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Fifth Air Force

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fifth Air Force
Shield of the Fifth Air Force
Active5 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)
(82 years, 1 month)[1]
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)
TypeNumbered Air Force
RoleProvide combat-ready air forces for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Japan, along with serving as the air component for U.S. Forces Japan[2]
Part of
Pacific Air Forces
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command
U.S. Forces Japan
HeadquartersYokota Air Base, Tokyo Metropolis, Japan
See list
CommanderLt Gen Ricky N. Rupp
Deputy CommanderBrig Gen Jesse J. Friedel
Command ChiefCCM Shawn M. Aiello
George Kenney
Earle E. Partridge
Samuel E. Anderson
Richard Myers

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 80 years of continuous air power to the Pacific since its establishment in September 1941.[3]

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.[3]

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.[3]

Fifth Air Force is commanded by Lieutenant General Ricky Rupp.[4]

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Fourteen Boeing 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, Fifth 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.

US Far East Air Forces

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.

Order of battle, 1945

Fifth U.S. Air Force Zones of Responsibility, 1945–1947
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-26B-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.

Korean War

  for the units, stations and type aircraft flown in combat during the war (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953)

Fifth Air Force photographic analyst elucidates the location of enemy flak batteries to plan fighter-bomber attacks, 1952
North American F-86F-25-NH Sabres of the 4th FIW over Korea. Serial 52-5346 identifiable

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 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.

Cold War

The Fifth Air Force played a critical role in establishing the Japan Air Self-Defense Force as well as the Republic of Korea Air Force. These and other peacetime efforts lasted a decade before the Gulf of Tonkin Crisis led to the start of the Vietnam War.

The 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 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, 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 has responded to natural disasters in Japan and abroad, including the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995 and Super Typhoon Paka in Guam in 1997. Fifth Air Force has reached out to provide assistance to victims of floods, typhoons, volcanoes, and earthquakes throughout the region.

The 432d Tactical Fighter Wing flew F-16s from Misawa Air Base from July 1, 1984 – October 31, 1994. On the inactivation of the wing, its personnel, aircraft, and other assets were used to reform the 35th Fighter Wing.

Present Day

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.[3] 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.[5]

Lineage, assignments, stations, and components


  • Established as Philippine Department Air Force on 16 August 1941
Activated on 20 September 1941
Redesignated: Far East Air Force on 16 November 1941
Redesignated: 5 Air Force on 5 February 1942
Redesignated: Fifth Air Force* on 18 September 1942.

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.[citation needed]


  • Philippine Department, U.S. Army, 20 September 1941
  • US Forces in Australia (USFIA), 23 December 1941
Redesignated: US Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA), 5 January 1942
Redesignated: Pacific Air Command, United States Army, 6 December 1945
Redesignated: Far East Air Forces, 1 January 1947
Redesignated Pacific Air Forces, 1 July 1957—present


Major components


Became Army Air Force Infantry unit during Battle of the Philippines (1941–42) (20 December 1941 – 9 April 1942)
  • Far East Air Service (later, 5 Air Force Base; V Air Force Base): 28 October 1941 – 2 November 1942


Wings (incomplete listing)


List of commanders

Incoming Fifth Air Force commander, Lt. Gen. Ricky Rupp receives the command guidon from Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, commander of the Pacific Air Forces, on 26 August 2021.
No. Commander Term
Portrait Name Took office Left office Term length
1Clagett, Henry B.Brigadier General
Henry B. Clagett
20 September 19417 October 194117 days
2Brereton, Lewis H.Major General
Lewis H. Brereton
7 October 194124 February 1942140 days
3Kenney, George C.Lieutenant General
George C. Kenney
3 September 194215 June 19441 year, 286 days
4Lieutenant General
Ennis C. Whitehead
15 June 19444 October 19451 year, 111 days
5Major General
Kenneth B. Wolfe
4 October 194516 January 19482 years, 104 days
6Major General
Thomas D. White
16 January 19486 October 1948264 days
7Lieutenant General
Earle E. Partridge
6 October 194821 May 19512 years, 227 days
8Major General
Edward J. Timberlake
21 May 19511 June 195111 days
9Major General
Frank F. Everest
1 June 195130 May 1952364 days
10Lieutenant General
Glenn O. Barcus
30 May 195231 May 19531 year, 1 day
11Lieutenant General
Samuel E. Anderson
31 May 19531 June 19541 year, 1 day
12Lieutenant General
Roger M. Ramey
1 June 195420 June 19562 years, 19 days
13Lieutenant General
Frederic H. Smith Jr.
20 June 19564 August 19582 years, 45 days
14Lieutenant General
Robert W. Burns
4 August 19586 July 19612 years, 336 days
-Major General
Robert F. Tate
6 July 19612 August 196127 days
15Lieutenant General
Jacob E. Smart
2 August 196130 July 19631 year, 362 days
16Lieutenant General
Maurice A. Preston
30 July 19631 August 19663 years, 2 days
17Lieutenant General
Seth J. McKee
1 August 196613 July 19681 year, 347 days
18Lieutenant General
Thomas K. McGehee
13 July 196824 February 19701 year, 226 days
19Lieutenant General
Gordon M. Graham
24 February 197015 November 19722 years, 265 days
20Lieutenant General
Robert E. Pursley
15 November 19721 March 19741 year, 106 days
-Major General
Edward P. McNeff
1 March 19748 May 197468 days
21Lieutenant General
Walter T. Galligan
8 May 197422 June 19773 years, 45 days
22Lieutenant General
George G. Loving Jr.
22 June 197714 June 19791 year, 357 days
23Lieutenant General
William H. Ginn Jr.
14 June 19795 August 19812 years, 52 days
24Lieutenant General
Charles L. Donnelly Jr.
5 August 198119 July 19842 years, 349 days
25Lieutenant General
Edward L. Tixier
19 July 198422 January 19883 years, 187 days
26Lieutenant General
James B. Davis
22 January 198818 July 19913 years, 177 days
-Brigadier General
James M. Johnston III
18 July 19919 August 199122 days
27Lieutenant General
Richard E. Hawley
9 August 199113 November 19932 years, 96 days
28Lieutenant General
Richard B. Myers
13 November 199318 June 19962 years, 218 days
29Lieutenant General
Ralph E. Eberhart
18 June 199627 June 19971 year, 9 days
30Lieutenant General
John B. Hall Jr.
27 June 19973 September 19992 years, 68 days
31Lieutenant General
Paul V. Hester
3 September 199919 November 20012 years, 77 days
32Lieutenant General
Thomas C. Waskow
19 November 200110 February 20053 years, 83 days
33Lieutenant General
Bruce A. Wright
10 February 200525 February 20083 years, 15 days
34Lieutenant General
Edward A. Rice Jr.
25 February 2008October 2010~2 years, 218 days
35Lieutenant General
Burton M. Field
October 201020 July 2012~1 year, 293 days
36Lieutenant General
Salvatore A. Angelella
20 July 20125 June 20152 years, 320 days
37Lieutenant General
John L. Dolan
5 June 20156 October 20161 year, 123 days
38Lieutenant General
Jerry P. Martinez
6 October 20165 February 20192 years, 122 days
39Lieutenant General
Kevin B. Schneider
5 February 201927 August 20212 years, 203 days
40Lieutenant General
Ricky N. Rupp
27 August 2021Incumbent2 years, 23 days

See also


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9..


  • Bartsch, William H. Doomed at the Start: American Pursuit Pilots in the Philippines, 1941–1942. Reveille Books, 1995. ISBN 0-89096-679-6.
  • Birdsall, Steve. Flying Buccaneers: The Illustrated History of Kenney's Fifth Air Force. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1977. ISBN 0-385-03218-8.
  • Craven, Wesley F. and James L. Cate. The Army Air Forces in World War II. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948–58.
  • Holmes, Tony. "Twelve to One": V Fighter Command Aces of the Pacific. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-84176-784-0.
  • Rust, Kenn C. Fifth Air Force World War II. Temple City, California: Historical Aviation Album, 1973. ISBN 0-911852-75-1.

External links

This page was last edited on 6 September 2023, at 14:11
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