On November 1, 1952, the 142nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was released from active duty in Korea and reorganized as the Delaware Air National Guard. About 200 of the original 400 airmen returned to the unit. Only nine pilots, five of them Korean veterans, returned from the original cadre of 44. At first, they had no airplanes at all. A few months before, in May Lt. Col. William Spruance commanding officer of Headquarters Delaware Air National Guard announced the creation of the 8142nd Air Base Squadron. He said at the time they would have new openings for about 120 officers and enlisted men
On December 1, 1952 the unit was re-designated the 142nd Fighter Bomber Squadron, and reverted to propeller-driven aircraft, the F-51H "Mustang" supplemented by a few T-6 trainers.
The unit suffered a high loss of personnel as the men mustered out after their activation. Twenty pilots chose to remain on active duty and some chose to exit military service altogether. Only about half of the unit’s original 400 men returned to service with the Delaware Air Guard. So the first priority was rebuilding the manpower base through increased recruiting efforts. Under the leadership of a trio of officers, Clarence E. Atkinson, David F. McCallister, William W. Spruance, and a hardy band of survivors, the unit began to rebuild. Their first problem was a training problem, retreading jet jockeys into prop aircraft. The problem was relatively short lived as the unit traded back up to jets about a year and a half later in March 1954.
The 142nd held its first post-war encampment at McGuire AFB New Jersey, in August 1953, labeled in polite protest, "Operation Muzzle Loader" in homage to their antique F-51 aircraft. The term had been borrowed from a recent Morning News editorial calling for more modern aircraft for the Delaware Air Guard. Although the unit had been among the very first to "go jet" receiving F-84s in 1950, they were now awaiting modern aircraft in a defense priority allocation scheme which sent surplus jets to our NATO allies first, before fleshing out the Air National Guard.
A roster dated 1 October 1953, indicated the pilots and the airplanes to which they were assigned:
C-47 43-30691 Col. W.W. Spruance and Maj. H. G. Staulcup
T-6 44-81403 Capt. A. T. Thawley 42-86067 Lt. P.E. Geisel 44-81768 Capt. C.E. Atkinson 42-86357 Capt. J. E. Somerville 52-8219 Capt. P. Lewis 44-81588 Lt. H. R. Stowell
F-51H 44-64428 Capt. W. A. Hannum 44-64169 Lt. T. W. White 44-64457 Capt. F. H. Stern, Jr. 44-64426 Lt. A. J. Florio 44-64536 Capt. J.V. Schobelock 44-64599 Capt. W. C. Miller
T-33 51-4694 Maj. D.F. McCallister
A brand new factory fresh T-33 trainer was received by the 142nd on January 31, 1954. Nine of the unit's men piloted their planes on a routine cross country training flight to Boston, Logan Airport where they dined with their counterparts om the Massachusetts Air Guard.
The first of ten F-86A Sabrejets (Ser. no. 49-1117) arrived at New Castle on March 12, 1954 flown by Maj. John A. McKay from Warner Robins AFB Georgia. It became the "Cindy Lind 6th" assigned to Major David McCallister, 142nd Squadron Commander. He switched mounts to serial number 49-1142, which became the second "CindyLind 6th" about a month later, on its arrival. This aircraft was credited with two MIG kills during the Korean War.
The units' second summer encampment was in 1954 at Cape Cod at Otis AFB, the final hurrah for the F-51's.
A second significant problem was recruiting. A Headquarters First Air Force inspection in 1954 was graded "Unsatisfactory" and revealed the unit to be understrength with 223 officers and enlisted men assigned against an authorized strength of 252. Part of the problem was the TO&E grade authorizations which limited the number of veteran captains and majors available, forcing the unit to turn away some more senior pilots they might otherwise have attracted.
In the 1950s, Congress played a key role in placing reserve programs on a sound footing because of the political uproar that the poorly managed reserve mobilizations during 1950-51 created. The Congress was much more willing than either the Department of Defense or the military services to fund the reserves properly. Moreover, beginning with the passage of the Armed Forces Reserve Act of 1952, a series of key laws eliminated most of the old inequities and fostered the development of more effective reserve components. It also permitted the use of Guard and Reserve volunteers to support the active duty forces.
In 1954 a brand new T-33, the trainer version of the F-80 "Shooting Star," was received by the 142nd Fighter-Bomber Squadron and later that year the unit received F-86 "Sabrejets" replacing the F-51H "Mustang." The F-86 was the same plane the active Air Force 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing flew at the New Castle Airbase prior to activation for Korea. This airplane made the Delaware Air Guard a “first string” unit operating advanced equipment.
In the 22 September, 1954 "Sabre-gram" unit bulletin, Walt Hannum the safety officer noted: "Keep in mind that the one 1948 model North American on the lot has fender skirts and fox tails but very poor power brakes. This is particular to '48 jobs only. The kicker in the story is that 48-131 has also, on occasion, disconnected itself very easily from the power steering -- unless you're right on it with brake pumping it could become embarrassing."
The 142nd would successively operate every day fighter version of this famous line, the A, E, F, and finally the H model Sabrejet throughout the 1950s until April 1962. Their mission title was Tactical Fighter Squadron but their mission requirements included placing bombs on target, either by high angle dives, low level skip or toss methods. The 142nd pilots "doubled in brass" as ground support raiders, or as radar directed air interceptors firing 20mm cannons (on the F- 86H, "Husky"), a role that is unique for a part-time force.
In September 1954 the unit received a new C-45H Twin Beech aircraft to carry the governor and other dignitaries on state missions as an executive aircraft, as well as a trainer for instrument and multi-engine proficiency.
Major General Winston P. "Wimpy" Wilson The Delaware Air National Guard participated in developing new approaches to reserve training and management during the 1950s. Blessed with innovative national leaders like Maj. Gen. Winston P. "Wimpy" Wilson and a strong political base in the states, the ANG traded some of its autonomy as a state-federal force for closer integration with the active duty Air Force. Wilson was probably the single most important officer in the ANG's history. He was mobilized from Arkansas in 1950 for the Korean War expecting to be in Washington, D.C. for 21 months. Instead, he remained for 21 years. Wilson served as head of the ANG from 1954 to 1962 and then became the first Air Guardsmen to be Chief of the National Guard Bureau from 1963 to 1971. Wilson recognized that the Air Guard faced a dim future unless it acquired definite wartime missions, integrated into Air Force missions on a daily basis, and met the same tough training standards as the active force. The Air Guard also needed more full-time manning. It had to be ready for combat the moment it was called into federal service. Finally, Wilson and other Guard leaders fought hard to acquire modern aircraft and facilities. Wilson was able to sell these concepts to the ANG, the USAF, Congress and the states. Under his leadership, the ANG was transformed from a “flying club” to a valued reserve component of the USAF.
Four Innovations Pushed by its reserve components and their political supporters, (primarily the ANG), the Air Force adopted several management and training innovations after the Korean War that promoted the evolution of combat-ready reserve forces. According to Dr. Charles Gross, the four most significant policy innovations were: (1) including the air reserve forces in war plans, (2) the ANG's participation in the air defense runway alert program, (3) the gaining command concept of reserve forces management, and (4) the selected reserve force program.
Beginning in 1951, the Air Force established specific mobilization requirements for the Air Guard in its war plans for the first time. The Air National Guard would train against those requirements and plans for the first time.
Secondly, Air Guard leaders proposed the air defense runway alert program as a way to combine realistic training and support of a significant combat mission in peacetime. Beginning on an experimental basis in 1953, it involved two fighter squadrons at Hayward, California and Hancock Field at Syracuse, New York. They stood alert from one hour before daylight until one hour after sundown. Despite Air Staff doubts and initial resistance, the experiment was a great success. Delaware joined the effort shortly thereafter in 1954 transitioning its World War II mustangs to F-86 Sabrejet interceptors. They had already gained a measure of experience in the alert mission during the Korean War at home station flying the F-94B all weather interceptors. The 142nd Fighter Squadron received 25 of the new F-86As.
In July, 1954 the Delaware Air Guard participated in a large exercise dubbed, "Exercise Check Point" conducted by the Continental Air Defense Command including Canadian aircraft. It was designed to operationally test the readiness and capabilities of the Air National Guard in standing alert and scrambling to meet enemy aircraft. The Delaware Air Guard 142nd Fighter Squadron F-86s shared the exercise with the regular Air Force 525th Air Defense Group's F-94 Starfires. It was to be a harbinger of theh runway alert program, that would later expand across the force structure.
By 1961, the Air Guard had expanded into a permanent, round-the-clock program that included 25 ANG fighter squadrons. Today, the Air National Guard still provides almost all of the Air Force's continental United States-based air sovereignty alert sites and Air Guardsmen man its command and control organization, 1st Air Force/Continental United States NORAD Region. The runway alert program was the first broad effort to integrate reserve units into the regular peacetime operating structure of the American armed forces on a continuing basis. It was the precursor of the total force approach to reserve components training and utilization.
The third major innovation -- the gaining command concept of reserve forces management -- meant that the major air command responsible for using a Guard or Reserve unit in wartime would actually train it during peacetime. ANG leaders had pressed for that arrangement for years. However, the active duty Air Force had strongly resisted the change. The concept was grudgingly adopted in 1960 because of budget cuts and public criticism of the air reserve programs by General Curtis E. LeMay, then Air Force Vice Chief of Staff. It improved the effectiveness of ANG units by giving Air Force commanders direct personal incentives for improving the performance of those reserve organizations. It also established firm precedents for the total force policy by integrating the Air Guard into the daily operations of the active force.
The fourth major policy innovation -- the selected reserve force program -- reflected Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara's determination to build an elite force of highly capable reserve units to support the Kennedy administration's flexible response policy. He wanted America's military forces, including its reserve components, prepared to respond immediately to a spectrum of conflicts including guerilla and limited conventional war. To support flexible response and improve readiness, McNamara acted to shrink America's large reserve establishment and merge the National Guard with the purely federal reserve components. Efforts at merger had been tried several times since World War II, always failing. It failed again in the early 1960s. McNamara then created a selected reserve force in each of the military services. They had priority access to equipment, could recruit to full wartime strength, and were allowed to conduct additional training each year. They would provide most of the nation's strategic military reserve in the United States while a growing share of the active force was engaged in the Vietnam War.
“In 1956 there was a cross country race, and Lt Col McCallister entered one of our F-86s. We sealed off the gun ports, bolted the slats, polished it up and tried to get rid of all of the parasite drag that we could. We used to practice refueling until we had it down to about a minute just like a pit stop on one of those race cars you see. In the actual race we used only one drop tank because that’s all the range you needed. I think we stretched about every safety rule in the book. We serviced the airplane with the brakes smoking and the engine running. He won the race and I understand that there was quite a party afterward…” Master Sergeant Charles T. Lee
Ten Delaware Air Guardsmen participated in nuclear tests at the Nevada nuclear test site in Indian Springs in August 1957. Led by Maj. Clarence Atkinson, the team included 1st Lt Robert N. Floyd, 2nd Lt John W. Koch, and 2nd Lt Gerald J. Luce who flew through the radioactive cloud gathering samples on filter paper flying T-33 jets. They were supported by a ground crew that included MSgt Albert Seidle, TSgt Everett Whitten, TSgt Lawrence Canterra, TSgt Newton R. Brackin, TSgt Gerard M. Haley, and TSgt Donald M. Galbraith.
On November 10, 1958 the unit was redesignated the 142nd Tactical Fighter Squadron and was reassigned from the Air Force's Air Defense Command to the Tactical Air Command.
In October 1959 a fitness hike from Wilmington to Milford was held. Only nine men completed the hike out of the 47-man field that began the race on October 3. Some 25 made it to Smyrna on Saturday night and the final eight made it to Milford on Sunday morning at 1030. The only Air Guardsman to finish was Lt. Max Beheler, treated to a steak dinner by TAG MG Scannell that evening.
After the Korean War, the Delaware Air Guard evolved into a force that was increasingly integrated with the planning and operations of the Air Force. By the end of the 1950s, the Air Guard had become a larger, more capable, and increasingly diverse organization. By the end of fiscal year 1960, its personnel strength had grown to 71,000 including 13,200 technicians. The Air national Guards force structure included tactical fighter and reconnaissance, troop carrier, heavy airlift, and aeromedical evacuation units. But, while it continued to modernize its weapons systems, its aircraft were still obsolescent by active duty Air Force standards. For example, in 1960 its fighter inventory consisted entirely of jets including F-100s, F-104s, F-84s, and F-89Js.
One result of flying outdated equipment of the single engine high performance variety was the high mortality rate due to aircraft accidents. Flying high performance single-engine fighters was a dangerous business. In the course of the jet program in the 1950s the unit lost a number of airmen. Capt. Frank H. Stern Jr., Capt. James R. Shotwell Jr., 2nd Lt Richard T. Byrne, and 2nd Lt. Linford A. Robbins were all lost in crashes during this period.
Capt. Frank H. Stern, Jr. 35, of Chadds Ford PA was lost on August 21, 1954 flying an F-86A (Ser. No. 49-1285) over the Gunpowder River on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. He was on his way from New Castle to deliver the jet to Maj. David McCallister, who was attending a conference in Omaha NE. His last radio report was while climbing over Delaware City about four minutes after takeoff. There was a low ceiling and overcast skies all the way up to 35,000 feet. A new National Guard Armory on Newport Gap Pike was named in honor of Captain Stern in December 1954. Stern had originally served with the 198th Coast Artillery joining in 1940, before joining the Air Force in 1944. He had flown P-47s in World War II, and was a veteran of 41 combat missions in Korea.
According to General Spruance, “Frank was a good friend of McCallister’s and mine. In fact, of all the fighter pilots he was just a fabulous guy. His father ran Stern’s Auto Top Company downtown, so he’d give us discounts on re-topping our convertibles and all that kind of stuff. Frank was kind of a rotund guy. We decided we’d put a turban on him at one point and put him up on the mantelpiece because he looked kinda like Buddha. I’ve got a picture of him in that outfit.”
Capt. James R. Shotwell Jr. 33, went down near Delaware City on March 19, 1955 flying an F- 86A "Fyne Type" (Ser, No. 49-1169). His craft suffered a flame-out knocking out his power. It is believed he attempted an "air start", but in so doing he lost too much altitude to safely bail out. He was likely concerned about his jet hitting a populated area around Delaware City. His wingman saw the plane burning. He was able to eject from his burning F-86 jet, but his parachute failed to open in time. The mission was a routine training flight. Shotwell was unmarried, a combat veteran of World War II in the South Pacific. He was employed by All- American Engineering Co. as an instrument engineer. He joined the Delaware Air Guard in 1948. He had been good friends with Frank Stern who was lost only eight months earlier.
2nd Lt Richard Byrne, Delaware Air Guard pilot, was killed on July 6 1955, flying F-86E, (Serial No. 51-13043) while assigned with the 3595th Training Wing at Nellis AFB Nevada, during advanced gunnery training.
2nd Lt Linford Robbins, 23 perished on May 23, 1957 in a crash of his F-86E Sabrejet (serial No. 51-12979) near Middletown Delaware. He had been flying in a two ship formation on a night proficiency flight at about 3200 feet in overcast skies when his craft simply nosed down and exploded on impact. He had not radioed any indication of trouble. Robbins had only just returned from flight school about six months before the incident. His wingman was 1st Lt Johnson M. Taylor. Robbins was the father of a two year old boy
On June 4, 1961, Lieutenant Colonel David F. McCallister (Commander, 142nd Tactical Fighter Squadron) and Brigadier General William W. Spruance (Assistant Adjutant General for Air) were flying a T-33 jet trainer out of Scott AFB, when the aircraft lost power, and crashed. Colonel McCallister died and General Spruance received serious injuries. A total of eight airmen were lost in aircraft accidents during the unit’s first fifteen years of operation.
Berlin Crisis During the 1960s, the air reserve components began to demonstrate the fruits of those four policy innovations. In 1961, President Kennedy activated a limited number of Reserve and Guard units (but not the Delaware ANG) during the Berlin crisis. Nevertheless, the Delaware ANG provided an airlift contribution during the later part of the crisis. In a show of American resolve, the President dispatched eleven ANG fighter squadrons to Europe. Although they required significant additional training after they were ordered into federal service, all of those Guard units were in place overseas within one month of mobilization. By contrast, mobilization and overseas deployment during the Korean War had taken ANG units at least seven months. Some 21,000 Air Guardsmen were mobilized during the Berlin crisis. During the Berlin call-ups, reliance on second-rate equipment continued to plague the Air Guard.
Although publicly lauded for their performance, the Berlin mobilization revealed serious shortcomings in the ANG. Basically, it had not been trained and equipped as a highly ready force capable of immediate deployment and integration with the active duty Air Force in a broad spectrum of scenarios ranging from a general war with the Soviet Union to low level counterinsurgencies or "brush fire wars" as they were called in the early 1960s. Instead, the Air Guard was still a "Mobilization Day" force that required substantial training, personnel augmentation, and additional equipment after it was called into federal service. Despite adoption of the gaining command concept of reserve forces management, the Air Force lacked plans and adequate stocks of spare parts to integrate Air Guard units in situations short of a general war with the Soviet Union.
Guard units had been limited by DoD policy to 83 percent of their wartime organizational strength. The gap had to be filled by mobilizing approximately 3,000 Air Force Reserve individual "fillers." Air Guard pilots, although considered excellent individual flyers, had to be trained on a crash basis for transoceanic flight, crash landings at sea, and aerial refueling. During the summer and fall of 1961, the Air Guard had to respond to frequent changes in personnel manning documents by the Air Force.
For all these and other reasons, Air Guard units mobilized in 1961 required extensive training, re-equipment, and reorganization once they were called into federal service. The United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) lacked spare parts needed to support their aging F-84s and F-86s. ANG units had been trained to deliver tactical nuclear weapons, not conventional bombs and bullets. They had to be retrained for conventional missions once they arrived on the continent. Altogether, it took an enormous effort to make those units operational in Europe; the majority of mobilized Air Guardsmen remained in the continental United States.
Privately, the Air Force concluded that the Air Guard units sent to USAFE had achieved an extremely limited operational capability before they returned home in 1962 after the crisis abated. They were skeptical about the military value of the entire deployment. Senior officers noted that it had required a major diversion of USAFE's resources and doubted the effectiveness of ANG units in the opening stages of a general war.
A vast gulf separated the conclusions of Air Force and Air Guard leaders about the lessons of the Berlin mobilization. The former failed to recognize immediately the constraints which obsolescent aircraft, inadequate funding and incomplete manning as well as poor planning had placed on the Air Guard's development. Many of them still viewed the Air Guard as amateurs who had not improved significantly since the Korean War. But, the Berlin mobilization stimulated the Air Force to make significant improvements in the air reserve components. Those changes were reflected in Air Force Regulation 45-60, published in February 1963. It shifted the objectives of its reserve programs away from providing mobilization-day units and individuals that required extensive post call-up preparations before they were ready for combat. Instead, the new goal was "to provide operationally ready units and trained individuals that are immediately ready to augment the active duty establishment.”