Friday, June 22, 2012

Thunderbolts at Niagara

Waaaay back a long time ago in 1948... December 8th, 1948, to be exact... the 107th Fighter Group officially gained recognition from Uncle Sam and came into being at Naval Air Station Niagara Falls, New York as part of the New York National Guard's newly formed 52nd Fighter Wing. The first of four component squadrons, the 136th, was also activated on that day and was tasked with the defense of Western New York skies.

Although HQ for the 107th would eventually move to Syracuse, NY in 1951, the 136th Fighter Squadron would remain in Niagara Falls... and they're still here, although they're no longer in the fighter business; they traded in their last fighters long ago for tankers, and now they're an airlift outfit.

Anyhoo, back when they first opened shop in 1948, the 136th Fighter Squadron's first mount was the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt... or should I say, F-47D... which they flew until 1952. They were also equipped with a C-47, a pair each of AT-6s, AT-11s, and L-5s, as well as four A-25 target tugs. But it is the Thunderbolt that's covered in this installment of 'BuffaloWingz'... enjoy...


P-47D 44-32669 had previously served with the 1st Brazilian Fighter Squadron, attached to the 350th Fighter Group, Twelfth Air Force, during World War II. She eventually served as a gate guardian at an unknown (to me) USAFB and apparently still survives today... according to this ship's entry in the WRG Warbird Registry, her last known location was Chino, California circa 1988.

Peter Bowers via David Menard collection via Replica in Scale

P-47D 44-32849 went on to serve with the Dominican Air Force.

Jug drivers of the 136th Fighter Squadron pose with one of their steeds... note the early rendition of the 'Electric Chicken' emblem worn by some of these pilots on their flight jackets.

Without the guys in this next photo, the fellas in the shot above wouldn't have had any fun. They say that fighter pilots make movies and bomber pilots make history... well, the ground crews make it all happen.

And here they are... the guys who make it all happen... making it happen...

Without the 'wrench jockeys', scenes like this next one would not have been possible... a ramp full of Jugs, ready to go. This photo may have been taken during annual field training at Dover AFB, Delaware in 1949 or at Grenier AFB, New Hampshire in 1950. During the latter outing, the 136th set a record for flying time... 1000 hours in two weeks; a record which stood for at least the next forty years and which may still stand today.

Airmen of the 136th lined up for inspection in front of what may be one of the old Bell hangars. I wouldn't want to have been the guy responsible for washing all those windows...

Every outfit has a leader... here we see the 107th FG's commanding officer, Major Lawrence Dissette, on the right with two unidentified members of the 107th. Dissette flew P-47s and P-51s with the 358th FS, 355th FG during WWII, scoring one confirmed victory in the air, another damaged, (both Bf 109s) and six on the ground. He was shot down on April 16th, 1945 while strafing but evaded capture. Look HERE for a French webpage with more info about Dissette's accomplishments during the war. (The link will open up in 'Google Translate'... click on the 'Translating' link to see the page translated to English.)

Source for all photos, unless noted:
 Niagara's 107th Fighter Interceptor Group
40th Anniversary Book

Visit this page on the 107th Airlift Wing's website for some old 136th FS newsletters... they're on the right-hand side under 'Historical T-Birds' and are downloadable PDF files. You'll be treated to a glimpse of the past, to a time when this world of ours was a somewhat different place, when there were no cell phones, tablets, or other whiz-bang gizmos to help us all keep abreast of the news or keep in touch with one another instantly, at the press of a button.... or to help us print out a fancy-schmancy newsletter... or to let us blog on the net about our favorite subjects.

That's it for this installment... if all goes well, the next time we look in on the boys of the 136th Fighter Squadron, they'll be flying the ugliest P-51 ever made...

Fade to Black...

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