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334th FS celebrates wing's heritage, 70th anniversary

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tammie Moore
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Current and former Eagle pilots, weapon systems officers and their families gathered to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 4th Fighter Wing and 334th Fighter Squadron on Sept. 17.

Guests of honor at the celebration included two former 334th Fighter Squadron commanders, retired Brig. Gen. Lawrence Huggins and Col. Patrick Doherty. The event's guest speaker was the 4th FW historian Dr. Roy Heidicker.

"I was incredibly honored to speak at this event celebrating the birth of Royal Air Force Eagle Squadron number 71, the future 334th Fighter Squadron," Dr. Heidicker said. "We are really celebrating the origin of our wing. I have so much respect for all the men and women of the 4th FW that I am humbled to be their historian. Sharing our heritage within and outside our wing is a privilege for me. I feel a responsibility to learn and to know as much about our history as I can."

In 1949, England stood alone against Nazi Germany after Adolph Hitler's forces triumphed against Poland and France, chasing England's forces back to their homeland in the process.

"When Hitler unleashed the Luftwaffe against England, the RAF was desperately short of pilots," Dr. Heidicker said. "Thus American volunteer pilots were recruited to form the Eagle Squadrons and fly for the RAF against the Germans. The first Eagle Squadron, RAF Squadron number 71, was formed Sept. 19, 1940, 70 years ago. In September 1942, 71st Squadron became the 334th FS of the 4th Fighter Group, thus this is the 70th anniversary of the 4th FW."

Throughout the years, several Airmen assigned to the 71st Eagle Squadron achieved a number of notable aerial milestones.

"Number 71 Eagle Squadron was the highest scoring Eagle Squadron," Dr. Heidicker said. "The 334th FS was the 4th FG's highest scoring squadron with 395 victories and with the most aces, 34, in World War II. In the Korean War, the 334th FS had 142.5 kills and 8 aces, second only to the 335th FS. Overall in the 4th FW, the 334th FS has the most kills and the most aces in our history."

Additional 334th FS historic and milestones figures include:

· William Dunn, 71st Eagle Squadron, became the first Eagle Squadron pilot to shoot down an enemy plane on July 2, 1941.
· Mr. Dunn was named the first American ace of World War II on Aug. 27, 1941.
· Capt. James Jabara, 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, earned the title of world's first all jet ace on May 20, 1951.
· Maj. George Davis, 334th FIS, became the world's first double jet ace with 10 kills on Dec. 15, 1951.
· Lt. Col. George Davis, 334th FIS, was posthumously presented the first and only 4th FW Medal of Honor for his actions during the Korean War.
· Lt. Col. Gus Grissom was one of the initial seven Mercury astronauts. He flew 100 combat missions with the 334th FIS in Korea.
· The unit was first tactical fighter unit to operate with "bare base" facilities at Kwang-ju Air Base, March through July 1968.

In 1994, the 334th FS became a F-15E Strike Eagle training squadron, and despite the numerous transitions Dr. Heidicker has seen Airmen of the 4th Fighter Wing go through during his study of the wing's history, there is one thing that has not changed.

"The men and women of the 4th FW work incredibly hard, learning, training and defending our nation with worldwide deployments," he said. "They are all volunteers who endure sacrifice and separation from their loved ones through patriotism and dedication to our nation."

The Eagles anniversary celebration included several reminders of the wing and unit's rich histories. The cake bore the RAF Squadron number 71 patch. A slide show and a movie that played during the event highlighted key moments and people who shaped the wing's history, and a static display of a P-51 Mustang, the aircraft Eagle pilots flew into battle during World War II, sat on display.

"Celebrating our heritage reminds (us) that (we) are part of a long line of dedicated Airmen, 'Fourth But Firsters' who have shown them the way," Dr. Heidicker said. "From our RAF Eagle Squadrons through Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the legacy of our wing is a source of pride and inspiration for all who serve in the 4th FW."