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116th Air Refueling Squadron

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

116th Air Refueling Squadron
KC-135E Washington ANG refuels fighters 2007.jpg
116th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker refueling fighters 2007
Active1917 – present
Country United States
Allegiance Washington
  Air National Guard
RoleAir Refueling
Part ofWashington Air National Guard
Garrison/HQFairchild Air Force Base, Spokane, Washington.
Nickname(s)Ace of Spades
Motto(s)"Caveat Hostis"
Let the Enemy Beware
Tail CodeFairchild
116th Air Refueling Squadron emblem
The Ace of Spades with a dagger piercing the center of the card.
116th Air Refueling Squadron emblem.jpg

The 116th Air Refueling Squadron (116 ARS) is a unit of the Washington Air National Guard 141st Air Refueling Wing located at Fairchild Air Force Base, Spokane, Washington. The 116th is equipped with the KC-135R Stratotanker and RC-26B Metroliner.

The squadron is a descendant organization of the World War I 116th Aero Squadron, established on 28 August 1917. It was reformed on 6 August 1924, as the 116th Observation Squadron, and is one of the 29 original National Guard Observation Squadrons of the United States Army National Guard formed before World War II.

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  • ✪ Helicopters in Vietnam
  • ✪ Robins Air Force Base


>> David Ferriero: Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I'm David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I'm pleased you could join us, Whether you're here in person with us in the theater or watching us on YouTube. And a special welcome to the CSPAN audience. Outside on Constitution Avenue, three historic Bell helicopters are parked near our entrance. Today we have a wonderful opportunity to learn about these helicopters, and the men who flew them, from members of the North Carolina Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association and moderator Dwayne Williams. Our program is presented in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of L3 Technologies. Many thanks to them. Before we hear from our special guests, I'd like to tell you about three upcoming programs. This morning we opened our new exhibit, "Remembering Vietnam," and tomorrow we continue our related programming. At 11:00 a.m., Frances O'Roark Dowell will help us see Vietnam through the eyes of a child as she discusses her book, Shooting the Moon. At 2:00 o'clock, we'll show the film We Were Soldiers. And at 7:00 p.m., we will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with a panel discussion that will include the founder of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Jan Scruggs. To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events online at Check our website or sign up to get email updates. You'll also find information about other National Archives Activities. Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. There are applications for membership in the lobby. As I mentioned earlier, today's program is one in a series of events we are presenting in conjunction with our new exhibit, "Remembering Vietnam," which just opened in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery upstairs. The exhibit is a media-rich exploration of the Vietnam War, featuring interviews with American and Vietnamese veterans and civilians with first-hand experience of the war's events as well as historic analysis. It is a fascinating collection of newly discovered and iconic original documents, images, film footage, and artifacts that illuminate 12 critical episodes in the war that divided the peoples of both the United States and Vietnam. I encourage you all to walk Through the exhibit. You have plenty of time to come and learn from it. Now I ask all Vietnam veterans or any United States veterans Who served in the Vietnam era, November 1st, 1955 to May 15th, 1975 to stand and be recognized. [Applause] Veterans, as you exit the McGowan Theater after today's program, National Archives staff and volunteers will present each of you with the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin. On the back of the pin is embossed: "A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You." The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration is a national initiative, and the lapel pin is the nation's lasting memento of thanks. The National Archives Building is always an impressive sight on Constitution Avenue, but this week we're attracting a bit more attention. Thanks to the North Carolina Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, who are the custodians of the aircraft, we can see and learn about three original Vietnam War-era helicopters: The Bell AH-1 Cobra, The Bell UH-1 Iroquois, And the Bell OH-58 Kiowa. This display is presented in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of Bell Helicopter. And now, we'll hear from General Richard A. Cody, retired, Of the United States Army. General Cody graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1972. He is a Master Army Aviator, rated in over 19 helicopters and has over 5,000 hours of flight time. During his 36-plus years of service, General Cody served in six of the Army's combat divisions. During Operation Desert Storm, then-Lieutenant Colonel Cody led Task Force Normandy, a flight of eight Apache helicopters, into Iraq and destroyed two critical Iraqi radar sites prior to the start of the allied air campaign. General Cody is currently the Senior Vice President and Officer for L3 Technologies, Inc., Washington Operations. He is the Chairman of the Board for Homes for Our Troops, Board Trustee of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Board Trustee of the George C. Marshall Foundation, on the Advisory Board for Hope for the Warriors; and the founder and lead pilot for Operation Flying Heroes, an organization that provides flights for Iraq and Afghanistan Wounded Warriors. General Cody has received the United States Military Academy Distinguished Graduate Award and the George C. Marshall Goodpaster Award and is an inductee of the Army Aviation Hall of Fame. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome General Richard A. Cody. [Applause] >> Richard Cody: Thank you, everybody. For our Vietnam veterans and their families, you know, sometimes saying "thank you for your service" isn't enough. And I want to tell you what I really want to do is say thank you for inspiring a young 16-year-old in Montpelier, Vermont, back in 1966, because I got to watch your Vietnam helicopter pilots, on TV, and that inspired me to want to become like you, a helicopter pilot. And I was lucky enough to be able to achieve my dream, but more importantly, as soon as I graduated from flight school, it was hundreds of Vietnam era officers and colonels who taught me what Wright looked like and taught me to be an aviation leader, and quite frankly, I tell everybody I wouldn't have made general officer if it had not been for my Vietnam tutors. So thank you for everything you've done for this great country. I also want to thank you because in 1991 when I came back from the Iraq War, it was 3:00 in the morning. I had my squadron from the 101st. We landed in Bangalore, Maine, and we were some of the last guys coming out of the Iraq war, the first Gulf War. And the guys, we were watching on TV, waiting back at the airport in Saudi Arabia and saw all the parades and everybody being welcomed home and the troops said, gee, no one is going to greet us. At 3:00 in the morning we get off to refuel and there was Vietnam veterans at 3:00 in the morning shaking the hands and giving my soldiers and myself a welcome home from combat that you guys never got. And I'll never forget watching young soldiers exchanging their sandy caps with the bush caps with the Vietnam veterans. And it touched me in a way that you'll never know. But our nation is well past that and this series about helicopters and those daring men that flew helicopters and their crews as part of the Vietnam series is something that all Americans should know about, and we should take time to honor. So I'm very, very pleased that the Archives are doing that. What you all did in Vietnam was really transform our army and our way of thinking about warfare in terms of a 360-degree battlefield. And today many soldiers are alive from battles of Iraq and Afghanistan and other places that we have fought in because we learned from you the tactics, techniques and procedures of vertical lift and aviation in the ground regime, whether it's Medevac or troop transport, supplies so we don't have to drive through IED ridden lines of communications to the attack helicopter's role on the battlefield. A lot of people don't know that we sent 7,000 UH-1sto Vietnam. And over 3,000 of them got shot down. We sent over 1100 Cobras, just like the one out there, starting 67, 1100 of those in combat, and over 300 of those got shot down. And over 2200 pilots, helicopter pilots, fallen comrades, got shot down and paid the last final salute to the United States and sacrifice to all of us. And we learned from all of that. And I think it's fitting that we take time to understand the sacrifices of you guys and those who are over in Arlington Cemetery, and how important it was, the way you pioneered today's aviation force. In 1979 we had a hostage situation over in Iran, and as you know, that didn't end well. But immediately thereafter we formed up what is now the 160th special operations regiment. And it was Vietnam veteran pilots that we called back to active duty to form up what is now the Littleberg Gunship Company, the Littleberg Lift Company, and it was the Vietnam veteran helicopter pilots that we depended on to get the techniques and procedures down to form up that helicopter unit which today is known as the Night Stalkers, probably the world's best unit on aviation. So today you get to hear from several of our Vietnam helicopter pilots. They all have great stories to tell and heroes in their own right just like you. They're all great Americans, great patriots. But the other thing that they're great at, is they're great brothers in arms. These guys have been together ever since Vietnam. People forget it's been over 50 years since we brought them into Vietnam, so I think it's fitting we hear from them again. And I'll lay in by the way I started. Thanks for your service. I get asked a lot, what do we say to our veterans who have served in war and in uniform? And I tell America, you know, saying "thanks for your service" is important, but if you really want to thank the men and women who have borne the brunt of battle, especially Vietnam veterans, what we really need to do as Americans is live our lives as Americans worthy of their service and sacrifice. So God bless all of you. I hope you enjoy this event. Thank you. [Applause] >> David Ferriero: Thank you, General Cody. It's now my Pleasure to turn the program over to our moderator, Dwayne Williams. Dwayne is a decorated Vietnam veteran and helicopter pilot. He graduated from flight school in October 1966 and was assigned to 175th Helicopter Company (Outlaws & Mavericks) in Vinh Long, Vietnam, where he served as gunship pilot. After his tour in Vietnam, he was reassigned to Fort Wolters, Texas, and served as an instructor pilot until his honorable discharge in October 1969. In the 1970s, he was a line pilot in the offshore oil industry, and then began a 31-year career as a chief pilot, instructor pilot, demonstration pilot, and experimental test pilot for Bell Helicopter, first in Iran and then in Fort Worth, Texas. Since retiring from Bell, Dwayne has kept flying helicopters, and currently resides in Arlington, Texas, with his wife of over 52 years. Please welcome Dwayne Williams and members of the North Carolina Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association. [Applause] >> Dwayne Williams: Good afternoon. Can you hear me? Thank you all for being here. It's certainly my pleasure in being here this evening. And I think it's even more so a great honor to be here with these guys. Whenever I was called and invited to come out here and participate, the first thing I did was go and check my size 40 white suit I wore in Vietnam... [ Laughter ] I think I could get one leg in it. But these guys maintain a strict regimen of workout, diet, and they fit in their size 40 really good. But my wife said, you're going to look nice. So she fixed the rest of me up and here I am. We do have a story today to tell. Several stories. But before we get into that, I would like to introduce these guys. First of all, they're from the North Carolina Helicopter Pilots Association, and they're the ones responsible for the beautiful aircraft you see out front. They came all the way from North Carolina. They got here Sunday night. And they will be here through Sunday and they have been standing out there every day, long days, taking care, answering questions, and they do a great job. And I think I would like to give them a... [Applause] ...... hand for that. To my right here is Joe Dalfanzo. And colonel United States Army retired. He was in Vietnam in 1968. He was the commanding officer of the transportation company, care takers. They provided maintenance for the 189th. The helicopter company maintaining 28-30 aircraft, and he had a heck of a job doing that. Sitting next to him is ed Hughes, Lieutenant Colonel retired, and Ed was in the -- he was in Vietnam in 1971. He flew with the 116th called Sign Hornets, and he is a survivor of Lam Son 719. I don't know if you know what it is, but he is going to tell us about it. And then we have Jerry Phelps, retired CWF, '68-'69. He flew in the 101st, and he also -- I think he flew Hueys and I think he has an interesting story about OH gunships. And last we have Jerry Seago. Jerry and I are the only ones that thought we would cast our fortunes as civilians, and I don't know about me, but I think Jerry has done pretty well. And one of the things I'm sure he is proudest of is he is probably, I think, talking to everybody, he is the founding father of this group. And he has done a tremendous job putting it all together and maintaining his aircraft, and I know it's -- I know the work it takes. So I would like for Jerry to talk just a minute about this unit, if you don't mind, Jerry. >> Jerry Seago: First I would like to thank the Archives foundation and the staff here, the helicopter and technology for bringing us here -- Bell Helicopter and technology for brings us here to honor the Vietnam veterans. Back in 1989, 16 pilots gathered in Greensboro, North Carolina, to see if there was an interest in putting together a local organization where be helicopter pilots could get together, tell war stories and I always say there's two things helicopter pilots don't do. They don't drink beer and they don't tell war stories. [ Laughter ] >> Dwayne Williams: Both of them are lying. And they don't lie. >> Jerry Seago: We started out with 16 people at about 9:00 in the morning with two cases of beer, three dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts, North Carolina, and a gallon of coffee. By 2:00 in the afternoon we elected officers, written bylaws and a constitution and set up to be incorporated. Luckily we had a lawyer present. Three months later, after some people decided we needed a helicopter to talk about, we decided we would go ahead and try to get a helicopter. This took three years to get our first aircraft. After we put this thing together and got it presentable, we went to Wilmington, North Carolina, to do a parade. This was purely selfish on our part because we wanted to ride in the parade. We got there and did the parade and came through and was putting the aircraft back together. First thing you know we had 150 people standing around the aircraft. So we realized then, wait a minute, there's an interest here in this. So from there we proceeded to procure other aircraft, and right now we have six aircraft. We do static displays all up and down the east coast and Pennsylvania, Florida, out into Kentucky, Tennessee. We have done over 300,000 students of schools at no cost to schools. Virtually what we do, we can take the aircraft to schools and not only their historical part of their education, but we can relate course studies to these aircraft. It may be in doing this that some student decides what he's going to do. Today this is the third trip to Washington, D.C. this year. This year we did our third presidential inaugural parade with aircraft. We've been told this is the most parades any organization like ours has ever done in history. Hopefully we'll be around for another one, but we'll see. One of the things I'm most proud of these guys is they put up with me. And they go sometimes to places that I wouldn't go with me. And they put in long hours, like they're doing out here today. We are -- we're self-supported. We take no federal or state funding or no private sponsorship from organizations. We've been doing this for 28 years and we continue to do this successfully. So it can be done for organizations that is willing to put forth the effort and have support with these people. Thank y'all for supporting us here. >> Dwayne Williams: The photos are really not relevant to what we're talking about perhaps, but really some neat photos provided by Bell Helicopter, so occasionally I'm going to flip through here and see something new, it might trigger -- oh, I got a story for that. So in case you see me flipping through this, but for now I'm going to let Joe talk a minute what it was like maintaining 28 aircraft in a combat situation. >> Joe Dalfonzo: Thank you. It's a real honor and a privilege for me to be here. I was a young lieutenant down at Fort Campbell and gung-ho, just couldn't wait to get to Vietnam. I wanted to be the greatest infantry platoon leader there ever was. And fortunately the lord blessed me with a wonderful young lady who took me by the arm and said, you're going to flight school. I said, I can handle that. Off we went. I went to flight school, went to fit flight school, which was unusual, because in those days we needed helicopter pilots. And then aircraft maintenance and off to Vietnam and I was confident when I got to Vietnam I was going to end up flying a U-21, which is a Beach King twin engine, safe airplane, real high, no problems. Well, went kaput. I ended up at Camp Holloway and took over the TC detachment, which was attached to the ghost riders, the 189th assault helicopter company. Probably the worst time in their history. I was talking earlier today to one of our guys, and we got there both about the same time, and it seems like in the month or two before I got there, there was some pretty intense combat operations up through that area, and the 52nd battalion, our parent organization, had literally flown itself into the ground supporting the infantry and flying combat, combat assault, evacuation missions of all kinds. So long story short, when I arrived, our unit, which was 20UH-1s, 20 Slicks and 8 gunships, had nothing flyable, no mission capable aircraft anywhere. Our aircraft were shot full of holes. They were down for maintenance. We were short parts. And I just want to say a thank you and call-out to the maintenance personnel that worked behind the scenes over there. I had some of the best enlisted men and warrant officers that I think the Army ever saw. They were professional. They were dedicated. They were competent beyond belief. Maintenance guys are behind the scenes guys. You don't hear a lot about them when you see the Vietnam things and you see other documentaries in war stories. But let me tell you, maintenance is never ending. The Huey H-1 is a marvelous aircraft. Go to Wikipedia and look at UH1 and you'll be blown away by what the airplane can do and the capabilities it brings, but it also takes a lot of maintenance. Scheduled maintenance, unscheduled maintenance, combat damage to be repaired. And our guys worked sometimes 24, sometimes 36 hours. We test-flew airplanes after maintenance when we should not have. Literally sitting there half a sleep in the cockpit during a half-hour Huber check to make sure everything was cool. Jerry was a test pilot. The enlisted guys, they turned too. We got back to our mission required 12 Slicks and 6 gunships within about a month and it was only the dedication and the professionalism of the NCO corps that did that. I had an infantry first sergeant of all things in an aviation unit, and he was a leader's leader. The NCOs, you've heard before and will hear again, are the backbone of the army, and this guy, this E8 took these young men under his arm and trained them and brought them up the way they should be. I had a technical inspector that had grown up and worked on evaluations when the army bought the airplane and he knew as much about the airplane as probably any bell engineer out there. I was blessed. I had the great warrant officers in the crowd. We used to laugh about one of my guys said he could do a rotation at night and land the thing on a dime in the dark and not have a problem. They could, they were that good. So as I say, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we didn't have Sundays or Thursdays or whatever it was, we just fixed airplanes. They loved what they were doing and did it very, very well. One of the more exciting parts of that were recovering downed aircraft. And that ran the gamut. There were airplanes that got shot down that we would have to go out and rig and pick up with a Chinook or crane or whatever and bring it back so it can be salvaged or repaired to fly again. There were airplanes that we had to fix on site. And I was telling the guys -- one of the most exciting times I ever had was I went up to a place called Ben Het, a pretty hotly contested piece of ground and we had an airplane that had landed there and had damage to rotor blades and damage to the tail rotor. So Sergeant Frances and I, the chief technical inspector, got dropped off on the ground at Ben Het and spent the next two or three hours trying to do enough battle damage repair, if you will, to get that airplane flyable to bring it home. I got on top and shimmied on the top and putting duct tape where the holes were and we were fixing the tail rotor. He had to replace the tail rotor in the field. Unheard of. Probably not another man in the army could have done that. He's standing on a 55-gallon drum, wobbling and trying to change the tail rotor on that airplane. And the bad guys started motor shells into the base, fortunately on the other side, but it gets your attention, so we get off the airplane and jump over and run in a ditch and hide, and the gun fire would go away and we would go back and do our thing. And they started shooting again. After the third iteration, I said to Frances, I think they're having more fun with us than anything else, we might as well finish the airplane and go home. And we did, off we went. So that's just a quick run on the maintenance parts of it. Again, we can't give enough thanks to the young enlisted guys and the warrants that worked so hard. And the other group that often gets overlooked and one I want to make a shout-out to is the wives and the families. We get all the glory. We get all the "thank you for your service," but the wives and the families that were left back here in the States waiting, we didn't have cell phones, we didn't have any way to talk to them or communicate with them for the most part except letters. And they were there. They were waiting. And they didn't know from day to day where we were. We were too busy, folks, honest to goodness, to think about it. I never thought dying or getting shot or getting killed. I didn't have time to think about that. I had airplanes to fix. But my wife did and she thought about it every day, as did all these guys' wives and girlfriends and mothers and their families. So I just want to say a shout-out to them. They deserve our gratitude forever. I thank them. [Applause] >> Dwayne Williams: Echoing Joe, my young wife of four months dropped me off at Fort Wolters, November '65 and last August we celebrated our 52nd anniversary, and that's quite a feat, I think... >> Amen. >> Dwayne Williams: But my wife, like Joe said, boy, we chose well. And all you wives up there, you get kudos. You really do. I know you go through, and our wives suffer too. Like Joe said, they didn't know -- I know my wife woke up one morning or in the night with a terrible pain in the knee and she knew I had been shot. Which I wasn't. She didn't know that. And she didn't know that for weeks. So, like Joe said, they endured. They suffered and they endured. And good for you. I tell you, the wives get a round of applause. Jerry, Mr. Phelps. Jerry was with the 101st, but then he had -- and I think it was with the state the whole time, but one of the things he started flying was OH-6 gunships and I'll let him tell the story. >> Jerry Phelps: I arrived in Vietnam assigned to Charlie Company 101, the Back Widows. Huey Slicks about two months when they called down and asked for volunteers to fly the OH-6 with their brigade. I went and joined the headquarters companies, third brigade, Camp Evans, Vietnam. I started flying the OH6 with a mini gun on the left side and door gunner in the right rear and a few hand grenades. our typical day would start first light in the morning. We would do a perimeter recon around Camp Evans looking targets that sensors picked up the night before. Many times it was just water buffalo, stuff like that. But every now and then we find a few bad guys. And then our unit, we had six OH-6s, six UH-1s. They were more command and control. Also had an infantry platoon blues company, or blues platoon, that when one of the OH-6swent out, went out and found some enemy activity we could insert the Blues platoon to develop the situation. And at that time they were fully armed, very few rations, just weapons. We never left the men overnight. We would call the infantry platoons and companies that develop it further and we pull our people out at night. After we completed these recons in the morning, we would either marry up with another OH-6 gunship and we would be assigned to maybe an AO to recon, develop the situation in other areas, or if there was a mission that came in from a ground support unit that was in contact and needed some aerial support, we would go help them out as much as we could. We could also marry up with the 77th ARA Cobras. Which really give us a little bit of fire power there. So we would go down and hunt the treetops, look around to see what we could find. When we could develop something, we would call in the Cobras to help take care of the situation. That was pretty much our routine every day. We did this area perimeter every morning, and we worked anywhere from the DMZ south to Veghel, Bertgarden, Eagle's Nest up by the rock pile and DMZ, Vandegrift, the marine base. It was interesting going there, because the marines build Vandegrift in the valley and the mountains on both sides were owned by bad guys, so when we landed there, we took fire. But it was a very fulfilling job. I enjoyed doing it, extremely lucky. I was pretty good. I only got shot down one time, and... but we made it through and went back and got another helicopter and took off again. So about our day there. I ended up with about 950 combat hours. >> Dwayne Williams: Thank you, Jerry. [Applause] >> Dwayne Williams: Jerry, 950 hours. I think the average helicopter pilot in Vietnam probably flew 1,000 hours, and that is a lot of time. That is a lot of time in a year, and it's all pretty much combat. I mean, from the time you lifted off, you could be shot any time. So I think that was the average time that the pilots flew over there. And when I introduced Ed, when I first looked through their bios, I saw where Ed Hughes flew. He was in Vietnam in '71 and he participated in Lam Son 719. I don't know if you know the history of Vietnam War but Lam Son 719 was primarily south Vietnam army operation, but at that time the station of the war was starting, a lot of the military -- U.S. military were kind of standing down, so they did have some military support, but not the primary units in this operation. And it was the largest combat assault operation in the history of the entire Vietnam War. And it was an incursion into Laos to cut off the supply line, and they used 276 Hueys, and then I don't know how many Cobras, but I'm sure there were several hundred. And of that group, 168 helicopters were shot down. it was -- I think going in wasn't so bad. It's always the picking up in the PZ. The LZssometimes not so bad, but the PZs, the pickup zone, oh, boy, that's when you sweated it. So anyway, I'm going to let Ed tell us his story about Lam Son 719. >> Edmund Hughes: I showed up in Vietnam in July of 1970, was assigned to the 116th assault helicopter company to Yellow Jacket platoon, and as a new guy, they call you X new guy, and for the first two or three months you fly with the aircraft commanders that have been there and earned the right to be an aircraft commander. After three months or so, when you have accumulated 300 hours in country, then they put you up for a check light. And you don't ride with one person. You ride with every aircraft commander in that unit that flies a type of aircraft you're going to fly. In my case it was a UH-1D and then a hotel model. And you have to please every one of those pilots, those aircraft commanders, or you don't get called an aircraft commander. Well, I was fortunate enough that I picked the call sign Hornet 24 and that's what I used for the rest of the time I was there. We ran normal missions of an assault helicopter company, everything from ash and trash, carrying parts from point A to point B, resupply out to fire bases or to troops in the field, command and control, combat assaults. Could be two or three ships up to, say, ten ships in that area. In March of 1971, a lot of us were in the O club and had a couple drinks, which aviators don't normally do, and they came across and made the announcement that all members of the 116th were to return to their unit. So we went back to the unit and our company commander major Henry Hagwood retired as two-star general informed us we were going to Quam 3 to participate in Lam Son 719. Four fleets and two gunships. It was Charlie gunships. We refueled and took off and started across the pass, for those that have been there, you know what the Havan pass is. Down from the South China Sea and from there climbs up I don't know how many thousands of feet, but way up. In the dark, we all went IFR. Everybody got out if it but me. There was a mountain to my west, 49.9 pounds of port and climbed as high and as fast as I could go. About an hour and a half later I finally got radar control on boar and he got down into 'Nam. in Laos is where I developed appreciation and respect for the aviators. I have an idea what they went through. Can you imagine a helicopter flying through flak, not just individual AK47 shooting at you. This was flak. You fly along and look in front of you and a Huey that was there a minute ago isn't there anymore. You would have Cobras flying alongside and they would find a 51 Cal and they were told, do not attack individual 51 Cals. And the reason was they would sucker the Cobra in and then a second one would open up. They would shoot the Cobra down. No aviator is going to leave their buddy on the ground. What happens? Another Cobra goes in. And then the third 51 Cal opens up. Now two Cobra pilots down there. We had a maintenance aircraft from 174th that got shot down trying to get them out. Those three crews stayed on the ground in a bunker, a bomb crater for almost four days until they inserted a platoon of rangers in there to secure it. And when they did, that entire area was surrounded with dead North Vietnamese. Those guys fought for their lives for three or four days. But Lam Son 719, I never prayed so hard in my life. From when we took off to back west again, I was praying something kind of hard. And when we did extractions, they were saying, go out and pick them up. Well, the first wave went in to pick them up. The South Vietnamese were in panic mood, trying to get out of there, they were getting their you-know-what's cleaned and not orderly about getting on the aircraft. Huey would care 13 normal people. Well, these south Vietnamese were cramming on the aircraft, 13, 15, 20, whatever they could get on there. Some couldn't take off. They would try to and crash as they went over the side of the ridge line. So to counter that we went to the maintenance people, vehicular maintenance and we got as much axle grease as we could get and greased the cross tubes and the skids. So if they were hanging on, once we cleared the ridge lines, they didn't stay on. That's the only way we could save the aircraft and crews and pilots. We did that two or three days. I was telling Dwayne earlier, I have at home an inch and a half piece of mortar round that went in the aircraft going in one of the ridge lines. But Lam Son, down south for a year, yeah, you got shot at. Yeah, we took a bunch of hits here and there and put aircraft into maintenance because of it. But Lam Son, boy, I tell you what, it woke me up. And it really built my respect for the World War II pilots. >> Dwayne Williams: Thank you, Ed. [Applause] >> Dwayne Williams: Like I said, when I saw Ed had flown in that, I said, we've got to hear this story. But Vietnam was a helicopter war. And I think it's where the helicopter -- it's where it was -- it was in its infancy and it had to crawl and walk and jog and run in the span of ten years. And that's exactly what it did. Across the board, all the military, all the branches combined, there was over 12,000 helicopters that served in that small war during that period of time. We lost 5,600 of those. Through accidents. But most combat. And the iconic Huey and the Cobras that you see out front, General Cody touched on that. The Huey, it personifies that war. I don't know if you know it, but the United States Postal Service saw fit to put the Huey on the stamp of the '60sfor the Vietnam War. So it's the face of that war. And there was over 7,000 Hueys sent into that -- into Vietnam. Those 7,000 Hueys flew 7.5 million flight hours. And we lost 3,600, I think. Almost half. Of the 12,000, we lost almost half and the 7,000, lost almost half. As General Cody mentioned, the Cobra was the Johnny-come-lately. Didn't get there until late '67, '68 time frame, and we lost 300. It was a risky business. I read -- I've read several articles where it listed the most dangerous jobs in Vietnam. Which one do you think was number one? Helicopter air crewmen. Number two was a long range recon patrol. And those guys... And third was the tunnel rats. Let me tell you, tunnel rats at the top of the heap. It was a risky business, and I think, you know, that was just part of the price, I suppose. And we lost a lot of good men. General Cody mentioned the men we lost. Percentage-wise we represent a small number, but we had a high casualty rate overall. I read an article once where it said that the marines lost a lot of people. They lost over 13,000. And that the helicopter crewmen in the Marines still had -- you had three times as great a risk as being shot down and killed as a helicopter crewman as you did being an infantryman. And we could sit here and talk about that, but I think, you know, the takeaway from that is -- I think as General Cody said, it kind of was the -- it started a new -- now there's not a unit of military in the world that doesn't have a lot of helicopters. And I think these guys are the ones who kind of set the pace. And any of you have anything you can add to this that would -- >> I would like to add two comments. I want to back Joe up on the maintenance personnel in Vietnam. I flew 1100 combat hours in 12 months and never had one mechanical failure that wasn't caused by me hitting a tree. Never had an engine failure or any problems at all. The second thing is, one officer. Any warrant officers pilots out here other than from our unit? Outstanding. Flight school taught us how to fly the helicopters. The warrant officers in Vietnam taught me how to really fly that helicopter and what it would do, and everything I did after that, I owe to them just like General Cody said earlier inside that room, they taught me how to fly that aircraft, what it could really do and how to make it do it. >> Dwayne Williams: You know, when you get to Vietnam, like you said you're treated kind of like a leper. Like you said, the new guy. Because they don't know you. You're kind of straight -- and really, when we went, I graduated one month and I was in Vietnam 20 some-odd days later. And when I got to unit, it was in the early -- we were really strapped for pilots, but they tried to -- every one of the unit, it wasn't like throw the boy in there for the meat grinder. They all tried to give you some time. And I heard Ed mention "ash and trash." That was the resupply, whatever, in between combat and assault. And I think it took me -- they liked to have 25 days and I think it took me 25 hours before they put you in a combat assault. And I think on the fifth day I was in a combat assault. Took me four days to get 25 hours. And imagine, if you will, a young man... who just got there, didn't really know what it was all about, and I am sitting as a copilot in the lift comprised of ten aircraft. I'm in the second lift. It's an LZ. They called it cold. Which means nothing is going on. There are no bad guys. >> In reality it meant nobody knew what was there. [chuckles] >> That was our experience. >> As for that flight, every tree line had a Cobra. It's like there's a Cobra in there and it's going to strike. I just didn't know. But I'm sitting there and there are jets on call, you know, and then there's the little Air Force facts, and I'm listening to all this talk. And they're hearing, gentlemen, we're on short final in the LZ. 30 seconds. Want to be in the kill zone in 30 seconds. I'm thinking, kill zone for 30 seconds... what the... Well, they say your lifespan is 30 seconds in the kill zone in LZ. They start mortaring, it's 8 seconds. But I'm sitting up here and that first lift hits and they're about five minutes ahead of us. And I mean all hell breaks loose. Screaming, taking fire, getting shot, and I see -- they're bringing in jets and then the guns were hammering away and hearing taking fire from 2:00, 3:00, 4:00... and I'm thinking... whatever length of time I have between now and the time we land in that LZ, that's how long I have to live. I can't say I was scared. I was overwhelmed. I kept thinking... how did I get in this movie? Let me off! And then we came in and we landed. And the aircraft, the helicopter, just when it comes in and slows and settles in. In our case we settled into the rice Patties. When it starts settling in, much like a duck on a pond. You just settle and you are at your most vulnerable. You can't fly, you're settled in and they know it takes you a while to get those troops off. 30 seconds, gentlemen, 30 seconds, get them off, get them off! And just when things -- I see tracers flashing by and it's just like... okay, things slow down and, like, okay... it's not good. And I am already -- my gut is sucked up and I'm already trying to shrink into that seat, and then I hear the trail. You have the lead in the front and the trail. He's the eyes for the lead. And he goes, they're dropping mortars in on us, they're dropping mortars. And I hear a clump and I look over and I see this... thank God we're in a rice patty, because mortars, a hard surface, we all would have been splattered, but the mud absorbs it. I see mud flying and I see dirty black smoke and flame from it, and then I hear... I see that and then I hear... aircraft rocked and my gunner behind me screams, I've been hit. Now I am shrinking, doing my best to get behind that chest protector thinking, what have these guys got against me? And then finally, at long last, the trail says... Troops are out, let's go. I tell you what, didn't have to get a second. Nose ducked and we're all right with him. One of the air crafts hit, called out mayday, got to get in, that's the life blood of the helicopter, it's been hit, shot and taking hits, but he managed -- he got out of the LZ. And I'm thinking, now we get out and we get away and we're going back to pick up more. And we're going to go back. Oh, yeah. We're going to go back. And you know, I think that was the mantra of the helicopter. Those guys on the ground knew, we're going to be back. We took them into combat, we took them into the LZ, and we brought them out. We took them up and brought them home. In between, like Ed said, we carried supplies. We carried ammo by the ton, water, food. If they got hit, they knew. They knew that we were going to be in there to pick them up. They knew that within a matter of minutes, a Medevac is going to be in there and pick them up. Didn't matter what we lose, we're going to be in there. And when those guys were engaged in combat and call for guns... >> Oh, yeah. >> They're coming. And I think that's -- and whenever -- you know, I have to say that first combat assault, I remember thinking, oh, this is going to be a long war. This is going to be a long year. Maybe I could be a -- take up anything, a tank driver. But as it -- as you went on, I think it become accepted, you know, it's a risk you accept. I didn't really know -- when I got there, I know these guys will say the same thing. I didn't really know why I was there. I can't say I was there to fight for democracy. I was there because my country sent me. They asked me and I went. I volunteered. Every helicopter pilot, all 40,000 -- can you imagine that? 40,000 helicopter pilots served in Vietnam. We all volunteered. Every one of us. And I think if there's a legacy, it's the fact that we never left anybody on the ground. To be in an American, in my case down south, we supported the South Vietnamese army. We made no distinction. They were our flock and we were their shepherds. We would die for them. And after a while, you know, I knew what I was -- I knew what I was there for. I was there for these guys. I was there for that guy I was flying with. I was there for these guys. I was there for these guys on the ground. That's what I was there for. And every one of us can make that statement. So, I don't know what more we can say, but I think -- are we getting close to where we want to have some -- >> I had one comment. >> Dwayne Williams: Go ahead, Jerry. >> We need to recognize the door gunners. They had the discipline -- when you think about a dead gunner, 60 and a bungee cord sticking out the door you have to have the discipline and presence of mind not to shoot rotor blade. It's a whole different ball game, and a lot of these door gunners were not aviation opinion they volunteered to come in and fight. In my case, of course, the gunner was also my crew chief. >> What he mentioned there, I've always said that blazoness is the mother of invention. In Vietnam, survivable. To survive, you had to be inventive. And I know back in those days, you have to understand, we didn't have -- we didn't have any of these things you have today. We were lucky to have a whiskey compass and wristwatch, if it worked. I was down south and didn't have to worry about mountains. A lot of rice patties, the rice bowl of Asia. Rice patties and rivers and creeks and ponds. Up north they had mountains. These guys flew in mountains. So I didn't have to worry about that. One day I had a close friend flew with the 71st Rattlers and Fire Birds, and I was at the reunion and they were talking about the Swiss moon method. I go, what? What are you talking about, Swiss moon method? They go, well, the way we navigate it. How did you navigate with the Swiss moon? It's quite easy. You know, up there, when you scrambled out, there was a call that went out, you scrambled out and didn't matter what the weather was, it would be in the wee hours of the morning and you have not seen black until you've seen black over a jungle. >> Amen. >> Oh, my Lord, is it black. The guys knew the environment and they could navigate out. But they could go out and maybe start getting a little drizzly or whatever. Didn't matter what kind of a fire fight they got into, they all -- all these gunships would say two or three rockets, because they all knew they had to go back through the mountains and they were pretty sure they knew where they were going, but not real sure. It's kind of dark and they're going wrong. So what they would do when they become unsure they would slow down to about 35 knots and crew chiefs and gunners would stand outside on the skids and fire rockets. Swoosh! Listen for a bang. If they heard a bang, then they hit a mountain. So they would take another... If the lead ship run out of rockets in the second... I said, well, you guys, you certainly top my stories, you know. But like you said, those guys that led the way taught us -- they taught us so many tricks that we would not have survived if they had not done that. And I'm still in awe today, you know. And to be sitting here with these guys telling these same stories -- like I said, pilots don't talk, drink, tell war stories, except a few. >> One quick thing. Joe saved me from myself, I guess, because I had the luck of getting shot at for nine months flying Slicks and gunships out of the field and he came along and said, look, this guy qualified in this, this, the Hueys, basically. He would work as a maintenance test pilot. So I wasn't getting shot at anymore, but I was losing engines, tail rotors, hydraulics, you know, and a lot of times we did test flights and we flew -- take off in the fog and climb up in the fog and then rotate back to the runway, and in that process you may lose an engine or a tail rotor. So, you know, he took me out of the safety of getting shot at and put me over where the aircraft is going to fall out of the air. So I really appreciate what he did for me. >> Just make it real quick. >> Okay. He talked about the local area check-outs and all that. They put me in the cockpit with a warrant officer, probably 19 years old but more flight time I could add. He took me on an ash and trash mission to get my in-country orientation and teach me to fly in Vietnam. And we were taking mail and food and supplies to a fire base. There were lots of fire bases around Vietnam, typically up on a pinnacle. Maybe 20 guys in an artillery piece. So if you don't know much about flying you won't understand, but the wing kind of gets squirrely and you're loaded heavy, and we came around to make the approach and the Warren office said you got it, stud, put it on the ground. It's a team effort. They're back there like a baseball team, chatting you up, great, little to the right, little to the left. Long story short, I missed the approach, too hot, too fast. I came back and did the same thing and you know, they're talking and this time I'm a little too slow and we had to go around again. So I'm on my third approach in there and the warrant officer looked over and said, you know what, if you don't put this thing on the ground this time, they're probably going to shoot you down because they want that mail and food. We got it on the ground, thank you God. [ Laughter ] >> We could sit -- we would love to sit here, I know, but we would like to take -- if you guys have any questions on either side of the -- question number one. >> Is it on? Can you hear me? So 48 years ago I remember you guys as young and handsome and bulletproof. You're still handsome... [ Laughter ] >> You're still handsome, but you're not young and neither am I. But we were there for you. I was a young army nurse, I was 21 years old. [Applause] And... that clapping is for my patients. Because you guys came to us -- I was there '68 and '69 and casualties were in the hundreds, as you know. You were our heroes. They were bulletproof and we were young, but they would go into the worst conditions and be shot at and land just so they could bring those wounded to us. And because you were so brave and because you were so quick and got to our hospital, 27 of them, 27 military hospitals in Vietnam up and down, and then, of course, the navy, the hospital ships, their nurses were pretty because they got prettier because they got to wear whites. We were in jungle fatigues. The Marines were happy when they got to the sanctuary. The guys came to us and we looked like you, jungle fatigues. But if a patient made it to our hospital, we had a 90% save rate. We saved 90% of our patients who came to our hospitals. I worked in the burn unit, and helicopter crashed and burned and I took care of a lot of burned helicopter pilots, who went home very disfigured, never fly again. And my hat just goes off to those chopper pilots. We loved you guys. We still do. I'll get my hugs later. I always do. But these guys were true, true heroes. They were there to save lives, pilots, and those that identify dust-off, I'm sure there's time you touched down to bring wounded to us. So I have very fond memories of all of you and it was a great privilege to be a military nurse in Vietnam and all of us nurses feel that way. So thank you. >> Thank you. [Applause] >> Dwayne Williams: Another question? >> I wanted to thank you gentlemen, because of you I'm alive today. As a member of a Medevac, I served in central highlands to the Cambodian border. I took place in the evacuation of a thousand combatants, civilians and U.S. military personnel. Flew over 1800 combat flight hours and 26 medals and I wouldn't have any of them if it hadn't been for you guys. A hot LZ, okay, we would call you guys first and you would go in ahead of us and get the enemy to duck and we fly in 120 knots as fast as it could carry us. If I'm on the ground more than 30 seconds, I'm dead. My mission was number-one, put them on board while they're breathing and get them off the helicopter at the M. A. S. H. unit next to a medical doctor within 30 minutes without fail. We evacuated over 285,000 American combatants who would be dead today if it wasn't for our job and their job protecting me while I was doing mine. so thank you, guys. [Applause] >> I think we have a short video clip, if we can roll that and show that. It's -- if you can do that. It's very short, but I think it's of a Jolly Green in a rescue mention. So can you spool that up? [ radio transmissions ] [ alarm ] Turn your beacon off. [ alarm ] Going to survivor. [ alarm ] [ radio transmissions ] >> Are you ready? >> Come and get us now. [ radio transmission ] [ helicopter whirring ] >> Survivor now. >> Roger. [ radio transmission ] >> Survivor is coming up. [ radio transmission ] [ helicopter whirring ] >> Moving out now, breaking to left. >> There they go. >> All right. >> Dwayne Williams: I think that says it all right there. That's what the helicopter does so well. I mean, it's always there. If we have no more questions, I certainly appreciate all of you being here today. And speaking for all these guys, thank you. It's been quite an honor for me to be here. [Applause] >> Dwayne Williams: God bless you and God bless America.



The squadron insignia, the ace of spades with a dagger driven through the center of the card scripted "Caveat hostis," Latin for "Let the enemy beware," was approved on 18 July 1931 by the War Department and is still in use today. One of the original sheet metal hand painted insignia from the fuselage of a Consolidated O-17 Courier can still be seen today in the squadron commander’s office. Current Air Force heraldry regulations require squadron emblems include circular background; however, the 116th's patch as worn today by its members is the ace and dagger with no circle.


World War I

The 116th Air Refueling Squadron traces its origins to 29 August 1917 with the organization of the 116th Aero Squadron at Kelly Field, Texas. The squadron consisted of 80 men reporting from Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri and 40 men from Vancouver Barracks, Washington. An additional 14 men reported from Jefferson Barracks and other men were transferred into the squadron at Kelly Field, bringing the total to 150. Initially, the squadron was trained in basic indoctrination into the Army, with drill, fatigue duty, classroom training, and other things that are done in military training camps. During its time at Kelly Field, men were transferred in and out of the squadron, depending on their qualifications and the needs of other units in training. Once basic indoctrination training was completed, the 116th was ordered for overseas duty, being ordered to report to the Aviation Concentration Center, Garden City, Long Island on 26 October. It was there that final arrangements were made for the trip overseas, complete equipment was drawn and a final few transfers were made. On 7 December, the squadron was ordered to move by train to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it boarded the RMS Tunician, and began its trans-Atlantic crossing. It arrived in Liverpool, England on 26 December and was moved immediately by train to Southampton. It remained at Southampton until the 29th when the squadron crossed the English Channel, arriving on 29 December at Le Havre, France.[1]

In France, the squadron was ordered to the Replacement Concentration Center, AEF, St. Maixent Replacement Barracks, France, arriving on 2 January 1918 for further assignment. On 17 January 1918, the squadron was again moved, this time to Romorantin Aerodrome, in central France. There, along with the 75th Aero Construction Squadron and the 109th Aero Squadron, it was part of the first regular detachments of Americans to be stationed at the airfield. It was quartered in French barracks at the Camp de Bluets, on the outskirts of the town of Romorantin. Members of the squadrons were at once put into construction work to develop the Air Service Production Center No. 2. Work was performed in erecting buildings and also the construction of a railroad line into the camp next to the airfield. After several weeks of basic construction at the camp, much of the work was transferred to Chinese laborers who began to arrive and the Americans were placed in charge of details of these workers. On 1 February, the designation of the squadron was changed from the 116th to the 637th Aero Squadron.[1]

On 4 February, the 637th was again ordered to move, being transferred to Colombey-les-Belles Airdrome. It arrived on 6 February, being the 4th Aero Squadron to arrive at the "Zone of Advance" (Western Front). At Colombey the squadron was assigned to construction of the 1st Air Depot. Work consisted of the construction of barracks, bomb shelters, ditching and draining the land so streets and utility lines could be laid. Also, the construction of a large flying field was begun. Once the basic construction was completed, the majority of ongoing construction was again performed by Chinese laborers brought in to complete the work. The 637th was assigned to the 1st Air Depot as a Supply Squadron. The men were assigned to warehouse duties, storing new equipment and all manner of supplies that arrived at the Center, and issuing and delivering the necessities of operating the Center to the various units and divisions of the station. The squadron was tasked in maintaining accurate inventory records and advising the Commander of shortages and ordering additional or new equipment from Depots in France. The 637th was also responsible for the operation of the various mess halls, with squadron members acting as cooks, bakers and performing dish washing duties.[1]

After the signing of the Armistice with Germany on 11 November, some men of the squadron were assigned to transportation and convoy duty, driving trucks performing collection of equipment from front-line units and also moving personnel back from the lines. The 637th Aero Squadron returned to the United States in late May 1919. It arrived at Mitchel Field, New York, where the squadron members were demobilized and returned to civilian life.[1]

Washington National Guard

116th Observation Squadron - Douglas O-38 30-414
116th Observation Squadron - Douglas O-38 30-414

In 1924, the Adjutant General for the Washington National Guard, who was traveling through Spokane, made a simple proposal to the city fathers. Whichever city, Spokane, Seattle or Tacoma, could raise $10,000 dollars first for building hangars would get an Observation Squadron. As the General's westward train pulled out of the station and was approaching the city limits, a telegraph wire sent out ahead of the train stated, "The $10,000 has been raised. We want the squadron." [2]

On 6 August 1924 the 116th Observation Squadron, Washington National Guard, received federal recognition. They established their unit headquarters at the former Parkwater Municipal Golf Course (now Felts Field) near Spokane. Major John T. "Jack" Fancher, a World War I veteran, would act as the units' first commander.

By early 1925, construction of the new hangars began with federally funded building materials, locally bought concrete and the squadron members themselves donating most of the labor. The 116th soon received its first airplanes, three Curtiss JN-6-A2 "Jenny" aircraft, a derivative of the Curtiss JN-4. They arrived at the rail yards still in the crates; however, no funds were provided to transport or construct the planes for use. A few creative enlisted men managed to haul, assemble and fire up these planes with oil donated by local businesses and gasoline bought on Fancher's personal credit.

On 8 August 1926, the unit was redesignated as the 116th Observation Squadron, 41st Division Aviation, and expanded to include a photo section, medical detachment and transportation section. The 116th was the first National Guard unit to achieve full flight qualifications for every officer in the unit.

During the summer of 1927, Fancher, a local pioneer for both the development of the 116th and the growth of aviation, flew to New York to persuade officials for the National Air Races to sponsor that year's race out of Spokane. He was successful and on his return flight, he continued to rally support for aviation in the Inland Empire by stopping off at the summer home of then President Calvin Coolidge. As a result of the air races, the northern route from Minneapolis to Spokane was established and later became the route used by Northwest Airlines.

In April 1928, Fancher was attempting to dispose of unexpended pyrotechnics left from an aerial demonstration at the Apple Blossom Festival in Wenatchee. The ordnance detonated while Fancher was carrying it, resulting in his death a few hours later. Flight instructor Caleb V. Haynes succeeded him in command of the 116th.[3]

In the late 1930s, the unit, tasked by the federal government to perform an aerial survey of the Columbia River, provided invaluable information to geologists and engineers for the site selection and construction of Grand Coulee Dam, the largest dam in the world at the time.

World War II

In response to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 8530, the 116th went into federal active duty effective 16 September 1940. The unit's first prominent World War II duties occurred immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese when the unit was assigned to Gray Army Airfield at Fort Lewis, Washington, flying anti-submarine patrols along the Pacific Coast. The squadron swelled in numbers as new draftees were added to the roster and it underwent a number of moves to various airfields. Finally, after being assigned to Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma it would be inactivated in 1943. The experienced pilots and crews were split up to provide training and leadership to newer draftee units. The experiences and assignments of the unit members during the war were as varied as the men themselves which can be attested to in a few of these brief accounts:

— The unit commander both before and after the inactivation, Hillford Wallace, would head up various Army Air Corp Reconnaissance Groups in the South Pacific.

— Frank Frost, a future commander of the unit, was assigned to a bomber squadron in Central America to protect the strategically important Panama Canal.

— Einar Malmstrom, a founding member of the squadron and the namesake for Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana, was commander of the 356th Fighter Group in the European Theater. On his 58th combat mission, he was shot down over France and became a Prisoner of War (POW) in a German Prison Camp for a year.[4]

Spokane, Washington native and 116th flyer, Sam Grashio, chronicled his World War II experience in his book, "Return to Freedom: The War Memoirs of Colonel Sam C. Grashio USAF." Grashio had fought against the Japanese forces right from the outset of the war in the Philippines. After depleting much of their food and virtually all their military resources, he and his other U.S. and Filipino comrades under direction of General Wainwright surrendered to the Japanese on 6 May 1942. He then went on to endure the Bataan Death March and the struggle for life at Camp O'Donnell. Grashio and several others were later assigned to a smaller work camp set so far into the jungle the Japanese did not think prison walls were necessary to keep the weakened and sickly POWs from trying to escape through an "impassable" jungle, but by will power and planning they did indeed escape and became the only group of Japanese prisoners to ever do so by their own means during the entire war. After being returned to stateside, the Colonel continued to serve his country by participating in War Bond tours, drumming up support for the war effort by recounting the harsh treatment he saw while a prisoner of the Japanese Army.[5]

Washington Air National Guard

116th Fighter Squadron - P-51 Mustangs, 1949
116th Fighter Squadron - P-51 Mustangs, 1949

The wartime 116th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was reconstituted on 21 June 1945. It was then re-designated as the 116th Fighter Squadron, and was allotted to the Washington Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Felts Field, Spokane, Washington and was extended federal recognition on 1 July 1947 by the National Guard Bureau. The 116th Fighter Squadron was entitled to the history, honors, and colors of the 116th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. The squadron was equipped with F-51D Mustangs and was allocated to Washington ANG 142d Air Defense Group, with a mission of the air defense of Eastern Washington.

The short runway and other issues with Felts Field led to the movement of the squadron to the larger Geiger Field on 1 July 1948. In March 1950 the squadron received five F-84C Thunderjets. The F-84s were received from the 33d Fighter Group at Otis AFB, Massachusetts.

Korean War activation

North American F-86A-5-NA Sabre Serial 48-0276 of the 116th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 1951.
North American F-86A-5-NA Sabre Serial 48-0276 of the 116th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 1951.

As a result of the Korean War, the 116th Fighter Squadron was federalized and brought to active-duty on 1 February 1951. The squadron was assigned to the 81st Fighter-Interceptor Group and moved to Moses Lake AFB, Washington. The squadron was re-designated as the 116th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. The 81st was assigned to Tactical Air Command (TAC) as a replacement squadron for the group's 93d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron which was at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico performing air defense duties at the Sandia National Laboratories. It was converted from the F-51s and F-80s to F-86A Sabre jet fighters and performed transition training at Moses Lake.

After only four months of training, the 81st FIG was ordered to RAF Shepherds Grove, England, to bolster NATO forces in Europe. The move was the first time in aviation history a National Guard fighter squadron would cross over to the European Theater under its own power and only the second time such a move was ever attempted without air refueling.

RAF Shepards Grove was a former World War II RAF Fighter Command base located in East Anglia. The bulk of the ground station buildings were the metal Nissen hut type, with some wood frame and tar paper buildings, and were grouped together in numbered "sites", widely separated to blend into natural, rustic surroundings for purposes of camouflage. The main administrative building and clubs were of the larger Quonset hut type.

Headquarters of the 81st FIG was located at RAF Bentwaters, and the 116th FIS joined with Royal Air Force Fighter Command to provide air defense of Great Britain. The 81st FIG was the first F-86 equipped unit in Europe. On 1 November 1952, the federalized 116th FIS was returned to the Washington National Guard and its personnel and equipment transferred to the newly activated USAF 78th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron.

Cold War

116th FIS F-101B Voodoo, 57-0260 at the Hill AFB, Utah museum, 1981
116th FIS F-101B Voodoo, 57-0260 at the Hill AFB, Utah museum, 1981

Upon its return from England, the 116th FIS was organized and re-equipped with F-86A Sabre interceptors and again assigned to the 142d Air Defense Group. It resumed its peacetime mission of the air defense of eastern Washington. For the next 23 years the squadron performed that mission, being upgraded by ADC in 1955 to the dedicated F-94 Starfire all-weather interceptor. With this new aircraft, the mission of the 116th Fighter Interceptor Squadron changed from day interceptor to day and night all-weather interceptor. In 1957 the 116th again upgraded to the improved F-89D Scorpion, followed later by the nuclear armed F-89J, then in May 1965 to the supersonic F-102A Delta Dagger. In 1969 it received the Mach-2 F-101B Voodoo.

1967 was a "trophy" year for the 141st Fighter Group and the 116th. Trophies and awards received included the Spaatz Trophy for the most Outstanding Air National Guard Flying Unit, the Air National Guard Outstanding Unit Plaque, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Trophy and the Winston P. Wilson Award. In 1969, the unit accumulated an outstanding record, 37,900 accident-free flying hours, receiving the 25th Air Division Flying Safety Award five years in a row.

Air Refueling mission

A Thunderbird F-16C refuels from a 141st ARW KC-135E.
A Thunderbird F-16C refuels from a 141st ARW KC-135E.

In July 1976, the 116th converted to the KC-135 Stratotanker, becoming the fifth Air National Guard unit to join the Strategic Air Command (SAC). The new air refueling squadron moved from Geiger Field to nearby Fairchild Air Force Base to accommodate the larger aircraft.

During the 1990 Gulf Crisis Aircrew, maintenance and support personnel responded to the Iraq invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, and deployed to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Upon federal activation in December 1990, all eight of the unit’s KC-135's deployed to the Middle East. The 116th refueled coalition attack aircraft during Operation Desert Storm.

In December 1992, the unit responded with aircrew and support personnel for Operation Restore Hope, a United Nations relief mission to aid hunger victims in Somalia, flying missions from Moron AB, Spain. June 1995, several rotations deployed to Pisa, Italy, for Operation Deny Flight, NATO mission enforcing the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina. In May 1999, six KC-135E's deployed to Budapest, Hungary in support of Operation Allied Force to deter ethnic aggressions in Yugoslavia.

On 13 January 1999, one of the unit's KC-135E's crashed at Geilenkirchen Air Base, Germany, killing all four crew members. This was the first time the unit lost an aircraft or lives since beginning the aerial refueling mission in 1976. A monument was erected at the site the following year.

Global War on Terrorism

After the 11 September 2001 attacks, the squadron began refueling flights supporting Operation Noble Eagle almost immediately. In 2002 a new digital navigation system, called Pacer CRAG, was added to the aircraft and crews trained to function without a navigator. Members of the 116th also joined the thousands of Guard and Reserve forces called up to deploy all over the world in support of America's "War on Terror."

When the first Guard KC-135 R-model landed on Fairchild AFB in January 2003, with its new engines, it became the 40th different airplane the 116th pilots had flown since it was created back in 1924. Each one of the four engines of the KC-135R produces over 21,000 pounds of thrust. The unit's first plane, the JN-6-A2 "Jenny," had a wooden body covered in fabric and only weighed 1,430 pounds.

At the time President George W. Bush ordered coalition military units into Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, the 116th was in a training status to transition into the R model KC-135. Since then the 116th has supported continuous deployments including antiterrorism efforts abroad under Operation Enduring Freedom and air refueling missions over the US for homeland defense flights under Operation Noble Eagle.

During a banquet ceremony in July 2003, the 141st Air Refueling Wing accepted the coveted Solano Trophy marking the wing as the best Air National Guard unit in the 15th Air Force.

Overseas deployments and homeland security refueling missions have dominated the tasking landscape for the squadron since 2004. In response to the Congress-mandated 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process, the last of the KC-135 Stratotankers belonging to the 141st Air Refueling Wing were redirected to Iowa, and as of 1 October 2007 116th crew members now share aircraft with the active duty 92d Air Refueling Wing.

Today, 116th crews still deploy around the world to fulfill Air Expeditionary Force commitments much the same as during the First World War.


Legacy 116th Squadron Emblem
Legacy 116th Squadron Emblem
  • Organized as 116th Aero Squadron** on 29 August 1917
Re-designated 116th Aero Squadron (Service) on 1 September 1917
Re-designated 637th Aero Squadron (Supply) on 1 February 1918
Demobilized on 20 May 1919
  • Reconstituted and consolidated (1936) with 116th Observation Squadron which, having been allotted to Washington NG, was activated on 6 August 1924
Ordered to active service on 16 September 1940
Re-designated: 116th Observation Squadron (Medium) on 13 January 1942
Re-designated: 116th Observation Squadron on 4 July 1942
Re-designated: 116th Reconnaissance Squadron (Fighter) on 2 April 1943
Re-designated: 116th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 11 August 1943
Disbanded on 30 November 1943
  • Reconstituted on 21 June 1945.
Redesignated 116th Fighter Squadron, and allotted to Washington ANG, on 24 May 1946
Extended federal recognition on 1 July 1946
Federalized and placed on active duty, 10 February 1951
Re-designated: 116th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 10 February 1951
Released from active duty and returned to Washington state control, 1 November 1952
Re-designated: 116th Fighter Squadron, 7 July 1960
Re-designated: 116th Air Refueling Squadron, 1 July 1976

** This unit is not related to another 116th Aero Squadron (Service) that was activated in March 1918 at Kelly Field, Texas.




See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  1. ^ a b c d Series "E", Volume 24, History of the 636th-667th Aero Squadrons. Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917–1919, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  2. ^ Aces and Airships; Washington Air National Guard 1924–1984. 141st Air Refueling Wing. 1984.
  3. ^ Beemer, Susan; Craig Holstine, Frederic Long (13 August 1991). "Felts Field Historic District" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places. Registration Form. Olympia, Washington: Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  4. ^ The Official Website of Malmstrom Air Force Base Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Grashio, Samuel; Norling, Bernard. Return to Freedom: The War Memoirs of Col. Samuel C. Grashio USAF (Ret.),MCN Press, 1982

External links

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