Saturday, August 4, 2012

First Call to Duty, Mustangs, and a Look Into the Past

This is the second installment of a series featuring the local Air National Guard outfit that's based in Niagara Falls, NY.

When last we saw our intrepid Guardsmen, they were flying the Republic F-47 (nee P-47) Thunderbolt during the late 1940s and into the early 50s. On March 1st, 1951 the 136th Fighter Squadron was ordered into active duty for 21 months, and forty percent of its personnel were sent overseas to serve in Korea, Germany, Alaska, Guam, and the Philippines. While serving in Korea, Lt. Arnold Wackerman was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In late 1952 the 136th Fighter Squadron personnel deployed to Korea returned home, and that December the outfit completed its conversion to a new mount... the North American F-51H (nee P-51H) Mustang. Unfortunately, we have only one photo of the F-51H in 136th service to share. But it's perhaps somewhat appropriate that we have just the one photo... the F-51H served with the 136th for just a little over a year; the shortest tenure of any principal type used by the outfit.

Niagara's 107th Fighter Interceptor Group
40th Anniversary Book

Another change took place during 1952, one which reflected the 136th's mission of Air Defense; the 107th Fighter Group was re-designated as a Fighter Interceptor Group, with its component squadrons being similarly re-designated. Thus, the 136th Fighter Squadron became the 136th Fighter Interceptor Squadron.


As we have only the one photo to share for this period in the 136th's history, your blogmeister thought it appropriate to look back into the outfit's lineage to a time when an earlier model of the P-51 was flown by the 136th's predecessors...

On August 12th, 1942 the 339th Bombardment Group (Dive) was activated at Hunter Field in Savannah, Georgia, and was initially equipped with the A-24 Banshee and A-25 Shrike. (USAAF versions of the Navy's Douglas SBD Dauntless and Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, respectively) The outfit converted to the Bell P-39 Airacobra in July of 1943, and was also re-designated as the 339th Fighter Bomber Group.

Deploying to England in early 1944, the 339th converted to the type with which it would go into combat... the North American P-51 Mustang... and was again re-designated as the 339th Fighter Group. In October of 1945 the 339th returned to the States and was inactivated, but in May of 1946 was re-activated, re-designated as the 107th Fighter Group, and alotted to the New York National Guard, eventually being officially recognized by Uncle Sam in 1948.

When the 339th was given its new identity as the 107th, the outfit's component squadrons, the 503rd, 504th, and 505th, followed suit, with the 503rd Fighter Squadron being re-designated as the 136th Fighter Squadron. So, now that we've established that connection, here's a few photos of the 136th's predecessors, the 503rd Fighter Squadron, during World War II...

The NARA caption for this first photo reads:
North American P-51 "Mustang" in revetment in England. 16 January 1945.

This is P-51C serial number 43-25050, assigned to Lt. Esteban A. Terrats of the 503rd FS. Lt. Terrats, who hailed from Santurce, Puerto Rico, was KIA while flying this aircraft on March 2nd, 1945. 

NARA via Fold3

 P-51D 44-11325, coded D7-K, named 'Princess Pat', flown by Lt Philip E. Petitt, 503rd FS, 339th FG. This ship was lost on April 7th, 1945, due to friendly fire. Lt Davie (David?) A. MacKenzie was KIA. 

Project 914 Archives (S.Donacik collection)

Howsabout some gun camera stills?

LtCol. Dale E. Shafer claimed an Arado 234 destroyed on April 18th, 1945... (defunct site)

Lt. Clarence Ferrell caught this Me 262 in his sights briefly on April 17th, 1945, but apparently didn't damage the jet as no claim was made. (defunct site)

 November 27th, 1944... Lt. Luther Francis, has a blast while strafing a train... (defunct site) (defunct site)

Project 914 Archives

Project 914 Archives

Project 914 Archives

Next time we look in on the boys of the 136th, they'll be flying jets...

Fade to Black...

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