The Fifth Air Force (5 AF) is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). It is headquartered at Yokota Air Base, Japan. It is the U.S. Air Force's oldest continuously serving Numbered Air Force. The organization has provided 70 years of continuous air power to the Pacific since its establishment in September 1941.
Fifth Air Force is the Headquarters Pacific Air Forces forward element in Japan, and maximizes partnership capabilities and promotes bilateral defense cooperation. In addition, 5 AF is the air component to United States Forces Japan.
Its mission is three-fold. First, it plans, conducts, controls, and coordinates air operations assigned by the PACAF Commander. Fifth Air Force maintains a level of readiness necessary for successful completion of directed military operations. And last, but certainly not least, Fifth Air Force assists in the mutual defense of Japan and enhances regional stability by planning, exercising, and executing joint air operations in partnership with Japan. To achieve this mission, Fifth Air Force maintains its deterrent force posture to protect both U.S. and Japanese interests, and conducts appropriate air operations should deterrence fail.
Fifth Air Force is commanded by Lieutenant General Kevin B. Schneider.
|Fifth Air Force|
Shield of the Fifth Air Force
|Active||5 February 1942 - present (as Fifth Air Force)|
5 February 1942 - 18 September 1942 (as 5 Air Force)
28 October 1941 - 5 February 1942 (Far Eastern Air Force)
16 August 1941 - 28 October 1941 (as Philippine Department Air Force)
(78 years, 2 months)
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch|| United States Air Force (18 September 1947 – present)|
United States Army ( Army Air Forces, 16 August 1941 – 18 September 1947)
|Type||Numbered Air Force|
|Role||Provide combat-ready air forces for U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Japan, along with serving as the air component for U.S. Forces Japan|
|Part of|| Pacific Air Forces|
U.S. Pacific Command
U.S. Forces Japan
|Headquarters||Yokota Air Base, Tokyo Metropolis, Japan|
|LtGen Kevin B. Schneider|
Earle E. Partridge
Samuel E. Anderson
With its origins going back over a century to 1912, the command was officially established on 6 May 1941 as the Philippine Department Air Force at Nichols Field, Luzon, Philippines. Fifth Air Force was a United States Army Air Forces combat air force in the Pacific Theater of World War II, engaging in combat operations primarily in the Southwest Pacific AOR.
During World War II, Fifth Air Force units first engaged the Japanese during the Philippines Campaign, then afterward withdrawing to Australia after the Japanese conquest of the islands. Rearmed, it engaged the Japanese in New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies and then as part of the liberating forces in the Philippines Campaign. In the postwar era, Fifth Air Force was the primary USAF occupation force in Japan. During the Korean War, Fifth Air Force was the primary command and control organization for USAF forces engaged in combat operations over Korea, and during the Cold War was the main USAF defense force in Japan.
The United States Army Philippine Department was established on 11 January 1911 in the Unincorporated Philippine Territory. Fifth Air Force traces its roots to the Philippines with the activation of the Air Office of the Philippine Department in March 1912.
The First Company, 2d Aero Squadron, was activated at Fort William McKinley, Luzon, on 3 February 1916. This unit was a training school, operating Martin S Hydro seaplanes, first produced in the United States in 1915. The unit operated under the Air Office until 15 October 1917, when it was inactivated when the early aviators returned to the United States as a result of the American entry into World War I. In 1917 outside Fort Stotsenburg, Luzon, construction began on a half-mile long dirt runway, hangars and other support facilities to bring the local army units into the air age. Construction was completed in 1919. A permanent Army Air Service presence in the Philippines began in December 1919 with the activation of the 3d Aero Squadron at the facility. The unit was initially equipped with de Havilland DH-4 medium bombers. The next year it moved to the new Clark Field on 15 October 1920 where, combined with some support units, the 1st Observation Group was formed.
Clark Field became the Army Air Corps headquarters overseas, and was the only American air base west of Hawaii. In 1923 the Air Service withdrew all of the DH-4s, along with Liberty motors and spare parts, previously sent to the Philippines to be stored as a reserve, came back to the United States for conversion to DH-4Bs. When workmen at Rockwell Field outside San Diego, California opened one of the crates, they found a motor with a remarkable history. Built in Detroit, it went to France, back to the United States, then to the Philippines, and now to Rockwell-without ever being used.
In 1922, a second unit, the 28th Bombardment Squadron, was activated at Clark Field with DH-4s. in 1923, the 3d Aero Squadron was re designated the 3d Pursuit Squadron and received new Boeing Thomas-Morse MB-3 fighters. With that, the 1st Observation Group at Clark was re-designated as the 4th Observation; and later the 4th Composite Group. The 4th Composite would be the mainstay of United States air power in the Philippines until 1941, under the nominal command of the Air Officer of the Philippine Department.
In addition to Clark Field, additional airfields at Kindley Field on Corregidor in Manila Bay (Opened September 1922), and one at Camp Nichols (Nichols Field, 1920) were constructed. The 3d Pursuit and 28th Bombardment moved from field to field during the 1920s, with the 4th Composite Group having its headquarters at Nichols until World War II. Over time, various aircraft were sent to the Philippines, the Martin NBS-1 night bomber in 1924 (28th BS); Boeing PW-9 fighters in 1926 (3d PS); Keystone LB-5 bombers in 1929 (28th BS).
Beginning in 1930, the 3d Pursuit Squadron received Boeing P-12E fighters; the 28th Bombardment Squadron, receiving Keystone B-3A bombers in 1931. The 3d Pursuit squadron also received some Douglas O-2 and Thomas-Morse O-19 observation aircraft. These would be the last new aircraft received in the Philippines until 1937 due to funding shortages caused by the Great Depression.
In 1935, the Philippine Army Air Corps was established as part of the gradual decision by the United States to establish the Philippines as an independent nation. Its Army counterpart, the Philippine Scouts, had been established in 1901. In 1937, the 4th Composite Group began receiving Boeing P-26 Peashooter fighters and Martin B-10 bombers, its older aircraft being transferred to the Philippine AAC. By 1940, the corps had around 40 aircraft and 100 pilots.
In 1940 as part of the overall mobilization of the Army Air Forces and in response to the increase of tensions between the United States and the Japanese Empire, two additional pursuit squadrons were transferred from the United States to the 4th Composite Group at Nichols Field:
In addition, additional obsolete Boeing P-26 Peashooters were sent from the United States. In January 1941, however, the three pursuit squadrons began receiving a few Seversky P-35As. These little Severskys had originally been consigned to Sweden, but on last-minute orders from Washington the shipment was diverted to the Philippines. Because the plane had been designed for the Swedish Air Force they were considerably more powerfully armed than the U.S. model, which carried only two .30-caliber machine guns firing through the propeller. Before this, their standard equipment had been obsolete Boeing P-26 Peashooters. The pilots of the 17th and 20th Squadrons, arriving from the States in November 1940, had been surprised, to put it mildly, when they found themselves back in the obsolete type of plane from which they had graduated a year before at Selfridge Field, Michigan. In fact, when they scratched the paint off a few of these antique numbers, they found some of the identical aircraft that they had trained in back in the States.
July 1941, however, proved a turning point in the effort to prepare the Philippines for war. On the 27th, General Douglas MacArthur, who had been recalled to active duty, was placed in command of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). For the Air Forces the new command involved further shifts in organization, and on 5 August the Philippine Department which had controlled air units since March 1912 was redesignated Air Forces, USAFFE. As relations between the United States and Japan worsened, the Army Air Corps felt it needed an upgraded command structure in the Philippines to accommodate the general expansion program of 1939/1940. The Philippine Department Air Force was activated on 20 September 1941.
In the meantime, though, the squadrons suffered from a shortage of pilots. The 17th and 20th Pursuit Squadrons, which had arrived with a full complement, were continually losing men through transfers to other organizations more seriously understaffed. Pilot reinforcements began to come in February, but not until July were the three pursuit squadrons brought back to strength, when pilots fresh out of training school landed at Manila. As these men all required further training, a unit for that purpose had to be set up at Clark Field. By then the 17th and 20th had lost about 75 percent of their original personnel, and ultimately the 17th went into the war with only five of the pilots who had come out with the unit and 35 younger pilots who had received their training in the Philippines for periods varying from one to ten months.
The Manila civilian Nielson Airport was taken over in October 1941 and became Nielson Field, giving the Air Force a third operational airfield on Luzon. Additional fields were constructed at Iba, Ternate, and Del Monte on Mindanao. Clark Field, 60 miles north of Manila, was the only first-class field—it was, as a matter of fact, the only first-class field in the Philippines, for Del Monte had not yet been developed. Del Monte had no hard runways, but was entirely surfaced with turf.
Nielson Field, at which the Air Headquarters was to be located, lay just south of Manila, between the city and Fort McKinley. It was classed as a fighter field, but had few facilities and was little used by combat planes then or later. Iba Field, on the Zambales coast well north of Subic Bay, had been a training camp for the Philippine Constabulary. It was to be used for a few short months by the Air Force as a gunnery training field, but it lacked facilities for extended operations.
This left Nichols Field as the principal fighter field. It was about six miles south of the heart of Manila and near the shore of Manila Bay, from which it was divided by the constricted, ramshackle barrio of Baclaran and a curve of the Parañaque River. The only approach to the field was down the main road that doubled as Baclaran's village street and then sharp left along a narrow lane that crossed the Parañaque River on a flimsy two-lane bridge. Except by air, there was no other access and a single bomb, rightly placed, could entirely isolate the airdrome.
Throughout the second half of 1941, additional units were deployed to the Philippines to deter Japanese aggression in response to the proposal by Chief of the Army Air Forces, Major General Henry H. Arnold, who in July 1941 proposed sending four heavy bombardment groups (340 aircraft) and two pursuit squadrons (260 aircraft) to the Philippines.
An increasing stream of reinforcements now began to arrive from the United States. By October, it had become necessary to move one of the fighter squadrons out of Clark Field to make room for the expected arrival of the 19th Bombardment Group. The 17th Pursuit Squadron was therefore transferred to its old base at Nichols Field, and shortly afterward, on 26 October, the 3d Pursuit Squadron took its place at the new Iba Airfield and began gunnery training. Work on the landing strips at Nichols Field had not been completed, and their poor condition resulted in a high accident rate for the 17th Squadron. However, these two squadrons, and the 20th, which stayed at Clark Field, had now finally reached the fields on which they were still based when the news of the Pearl Harbor Attack came, near dawn of 8 December.
With the arrival of the 19th Bombardment Group, the 4th Composite Group would become an unwieldy organization. On 26 September, therefore, the 24th Pursuit Group was created, including the three squadrons, now at the three separate fields, as well as Headquarters and a Headquarters Squadron, which were based at Clark Field. On 16 November 1941, the 19th Bombardment Group arrived from the United States at Clark Field and the 4th Composite group was disbanded. On 20 November, two more squadrons, the 21st Pursuit Squadron and the 34th Pursuit Squadron, both from the 35th Pursuit Group, arrived from the States and were attached to the 24th Pursuit Group pending the arrival of the rest of the 35th group, which of course never came. These two squadrons were at only half strength. They also arrived without their planes, for they expected to find new ships ready when they disembarked from San Francisco.
To reflect the expanded scope of the defensive forces the United States was sending to the Philippines, the Philippine Department Air Force was re-designated as Far East Air Force on 16 November 1941 with the Philippine Army Air Corps being incorporated as part of the new organization.
The first indications of war between the Japanese Empire and the United States began on the night of 2 December 1941 when a single plane flew over Clark Field on four consecutive nights. It came about 05:00 in the morning, but no origin for its flight could be found at any Luzon airfield. After its second appearance, orders were given to force the plane to land and, if the pilot committed any overt act, to shoot him down. A six-ship flight from the 17th Pursuit Squadron, was therefore ordered to attempt interception on the night of 4–5 December; but their search mission was unsuccessful, largely due to the lack of air-ground communication. The radios in their P-40s were ineffective beyond a maximum range of 20 miles. The 20th Pursuit Squadron also made an unsuccessful attempt to intercept on the night of 5–6 December. Though, on the night of 6–7 December, all aircraft were grounded except the 3d Pursuit Squadron; and the antiaircraft at Clark Field were alerted to shoot the plane down that night, however, the plane did not come.
When the newly installed radar at Iba Airfield which first picked up the tracks of unidentified planes off the Zambales coast on 3 December and Clark Field reported its lone plane overflight for the second successive night Colonel George, now Chief of Staff of the 5th Interceptor Command, had gone to Far East Air Force headquarters at Nielson Field immediately to report not only the presence of the planes but his belief that the two flights were co-operating with each other and were the immediate preliminary to Japanese attack. Yet he had great difficulty in persuading some higher officers that these tracks represented hostile aircraft and not merely some unidentified private or commercial planes.
At this time the decision was reached to send all the B-17s to Del Monte Field on Mindanao to get them out of range of direct attack by Japanese land-based planes on Formosa. If war came, the B-17s could themselves stage out of Clark Field, picking up their bombs and gasoline for the run to Formosa. But at FEAF Headquarters the latest information was that the 7th Bombardment Group, which was scheduled to deploy to FEAF, could be expected at any time with four full B-17 squadrons. Their plans called for basing the 7th Bomb Group at Del Monte Field as soon as it arrived, and, since the field there could accommodate at most six squadrons; only two of the 19th Group's squadrons at Clark were dispatched. All planes were to have cleared the field by midnight of the 5th. They began taking off singly beginning at 22:00 and it was nearly three hours before they completed their formation and headed south.
At lba Field, the men watching the radar scope saw more incoming tracks on the screen. Outside on the blacked-out field the 3d Squadron's new P-40s stood on the line. However, the Japanese aircraft did not come in all the way; they stayed offshore, as though there were a point in time for them to meet before they turned hack. Then at the end of the runway one of the P-40s took off alone. The pilot made a long search but could not find them.
War did not come to the Philippines on 7 December, as it did to Pearl Harbor. Due to the International Date Line, Sunday, 7 December, remained a day of grace. The war between Imperial Japan and the United States, instead, began in Hawaii, by which time it was 8 December in the Philippines.
About 4:30 am on 8 December the first fragmentary news of the Attack on Pearl Harbor was received in Manila. There had been an even earlier flash, caught about 3:30 by the commercial radio station at Clark Field, but as no verification had come through, no action was then taken beyond notifying the base commander. The Navy, however, had had the news since 3:00 am and most of their installations were alerted by 3:30. A radio operator had picked up a message in the clear, in Morse Code. It was twice repeated, and he recognized the sending technique of the operator at Pearl Harbor. This message was sent to Admiral Hart and to General MacArthur's Headquarters. Apparently it reached General MacArthur at about 4:00 am and within a few minutes Air Headquarters also had been notified. Official confirmation did not come through, at least to the 24th Pursuit Group, till about 4:45. At 5:30 am General Headquarters issued an official statement that Pearl Harbor had been heavily attacked by Japanese submarines and planes and that a state of war existed between the United States and the Empire of Japan.
Combat was already beginning to break out in the Philippines. Japanese planes attacked a Philippine radio station at Aparri, on the north coast of Luzon. And just at dawn a line of Japanese dive bombers, heading in from the Pacific, caught two of the Navy's PBYs sitting on the water of Davao Gulf and sank them out of hand. Only by adroit maneuvering did the tender William B. Preston succeed in dodging the bombs and later evade four Japanese destroyers entering the gulf in obvious search of her. At about 08:00 while one shift of the flight crews were eating breakfast, the 17th Pursuit Squadron received orders to cover Clark Field, as a heavy fleet of Japanese bombers were reported north of Luzon heading down Lingayen Gulf towards the central plain. At Clark Field itself the B-17s were taking the air as a precautionary move in case the Japanese bombers broke through the fighter patrol lines.
FEAF commander General Brereton sought permission from theater commander General Douglas MacArthur to conduct air raids against Japanese forces in Formosa, but was refused. It was a little before 08:00 when Brereton returned to Air Headquarters at Nielson Field. As he entered his office he asked what decision the staff had reached, but on being told said, "No, We can't attack till we're fired on" and explained that he had been directed to prepare the B-17s for action but was not to undertake offensive action till ordered. However, a photo-reconnaissance mission was authorized over Formosa which was requested either by Brereton or Sutherland. Later, about 1100 on 8 December a combat strike was approved by FEAF against Formosa, to take place that day, and the B-17s which were sent to Del Monte Field were recalled to Clark to stage for the strike. The B-17s were back a Clark Field after 11:30 and that MacArthur planned an attack against Formosa for the morning of 9 December.
Initially, an air attack on the radar site at Iba Field by Japanese planes took place about 11:00 am. By that time, all but one of the B-17's was lined up on the line at Clark and the fighters were just getting ready to take off. However, after the warning of the Pearl Harbor attack, and after the loss of several valuable hours because of bad weather over Formosa, the Japanese pilots did not expect to find so rich a harvest of American aircraft on the ground at Clark Field. But they did not question their good fortune. The first flight of Japanese planes consisted of twenty-seven twin-engine bombers. They came over the unprotected field in a V-formation at a height estimated at 22,000 to 25,000 feet, dropping their bombs on the aircraft and buildings below, just as the air raid warning sounded. As at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese achieved complete tactical surprise.
The first flight was followed immediately by a similar formation which remained over the field for fifteen minutes. The planes in this formation, as in the first, accomplished their mission almost entirely without molestation. American antiaircraft shells exploded from 2,000 to 4,000 feet short of the targets. After the second formation of bombers, came thirty-four Zeros- which the Americans believed were carrier based-to deliver the final blow with their low-level strafing attacks on the grounded B-17's, and on the P-40's with their full gasoline tanks. This attack lasted for more than an hour.
Before dawn of the 9th seven Japanese naval bombers struck Nichols Field. Naval planes took off about 10:00 on 10 December to strike Luzon again. First warning of the approach of Japanese planes reached 5th Interceptor Command at Nielson Field at 11:15, and American fighters were immediately dispatched to cover Manila Bay. Japanese aircraft hit the Del Carmen Field near Clark, and the Nichols and Nielson Fields, near Manila. American planes returning to refuel were attacked by Zeros and destroyed. There was no antiaircraft fire and no fighter protection over the field; all the pursuit planes were engaged over Manila Bay.
After the Japanese land invasion of the Philippines on 24 December 1941, the mission of Fifth Interceptor Command changed to provide ground defense of Luzon, with ground and air echelon personnel of unequipped Far East Air Force units on Luzon attached to fight as ground infantry units during the Battle of the Philippines (1941–42) after their aircraft were destroyed or evacuated to locations away from Luzon. Most members of the unit surrendered on 9 April 1942 after the Battle of Bataan. Some survivors escaped to Corregidor Island in Manila Bay, Philippine Islands and surrendered on 6 May 1942, ending all US organized resistance to the Japanese in the Philippines. Some survivors possibly fought afterwards on Luzon as unorganized resistance (May 1942 – January 1945).
14 B-17 Flying Fortresses that survived the Battle of the Philippines left Mindanao for Darwin, Australia, between 17 and 20 December 1941, the only aircraft of the Far East Air Force to escape. After its evacuation from the Philippines on 24 December 1941, FEAF headquarters moved to Australia and was reorganized and redesignated 5 Air Force on 5 February 1942, with most of its combat aircraft based on fields on Java. It seemed at the time that the Japanese were advancing just about everywhere. The remaining heavy bombers of the 19th Bombardment Group, based at Malang on Java, flew missions against the Japanese in an attempt to stop their advance. They were joined in January and February, two or three at a time, by 37 B-17Es and 12 LB-30s of the 7th Bombardment Group. The small force of bombers, never numbering more than 20 operational at any time, could do little to prevent the invasion of the Netherlands East Indies, launching valiant but futile attacks against the masses of Japanese shipping, with six lost in combat, six in accidents, and 26 destroyed on the ground.
The 7th Bombardment Group was withdrawn to India in March 1942, leaving the 19th to carry on as the only B-17 Fortress-equipped group in the South Pacific. About this time it was decided that replacement B-17s would not be sent to the southwest Pacific, but be sent exclusively to the Eighth Air Force which was building up in England. By May, 5 Air Force's surviving personnel and aircraft were detached to other commands and the headquarters remained unmanned for several months, but elements played a small part in the Battle of the Coral Sea (7–8 May 1942) when the 435th Bomb Squadron of the 19th Bomb Group saw the Japanese fleet gathering in Rabaul area nearly two weeks before the battle actually took place. Because of the reconnaissance activity of the 435th Bomb Squadron, the US Navy was prepared to cope adequately with the situation. The squadron was commended by the US Navy for its valuable assistance not only for its excellent reconnaissance work but for the part played in the battle.
Headquarters Fifth Air Force was re-staffed at Brisbane, Australia on 18 September 1942 and placed under the command of Major General George Kenney. United States Army Air Forces units in Australia, including Fifth Air Force, were eventually reinforced and re-organised following their initial defeats in the Philippines and the East Indies. At the time that Kenney had arrived, Fifth Air Force was equipped with three fighter groups and five bombardment groups.
In addition, Fifth Air Force controlled two transport squadrons and one photographic squadron comprising 1,602 officers and 18,116 men.
Kenney was later appointed commander of Allied air forces in the South West Pacific Area, reporting directly to General Douglas MacArthur. Under Kenney's leadership, the Fifth Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force provided the aerial spearhead for MacArthur's island hopping campaign.
On 4 November 1942, the Fifth Air Force commenced sustained action against the Japanese in Papua New Guinea and was a key component of the New Guinea campaign (1942–1945). Fifth Air Force engaged the Japanese again in the Philippines campaign (1944–45) as well as in the Battle of Okinawa (1945).
Fifth Air Force along with Thirteenth Air Force in the Central Pacific and Seventh Air Force in Hawaii were assigned to the newly created United States Far East Air Forces (FEAF) on 3 August 1944. FEAF was subordinate to the U.S. Army Forces Far East and served as the headquarters of Allied Air Forces Southwest Pacific Area. By 1945, the three numbered air forces were supporting operations throughout the Pacific. FEAF was the functional equivalent in the Pacific of the United States Strategic Air Forces (USSTAF) in the European Theater of Operations.
|V Fighter Command||Night Fighter Units||V Bomber Command||Photo Reconnaissance||54th Troop Carrier Wing|
|3d ACG (P-51, C-47)||418th NFS||3d BG (L) (B-25, A-20)||6th RG (F-5, F-7)||2d CCG|
|8th FG (P-40, P-38)||421st NFS||22d BG (M/H) (B-26 – B-24)||71st RG (B-25)||317th TCG|
|35th FG (P-47, P-51)||547th NFS||38th BG (M) (B-25)||374th TCG (1943 only)|
|49th FG (P-40, P-47, P-38)||43d BG (H) (B-24)||375th TCG|
|58th FG (P-47)||90th BG (H) (B-24)||433d TCG|
|348th FG (P-47, P-51)||312th BG (L) (A-20)|
|475th FG (P-38)||345th BG (M) (B-25)|
|380th BG (H) (B-24)|
|417th BG (L) (A-20)|
LEGEND: ACG – Air Commando Group, FG – Fighter Group, NFS – Night Fighter Squadron, BG (L) – Light Bomb Group, BG (M) – Medium Bomb Group, BG (H) – Heavy Bomb Group, RG – Reconnaissance Group, CCG – Combat Cargo Group, TCG – Troop Carrier Group
When the war ended, Fifth Air Force had an unmatched record of 3,445 aerial victories, led by the nation's two top fighter aces Major Richard Bong and Major Thomas McGuire, with 40 and 38 confirmed victories respectively, and two of Fifth Air Force's ten Medal of Honor recipients.
Shortly after World War II ended in August, Fifth Air Force relocated to Irumagawa Air Base, Japan, about 25 September 1945 as part of the Allied occupation forces. The command remained in Japan until 1 December 1950 performing occupation duties.
for the units, stations and type aircraft flown in combat during the war (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953)
In 1950, Fifth Air Force was called upon again, becoming the main United Nations Command combat air command during the Korean War, and assisted in bringing about the s:Korean Armistice Agreement that formally ended the war in 1953.
In the early morning hours of 25 June, North Korea launched a sudden, all-out attack against the south. Reacting quickly to the invasion, Fifth Air Force units provided air cover over the skies of Seoul. The command transferred to Seoul on 1 December 1950, remaining in South Korea until 1 September 1954.
In this first Jet War, units assigned to the Fifth Air Force racked up an unprecedented 14.5 to 1 victory ratio. By the time the truce was signed in 1953, Fifth Air Force had flown over 625,000 missions, downing 953 North Korean and Chinese aircraft, while close air support accounted for 47 percent of all enemy troop casualties.
Thirty-eight fighter pilots were identified as aces, including Lieutenant Colonel James Jabara, America's first jet ace; and Captain Joseph McConnell, the leading Korean War ace with 16 confirmed victories. Additionally, four Medals of Honor were awarded to Fifth Air Force members. One other pilot of note was Marine Major John Glenn, who flew for Fifth Air Force as part of an exchange program.
With the end of combat in Korea, Fifth Air Force returned to normal peacetime readiness Japan in 1954.
Not only concerned with maintaining a strong tactical posture for the defense of both Japan and South Korea, Fifth Air Force played a critical role in helping the establishment of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force as well as the Republic of Korea Air Force. These and other peacetime efforts lasted a decade before war clouds once again developed in the Pacific.
This time, the area of concern was Southeast Asia, beginning in 1964 with the Gulf of Tonkin Crisis. Fifth Air Force furnished aircraft, aircrews, Support personnel, and supplies throughout the eight years of combat operations in South Vietnam and Laos. Since 1972, the Pacific has seen relative calm, but that doesn't mean Fifth Air Force hasn't been active in other roles. The command has played active or supporting roles in a variety of issues ranging from being first on the scene at the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 shoot down in 1983 to deploying personnel and supplies for the Persian Gulf War in 1990.
During this time span, the size of Fifth Air Force changed as well. With the activation of Seventh Air Force in 1986, fifth left the Korean Peninsula and focused its energy on continuing the growing bilateral relationship with Japan.
The Fifth Air Force's efforts also go beyond combat operations. Fifth Air force has reacted to natural disasters in Japan and abroad. These efforts include the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995 and Super Typhoon Paka which hit Guam in 1997. Fifth Air Force has reached out to provide assistance to victims of floods, typhoons, volcanoes, and earthquakes throughout the region.
Today, according to the organization's website, major components include the 18th Wing, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan; the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base, and the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base. Kadena AB hosts the 18th Wing, the largest combat wing in the USAF. The Wing includes F-15 fighters, KC-135 refuelers, E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, and HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, and represents a major combat presence and capability in the Western Pacific. The 35th Fighter Wing, Misawa Air Base, Japan, includes two squadrons equipped with the most modern Block 50 F-16 variant, dedicated to the suppression of enemy air defenses. The final formation is the 374th Airlift Wing, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
According to a 2017 study by two US Navy commanders, in case of a surprise Chinese ballistic missile attack against airbases in Japan, more than 200 U.S. aircraft would be trapped or destroyed on the ground in the first hours of the conflict.
Fifth Air Force is not to be confused with a second "Fifth" air force created as a temporary establishment to handle combat operations after the outbreak of hostilities on 25 June 1950, in Korea. This numbered air force was established as Fifth Air Force, Advance, and organized at Itazuki AB, Japan, assigned to Fifth Air Force, on 14 July 1950. It moved to Taegu AB, South Korea, on 24 July 1950, and was redesignated Fifth Air Force in Korea at the same time. After moving, it apparently received command control from U.S. Far East Air Forces. The establishment operated from Pusan, Taegu, and Seoul before being discontinued on 1 December 1950.
2nd Combat Cargo Group: October 1944-15 January 1946
The United States Air Force's 18th Wing is the host wing for Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan and is the Air Force's largest combat wing. It is the largest and principal organization in the Pacific Air Forces Fifth Air Force.
The Wing's 18th Operations Group is a successor organization of the 18th Pursuit Group, one of the 15 original combat air groups formed by the Army before World War II.309th Air Division
The 309th Air Division is an inactive United States Air Force organization. Its last assignment was with Continental Air Command, assigned to Twelfth Air Force at Hensley Field, Texas. It was inactivated on 27 June 1949.
The division was first activated in 1944 in New Guinea during World War II as the 309th Bombardment Wing. The wing acted as a task force headquarters controlling forward based units of Fifth Air Force in New Guinea and during the Liberation of the Philippines. Following the war, it moved to Japan and served as part of the occupation forces until inactivating in March 1946. It was activated again nine months later in the Air Force Reserve.35th Operations Group
The 35th Operations Group (35 OG) is the operational flying component of the United States Air Force 35th Fighter Wing. It is stationed at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and is a part of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF).
During World War II, the unit's predecessor, the 35th Fighter Group operated primarily in the Southwest Pacific Theater as part of Fifth Air Force, first using P-38s and P-39s, and later P-47s. The group engaged the enemy in numerous campaigns being awarded both the United States Distinguished Unit Citation and the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.
The group operated from bases in Japan and South Korea during the Korean War, in support of UN ground forces, bombing and strafing enemy supply lines, troop concentrations, and communications, earning a second DUC.
Since the 1990s, the group has deployed aircraft and personnel to Southwest Asia, in support of both the Iraqi no-fly zones (Operations Southern Watch and Northern Watch), and the Global War on Terrorism.373d Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group
The United States Air Force's 373d Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group is a Twenty-Fifth Air Force unit located at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.49th Operations Group
The 49th Operations Group (49 OG) is the operational flying component of the United States Air Force 49th Wing. It is stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, and is a part of Air Combat Command (ACC).
During World War II, the unit's predecessor unit, the 49th Fighter Group, operated primarily in the Southwest Pacific Theater as part of the Fifth Air Force. The group earned three Distinguished Unit Citations (DUC) for engaging the enemy in frequent and intense aerial combat in numerous campaigns between 1942 and 1945. During the Korean War, the unit initially covered the evacuation of civilian personnel from Kimpo and Suwon in 1950, later flying missions in support of UN ground forces, hitting gun positions, troop concentrations, and other objectives until the 1953 Armistice, remaining in South Korea for a time afterward.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, 49th Operations group F-117A Stealth fighters were engaged in combat during Operation Allied Force in 1997, and in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.543rd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group
The United States Air Force's 543d Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group is an intelligence unit located at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. It has been located there since 1997, when it was activated as the 543d Intelligence Group. It focuses on cryptologic operations and signals intelligence.
The group's earliest predecessor was established in June 1942 as the 3d Photographic Group. After training in the United States, the group deployed to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, where it performed reconnaissance missions, primarily for Twelfth Air Force, earning a Distinguished Unit Citation for its support of Operation Dragoon. After the surrender of Germany, the group was inactivated in Italy in September 1945.
The second ancestor of the group is the 543d Tactical Support Group, a United States Air Force unit that fought in the Korean War under Fifth Air Force. The 543d was established in September 1950 to control tactical reconnaissance units operating in Korea. In February 1951, the group was inactivated and replaced by the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing and its subordinate units transferred or replaced by units of the 67th Wing.54th Tactical Fighter Wing
The 54th Tactical Fighter Wing is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with the Pacific Air Forces Fifth Air Force, being stationed at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. It was inactivated on 31 October 1970.
During World War II, the 54th Troop Carrier Wing was a United States Army Air Forces Fifth Air Force transport wing that exercised command and control over five combat cargo and troop carrier groups in the South West Pacific theatre.
In the early postwar years, the 54th Fighter Wing commanded 56 units of the Air National Guard throughout the Southeastern United States.58th Operations Group
The 58th Operations Group (58 OG) is the operational flying component of the United States Air Force 58th Special Operations Wing. It is stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
During World War II, the units predecessor unit, the 58th Fighter Group operated primarily in the Southwest Pacific Theater as part of Fifth Air Force. The unit received a Distinguished Unit Citation strafing a Japanese naval force off Mindoro in the Philippines on 26 December 1944 to prevent destruction. During the Korean War, the unit bombed and strafed enemy airfields and installations and supported UN
ground forces, remaining in South Korea after the 1953 Armistice.6th Air Intelligence Squadron
The 6th Air Intelligence Squadron is an inactive unit of the United States Air Force. Its last assignment was with Seventh Air Force, stationed at Osan Air Base, Korea. It was inactivated in 1993. The unit was originally established at Army Air Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado (later Peterson Air Force Base) as the 6th Photographic Group on 5 February 1943, under the command of Lt Waymond Davis. Later that year, the unit was redesignated the 6th Reconnaissance Group and deployed to the southwest Pacific as a component of the Fifth Air Force.70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing
The 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing (70th ISR Wing) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the Twenty-Fifth Air Force. It is stationed at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.
Known as "America's Cryptologic Wing", is the only Air Force wing that supports the National Security Agency, the Twenty-Fifth Air Force, and the entire United States Air Force with cryptologic intelligence.
The 70th Reconnaissance Group conducted observation, artillery adjustment and fighter and bomber support training with United States Army ground forces during World War II. The group served as a reserve unit for two years later in the decade. During the Cold War, the 70th was a component wing of Strategic Air Command's (SAC) deterrent force as a strategic reconnaissance organization and heavy bombardment wing.85th Air Division
The 85th Air Division is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with Eastern Air Defense Force of Air Defense Command at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. It was inactivated on 1 September 1958.Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency
For the current active air force, see Twenty-Fifth Air ForceThe Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency (Air Force ISR Agency or AFISRA) was until 29 September 2014 a field operating agency of the United States Air Force headquartered at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. On that date it was redesignated Twenty-Fifth Air Force and aligned as a numbered air force (NAF) of the Air Combat Command.Its primary mission was to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) products, applications, capabilities and resources, to include cyber and geospatial forces and expertise. Additionally, it was the service cryptologic component (SCC) responsible to the National Security Agency and Central Security Service for Air Force cryptographic activities.Originally called the United States Air Force Security Service, the Air Force ISR Agency was activated on 20 October 1948, at Arlington Hall, Washington, D.C., with a mission of cryptology and communications security.AFISRA was last commanded by Major General John Shanahan. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant was Chief Master Sergeant Arleen Heath. Both continued in their positions upon the creation of 25 AF.Ie Shima Airfield
Ie Shima Auxiliary Airfield (伊江島補助飛行場, Iejima Hojo Hikōjō) is a training facility, managed by the United States Marine Corps and a former World War II airfield complex on Ie Shima, an island located off the northwest coast of Okinawa Island in the East China Sea. The airfield as such was inactivated after 1946 but part of the former airfield is still used as a training facility for parachute drops and vertical take off and landing aircraft such as the F-35. The facility is referenced as FAC6005 by Okinawa Prefecture.Pacific Air Forces
Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) is a Major Command (MAJCOM) of the United States Air Force and is also the air component command of the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM). PACAF is headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam (former Hickam AFB), Hawaii, and is one of two USAF MAJCOMs assigned outside the Continental United States, the other being the United States Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa. Over the past sixty-five plus years, PACAF has been engaged in combat during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and Operations Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Northern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
The mission of Pacific Air Forces is to provide ready air and space power to promote U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region during peacetime, through crisis, and in war. PACAF organizes, trains, and equips the 45,000 Total Force personnel of the Regular Air Force, the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard with the tools necessary to support the Commander of United States Indo-Pacific Command. PACAF comprises three numbered Air Forces, nine main bases and nearly 375 aircraft.
The command's area of responsibility extends from the west coast of the United States to the east coast of Asia and from the Arctic to the Antarctic, more than 100,000,000 square miles (260,000,000 km2). The area is home to nearly two billion people who live in 44 countries.Twenty-Fifth Air Force
Twenty-Fifth Air Force (25 AF), also known as Air Force Intelligence, was a numbered air force (NAF) within the United States Air Force (USAF), and served as the Air Force's premier military intelligence organization. 25 AF was established on 29 September 2014 by redesignating the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency (a field operating agency) under Headquarters, United States Air Force, to a numbered air force aligned under Air Combat Command. The USAF also realigned the 9th Reconnaissance Wing and the 55th Wing under the new NAF. It was headquartered at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
Its primary mission was to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) products, applications, capabilities and resources, to include cyber and geospatial forces and expertise. Additionally, it is the service cryptologic component (SCC) responsible to the National Security Agency and Central Security Service for Air Force cryptographic activities.The 25th AF was originally activated as the United States Air Force Security Service on 20 October 1948, at Arlington Hall, Washington, D.C., with a mission of cryptology and communications security.The 25th AF was last commanded by Major General Timothy D. Haugh.USAF units and aircraft of the Korean War
The Korean War (June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953) was significant in the fact that it was the first war in which the newly independent United States Air Force was involved.
It was the first time U.S. jet aircraft entered into battle. Air Force F-86 Sabre jets took control of the skies, as American fighter pilots bested Soviet-built MiG-15 fighters in combat against aircraft, Soviet tactics, and, on some occasions, Soviet pilots of the Soviet 64th Fighter Aviation Corps. World War II-era prop-driven P-51D Mustangs were pressed into the ground-air support role, and large formations of B-29 Superfortresses flew for the last time on strategic bombardment missions. The Korean War also saw the first large-scale use of rotary-wing helicopters.
The US suffered 4,055 service personnel killed and 2,714 aircraft lost with the USAF suffering 1,841 battle casualties, of which 1,180 were killed in action.United States Army Air Forces in the South West Pacific Theatre
During World War II, the United States Army Air Forces engaged in combat against the air, ground and naval forces of the Empire of Japan in the South West Pacific Theatre.
As defined by the United States Department of War, the South West Pacific theatre included the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies (excluding Sumatra), Borneo, Australia, the Australian Territory of New Guinea (including the Bismarck Archipelago), the western part of the Solomon Islands and some neighbouring territories. The theatre took its name from the major Allied command, which was known simply as the "South West Pacific Area".
The major USAAF combat organizations in the region was Fifth Air Force, based in Australia after the Battle of the Philippines (1941–42). From Australia, the Allied forces, led by General Douglas MacArthur, first moved north into New Guinea in 1942, then into the Netherlands East Indies in 1943, and returning to the Philippines in 1944 and 1945. Moving with the Allied ground forces, the USAAF Fifth Air Force established a series of airfields, some at existing facilities, but most were carved out of the jungle to provide tactical air support of the ground forces.
In addition to the Fifth Air Force units, elements of Seventh and Thirteenth Air Force advanced into the theatre as Japanese land and naval forces were driven out of the Central and South Pacific Areas.V Bomber Command
The V Bomber Command is an inactive United States Army Air Forces unit. It was last assigned to Fifth Air Force, based at Irumagawa AB, Japan. It was inactivated on 31 May 1946.
During World War II the unit initially controlled Fifth Air Force bomber units in the Philippines. It was largely destroyed in the Battle of the Philippines, and withdrew to Australia at the end of December 1941, although elements of some units remained in the Philippines until April 1942. Re-equipped, the command provided command and control authority of Army Air Force bombardment organizations within the Fifth Air Force Area of Responsibility (AOR).
Afterward, served with the occupation force in Japan before being inactivated in 1946.V Fighter Command
The V Fighter Command is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to Fifth Air Force, based at Fukuoka AB, Japan. It was inactivated on 31 May 1946.
During World War II the unit initially controlled fighter units in the Northwestern United States. In 1942, V Fighter Command became the primary command and control organization for Fifth Air Force, fighter units operating primarily in the Southwest Pacific Theater. Its assigned units participated in aerial combat in the Fifth Air Force Area of Responsibility (AOR) flying cover missions for convoys, patrols, escorted bombers, attacked enemy airfields, and supported ground forces.
Afterward, served with the occupation force in Japan before being inactivated in 1946.
Previously: Philippine Department Air Force (1941); Far East Air Force (1941-1942)