The History of the Fighting 69th
The 69th Fighter Squadron began inactivating in October 2000, and was officially inactivated on 2 February 2001; thus marking the fifth time since its inception that the unit inactivated. The inactivation comes as a result of the Department of Defense's 1999 Force Structure Announcement and consequent reorganizatioin and redesignation of the 347th Wing as the 347th Rescue Wing.
The 69th Fighter Squadron (FS), traditionally associated with the 58th Fighter Group (FG) since World War II, has played and extensive role in air operations of both the U.S. Army Air Force and the U.S. Air Force. Constituted as the 69th Pursuit Squadron (PS) (Interceptor) on 20 November 1949, the unit activated on 15 January 1941 with the 67PS and 68PS at Selfridge Field, Mount Clemens, Michigan. In October 1941, the entire group moved to Harding Army Air Base, Baton Rouge, LA. All three squadrons operated with Seversky P-35, Curtiss P-36 and Republic P-43 aircraft.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, triggered some drastic changes in the development of the 58th PG. In Early 1942, the 67th PS and 68th PS left Baton Rouge and journeyed to the Pacific Theatre eventually joining the 347th FG. In February 1942, the 310th PS and 311PS were activated to join the 69th under the reorganized 58PG. The entire group moved to Dale Mabry Army Air Base at Tallahassee, FL, in March 1942 beginning a 13 month stint as an operational and replacement training unit. The group trained together until June 1942 when the 69th (Now 69FS) moved to Drew Field, FL, and later to Sarasota, FL, returning to the 58th FG at Tallahassee in September. The group operated with Bell P-39 “Airacobra” aircraft, converting to Curtiss P-40F “Warhawk” aircraft with Rolls Royce V-1650 engines after moving to Richmond Army Air Base, Richmond, VA, in September.
In November 1942, the 69th FS moved to Philadelphia Municipal Airport, operating in the Air National Guard facilities, while the 310FS and 311FS moved to Andrews Field in the Washington, DC, area. In March 1943, the 69th FS moved to Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, CT, and then on to Bedford Army Air Base in Bedford, MA, while the 310th FS and 311th FS moved on to Green Field in Providence, Rhode Island. At Bedford Army Air Base, the 69th FS began its transition to the Republic P-47 “Thunderbolt” aircraft. It was at Bedford that the unofficial "Werewolves" (We are Wolves) insignia was created, gaining favor over the official squadron insignia. In September 1943, the group reassembled at Grenier Field, NH, with overseas movement beginning 22 October 1943. A month later the group arrived at Eagle Farms, Brisbane, Australia, and began 23 months of movement and combat in the Southwest Pacific area. On 29 December 1943, the 69th FS officially began operations at Dobodura, New Gunea. There, they stood ground alerts. Interestingly enough, some were paid their overseas pay in Pound notes and Shillings.
On 3 of April 1944, the squadron left Dobodura for Sador, New Gunea. While at Sador, the 69th FS operated heavily against the Wewak and Hansa Bay areas. They also received a good dose of bombings and strafings at home by the Japanese. By September 1944, the situation tapered off and the unit left for Noemfor Island, Dutch East Indies. The main body of the unit, along with the rest of the 58FG arrived on 30 August 1944 while crews arrived on 6 September 1944. Here, they continued combat missions (mostly attack). The fighter, attack and medium bomber aircraft of the Fifth Air Force repeatedly raided the enemy airfields in the northern Moluccas and attempted to isolate the island of Morotai. It was October 1944 when General Douglas MacArthur landed at Leyte Island, Philippines and stated the famous words “I have returned”.
On 7 November 1944, the 69th FS left Noemfor and moved to San Roque, Leyte. But as Leyte was a disappointment to the commanders in terms of its potential airfields and facilities, so it was a disappointment to the airmen who had long awaited their escape from New Gunea. Rain flooded camp areas, storms blew down tents, mud defied description and oppressively humid heat made life generally uncomfortable. Food was poor, monotonous and served in unappetizing condition. Liver flukes made bathing in streams dangerous and despite the rains, water for drinking and bathing was often scarce. The Fifth Air Force, ever fearful of paratroop attack ordered heavy perimeter guards and basic training after duty hours for those on the airfields. Unrelieved dampness caused many fungus and skin irritations, while human oriented diseases born by the natives were severe. Leyte proved to be an island which few of the American airman wished to revisit after they had seen it.
In December 1944, the 69th FS left Leyte on a LST in convoy to San Jose, at the southern end of Mindoro, arriving on 22 December 1944. Camp at Hill Field, the airstrip used by the 69th FS at San Jose, was set up early that morning. On the 24 December 1944, a Japanese naval unit left Cape St. Jacques on a mission to sink Allied transports and shell the beachead at Mindoro. Two days later, Navy patrol aircraft spotted the force 100 miles west of Mindoro speeding toward the Allied position. Late in the evening, P-47s of the 69th FS, along with other Fifth Air Force (5AF) aircraft, attacked the ships. Although this force was stopped, the Japanese air offensive against Mindoro proved more damaging than this cruiser strike. Between 18 December 1944 and 7 January 1945, the Japanese sent a minimum of 400 sorties into the area. The relentless attacks by the Japanese continued even through Christmas with the destruction of a 1000 gallon fuel tank at Hill Field on that day. One of the 69th FS men commented that there was “Not much thought of Christmas. Just thinking of home.” Routinely, the Air Forces men would have to stand guard over the airfield with rifles to protect the base, aircraft and precious supplies from Japanese paratroopers and infiltrators. Many a night was spent in foxholes while bombs, artillery shells and strafing aircraft were all around.
By January 29, 1945, the 69th FS planes were bombing Corregador. The 69th FS had lost 9 pilots and 21 planes since arriving at San Jose, Mindoro. The aircraft of the Fifth Air Force continued harassing Japanese ground targets (trains, trucks etc.,) on Luzon during the early months of 1945. On 8 April 1945, the squadron moved to Mangaldan, Luzon and again on 17 April 1945, to Porac, Luzon.
On 25 June 1945, the men of the 69th FS started packing and loading an LST for Okinawa which arrived on 8 July 1945. Some flew by C-46s. The 69th FS aircraft arrived on Okinawa on 27 July 1945. The following day, the squadron’s P-47s escorted B-24s to the dry docks at Kure (Honshu) where they claimed a battleship and an aircraft carrier destroyed. This was their first action against the Japanese home islands. In August 1945, they also went with B-24s to hit the docks at Nagasaki. Typhoon weather canceled operations the following day but on 6 and 8 August 1945, along with other units on Okinawa, pounded targets on Kyushu. Again on 9 August 1945, the 69th FS flew against the home islands with many other fighter aircraft and attacked land based targets (bridges specifically mentioned). Not soon after, with the use of atomic weapons, the Japanese agreed to surrender and did so formally on 2 September 1945 on the USS Missouri. The men of the 69th FS were beside themselves with excitement on Okinawa.
With World War II ending in the summer of 1945, the squadron manning fell and was eventually inactivated on 27 January 1946. The unit would not have long to rest however. In June 1952, the squadron was redesignated the 69th Fighter Bomber Squadron and activated on 10 July 1952 with the 310th and 311th. All three squadrons again were assigned to the 58th Fighter Bomber Group and found themselves in Korea. The units operated from Taegu from 10 July 1952 to 8 March 1955 and then at Osan-Ni from 15 March 1955 to 1 July 1958. While at Osan-Ni, on 8 November 1957, the group was redesignated the 58th Fighter Bomber Wing. The 69th and the wing flew the F-84 Thunderjets until 1954. They then used the F-86 Sabre, which the 69th flew until its inactivation 1 July 1958.
While in Korea, the 69th saw action from 10 July 1952 to 27 July 1953. It was responsible for South Korean air defense, with frequent deployments to Taiwan, from July 1953 to July 1958. For its outstanding efforts, the 69th received two distinguished unit citations: The Philippine Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.
The 69th became the 69th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron on 22 August 1969, and stood up with the 58th in October 1969. This time, the wing took over the duties of the 4510th Combat Crew Training Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Phoenix, AZ, and it was redesignated the 58th Tactical Fighter Training Wing. While assigned to Luke, the 69th provided advanced training in the F-104 fighter aircraft for German pilots. The 69th inactivated on 16 March 1983.
s The 69th was redesignated the 69th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) in April 1983 and activated in July 1983 with the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) at Moody Air Force Base, GA, flying the F-4E. In that year through 1986, the 69th TFS deployed to the Republic of Korea for Team Spirit, an annual joint and combined service exercise involving US and Republic of Korea military forces. In 1989, the unit deployed to Italy with its new F-16A/Bs to participate in a joint exercise with the Italian Air Force. It also deployed to George Air Force Base, CA, for Air Warrior training.
Moving into the 90's, the 69th TFS converted from the F-16A/B to the F-16C/D, an updated version of the Fighting Falcon, with Low Altitude Navigation Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN). This system allowed aircraft to fly low and fast in all weather conditions at night with greater precision on a single bombing pass. In January 1991, the 69th TFS deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation DESERT SHIELD, which became DESERT STORM when a massive air campaign by United Nations coalition forces began 17 January 1991 against the army and air forces of Iraq. The 69th TFS' Werewolves participated in the initial raids deep into Iraq and for seven weeks flew combat missions over Iraq and occupied Kuwait. By early July 1991, the entire squadron had returned without a scratch from the Middle East.
With the Air Force moving away from the Tri-Deputate system, it created the 347th Operations Group (OG), which aligned under the wing and encompassed all flying squadrons. For the sake of lineage and honors, this new group essentially was the 347th Fighter Group from World War II. The 69th TFS moved into the group 1 May 1991 and lost the "Tactical" designation 1 November 1991, and was redesignated as the 69th Fighter Squadron. Its responsibilities included rotations to Southwest Asia in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, patrol of the southern Iraqi no fly zone.