enemy. The P-80s had arrived by ship during August. Reports indicate that increased hours were flown during the reporting period, as: 294 in P-51s; 50.5 in P-80s and 51.4 in AT-6s. Two scheduled bi-weekly Group training formation flights were flown: the first consisted of twenty-one P-51s; the 2nd included 19 P-51s and 9 P-80As.
On 9 Sep.46, one of the first fatal P-80 operational* Jet accidents to occur outside of the U. S., killed Major Henry H. Trollope, Commander of the 67th Fighter Squadron. The accident occurred shortly after take-off, and caused all P-80s to be grounded until the cause of the accident could be determined. *(In Jan., 45, a Major Fred Borsodi was fatally injured in a non-operational YP-80 in England during a high speed, low altitude pass, when the tail separated from his aircraft.)
It was noted in their historical report that: although ninety-four Group pilots were qualified in P-51Ds, only 45 were checked-out in the P-80s; and while only three P-80s were classed Combat Ready, with 60 P-51Ds considered ready, needed jet training flights scheduled for Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning were cancelled in order that all available personnel could practice for the parade and review to be given for arrival of General Eubank on 16 Nov.46 .
On 4 Nov. 46, 1Lt Francis L. Welsh, 67th Squadron, was killed in P-51D No. 44-73824, when his left wing reportedly tore off as he was pulling out from a high-speed dive while performing aerobatics. All P-51s were immediately grounded for inspection.
On 18 Nov.46, in a drastic effort to enhance safety, all 18th Group P-80 aircraft and the best-qualified P-80 pilots were transferred to the 67th Squadron. Between 1/2 and 2/3 of Authorized maintenance personnel were also assigned to the 67th. Other experienced personnel were divided amongst the 12th and 44th squadrons until sufficient crews became available to man a third P-51 Squadron, the 12th Airdrome Sq, Provisional.
On 24 Jan.47 four 67th P -80As flown by Colonel H. A. Boushey, Maj Wm. S. Harrell, Captain Frank Moffette and 1st Lieutenant Robert Dwan, made the first recorded long-range over-water flight in jet aircraft. The flight, from Laoag Field on the northern tip of Luzon, P.I, to Yontan, Okinawa, a distance of 759 miles, was flown in one hour-fifty minutes, at a then-startling average ground speed of 450 mph.
The Groups P-51 flying hours rose to 1100 in Jan.47, but again personnel transfers cut into the units efficiency. Lieutenant Colonel Grumbles, Group Ops Officer (whod been 18th Group C.O. a year previously) returned to the US, as did Captain Garrett, 12th Squadron Operations Officer, (whod been 12th Squadron C.O. until Jul.46), was assigned to 13th AF Hqtrs, and was succeeded in the 12th by Major Anderson. Lieutenant Colonel Earl Worley, Deputy Group C.O., succeeded Lieutenant Colonel Grumbles.
1st Lieutenant Bernard M. James, 18th Group Historian noted:. Throughout February rumors and reports definitely indicated that something big was going to happen to the 18th... It was generally believed that the 67th Squadron would move to Okinawa with their P-80s, and that the other units of the 18th Group were going to move to a new station. But when the rumors finally became fact, not even the wildest had come close to what was to happen.
For, after twenty years of continuous active service, the 18th Fighter Group (nee 18th Pursuit Group) was to be de-activated and its personnel scattered! The Group's short-lived jet age ended when a couple P-80As were transferred to the 51st Fighter Group on Okinawa, while the remainder of the new Jets were reloaded aboard freighters in Manila Bay and returned to units in the United States, and in accordance with the US State Dept. program for decreasing the strength of U. S. forces in the Philippines, the 18th Fighter Group was deactivated on the 25th of March, 1947. The unmanned, inactive Group was then commanded temporarily by Major Kenneth M. Taylor, one of the two pilots who had managed to get their P-40s airborne during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 Dec.41.
The inactive period of the 18th Group was short-lived. On 16 September 1947, the 18th Fighter Group, SE, was reactivated by General Order No. 35, 13th AF, 11 Sept. 1947. It was promptly re-manned, and moved 10 miles north to the Dau side of Clark Field, Luzon, P.I. The burden of reorganization fell upon Major Taylor, and upon Major Charles B. Sweeney, who was then serving as Group Adjutant. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph J. Kruzel arrived on 29 Sep.47, to assume command of the Group, and the 12th, 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons were re-assigned to the 18th on 3 Oct.47, with Major Kenneth M. Taylor becoming C.O. of the 12th, Major Franklin H. Scott, C.O. of the 44th, and Major Harold G. Shook, C.O. of the 67th Squadron. Major Victor E. Walton was C.O. of the 82nd Air Engineering Squadron. Other initial assignments included: Personnel (S-1): Captain Theodore T. Lutrey; Intelligence (S-2): 1st Lieutenant John W. Parish; Group Operations Officer (S-3): Major John W. Singleton; Supply Officer (S-4): Captain Nathan C. Haynes, Jr. Captain Gilbert W. Black became Group Air Inspector, and Captain Francis G. Geigel reported shortly thereafter as Group Chaplain. 2nd Lieutenant Max M. Feibelman was appointed Group Special Services Officer. Lieutenant Henry J. Mozzi Group Mess Officer, and Lt William B. Howell served as PX Officer. Lieutenant Colonel Andrew R. Schindler became Deputy Group commander upon his arrival 14 Nov.47.
For the third time in less than a year, the 18th Fighter Group underwent the confusion of retraining, when it was again equipped with a different type of primary aircraft: the Republic P-47. By the end of Nov. 1947, 61 of the Jugs had been received, and pilot check-outs were well under way. The 67th Squadron was assigned 12 P-47s and two AT-6s in Nov.47, then another 13 P-47s in Dec., for a total 27.
On 23 Dec.47, 1st Lieutenant P.C. Smith, flying P-47 No. 44-88725 in formation practice, had complete engine failure while four miles south of Clark Field. Starting to bail-out, he saw the runway was nearby, and decided to attempt a landing. However, he was unable to stretch his glide the last two hundred yards to the runway, and crashed short, into a ditch between the two runways. Smith, had failed to refasten his safety harness after deciding not to bail-out, was thrown clear of the crashed aircraft and sustained severe bruises and scratches. The P-47 received major damage in the first P-47 accident of the 18th Group.
During June, 1948, the Group began re-equipping yet again, with new aircraft ... reverting to the P-51D Mustangs. And, in those times of rapid changes, Major Atlee G. Manthos moved from Group Ops to become C.O. of the 67th Squadron, relieving Major. Harry G. Shook who, after commanding the 67th since re-activation, returned to the US. Captain Frank Bryan became Group Operations Officer; he had previously served as 67th Squadron and 18th Group Intelligence Officer.
In early Aug.48, 1st Lieutenant Charles E. Lindsay, 67th, was killed in a P-47N crash. Then, on 27 Aug.48, 1st Lieutenant Harold E. Miller , 67th Engineering Officer, on a routine proficiency flight in P-47N, 44-88407, was seen in a flaming 30 degree dive about eight miles south of Clark Field. The aircraft exploded immediately upon impact. No radio reports had been received from the stricken aircraft prior to the crash.
The first of the 18ths new F-51D Mustangs ... the P for Pursuit had been dropped in favor of F for Fighter in the new Air Force vocabulary .. began to arrive in early Jul.48. A new layer of command structure was provided in August 1948, with formation of the 18th Fighter Wing, commanded by B/Gen. Robert C. Oliver, inter-leaved between the 18th Fighter Group and 13th Air Force. Colonel Marion Malcolm transfered from Japan on 3 Sep.'48 to replace Lieutenant Colonel Kruzel, as 18th Fighter Group C.O.
Shortly thereafter, on 8 Sep.48, a major tragedy struck, when a severe, typhoon-like weather front sped across from mainland China, from where no meteorological information was available to US forces...
Lieutenant Colonel Kruzel, awaiting his return to the US, was leading a formation of 16 of the 18ths oldest, most decrepit, surplus P-47s which were being ferried to the island of Guam by way of Tainan, Formosa. The unpredicted fast-moving weather front struck as the formation neared Formosa, separating the flights in the thick, rock-filled clouds; few of the Jugs were able to reach their planned destinations. All but five of the pilots managed to make emergency landings on some of the many deserted Japanese airstrips along the rugged west coast of Formosa. The five missing pilots, all from the 12th Fighter Squadron, were not located for several days. One, 1Lt Robert E. Coon , had flown around in the weather with only basic instruments, and no magnetic compass, until nearly out of fuel, when he sighted a stretch of beach on the east coast through a small break in the clouds, and managed to safely belly-land his airplane on the sand. Four wrecked aircraft were later found near the top of the mountain range on the southwest coast of Formosa, where they had crashed while still in close formation. The bodies of Lts. Richard W. Crawford, Winfield W. Cooper, and Richard M. Siegler were found still in their cockpits.
The fourth member of the flight, 1Lt William H. Rabun, was knocked unconscious when he crashed into the mountain. He regained consciousness approximately five hours later and, not knowing the fate of the other flight members, struggled painfully for two days and nights to work his way down the steep mountain, where he was finally found by Taiwanese natives who helped him to reach Tainan, from where he was airlifted back to Clark Field in a B-17 of the 5th Recon. Group, piloted by 1st Lieutenant Harold O. Korbol.
During that same week of 8 Sep.48, a flight of 12 F-51 Mustangs were being ferried from Japan to Clark Field by 35th Fighter Group pilots. Among those ferry pilots was 1st Lieutenant Duane E. Bud Biteman, recently-arrived member of the 40th Squadron, Johnson AFB, Japan. The Mustang flight encountered the same Formosan killer-front during their long 600 mile over-water flight from Okinawa toward Laoag, on the northern tip of Luzon. Unable to penetrate the stratospheric tops of the weather build-ups in the north, the flight descended to wave-top level to scout the entire eastern coast of the island to a point opposite Manila, without finding a suitable break in the low overcast which would enable them to cross the mountainous jungle ridge. With no radio aids at Clark Field to permit instrument landing, the flight was forced to return, setting a straight-line 800 mile over-water course for the island of Okinawa. After eight hours of cramped formation flight, the twelve Mustangs landed safely at Kadena air base, with minimum fuel remaining. This F-51 Mustang flight, fortunately, had been escorted by a B-26 with a qualified Navigator aboard; the ill-fated P-47 flight to Formosa had not.
To bolster the sudden loss of pilot crews, attributed to normal rotation policy as well as to the recent Formosan fatalities, an emergency transfer of ten experienced F-51 Mustang pilots from Fighter bases in Japan was promptly inaugurated by Far East Air Force Hq. Among the pilots who were assigned to the three squadrons of the 18th were: Captain Harry H. Moreland, 1st Lieutenant Duane E. Bud Biteman, 1st Lieutenant Robert B. Hinck, 1st Lieutenant Howard C. Johnson, 1st Lieutenant Charles Schreffler, and 1st Lieutenant William S. Slater; all of whom had flown P-51 Mustangs extensively during World War II.
October, 1948 was marked by practice for review and parade formations honoring departing 13th AF Commander, M/Gen. E. L. Eubank. His position was assumed by B/Gen. Robert C. Oliver , former 18th Wing Commander. Colonel H. K. Baisley took command of the Wing on 1 Nov.48. General Oliver completed his Clark tour in late Nov.48, at about the same time 13th AF Hqtrs. was moved to Okinawa. B/Gen. Jarred V. Crabb assumed command of the 18th Fighter Wing, which remained in the Philippines. Other changes of key personnel included the transfer of Major Atlee Manthos to the 5th Reconnaissancence Group. Assuming his position as C.O. of the 67th Squadron was Major Louis J. Sebille, who had previously transferred from the 82nd Air Engineering Squadron to become 18th Group Flying Safety Officer., Lieutenant Colonel Henry H. Norman arrived in Dec.48 to become Deputy Group C.O.
Despite the onus of continuing F-51 accidents, a regrettable, but routine occurrence with the new Air Forces war-weary World War II equipment, the Group went proudly for 119 continuous days without mishap of any kind, until 21 Sep.49, when 1st Lieutenant Charles D. Hauver , 12th Squadron, stalled prematurely on the final approach to landing, and struck the ground before corrective action could be applied. Lieutenant Hauver had only slight head injuries, but the aircraft was demolished.
Other in-flight mechanical problems were solved more satisfactorily: On 29 Aug.49, 1st Lieutenant John F. Begley, 12th Squadron, had a landing gear down-lock malfunction, preventing the F-51s left landing gear from extending. After attempting all known alternate procedures, and running low on fuel, Lieutenant Begley flew a final approach pattern during which he purposely bounced the extended right wheel on the runway, successfully jarring the left down-lock loose, enabling the left gear to fall into place, after which he was able to make a careful normal landing with no damage to the aircraft. On 23 Sep.49, 1st Lieutenant Ernest C. Ball, 44th Squadron, felt an engine cylinder blow while at 6000 feet, a dozen miles upwind of Clark Field. Lieutenant Ball was able to calmly fly a power-off dead-stick pattern to land safely at Clark.
Two Mustangs on a routine formation training flight on 7 Nov. 49, collided in mid-air while several miles from home base. Both pilots maneuvered their crippled F-51s back toward Clark, where one made a wheels-up landing on Runway 20 Left, while the other made a normal gear-down landing in the opposite direction on the parallel runway, 02 Left. Neither pilot was injured, but both aircraft were damaged beyond repair.
On 9 Nov.49, Colonel Raymond E. Toliver, C.O. of the 24th Maint. Grp, presented the 18th Wings first Lockheed F-80C to Lieutenant Colonel Henry H. Norman , newly-designated 18th Fighter Group Commander, who had replaced Colonel. Marion Malcolm upon the latters return to the US. Colonel Tolivers people had assembled and tested the new aircraft following sea delivery to Sangley Point Naval Station, Manila, after which they were flown to Clark for final inspection and delivery to the 18th squadrons. Colonel Hank Norman, in turn, presented that first F-80C to Major Louis J. Sebille, Commander of the 67th Squadron, whose Squadron, as they had previously, in 1946, became the first unit of the 18th to receive the new Jets.
The Group was re-designated "18th Fighter-Bomber Group" in Jan.50, and once again completed their conversion to Lockheed's much improved P-80C jet fighters.
Concurrent with successful completion of their first Jet OR (Operational Readiness Test) on 17 Nov.49, was the arrival of a distressing list of non-regular (Reserve) Officers selected for involuntary release from active duty in response to budget reduction orders of Secretary of Defense Johnson. This latest of the Johnson Purges struck deeply into all units of the Group. Nineteen highly-qualified pilots were notified by letter of their selection for immediate release from active duty; of these, only six were offered the opportunity to remain on active duty in their current rank, but in a non-flying, non-rated capacity. Five of the six chose to accept that option; the other fourteen officers were transferred to the US within a month. The five who chose to remain on active duty were later offered the chance to volunteer for combat flight duty in Korea in July 1950. The five elected to fly again, but none survived the first year of combat in the Korean War)
Lieutenant Colonel Ira F. Ike Wintermute assumed Group Operations and Training responsibilities late in Nov. 49, and First Lieutenant Duane E. Bud Biteman was transferred from the 67th Squadron to 18th Group Hdqtrs. as Group Intelligence Officer, S-2. Several old-timers left the Squadrons upon completion of their tours, being replaced by many newly-commissioned Second Lieutenants fresh from flying school ... including some from Class 49-C, whose accident records following graduation were sufficient to generate special watch warnings from USAF, requiring each new pilot to undergo rigorous individual retest and re-training. The two 49-C graduates assigned to the 18th Fighter Group, however, were fully capable. One, 1st Lieutenant James R. Allen, went on to fly more than 150 combat missions in Korea, and after a highly-successful 30 year Air Force career, retired as a four-star General commanding USAFs Military Airlift Command.
On 20 Dec.49, 1Lt Don C. Upshaw, 67th Squadron, had a loss of jet engine power .... flame out ... ten miles North of Clark Field. He was able to successfully belly-land the F-80 without injury to himself, but damage to the jet aircraft was considerable.
Major James W. Bothwell, 12th Squadron C.O. returned the US in May, 50, and was replaced by Major James S. McKown, who had previously served as the 18th Group S-4 (Supply) Officer.
Lieutenant Colonel Wintermute, soon promoted to Colonel, became 18th Fighter Bomber Group C.O. on 16 June, 1950, just nine short days before the invasion of South Korea by North Korean Communist forces on 25 June, 1950.
Upon learning of the North Korean attack, Far East Air Forces, FEAF, ordered 13th Air Force to form the Dallas Provisional Squadron ... from amongst the most experienced P-51 pilots in the 18th Group's three squadrons".
Although the Group had mothballed and disposed of their Mustangs six months previously, and were currently flying the P-80C jets, the "Dallas" unit (Dallas Provisional Squadron) was quickly formed with volunteers from the many highly experienced Mustang pilots of the 12th, 44th, and 67th squadrons, as well as other 18th and Base personnel. Captain (soon to be Major) Harry H. Moreland, of the 12th Squadron, was named to Command the newly-formed combat unit when it moved north to Japan, thence to the primitive dirt airstrip at Taegu (K-2), South Korea, arriving on 10 July, 1950 ...without aircraft. 1st Lieutenant Bud Biteman, again a combat pilot, became the units S-2 Officer as well. Moreland's Dallas Squadron was promptly merged with volunteers from Major Dean Hess's "Bout One" unit... whose Japan-based pilots had delivered ten derelict P-51 Mustangs donated by President Truman to the small, hopelessly untrained South Korean Air Force, and had then remained to fly combat missions against the enemy. The combined "Bout One" and " Dallas Provisional Squadron" became, for a brief period, the "51st Provisional Squadron", commencing to fly the remainder of the initial ten Mustangs against the enemy from Taegu's rough runway from 14 July, 1950. They were soon re-designated the 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, following arrival of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group Headquarters at Taegu on 28 July, 1950.
South Korean President Syngman Rhee, commenting upon the gallantry of those early volunteer crews of the newly-redesignated 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, compared their actions with those of the AVG (American Volunteer Group) in China early in World War II, referred to them as the "Flying Tigers of South Korea". Within days the 12th Squadron Mustangs were repainted with the ferocious Shark-tooth nose design, proudly retained throughout the War.
Major Louis J. Sebilles 67th Squadron moved from Clark Field at the same time, also without aircraft, but were forced to base at Ashiya, Japan, because there was insufficient space to operate a second squadron from the rapidly-deteriorating sand airstrip at Taegu. Within the week, on 5 Aug.50, Major Sebille would be killed in action, later to be awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, the first of but two awarded to Air Force personnel during the entire Korean War. Captain Bob Howell, 67th Operations Officer, was killed within the hour, just a short distance away.
The 18th Group Hdqtrs moved from Taegu to Ashiya, on 8 Aug.50. The welcome arrival of the Navy aircraft carrier USS Boxer to Japan, following a record 7-day run from San Francisco to Tokyo, her decks crammed with 145 hastily-acquired F-51s from National Guard units throughout the U.S., plus a much needed cadre of seventy replacement pilots, allowed the 67th to become operational and provided vital replacement aircraft and crews for the 12th Squadron and other recently-converted FEAF F-51 units.
The 44th Squadron remained at Clark Field to provide sole air protection of the entire South Pacific, Philippine Islands and Formosa areas, with their single squadron of F-80Cs, while at the same time providing pilot rotation resources for the two 18th units fighting in Korea. The F-80 aircraft left behind at Clark by the 12th and 67th Squadrons. furnished Far East Air Force with a replacement pool for the many F-80s later to be lost in Korea.
The imminent potential loss of K-2 airbase at Taegu to advancing North Korean ground forces during the dark days of the "Pusan Perimeter" period, led to a hasty evacuation of the 12th Squadron on 6 Aug.50 , to Ashiya, Japan, where they joined the 67th Squadron and 18th Group Headquarters. But U.S. and allied ground forces held their ground, despite enemy forces within artillery range on three sides, and the Taegu base did not fall. A Refuel-Rearm operation, headed by 1st Lieutenant Harry Dugan remained active at Taegu the whole time, to ease the load of the extra added hour of flying time required from Ashiya to the targets surrounding the beleaguered base. Another airfield, K-9, near the port city of Pusan, it's paving badly deteriorated by heavily-laden transports early in the war, was quickly refurbished to minimal operation, so that the 18th's two Squadrons (12th and 67th) could move back across the Sea of Japan from Ashiya on 8 Sep.50. The return to primitive combat living conditions, following the relative creature comforts of Ashiya, soon caused the airfield designator "K-9" to become "Canine " and the field was promptly, though unofficially, renamed "Dogpatch" in recognition of the similarities to cartoonist Al Capp's then-popular comic strip village, and 'Lil Abner and Daisy Mae' became part of the 18th Group's unofficial insignia. The move to Pusan allowed the 18th to resume it's heavy pounding around the Pusan Perimeter without resorting to long-range auxiliary wing tanks as had been required for the combat flights from Ashiya.
The invasion of Inchon on 15 Sep 1950, produced an immediate change to the face of the Korean war; within days the enemy in the South was running north in headlong retreat. But despite their reversed direction, many were still able to exact a heavy toll on the 18th's low flying Mustangs by concentrated pockets of heavy flak in the far north, and pilot casualties continued to mount. The months of October and early November 1950, provided almost continuous advances to the north by United Nations forces until, following the fall of Pyongyang in mid-November, 1950, the 18th Group, on 21 Nov.'50, was able to leap-frog its base of operations all the way to the former North Korean capitol city's heavily damaged airfield K-24, Pyongyang East for a very brief stay, until they were forced out by the intrusion of Chinese forces into the war, moving back south to Suwon in early Dec.50, and ultimately in mid-December '50, to Chinhae, K-10, on the southern coast, which, subsequently, was also renamed "Dogpatch". A forward staging base was built from a light-plane landing strip on a small sand island in the middle of the Han River near Seoul, K-16.
At approximately the same time, SAAF ... South African Air Forces No. 2 Squadron, the "Flying, fighting Cheetahs", with F-51 Mustangs they had purchased from the USAF, was attached to the 18th Group for operational control and support, where they remained until the fighting ended. High loss rates behind the lines, especially when supporting ground troops, was testament to the bravery of SAAF pilots.
Colonel Curtis R. Low assumed command of the 18th Wing in Dec.50, followed by B/Gen. Turner C. Rogers on 1 Feb '51. Colonel Ike Wintermute passed command of the 18th Group to Colonel Homer M. Cox on 20 Feb.'51, as the battle lines continued to see-saw north and south in the general vicinity of the 38th Parallel.
On 7 May '51, the 39th Squadron of the 35th Fighter-Bomber Group was transferred into the 18th Group, with a new Group C.O., Colonel William P. McBride, as part of a plan to consolidate all F-51 Mustang squadrons into a single unit, as the 35th Group converted their aircraft equipment to newer Jets. Colonel McBride later turned the 18th Group over to Colonel. Ralph H. Salty Saltzman on 5 Jun.'51, who commanded until 30 Nov. '51, when Colonel Seymour M. Levenson took over. The 39th remained with the 18th, flying their workhorse F-51 Mustangs until 17 May, 1952, when most of their crews were absorbed into the 51st Fighter Group for conversion to F-86s. The 18th Group continued with their old F-51 Mustangs... the last in the Korean Theater ...in fact, the last USAF Group to fly the venerable 51 Mustang Spam Cans in combat ... until they too upgraded to F-86Fs in early 1953. Major James P. Hagerstrom became the 18th's first jet Ace before a tenuous cease-fire ended hostilities in mid-1953.
[ Ed Note: The following untold story was belatedly revealed in an article in Sabrejet Classics, the magazine of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association during 1996. ]
On 15 July, 1953, a significant series of events occurred, during which the 18th Fighter Wing greatly and favorably affected the eventual outcome of the Korean war, when a flight of their F-86Fs, returning from a combat mission, detected an unusual build-up of troops and facilities immediately north of the then-current bomb-line. The pilots attacked the targets with their sparse, remaining machine gun ammunition, causing multiple large secondary explosions, which indicated the presence of a large ammunition store. Reporting their sightings upon return to base, they begged that additional bombing strikes be scheduled as quickly as the jets could be loaded and turned around, before the enemy could slip away under cover of pending darkness. The Duty Operations Officer, Major Flamm Dee Harper, after frustrating attempts to reach higher Wing or 5th AF authority to secure necessary Permission to Launch, finally took it upon himself to schedule flight after flight, scores of night ground attack sorties against the newly-discovered Chinese targets.
During the following days, when the smoke eventually cleared, it was learned that the Red forces had secretly amassed thousands of troops and massive quantities of ammunition and supplies, preparing to launch one last, great Summer Offensive with which to dictate Truce terms to the United Nations. Subsequent evaluation of the potential results, had the 18th not interrupted their grandiose plans, indicated that a Chinese offensive of that magnitude could possibly have driven UN forces from the Korean peninsula.
The seeming rapid rate of turnover of 18th Group, and Wing Commanders was dictated, in part, by the extremely fast pace of the Korean air war and of mission tour completions. It was not unusual for an aggressive fighter pilot to complete a 100 mission Combat Tour in fewer than three months, and be eligible for transfer outside the combat theater as soon as a replacement pilot could be made available.
The 18th Wing was commanded by Colonel Ernest G. Ford from 2 Feb.52, then by Colonel William H. Clark from 7 Mar. '52 until l Jan. '53, when Colonel Frank S. Perego assumed command. He in turn, was followed by Colonel John C. Edwards on 15 Jun '53; Colonel Maurice L. Martin on 5 Jul '53; Colonel Avelin P. Tacon,, on 31 Jul. '53; Colonel William D. Gilchrist on 17 Jul.54; Colonel Cecil P. Lessig on 26 Jul.'54 and the Wing was commanded by Colonel John R. Murphy from 9 Nov. '54 until 4 Feb. 1955.
The 18th Fighter-Bomber Group , meanwhile, was commanded by Colonel Sheldon S. Brinson from 17 May '52; Colonel Albert J. Freund from 25 Nov.'52; Colonel Maurice Martin from 24 Jan. '53 until 5 Jul. '53, when he took over the Wing. He was followed by Colonel Edward L. Rathbun on 24 May '54; by Lieutenant Colonel Clifford P. Patton on 17 Aug. '54; Col Nathan J. Adams, 7 Sep. '54; and briefly by Colonel John R. Murphy on 1 Nov. '54 as the Wing moved to Kadena AFB, Okinawa. Murphy then assumed command of the Wing on 9 Nov. '54. Clifford P. Patton as a Colonel, resumed command on 10 Nov. '54, until 1 Jan '55, when command was passed to Colonel Paul E. Hoeper. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph C. Andres took command of the Group on 22 Jul. '55, as the long-detached 44th Squadron was finally moved from Clark AFB to rejoin the 12th and 67th Sqds. at Kadena, Okinawa. Colonel Leo C. Moon became 18th Fighter-Bomber Group Commander on 21 November, 1955.
The 18th Wing converted from F-86Fs to F-100s in 57, and the 15th Tac Recon Squadron, with RF-101s, was attached to the 18th in Mar.60, and later Assigned, in April 70. The 18th received F-105s during 1963, and detached the 44th, and 15th Tac Recon Squadrons to support Vietnam operations under the 2nd Air Div. in Korat, Thailand, from late 64*, until December 1970, while the 67th name moved to Misawa, Japan in Dec.,67. The 12th Sq. remained at Kadena until it was deployed to Osan, South Korea, from Jan. to Jun. 1968, after seizure of the USS Pueblo. The 67th was reassigned to the 18th at Kadena on 11 Mar.71.
F-4Cs were received by the 18th in 1971, and F-4Ds in 1975; they converted to F-15 Eagles in 1979. The unit was re-designated the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, and with the exception of the 12th Tac Fighter Squadron, which was deactivated on 9 November 1999, the 44th and 67th Squadrons continue to guard America's far Pacific interests, still flying their 20-year old F-15Cs and Ds from Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan..
The roster of subsequent Wing Commanders of the 18th reads like a select list of Fighter Notables of the Korean and Viet Nam Wars: Colonel John R. Murphy was followed by Colonel Homer C. Rankin, Feb.'55; Colonel Glendon P. Overing, Apr '55; Colonel Robert C. Orth, May'56; Colonel William S. Chairsell, Jul.58; Colonel Gust Askounis, Aug.'58; Colonel Francis R. Royal, Aug.'58; Colonel James A. Wilson, Jul.'60; Colonel Francis S. Gabreski, Aug.'60; Colonel George B. Simler, Jun.'62; Colonel Jones E. Bolt, May '64; Colonel Robert L. Cardenas, Jul.'64; Colonel Neil J. Graham, Jun.'66; Colonel Clarence E. Anderson, Jr., Jun.'67; Colonel Monroe S. Sams, Dec.'67; Colonel Phillip V. Howell, Jr., Jun '70; B/Gen. Robert F. Titus, May '71; Colonel Harold K. Wimberly, May '73; Colonel Chas. H. Hausenfleck, Jun.'74; B/Gen. Clyde F. McClain, Dec. '74 and, as additional duties, M/Gen. Lynwood E. Clark, Jul. '75 and B/Gen. Walter H. Baxter, June 1976.
The 18th Fighter Wing, on almost continuous operational duty since the inception of the 18th Pursuit Group at Wheeler Field, Hawaii in 1927, has been steadfastly guarding our countrys interests throughout the Far Pacific for close to seventy years, but as a unit, has never been based within the continental United States.
| Revised Feb. 2001
Duane E. ' Bud ' Biteman,
Lt Col, USAF, Ret
Founder and 1st President,
18th Fighter Wing Association
..one of those OLD, Bold 18th Fighter Pilots