77th Fighter Squadron

77th Fighter Squadron

The 77th Fighter Squadron (77 FS) is a squadron of the United States Air Force, and is one of the oldest fighter squadrons in the United States military.


Early history

In was August 1917 it had been only fourteen years since the Wright Brothers took flight and ten years since the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps (forerunner to the Air Force) had been formed. Air power was in its infancy and growing the possibilities were endless new innovations were occurring every where you looked, but the Great War raged in Europe and the US was gearing up for its part in that war. The Air Service hadn’t yet figured out what it would look like, so there were many fits and starts as the service grew. The first 77th Aero Squadron was formed at Kelly Field, San Antonio Texas in August 1917 Commanded by Capt. H. L. Mumma. In September under the command of 1st Lt Kenneth M. Spence, the squadron’s designation was changed to Aero Construction Squadron. In November, 1917 the 77th moved to Air Depot, Garden City, New York for deployment to the AEF. On December 4, 1917 the squadron moved to port of Embarkation Philadelphia and boarded the transport Northland. On the Northland were 9 Aero Squadrons with 70 officers and 1,339 enlisted men. These 9 Squadrons were the 10th, 12th, 13th, 16th, 19th, 75th, 76th, 77th and 101st. The Northland sailed with other transports, which were likely to be the transports USS George Washington and the USS Huron.

In January 1918 a new numbering scheme for aero squadrons was set up. Numbers 1-399 would be for Aero Service Squadrons (AS). 400-599 Aero Construction Squadrons (ACS), 600-799 Aero Supply Squadrons and 800-1099 Aero Repair Squadrons. The 77th became 489th ACS. The squadron went on to serve the AEF building facilities in France. The 489th AS Returned to the States in February 1919 and went to Camp Stuart, Virginia. In March 1919 they were demobilized at Camp Lee, Virginia.

To add to the complexity of its history, the 77th Aero Service Squadron was born or reborn at Rich Field, Waco Field, Texas on February 20, 1918 with 2Lt. George P. Southworth as the squadron’s first commander. On February 28th the squadron along with the 78th and 79th (which had also been reborn at Rich Field) moved by train on the Missouri Kansas & Texas Railway (commonly known as the Katy Railway) to Taliaferro Fld #1 (later named Hicks Field), Fort Worth, Texas. The 77th would then move to Taliaferro Field # 2 (later named Barron Field), Everman, Texas on March 18, 1918. In May 1918 2Lt. John Mason Tilney became Squadron Commander. On July 21, 1918 the 77th was redesignated Permanent School Squadron "A," Barron Field, Texas. A letter dated July 24, 1918 states “The use of numerical designations of squadrons will be restricted to those overseas and the eighty reserve squadrons authorized to be established at all times in this country”. The vacated numbers were to be assigned to new squadrons as they were organized to replace squadrons shipped overseas. Some time after the squadrons designation was changed 2Lt. Edward S. Winfree took command and finally 2Lt. Hugh C. Downey became the squadron's last commander.

The 77th and later Squadron "A" provided personnel for base administrative activities and for various positions needed to maintain operations on Barron Field. The squadron was officially demobilized on November 18, 1918, but recently found documents seem to show the unit was not demobilized until March 1919.

There is also evidence that a third 77th Aero Service Squadron may have existed. A letter from Office, Director Military Aeronautics Operations Section to Commander Barron Field dated September 23, 1918 requests that the records for the 77th Aero Service Squadron (renamed Squadron "A" by this time) be sent to Aviation General Supply Depot and Concentration Camp, Garden City, Long Island, New York for reorganization of the 77th.

The 77th was reactivated and consolidated with the 77th Observation Squadron in October 1927. In 1929, the squadron was redesignated the 77th Pursuit Squadron and reorganized as one of the first tactical units of the 20th Pursuit Group at Mather Field, California, with an officer strength of four.

World War II

From 1930 until 1943, the squadron moved back and forth across the country with the 20th, flying several different aircraft, including the P-26, P-36, P-38, P-39 and the P-40. In January 1943, the 77th settled at March Field, Calif., in time to be reassigned to England and the European Theater of Operations during World War II. The 77th, now designated a fighter squadron, arrived at Northhamptonshire, England, in August 1943, flying the P-38. The 77th entered combat operations in November 1943, flying combat missions until April 25, 1945, when, armed with P-51 Mustangs, they began escorting “heavies” to Pilzen, Czechoslovakia, in one of the last raids of the war. The 77th was instrumental in the 20th achieving its record “kill” of 432 enemy aircraft, 400 locomotives, 1,555 freight cars, 94 ammunition cars and 536 motor vehicles destroyed. The 77th left King’s Cliffe, England, in the summer of 1945 and was deactivated in October 1945.

Cold War

The 77th and the 20th were reactivated in July 1946 at Biggs Field, Texas. Between 1946 and 1952 the squadron moved to Shaw Field, S.C., and then to Langley Air Force Base, Va., becoming the 77th Fighter-Bomber Squadron and transitioning to the F-84. In May 1952, the 77th and the 20th were reassigned to Royal Air Force Wethersfield, England. In 1957, the squadron transitioned to the F-100 and a year later was designated a tactical fighter squadron flying the “Hun” for 11 more years in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization commitment. In 1969, the 77th and the 20th began moving to RAF Upper Heyford and converted to the fighter-bomber version of the F-111.

Recent years

The squadron, flying the F-16, reorganized and incorporated 250 maintainers on Feb. 1, 1992. The 77th Fighter Squadron was inactivated in October 1993, then transferred and reactivated at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, on Jan. 3, 1994. In 1996, the 77 FS deployed to Southwest Asia. In 1999 and 2001, the 77 FS deployed to Southwest Asia flying missions over Iraq in support of Operation NORTHERN WATCH. The squadron also deployed in support of Operation ALLIED FORCE and Operation DESERT FOX in 1999. In 1997 and 2000, the 77th deployed to Southwest Asia flying missions over Iraq in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. The 77 FS was awarded the 20th Fighter Wing Fighter Squadron of the Year in 1998 and 2000. In 2001, the squadron participated in many other deployments. From July to Sept. 2002, the 77th deployed to Operation NORTHERN WATCH. In February 2003, the squadron deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

External links

* [http://www.shaw.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=3469 77th Fighter Squadron]

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