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432ND WING, 432ND AIR EXPEDITIONARY WING

Posted 5/16/2013 Printable Fact Sheet
 
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432nd Wing emblem
Emblem of the 432nd Wing, originally approved for the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Group on June 2, 1955.
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The illustrious history of the 432nd "Hunters" began with the activation of the 432nd Observation Group on Feb. 22, 1943, at Alachua Army Air Field, Fla., to train cadres for new groups and squadrons as the nation continued to prepare forces for war. After redesignation as the 432nd Reconnaissance Group, and a transfer to Keystone Army Air Field, Fla., a revamped training program offered basic and flying training, and instruction on subjects that included chemical warfare, aircraft recognition, security and censorship. The Army Air Force inactivated the group on Nov. 1, 1943, shortly after its redesignation as the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Group. Just over a decade later, on March 18, 1954, the group returned to activate status at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., to provide tactical reconnaissance capabilities. In early 1959, after consolidating its lineage with the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing's, the unit ran the U.S. Air Force Advanced Flying School, Tactical Reconnaissance briefly before inactivating on May 17, 1959.

Activated once again on Aug. 19, 1966, the 432nd TRW formed up a month later on Sep. 18, 1966, at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. Thus began the most defining era of the unit's history, one that forged a legacy of valor, courage and steadfastness that buttresses the warfighting traditions carried on by today's "Hunters. As before, the role that initially personified the "hunt" in Vietnam for the 432nd was tactical aerial reconnaissance in support of other combat operations. This changed one year later, with the arrival and assignment of seven tactical fighter squadrons to the wing, as its mission set expanded to include combat air patrols against MiGs and ground strike operations. To be sure, the Hunters embraced the intensification of their combat role. Between Dec. 17, 1967, and Jan. 8, 1973, the wing's squadrons received credit for 36 confirmed MiG kills. Sixteen of those came from the Air Force's only Vietnam era "Aces," each one a Hunter. Three in all, they included Capt. Charles B. DeBellevue, of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, credited with downing two MiG-19s and four MiG-21s; Capt. Jeffrey S. Feinstein, of the 13th TFS, credited with downing five MiG-21s; and lastly Capt. Richard S. Ritchie, of the 555th TFS, credited with five MiG-21s.

Not all landmark events in that war occurred in the air, as with the case of Capt. Roger C. Locher of the 555th TFS. Shot down on May 10, 1972, Locher evaded captivity for 23 days before being rescued. The rescue itself, the deepest such mission into North Vietnam territory by American forces, is still deemed one of the most successful combat evasion chapters of the war. After participating in 14 of the 17 air campaigns of the Vietnam War, in Jan. 1973, the 432nd offically ended operations in that country. Still, combat air operations continued that year in Laos until February and in Cambodia until August. After implementation of the cease-fire accords, the 432nd remained in Thailand to conduct routine reconnais-sance and training missions. In belated recognition of its new mission set, it became the 432nd Tactical Fighter Wing on Nov. 15, 1974. In April 1975, the wing supported the evacuation of American and Allied personnel from Cambodia and South Vietnam. That same year, the 432nd played a key role in finding and recovering the American freighter, S.S. Mayaguez. Relieved of all operational duties on Nov. 30, 1975, the 432nd inactivated on Dec. 23 of the same year.

This time the highly decorated flag of the 432nd did not remain furled for long. After redesignation as the 432nd Tactical Drone Group, the unit activated May 24, 1976, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., to conduct follow-on and evaluation testing of the AQM-34V unmanned drone. The 432nd carried out parallel initial operational testing of the drone's DC-130H "mothership" as well. This brief venture into yet another mission area ended, for a time at least, with the group's inactivation in 1979. On July 1, 1984, the unit activated at Misawa Air Base, Japan, as the 432nd Tactical Fighter Wing. Serving as the host base unit, the 432nd TFW flew F-16 Viper aircraft in support of a tactical employment mission. Using Misawa as a test base for a new wing organizational structure, popularly referred to as the "one wing, one base, one boss" concept, the Air Force redesignated the unit as the 432nd Fighter Wing on May 31, 1991. This concept led to the assignment of a third flying squadron to the 432nd FW, with operational control of the 39th Rescue Squadron's four HH-60G Black Hawk helicopters ceded to the wing by the Air Rescue Service on Feb. 1, 1993. On Oct. 1, 1994, the 432nd FW inactivated at Misawa as the 35th FW stood up there.

The veteran combat unit returned to active service on May 1, 2007, at Creech AFB, Nev., as the 432nd Wing, and formed the U.S. Air Force's first unmanned (later, remotely piloted) aircraft systems wing. In doing so, the 432nd took charge of existing and rapidly expanding unmanned precision attack and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance combat missions there in support of overseas contingency operations. On May 15, 2008, the provisional 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing activated at Creech to offer the fullest possible spectrum of leadership to these fights, while complementing the operate, train and equip efforts of the 432nd Wing.


(Current as of January 2013)





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