From 'Master of the Sky' to 'Master of Space': 50th FW moves to USAFE, active duty
The 50th Fighter Wing flew a variety of aircraft, including F-84 Thunderjets such as the one pictured above, when it was a Reserve associate unit of the 33rd Fighter Wing. The 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., traces its history back to the 50th FW. (U.S. Air Force archive photo)
by Randy Saunders
50th Space Wing Historian
10/26/2006 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Editor's note: As the Air Force prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2007, a look back at the 50th Space Wing's journey is appropriate. Throughout the year, the Satellite Flyer will publish articles describing the wing's distinguished past. This is the second article in the series.
Following the end of World War II, the conflict in Europe and Asia changed from one of western democracies stopping the threat of fascism to western democracies countering the threat of communist influence.
As this Cold War heated up, the United States increased military spending and formed additional units. The Air Force established new wings bearing the numerical designations of distinguished World War II groups.
The Air Staff established the 50th Fighter Wing May 16, 1949, making it available for activation. The wing activated in the U.S. Air Force Reserves June 1 at Otis Air Force Base, Mass.
The 50th FW consisted mainly of the World War II-era 50th Fighter Group, which also activated on June 1. Assigned to Tactical Air Command's 1st Air Force, the wing served as the reserve corollary, or sister unit, of the 33rd FW, to which it was attached.
Originally equipped with the F-51 Mustang that had made its operational debut as the P-51 near the end of World War II, the wing's operational focus centered on keeping its aircrews well trained and ready. This activity likely included participating in portions of the 33rd Fighter Wing's air defense missions and exercises.
Redesignated as the 50th Fighter-Interceptor Wing March 1, 1950, the 50th FW was reassigned to the Eastern Air Defense Force on September 1, 1950, although it remained attached to the 33rd Fighter-Interceptor Wing. During this transitional year, the wing's arsenal included T-6 Texans, T-33 Shooting Stars, F-84 Thunderjets and F-86 Sabres.
The 50th FW's air defense and training activity continued until the organization was ordered to active duty on June 1, 1951. The wing and its subordinate units inactivated June 2.
The North Korean invasion of South Korea June 25, 1950, which was supported by the Chinese and Soviet regimes, added uncertainty and perils to American interests and security in Northeast Asia and the Pacific Rim. While U.S. involvement in that conflict proved insufficient cause to order the 50th Fighter-Interceptor Wing to duty in Korea, it heightened fears of the worldwide spread of communism.
Plans to increase forces in Europe during this period resulted in part from desires to show the Soviet Union and China that, despite the Korean situation, the United States and its European allies were committed to stemming the advance of communism, especially in Europe. American national security objectives sought, as part of this commitment, to counter the potential threats posed by the Soviet airfield construction program continuing in Eastern Europe.
Negotiations with France to obtain bases in their zone of occupation in Germany began in 1951. In March of that year, the commanders of the European Command and the French Forces of Occupation in Germany reached a preliminary agreement on the stationing of troops and the exchange of facilities in the French and American zones of occupation.
The French obtained 1,280 acres of land near the two small towns of Hahn and Lautzenhausen March 21, 1951. France began construction of an air base in April, including an 8,000-foot by 150-foot runway, taxi ways, 75 dispersal hard stands, hangar and alert aprons, and a variety of other facilities.
The French completed their construction program at Hahn in late 1952. By this time, American and French commanders had signed an agreement that provided for the transfer of Hahn Air Base and other installations in the French zone to the control of U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
By late 1952, the first of many American construction programs began at the base, expanding on the facilities built by the French. The first American construction projects included a control tower, a fire station, warehouses, a motor pool, roads, mess halls, and eleven 216-man dormitories for enlisted personnel. Also included were the bachelor officer quarters, squadron operations buildings, and headquarters offices.
The United States completed most of this construction by May 1953. By that time, officials had announced that Hahn AB would receive and support the 50th Fighter-Bomber Wing and its F-86F aircraft.