10/21/10 — History of the 4th Fighter Wing

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History of the 4th Fighter Wing

By From staff reports
Published in News on October 21, 2010 1:46 PM

Before the birth of the 4th Fighter Wing, American volunteers were serving in Europe as combat veterans -- flying in the Royal Air Force's 71st, 121st and 133rd Eagle Squadrons in the early 1940s.

But when the United Stated entered World War II, those pilots were transferred to the 8th Air Force and became the core fighter pilots of the new 4th Fighter Group.

Not long after is creation on Sept. 12, 1942, the group was becoming storied for successful combat missions in Europe, earning the motto "Fourth But First."

Its airmen were the first to infiltrate Germany, the first to accompany bombers to Berlin and recorded more than 1,016 shoot-downs.

The war ended and with that event, the fighter group was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, N.J., Nov. 10, 1945. It was close to a year before the Cold War forced its reactivation.

Until March 1949, the group spent the majority of its time training on the F-80 Shooting Star and F-86 Sabre jets.

Again, the nation came calling. War had broken out in Korea.

More than a year later, the newly-named 4th Fighter-Interceptor Group was the first unit to send jets to the country. By the conflict's end, members of the 4th had recorded the destruction of 502 enemy aircraft -- 54 percent of the U.S. military's total.

The wing moved then to Japan and saw many of its airmen train and tour over Korea for four years.

On Dec. 8, 1957, the wing was renamed -- and relocated -- again.

Goldsboro became the new home of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, which had picked up a fourth fighter squadron, the 333rd "Lancers."

The aircraft flown at this time, the F-100 Super Sabre, was described by some who flew it as a "lousy fighter." But it had speed.

Just less than a year later, however, it was phased out.

Seymour Johnson, instead, was now the home of the F-105 Thunderchief.

There was little action over the next decade -- although three fighter squadrons from the 4th were deployed to Florida in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

In 1967, the Air Force, again, phased out an aircraft the wing had become accustomed to.

But the new F-4 Phantom was well worth the adjustment. Called the "test-bed" for the F-15E Strike Eagle, its capabilities far outweighed those of its predecessor.

It was 20 years before the F-15 made its first appearance on the flightline at Seymour.

In 1988, the most advanced tactical fighter aircraft of its time was unveiled as the wing's newest tool. Three years later, the transition to Strike Eagles was complete -- just in time for Iraq.

When Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990, the 4th was one of the first to retaliate. Two fighter squadrons were deployed to the region where their nighttime strikes helped end the Persian Gulf War.

In 1995, the group was renamed for the final time to date.

And the 4th Fighter Wing was born.

-- This history was compiled with the assistance of 4th Fighter Wing historian Dr. Roy Heidicker.