401st Tactical Fighter Wing Patch – Plastic Backing
A 3.8″W x 4.1″H squadron patch of the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing with plastic backing.
HISTORY OF THE 401st FIGHTER WING
The 401st Fighter Wing traces its illustrious beginnings to the 401st Bombardment Group (Heavy) of World War II
tame. The War Department constituted the 401st Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 20 March 1943 and activated it at
Ephrata Army Air Base in the state of Washington, on 1 April 1943. Four flying squadrons, the 612th, 613th, 614th, and
615th Bombardment Squadrons were simultaneously activated and assigned to the group.
The group stayed at Ephrata Army Air Base long enough to receive personnel and equipment, then moved to
Geiger Field, Washington, on 15 June 1943, to begin initial B-17 flight training. After three weeks, the group relocated to
Great Falls Army Air Base, Montana, to complete its training. Following this final phase of B-17G aircrew training, which
lasted until 19 October, the group began deployment to Deenethorpe, England, to join the war effort. The ground forces
made the journey aboard the Queen Mary, while the aircraft followed a route to Newfoundland, then across the Atlantic to
Scotland before reaching their final destination. The unit reached full operational strength on 19 November 1943. The
401st entered the war on 26 November 1943 and conducted its first bombing mission against Bremen, Germany. Poor
weather conditions prevented visual targeting and forced aircrews to use radar bombing techniques to penetrate the
heavy cloud cover, but the group lost no aircraft on this mission. Later attacks centered on factories, oil refineries, power
plants, V-1 and V-2 sites, marshalling yards and port facilities throughout Europe. The group participated in attacks on
many strategic targets in France, Holland, Luxembourg, and Germany, but the majority of its early missions focused on oil
reserves in order to deny fuel to the Nazi occupation forces.
The group earned two Distinguished Unit Citations during its early combat missions. The first was for a daring but
highly successful 11 January 1944 attack on aircraft production facilities in Oschersleben, Germany. Because the target
was so near to Berlin, the Germans had large numbers of flak batteries and other defenses in the area. In addition to the
heavy anti-aircraft fire, Nazi fighters attacked the bombers for over three hours. On 20 February 1944, the group earned
its second award by successfully bombing, and thereby closing, the Erla Maschinewerk aircraft assembly facilities near
The group continued to bomb Industrial targets near Berlin throughout the early months of 1944, which helped to
impair the Nazi war fighting capability. Later it switched to such tactical targets as coastal defense guns and transportation
centers in preparation for the Normandy invasion. Five minutes before the D-Day landing, the 401st bombed gun
emplacements less than 1,000 yards from the beach at one of the landing zones. Following the 6 June 1944 invasion, the
group supported ground forces during the St. Lo breakthrough, the Siege of Brest, the Battle of the Bulge, and the assault
on the Rhine. The group flew its last combat mission of the war on 20 April 1945 bombing a marshalling yard in
Following the victory in Europe, the group departed England on 20 May 1945, enroute to the United States. With the
war against Japan still in progress, the 401stt began training for conversion to B-29 bombers at Sioux Falls Army Air Base
in. South Dakota. Japan surrendered before the group had completed the conversion; demobilization after V – J Day
resulted in its inactivation on 28 August 1945.
After remaining on the inactive, list for almost two years, the group was redesignated the 401st Bombardment
Group, (Very Heavy) and activated as part of the Air Reserve forces. While in Reserve status, the 401st operated from
Brooks Air Force Base, Texas, until June 1949. Redesignated the 401st Bombardment Group (Medium), it moved to
Biggs Air Force Base, Texas, During this post-war period, the group flew a variety of aircraft, including AT-6 and AT-11
trainers and B-26, B-29 and B-50 bombers. The 401st remained a part of the reserves until it rejoined the active force on
1 May 1951, as part of the Strategic Air Command. However, less than two months later, on 25 June 1951, it again
The group remained inactive for two and half years, Redesignated the 401st Fighter-Bomber Group on 8 February
1954, it reactivated at Alexandria (later England) Air Force Base, Louisiana. A component of Ninth Air Force, it was
attached to the 366th Fighter-Bomber Wing. Three former squadrons– 612th, 6l3th, and 614th–were redesignated fiqhterbomber squadrons and activated with it, while the 615th remained on the inactive rolls. This new assignment to the
Tactical Air Command brought a new mission and a new aircraft. The group conducted tactical operations in the F-86
“Sabre” jet fighter. One year later, older F-84F ~Thunderstreak.” aircraft replaced the F-86s.
While at Alexandria, the 613th and 614th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons participated in the filming of Warner Brothers’
“The McConnell Story.” From 10 January to 10 February 1955, the two squadrons flew 125 sorties during the aerial
combat sequences of the film, using eight unit F-84 aircraft painted to resemble enemy MIG-15 aircraft flown in the
The group gained F-86s in June 1956, when the Sabres replaced the F-84F’s, which transferred to the Air National
Guard. On 30 June 1957, the 401st transitioned to “Super Sabres,” receiving a total of 57 F-100D aircraft. Soon after, on
25 September 1957, the group was inactivated and replaced by the 401st Fighter-Bomber Wing, which absorbed the
assets of the group. The 615th Fighter-Bomber Squadron reactivated, assigned to the new wing. Though the 401st
Fighter-Bomber Wing was constituted on 23 March 1953, part of an Air Force reorganization which replaced combat
groups with wings, it remained on the inactive list until 25 September 1957.
This reorganization left most units without a World War II heritage, so the Air Force enacted a program to
“temporarily bestow” the history and honors of World War II groups on the like-numbered wings which replaced them.
Under this plan, the two units remained separate entities, with the wing keeping the history of the inactive group alive by
having partial claim to its World War II honors so long as the group remained on the inactive list.
About nine months after its initial activation, on 1 July 1958, the 401st Fighter-Bomber Wing became the 401st
Tactical Fighter Wing. Participating in various exercises, the wing set several deployment records, flying from Langley Air
Force Base, Virginia, to Chaumont Air Base, France. An early deployment in March 1958 accomplished the trip non-stop
for the first time and a later deployment made the trip in a record seven hours and thirteen minutes.
The wing responded to the Cuban Missile Crisis in. late 1962 by deploying to Homestead Air Force Base in Florida.
Beginning 19 October, the wing remained on alert, ready to respond to any emergency tasking caused by the blockade of
Cuba, until resolution of the crisis on 5 December 1962.
During 1963, the 401st participated in numerous exercises and deployments, including various NATO exercises,
overseas rotations and firepower demonstrations. The exceptional skill with which it met this heavy tasking earned the
wing an Air Force outstanding Unit Award.
The wing became involved in the Vietnam conflict, in 1964. Although the unit as a whole remained at England Air
Force Base, its squadrons rotated to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, from which one squadron operated at all times.
Squadrons flew combat missions from such deployed locations as Da Nang and Bien Hoa Air Bases in South Vietnam,
Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, and Tainan Air Base, Taiwan.
On 3 November 1965, the 612th Tactical Fighter Squadron left the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing for a new assignment
at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The 401st gained two additional squadrons, but these units were attached rather than
assigned. The wing took operational control of the 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron on 19 November 1965, and the 90th
Tactical Fighter Squadron on 5 December 1965. The 531st served less than a month with the 401st before returning to its
parent organization the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing, at Bien Hoa Air Base on 10 December 1965. Additional organizational
changes occurred in 1966, when the 614th and 615th squadrons transferred to the 834th Air Division on 27 April. A few
months earlier, the 90th was relieved of its attachment to the 401st. These actions prepared the wing for a change of
station. On 27 April 1966, the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing was reassigned to Torrejon Air Base, Spain, as part of
Sixteenth Air Force. Its non-flying components and the 613th Tactical Fighter squadron accompanied the wing to
Torrejon, where it gained the 307th and 353d Tactical Fighter Squadrons, returning to full operational strength.
At Torrejon, the wing continued to fly the F-100D “Super Sabre.” Major operations consisted of maintaining combat
readiness; rotating units to other bases in Europe or the Middle East and participating in various United States Air Force,
North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Spanish Air Defense exercises. In addition, the 401st served as the host United
States organization at the Spanish base, supporting Air Force tenants.
Wing operations remained relatively unchanged until 9 January 1970, when the wing replaced its aging F-100 fleet
with F-4E “Phantom II” fighters, completing the conversion in 1971. The 612th and 614th Tactical Fighter Squadrons
rejoined the wing, returning from combat assignments at Phan Rang Air Base, Vietnam, on 15 July 1971, replacing the
307th and 353rd squadrons, which departed on the same date.
In 1973, the Air Force decided F-4 units should have only one variation of the Phantom in their inventories. While
the 401st had only F-4E’s, other wings possessed a mixture of F-4 models. The 401st F-4E’s moved to various other units
and were replaced by F-4C’s. Although this resulted in a partial loss of the wing’s combat capability, the exchange helped
other units gain full contingents of the more advanced F-4E. In 1979, the wing upgraded to F-4D aircraft.
The wing began a new chapter in its history on 5 February 1983, transitioning to the new F-16 “Fighting Falcon”
aircraft. Again, this transition took place gradually, with the wing reaching full operational capability on 1 January 1985.
The wing’s exceptional performance during this transition earned it a second Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. With the
upgrade to one of the world’s most advanced and versatile fighters, the 401st enjoyed capabilities unprecedented in its
history, making it a vital link in defense of the United States and its allies.
The Air Force decided in 1984 to consolidate the lineage and honors of inactive groups with their like-numbered
wings. This meant that the 401st Bombardment Group and the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing shared a common heritage.
Instead of enjoying “temporary bestowal” of World War II honors, the wing now claimed the group’s history as its own.
In late 1987, the 401st underwent another aircraft conversion, this time to the C and D models of the F-16. By
September 1988, the wing had completed the transition and resumed normal operations.
The governments of Spain and the United States announced on 15 January 1989, that an Agreement on Defense
Cooperation negotiated between the two nations, required the 401st to leave Spain by 4 May 1992. An intense search to
find an alternate location for the wing was interrupted by a crisis in the Persian Gulf Region: Iraq invaded neighboring
Kuwait in August 1990.
The United States, together with a coalition of allies, conducted Operation DESERT SHIELD/STORM, from 7 August
1990 to 28 February 1991, the 401st provided logistical support to deployed forces at numerous locations in the gulf
region. The 614th was the first American force to deploy to Doha, Qatar, where squadron members worked alongside
Qatari, British, Canadian, and French troops. The squadron’s pilots flew 1,303 sorties and dropped 3.7 million pounds of
bombs on Iraq’s Republican Guard, and Iraqi refineries and weapons factories.
The 612th supported NATO’s Joint Task Force “Proven Force” at Incirlik, Turkey, as part of the 7440th Composite
Wing which consisted of 100 fighters, interceptors, tankers, and other aircraft. The unit launched 1,093 combat missions
and dropped 3.9 million pounds of bombs while maintaining the lowest abort rate of any unit involved in the Gulf Crisis.
Back at Torrejon, wing organizations supported 10,000 Military Airlift Command sorties carrying 85,000 troops and
130,000 tons of cargo through the base to and from the Middle East. They also supported Spanish, Italian, Greek,
Portuguese, German, and Czechoslovakian forces which formed the allied response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
During the war, the wing lost four aircraft but not one life. Two 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron pilots, Major Jeffrey
Tice and Captain Mike Roberts, withstood 45 days as prisoners of war in Iraq. However, they returned with honor on 5
March 1991. The wing earned a third Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for its superior accomplishments 1 April 1989 to
31 March 1991.
With the end of the Gulf crisis, as well as the declining tensions with the Soviet Union, the Air Force began
streamlining its operations. This resulted In the unit’s redesignation as the 401st Fighter Wing on 1 October 1991.
Headquarters, United States Air Forces in Europe announced in late 1991 that the 401st would relocate to Aviano Air
Base, Italy, to maintain a presence in the Europe’s Southern Region. The wing’s aircraft were redistributed worldwide and
the 613th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the first squadron to inactivate, departed Torrejon on 28 June 1991. The 612th
followed on 25 September 1991 and the 614th on 30 December 1991. A ceremony on 4 May 1992 inactivated the 401st
Fighter Wing at Torrejon Air Base and transferred its flag to Aviano, Italy.
401ST FIGHTER WING
SIGNIFICANCE: Our emblem is symbolic of our wing’s primary mission. The light blue background represents the
sky, our primary theater of operations. The four lances denote the weapons stacked ready for instant use as needed. A
black and white checkerboard battlefield, crossing the lances in a horizontal position, indicates our wing is willing to go
into battle anywhere in the sky. The colors of the squadrons, attached to the wing, form a banner which sweeps across
the entire emblem, indicating support to the overall mission.
APPROVED: 9 September 1955
MOTTO: CAELUM ARENA NOSTRA – “The Sky is Our Arena”