8th Fighter Squadron F-117 Nighthawk
Fly with the 8th Fighter Squadron in this handcrafted F-117 Nighthawk Model. Each piece is carved from wood and hand painted to provide a piece you’ll love.
The 8th Fighter Squadron is an active United States Air Force squadron, assigned to the 54th Fighter Group Air Education and Training Command, stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. It currently operates the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, conducting initial training, transition and instructor upgrades training. The squadron have a proud lineage of aircraft and assignments. The origin of the 8th Fighter Squadron can be traced back to 1940, and since then, the squadron has served in several war and peace time assignments across the globe.
World War II
The 8th Fighter Squadron traces its origins to the formation of the 49th Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, Michigan on 20 November 1940. The 8th Pursuit Squadron was equipped with Seversky P-35s that were transferred from the 1st Pursuit Group that departed to Rockwell Field, California. In May 1941, the squadron proceeded to Morrison Field, West Palm Beach, Florida, to train in the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter.
With the advent of World War II, the squadron moved to Australia and became part of Fifth Air Force in January 1942. It was re-designated as the 8th Fighter Squadron in May 1942. The unit received Curtiss P-40 Warhawks in Australia and, after training for a short time, provided air defense for the Northern Territory.
The squadron moved to New Guinea in October 1942 to help stall the Japanese drive southward from Buna to Port Moresby. It engaged primarily in air defense of Port Moresby; also escorted bombers and transports, and attacked enemy installations, supply lines, and troop concentrations in support of Allied ground forces.
The 8th participated in the Allied offensive that pushed the Japanese back along the Kokoda Track, took part in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea in March 1943, fought for control of the approaches to Huon Gulf, and supported ground forces during the campaign in which the Allies eventually recovered New Guinea. It covered the landings on Noemfoor and had a part in. the conquest of Biak.
It was during this time that the 8th acquired their name, “The Black Sheep” Squadron. While the 7th and 9th Fighter Squadrons received new aircraft, the 8th received the older aircraft being replaced by the other squadrons. Unhappy with being last on the supply line and not liking the unlucky “Eightballs” name caused the pilots to begin calling the 8th “The Black Sheep” Squadron. The name stuck and a Disney artist designed the distinctive logo. After having used Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, Curtiss P-40 Warhawks and Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, the 8th was equipped completely in September 1944 with P-38’s, which were used to fly long-range escort and attack missions to Mindanao, Halmahera, Seram, and Borneo. The unit arrived in the Philippines in October 1944, shortly after the assault landings on Leyte and engaged enemy fighters, attacked shipping in Ormoc Bay, supported ground forces, and covered the Allied invasion of Luzon.
Other missions from the Philippines included strikes against industry and transportation on Formosa and against shipping along the China coast. During World War II the 8th amassed an impressive record of 207 aerial victories. Notable “aces” included Robert W. Aschenbrener (10), Ernest Harris (10), Robert White (9), George Kiser (9), Sammie Pierce (7), James Morehead (7), Willie Drier (6), James Hagerstrom (6), Robert Howard (6), Don Meuten(6), Nial Castle(5), William Day (5), Marion Felts (5), Nelson Flack (5). The 8th Fighter Squadron and its sister squadrons (7th and 9th Fighter Squadrons) attained a record of 668 aerial victories not matched in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
After the Japanese Capitulation, the squadron moved to the Japanese Home Islands, initially being stationed at the former Imperial Japanese Navy Atsugi Airfield, near Tokyo on 15 September 1945. Its war-weary P-38 Lightnings were sent back to the United States and the squadron was re-equipped with North American P-51D Mustangs with a mission of both occupation duty and show-of-force flights. In February 1946, the squadron was moved to Chitose Air Base, on northern Honshu and assumed an air defense mission over Honshu and also Hokkaido Island. The pilots of the squadron were briefed not to allow any Soviet Air Force aircraft over Japanese airspace, as there was tension between the United States and the Soviet Union about Soviet occupation forces landing on Hokkaido. In April 1948, the squadron moved to the newly-rebuilt Misawa Air Base when the host 49th Fighter Group took up home station responsibilities. At Misawa, the squadron moved into the jet age when it was re-equipped with the Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star.
With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, the 8th was one of the first USAF squadrons dispatched to Korea from Japan, initially operating propeller-driven F-51Ds to cover the evacuation of civilians from Kimpo and Suwon. Next, it flew close air support missions to help slow the advancing North Korean armies. Later, it turned to the interdiction of enemy troops, supplies and communications from Misawa. However its short-range F-80Cs meant that the 49th had to move to South Korea in order for them to be effective.
The squadron moved to Taegu Air Base (K-2) on 1 October 1950, becoming the first jet fighter outfit to operate from bases in South Korea. During the autumn of 1950 and spring of 1951, the squadron flew combat missions on a daily basis from Tageu, flying escort missions for Boeing B-29 Superfortresses over North Korea and engaging Communist MiG-15 fighters in air-to-air combat. When the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) Intervention Campaign gained momentum in 1950–1951, the squadron again concentrated on the ground support mission, attacking Communist Chinese ground units in North Korea, moving south until the line was stabilized and held just south of Seoul.
The 49th changed equipment to the Republic F-84E Thunderjet in mid-1951, It engaged Communist forces on the ground in support of the 1st UN Counteroffensive Campaign (1951). Afterwards, it engaged primarily in air interdiction operations against the main enemy channel of transportation, the roads and railroads between Pyongyang and Sinuiju. Also, it flew close air support missions for the ground forces and attacked high-value targets, including the Sui-ho hydroelectric plants in June 1952 and the Kumgang Political School in October 1952. On 27 July 1953, the squadron joined with the 58th FBG to bomb Sunan Airfield for the final action of F-84 fighter-bombers during the Korean War.
The wing remained in Korea for a time after the armistice. It was reassigned to Japan in November 1953 and returned to its air defense mission. The squadron upgraded to the North American F-86F Sabre in 1956.[note 2] By late 1957, however, worldwide Department of Defense budget restrictions during FY 1958 meant that the 49th Fighter-Bomber Wing and its elements would be inactivated as part of a reduction of the USAF units based in Japan.
United States Air Forces in Europe
After the 8th’s inactivation in Japan, the 8th assumed the aircraft, personnel and equipment of the 562d Fighter-Bomber Squadron at Étain-Rouvres AB, France on 10 December 1957. The 562d was simultaneously inactivated. As the 8th had been a part of American forces in the Pacific since it was sent to Australia in January 1942, the assignment to Europe after fifteen years in the Pacific was a major change for the organization.
Taking over the seven North American F-100D Super Sabres and three dual-seat F-100F trainers of the 561st, the squadron continued its normal peacetime training. The squadron began keeping four of its planes on 15-minute alert (Victor Alert) on 1 February 1958 so a portion of the squadron could react quickly in an emergency. During the fall of 1958, most of the squadron operated from Chalon-Vatry Air Base while the runway at Etain was being repaired and resurfaced.
However, the nuclear-capable F-100 was troublesome to the host French Government, the French decreed that all United States nuclear weapons and delivery aircraft had to be removed from French soil by July 1958. As a result, the F-100s of the 8th had to be removed from France. After negotiations with the French, the 49th Wing’s commander was informed that the wing would be departing from France on 1 July 1959 and move to Spangdahlem Air Base, West Germany. During the relocation to West Germany, the squadron deployed to Wheelus Air Base, Libya, for gunnery training. However, not all squadron personnel moved to Spangdahlem, as many of the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing personnel there were almost at the end of their tours and did not want to move to RAF Alconbury, where the 10th was moving to in order to make space for the 49th Wing. As a result, some squadron ground support personnel instead moved to RAF Lakenheath, England to backfill vacancies there associated with the Super Sabre, while 10th Wing personnel at Spangdahlem were allowed to finish out their assignments.
At Spangdahlem, the squadron flew F-100s until 1961 when it converted to the Republic F-105D Thunderchief, commonly known as the “Thud”. The 49th TFW was only the third USAF unit to operate the F-105. As part of USAFE, the 8th participated in many NATO exercises. In February 1967, the 8th opened the 49th Weapons Training Detachment at Wheelus Air Base, Libya, to begin transition to the McDonnell F-4D Phantom II, and received its first F-4D on 9 March 1967.
In the late 1960s, the Defense Budget began to be squeezed by the costs of the ongoing Vietnam War. Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara decided to reduce costs in Europe by “Dual Basing” United States military units in Europe by returning them permanently to the United States, and conducting annual deployment exercises in Europe, giving the units a NATO commitment for deployment to bases in Europe if tensions with the Soviet Union warranted an immediate military buildup. The 49th Tactical Fighter Wing was returned to the United States under this policy, being reassigned on 1 July 1968 to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to serve as the US Air Force’s first dual-based, NATO-committed wing.