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Fifth Air Force

5th Air Force
5th Air Force Active 1942Country United States of AmericaBranch United States Air ForcePart of Pacific Air ForcesGarrison/HQ Yokota Air BaseCommanders Current
commander Lieutenant GeneralEdward A. Rice, Jr. Notable
commanders George Kenney

Fifth Air Force is a Numbered Air Force of the United States Air Force, part of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) command. It is headquartered at Yokota Air Base, Japan. It was formed during World War II at Brisbane, Australia, on 18 September 1942.

Fifth Air Force's mission is threefold:

  • air operations in accordance with tasks assigned by the PACAF Commander
  • maintaining readiness for other operations.
  • defense of Japan and joint air operations with the Japanese Self-Defense Force.

Contents

Units

Major units of Fifth Air Force are:

Non-Flying Units (Yokota Air Base)

  • 605th Air Operations Group
  • 605th Air Operations Squadron
  • 605th Air Intelligence Squadron
  • 605th Air Support Squadron
  • 605th Air Communications Flight
  • 20th Operational Weather Squadron

Lineage

In addition, Fifth Air Force is not to be confused with a second "Fifth" air force created as a temporary establishment to handle combat operations after the outbreak of hostilities on June 25, 1950, in Korea. This numbered air force was established as Fifth Air Force, Advance, and organized at Itazuki AB, Japan, assigned to Fifth Air Force, on July 14, 1950. It moved to Taegu AB, South Korea, on July 24, 1950, and was redesignated Fifth Air Force in Korea at the same time. After moving, it apparently received command control from U.S. Far East Air Forces. The establishment operated from Pusan, Taegu, and Seoul before being discontinued on December 1, 1950.

History

Fifth Air Force is one of very few numbered air forces of the United States Air Force never to have been based in the United States itself. It is also one of the oldest and continuously active US air forces.

World War II

In July 1941, Chief of the Army Air Forces, Major General Henry H. Arnold, proposed sending four heavy bombardment groups (340 aircraft) and two pursuit squadrons (260 aircraft) to the Philippines, as reinforcements for the Philippine Department Air Force, constituted on 16 August 1941 and activated on 20 September 1941. It was redesignated the Far East Air Force in October 1941.

By October 2, 81 P-40s had been shipped to the islands, along with nine B-17s of the 14th Bombardment Squadron (11th Bomb Group). Two squadrons of the 19th Bombardment Group (H) arrived in November, to which the 14th was attached, for a total of 35 B-17 Flying Fortresss. By the end of November four groups had reached the Philippines and FEAF was organized into two commands, V Bomber and V Interceptor Commands.

Immediately after the outbreak of the Pacific War in December, Brereton sought permission from theater commander Gen Douglas MacArthur to conduct air raids against Japanese forces in Formosa, but was refused. As a consequence, FEAF was largely destroyed on the ground by Japanese air attacks. Following the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, the remnants of FEAF relocated southwards to bases in the Dutch East Indies. After those islands also fell to Japanese forces early in 1942, FEAF headquarters moved to Australia and was redesignated Fifth Air Force on 5 February 1942. Its surviving personnel and aircraft were detached to other commands and the headquarters remained unmanned for several months, but elements played a small part in the Battle of the Coral Sea (7-8 May 1942).

Headquarters Fifth Air Force was re-staffed at Brisbane, Australia on 18 September 1942 and placed under the command of Major General George Kenney. United States Army Air Forces units in Australia, including Fifth Air Force, were eventually reinforced and re-organised following their initial defeats in the Philippines and the East Indies. At the time that Kenney had arrived, there were three fighter groups and 5 bombardments groups.

Fighter Groups:

  • 8th FG (P-39) Townsville, Australia
  • 49th FG (P-40) Darwin, Australia
  • 35th FG (P-40) Port Moresby, New Guinea

Bomber Groups:

  • 3rd BG (B-25, A-20, & A-24) Charters Towers, Australia
  • 19th BG (Non-Operational. Battle scarred from Philippines & Java) Mareeba, Australia
  • 22nd BG (B-26) Woodstock, Australia
  • 43rd BG (Not Equipped) Port Moresby, New Guinea
  • 38th BG (B-25, Not operational) Charters Towers, Australia

In addition, Fifth Air Force controlled two transport squadrons and one photographic squadron comprising 1,602 officers and 18,116 men.

Kenney was later appointed commander of Allied air forces in the South West Pacific Area, reporting directly to General Douglas MacArthur. Under Kenney's leadership, the Fifth Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force provided the aerial spearhead for MacArthur's island hopping campaign. On 4 November 1942, the 5th Air Force commenced sustained action against the Japanese in Papua New Guinea.

The Fifth Air Force along with the Thirteenth Air Force was assigned to the newly-created United States Far East Air Forces (FEAF) on August 3, 1944.

Fifth Air Force order of battle, 1945

V Fighter Command Night Fighter Units V Bomber Command Photo Reconnaissance 54th Troop Carrier Wing 3rd ACG (P-51, C-47) 418th NFS 3rd BG (L) (B-25,A-20) 6th RG (F-5, F-72nd CCG 8th FG(P-40, P-38) 421st NFS 22nd BG (M/H) (B-26- B-24) 71st RG (B-25) 317th TCG 35th FG (P-47, P-51) 547th NFS 38th BG (M) (B-25) 374th TCG(1943 only) 49th FG (P-40, P-47, P-38) 43rd BG (H)(B-24) 375th TCG 58th FG (P-47) 90th BG (H) (B-24) 433rd TCG 348th FG (P-47, P-51) 312th BG (L) (A-20) 475th FG (P-38) 345th BG (M)(B-25) 380th BG (H)(B-24) 417th BG (L) (A-20)

LEGEND: ACG - Air Commando Group, FG - Fighter Group, NFS - Night Fighter Squadron, BG (L) - Light Bomb Group, BG (M) - Medium Bomb Group, BG (H) - Heavy Bomb Group, RG - Reconnaissance Group, CCG - Combat Cargo Group, TCG - Troop Carrier Group

When the war ended, Fifth Air Force had an unmatched record of 3,445 aerial victories, led by the nation's two top fighter aces Major Richard Bong and Major Thomas McGuire, with 40 and 38 confirmed victories respectively, and two of Fifth Air Force's ten Medal of Honor recipients.

Shortly after World War II ended in August, Fifth Air Force relocated to Irumagawa Air Base, Japan, about September 25, 1945 as part of the Allied occupation forces. The command remained in Japan until December 1, 1950 performing occupation duties.

Korean War

In 1950, Fifth air force was called upon again, becoming the main United Nations combat air command during the Korean War, and was instrumental in bringing about the cease-fire that formally ended that conflict in 1953.

In the early morning hours of June 25, North Korea launched a sudden, all-out attack against the south. Reacting quickly to the invasion, Fifth Air Force units provided air cover over the skies of Seoul. The command transferred to Seoul on December 1, 1950, remaining in South Korea until September 1, 1954.

In this first Jet War, Fifth Air Force racked up an unprecedented 14.5 to 1 victory ratio. By the time the truce was signed in 1953, fifth air force had flown over 625,000 missions, downing 953 North Korean and Chinese aircraft, while close air support accounted for 47 percent of all enemy troop casualties.

Thirty-eight fighter pilots were identified as aces, including Lieutenant Colonel James Jabara, America's first jet ace; and Captain Joseph McConnell, the leading Korean War ace with 16 confirmed victories. Additionally, four Medals of Honor were awarded to Fifth Air Force members. One other pilot of note was Marine Major John Glenn, who flew for Fifth Air Force as part of an exchange program.

With the end of combat in Korea, Fifth Air Force returned to Japan in 1954.

Cold War

Not only concerned with maintaining a strong tactical posture for the defense of both Japan and South Korea, Fifth Air Force played a critical role in helping the establishment of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force as well as the Republic of Korea Air Force. These and other peacetime efforts lasted a decade before war clouds once again developed in the Pacific.

This time, the area of concern was Southeast Asia, beginning in 1964 with the Gulf of Tonkin Crisis. Fifth air force furnished aircraft, Aircrews, Support personnel, and supplies throughout the eight years of combat operations in South Vietnam and Laos.

Since 1972, the Pacific Region has seen relative calm, thanks in large part to the deterrent role Fifth Air Force has played in this part of the world. But that doesn't mean Fifth Air Force hasn't been active in other roles. The command has played active or supporting roles in a variety of issues ranging from being first on the scene at the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 shoot down in 1983 to deploying personnel and supplies for the Persian Gulf War in 1990.

During this time span, the size of Fifth Air Force changed as well. With the activation of Seventh Air Force in 1986, fifth left the Korean Peninsula and focused its energy on continuing the growing bilateral relationship with Japan.

Post Cold War

The Fifth Air Force's efforts also go beyond combat operations. Fifth Air force has reacted to natural disasters in Japan and abroad. These efforts include the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and Super Typhoon Paka which hit Guam in 1997. Fifth Air Force has reached out to provide assistance to victims of floods, Typhoons, Volcanoes, and Earthquakes throughout the region.


See also

References

This article includes content from Fifth Air Force Website history page.

  • Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate, 1948-58, The Army Air Forces in World War II. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

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