The 176th Fighter Squadron’s involvement in the Korean War, 1950-1953

Article by Master Sgt. Erik J. Figi, 115th Fighter Wing, Public Affairs War had been raging on the Korean Peninsula since June of 1950. In December of that same year, […]

Article by Master Sgt. Erik J. Figi, 115th Fighter Wing, Public Affairs

War had been raging on the Korean Peninsula since June of 1950. In December of that same year, after Chinese communist forces became embroiled in the conflict, President Harry S. Truman declared a national emergency. Part of the declaration authorized the Air Force to increase its active duty numbers from approximately 539,000 in mid-December 1950 to 1,061,000 by June 30, 1952. This action, and fear of another world war, pushed the Continental Air Command (CAC) to request that 38 Air National Guard (ANG) fighter squadrons be mobilized and put into federal service immediately.

By January 1951, the authorized strength of all ANG units, excluding wing and group headquarters, was elevated from 67,000 to over 80,000. That same month, the Air Defense Command (ADC) was reestablished and took over the continental U.S. air defense mission from the CAC. To fortify U.S. air defenses for threats mounting from the Korean War, the Air Force announced the activation of 38 ANG fighter squadrons, with 15 being called into federal service on February 1, 1951 and a further 6 to be mobilized on March 1, 1951.

The 176th Fighter Squadron (FS) had been ordered in the summer of 1950 to provide 10 F-51s for shipment to Korea, forcing the unit to temporarily procure aircraft from other stateside ANG units to support training exercises throughout the year.

The unit was successful in this endeavor. However, concerns over activation continued into early 1951. Uncertainty was met with reality when the 176 FS activated in-place on February 1, 1951 at Truax Field and was assigned to ADC to harden its continental U.S. fighter interceptor force.

During this initial mobilization, personnel numbers were at full strength and volunteers had to be turned away. It was also during this time that the 176 FS became the first ANG unit to fly the modern jet fighter, the F-89 Scorpion, having converted during its active duty tour in April of that year. However, the conversion to the F-89 only lasted seven months before the unit returned to the F-51.

Milwaukee’s 126th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS) was also activated on the same date as the 176 FS and moved from its home station at General Mitchell Field, Milwaukee, Wis., to Truax Field, Madison, Wis. The F-80As of the 126 FIS, alongside the fighters of the 176 FS, flew air defense missions in support of ADC and the continental defense of the U.S. Both units would inactivate on October 31, 1952.

While not directly involved in combat operations on the Korean Peninsula, the 126 FIS and the 176 FS served an integral service in support of homeland defense, a mission that continues today with their successor units—the 128th Air Refueling Wing and its subordinate unit, the 126th Air Refueling Squadron, Milwaukee, Wis., and the 115th Fighter Wing and its subordinate unit, still operating under the 176th Fighter Squadron mantle.