555th Fighter Squadron Patch –With hook and loop
A 4″ squadron patch of the 555th Fighter Squadron With hook and loop.
World War II
“The Yankee Guerilla” a Martin B-26C of the 555th BS[note
Media related to 386th Bombardment Group at Wikimedia Commons
The squadron’s heritage began on 25 November 1942 when the 555th Bombardment Squadron, Medium, was constituted flying the Martin B-26 Marauder. During World War II, the 555th led offensive actions against Axis forces from bases in England, France, and Belgium. For gallantry in action, the squadron was awarded the first of its four Presidential Unit Citations. The squadron was inactivated shortly after the war ended.
On 8 January 1964, the 555th re-emerged at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, operating the McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II. The squadron was organized from elements of the 557th, 558th and 559th TFS at MacDill, when the parent 12th Tactical Fighter Wing(TFW) reduced the number of aircraft from three squadrons of 25 aircraft each to four squadrons of 18 aircraft.
The conflict in Southeast Asia was escalating and throughout 1965 the wing supported Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Contingency Operations by rotating combat squadrons quarterly to Naha AB, Okinawa, in the Ryukyu Islands. At Naha AB the squadrons were part of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing(FIW)and performed as Air Defense Interceptor Squadrons for the Ryukyu Islands. The 555th had flown its planes to Naha AB in December 1964 on the first three-month rotation. Later, the 555th was chosen to return to Naha AB and left MacDill AFB on 6 November 1965 by C-135 transports. The 555th relieved the 559th at Naha and its assets. The 12th TFW was slated to open Cam Ranh Bay AB, South Vietnam(RVN). The air defense mission in Okinawa could not be abandoned and a decision was made to keep the 555th there until a replacement unit could be identified. The remainder of the 12th TFW deployed to Cam Ranh Bay beginning in November 1965. An F-102 squadron at Hamilton AFB, CA, was picked to replace the 555th at Naha. The F-102 was not able to air refuel so the planes were modified to a probe and drouge refueling configuration and the pilots trained to perform air refueling, a new concept for an interceptor squadron. The F-102s arrived at Naha in late February 1966. A decision was made to send the 555th to Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base(RTAFB) in Northern Thailand, near Vientiane, Laos, and not to join the other three 12th TFW squadrons at Cam Ranh Bay. Cam Ranh could hold only four F-4C squadrons. 391 TFS had arrived at Cam Ranh awaiting runway construction at Phan Rang. Until the 391st rejoined 366th TFW, the 12th could not accommodate the 555th (lack of space). The decision to assign 555th at Udorn was validated in April 1966 when the 555th downed five Migs. A sixth Mig was downed by an F-4C from DaNang AB, RVN. Udorn RTAFB was small and when a squadron of F-104As was brought there, it was decided to send two Flights, half the 555th squadron, to Ubon RTAFB. There was not enough billeting for the entire 555th and what was available was not adequate for daytime rest. The 8th TFW was the resident unit at Ubon and were flying only night missions(Night Owl) into North Vietnam. The first two weeks at Ubon, the 555th planes flew day strikes into North Vietnam. A barracks type building was hastily constructed to house the entire 555th and the remaining half of the 555th was brought to Ubon in July 1966 and the entire squadron then began flying Night Owl missions. The new building was not air-conditioned and so the 555th flew the sunset to about 2300 hours. The two squadrons of the 8th TFW flew the missions from 2300 to sunrise. Later in 1966 the 555th was transferred from the 12thTFW into the 8th TFW.
The 8thTFW later became known as the “Wolfpack”. The 555th led the first strike against MiG airfields in North Vietnam. The 555 TFS launched night bombing attacks against North Vietnam on 29 September 1967. While at Ubon, the 555th downed additional Migs, including four Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s on 2 January 1967. The unit thus became the only “Quad Ace” Fighter Squadron to that point, with 20 MiGs to its credit. In 1968, the Nickel participated in the campaign against the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Linebacker campaigns against the North Vietnam heartland in 1972. During Linebacker I and Linebacker II, the 555th returned to its air superiority role and brought its MiG tally to 39 confirmed victories—10 MiG-17s, 3 MiG-19s, and 26 MiG-21s, producing the first and second USAF aces, and earning the motto, “World’s Largest Distributor of MiG Parts”. From 1966 to 1973, the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron earned three more Presidential Unit Citations, five Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards with combat “V” device, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm, and the 1973 Hughes achievement award.
After nine years of combat operations, the 555th returned to the United States. In 1974, the squadron moved to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where it transitioned to the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle and became part of the 405th Tactical Training Wing, training pilots transitioning to the F-15 Eagle.
Reactivation in Italy
On 1 April 1994, the unit was reassigned to NATO and stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy, absorbing the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and equipment of the inactivated 526th Fighter Squadron, which had been inactivated at Ramstein AB, Germany when the 86th FW became an airlift wing (86th AW). At Aviano, the squadron returned to its previous mission as an operational combat fighter squadron.
Air Combat Command officials announced a stand down and reallocation of flying hours for the rest of the fiscal year 2013 due to mandatory budget cuts. The across-the board spending cuts, called sequestration, took effect 1 March when Congress failed to agree on a deficit-reduction plan. Squadrons either stood down on a rotating basis or kept combat ready or at a reduced readiness level called “basic mission capable” for part or all of the remaining months in fiscal 2013. This affected the 555th Fighter Squadron with a stand-down grounding from 9 April to 30 September 2013.