THE BEGINNING


In 1954 the U.S. deployed several Air Force fighter-interceptor units to the East coast of England. The Korean War had ended the year before, and a Westward attack was a possibility. The purpose of this deployment was to protect the U.K. by providing a means to interdict enemy air attack from across the North Sea. (See red line on map.) The 87th Fighter Squadron at Sioux City, Iowa was one of the units chosen to be deployed.


WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY

The 87th had been at Sioux City for some time training in the F-51 which was our third fighter committed to battle in Korea. The piston powered F-51 had been sent to augment the F-80's and F-82's. But they still needed more help to counter the very efficient enemy MiG-15 jet fighter.

The magnificent F-86A Sabre, America's first swept wing jet fighter was committed to combat in Korea shortly after the MiG-15 was. The 86's turned the tide in the air war. At the end of the war it was determined that the 86A had achieved a 15:1 kill ratio over the MiG-15, and had enabled 39 American jet Air Aces. This was accomplished primarily with its six .50 caliber machine guns and range-only radar.

The hot war was over and the cold war began. The beautiful 86A and the 51 were both now obsolete and the new generation of 86's was on hand. The aircraft chosen to re-equip the 87th Fighter Squadron was the newer, larger, faster F-86D Sabre , known affectionately as the "Dog" because of its "D" designator's position in the old phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, etc). It was our nation's first single seat, all weather/night fighter. It was equipped with intercept radar, two dozen Mighty Mouse rockets, afterburner, and dive brakes among other niceties. A formidable war machine to be sure. Just exactly what we needed to perform guard duty over the North Sea. Now we had a new squadron of airplanes, a new assignment, a new place to go, and needed new people to fly and service the new planes. Every man in the unit was hand picked from all the fighter outfits all over the U. S. as the best suited for this deployment. The squadron was now complete.

In December of 1954 all the support equipment was crated up, and together with the men, shipped by train and sea to a place in England known as RAF Bentwaters. The planes were flown over later. The place was a WWII Royal Air Force base, operated by the USAF 81st FBW, cleaned up a little, and expanded somewhat to accommodate our new unit of about 250 men and 25 jet fighters. It was located on that big bulge in the East coastline known as East Anglia. (See the green spot on the map.) The area had been used extensively by the USAAF during WWII.

Soon after its deployment the unit was redesignated 512th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. No one yet knew that the "512th" was to become famous, but it had all the potential. The squadron was commanded by a WWII fighter ace named Mike Quirk, a colonel who earned his fame flying fighters out of East Anglia, protecting U.S. bombers over Europe. His second in command was Frank Bohn, a major who gained his fame over WWII North Africa in a P-39 Airacobra, shooting up Rommel's tanks with its 37mm cannon. Mike's maintenance officer was a real prize; a "take no nonsense" old Captain by the name of Roy Sweigard who had been on the ship when Doolittle did Tokyo. He really knew how to run a maintenance group.

The 512th pilots were mostly a top notch group of young, recent grads from F-86D school with plenty of hours in the type. The backbone of any fighting organization, the senior non-commissioned officers, were all experienced individuals on their second or third hitches, ready for anything. The lower ranking men were the best available including a bunch of college boys. We were ready to go to work.

To be continued...



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