56th Fighter Wing
The 56th Fighter Wing, one of the most highly decorated aviation units in history, traced its history to the 56th Pursuit Group which first activated Jan. 15, 1941, at Savannah Air Base, Ga. The unit was redesignated a fighter group and equipped with the P-47 Thunderbolt when it was reassigned to England. The 56th flew its first combat missions of World War II on April 13, 1943. During its two-year involvement in the air war in Europe, the group damaged or destroyed 1,598.5 enemy aircraft. What seemed incredible was that the 56th posted that record while loosing only 25 fighters in aerial combat. The 56th also produced 39 fighter aces.
After World War II, the 56th Fighter Group was assigned at Selfridge Field, Mich. The 56th Fighter Wing was activated on Aug. 15, 1947, with the 56th Fighter Group as a subordinate unit. The wing's mission was air defense. The unit wrote another chapter in aviation history July 14, 1948, when its F-80 Shooting Stars made the first ever west-to-east crossing of the Atlantic by military jets. The flight was a month after the Soviets set up their blockade of Berlin, and put the Soviets on notice that this nation had the capability to deploy a large package of military aircraft across the Atlantic in minimum time.
The 56th was reassigned to Southeast Asia on March 16, 1967. While in Southeast Asia, the 56th not only supported but also conducted combat operations against an opposing armed enemy force.
The wing was reassigned to MacDill AFB, Fla., on June 1, 1975, and conducted combat aircrew training in the F-4 and later fighter training in the F-16. When MacDill AFB was named to close because of a general downsizing of the military due to the real-world political situation, the 56th was named to remain part of the active fighter force. On April 1, 1994, the 56th Fighter Wing was reassigned to Luke AFB.
Today, the 56th Fighter Wing, a unit which historically has proven to have fighter pilots second to none, continues a mission that has been identified with Luke AFB since 1941: "Training Fighter Pilots Second to None."