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18th Wing History
Published September 11, 2018
18th Wing History
Tracing its origins to the 1920s, the 18th Wing has the distinction of being the only Air Force wing to have never been based in the continental United States. On Jan. 21, 1927, the War Department, forerunner to the Department of Defense, activated a provisional pursuit group at Wheeler Field, located on what was then the territory of Hawaii. Soon after, the unit was re-designated as the 18th Pursuit Group. Flying DH-4 and PW-9 aircraft, the group spent the next several years training for the defense of Hawaii. The group eventually transitioned to the P-40 Warhawk aircraft and was re-designated as the 18th Pursuit Group (Interceptor).
When Hawaii was attacked Dec. 7, 1941, only two of the group's planes managed to get airborne and were quickly shot down. With the remaining P-40s badly damaged, the group spent the next several months training in replacement aircraft for the war. After training and being renamed the 18th Fighter Group, the unit moved forward in March 1943 as part of 13th Air Force and was based on Guadalcanal, New Guinea and the Philippines. Later that year, the group began flying the P-38 Lightning. The group participated in the allied island-hopping strategy and received a Distinguished Unit Citation in 1944.
When the war ended, the 18th Fighter Group moved to Clark Field in the Philippines and became part of a newly created parent unit, the 18th Fighter Wing, on Aug. 14, 1948. The unit began flying the F-51 Mustang and F-80 Shooting Star, making it the first overseas-based fighter unit with jet aircraft.
After being renamed the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing in January 1950, the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group with two of its components, the 12th and 67th fighter-bomber squadrons, deployed to Korea almost immediately after hostilities broke out. The Wing and 44th Fighter-Bomber Squadron remained in the Philippines. The 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing earned a distinguished reputation for its enemy kills, and one of its officers, Maj. Louis Sebille, 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron commander, became the first member in the Air Force to be awarded (posthumously) the Medal of Honor. The group was the first to shoot down an enemy aircraft and the first to encounter a Soviet-made MiG 15.
In 1952, the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing began flying the F-86 Sabre, which it continued to operate when it relocated to Osan Air Base, Korea following the cease-fire agreement.
The Wing took up residence at Kadena Air Base Nov. 1, 1954, where it has been ever since. The 44th Fighter-Bomber Squadron rejoined the Wing from the Philippines in July 1955.
In 1957, the Wing converted to the F-100 Super Sabre and in 1958 the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group inactivated, with the Wing taking up direct control of the flying squadrons. The unit was also renamed the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1958, under the 313th Air Division.
The 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was attached to the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1960, flying the RF-101 Voodoo until 1967, when it received the RF-4 Phantom. The 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron moved to South Korea in 1989 under the 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.
The 18th Tactical Fighter Wing began flying the F-105 Thunderchief in 1962 and deployed its tactical fighter squadrons to Royal Korat Air Base, Thailand, in support of the Vietnam War in 1964.
In 1979, the Wing converted from the F-4 Phantom, after eight years, to its first F-15 Eagles.
In 1991, the 313th Air Division deactivated due to an Air Force-wide reorganization, and all Kadena-based units were placed under the newly named 18th Wing. The Wing gained the 961st Airborne Warning and Control Squadron with E-3 Sentries, 81st Air Control Squadron, 623rd Air Control Squadron, and 909th Air Refueling Squadron with KC-135 Stratotankers, as well as logistics, support and medical units, making it one of the Air Force's largest composite wings.
Military Airlift Command's 13th Airlift Squadron joined the 18th Wing in 1992, before transferring to McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., in 1993. That same year, the 33rd Air Rescue Squadron, having already been assigned to Kadena as part of 20th Air Force, joined the Wing with HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters.
In 1999, the 12th Fighter Squadron moved to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.
The Wing reorganized into Air Force combat wing structure in 2002, forming new groups and squadrons, much as it looks today. The 31st Rescue Squadron, 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron joined the Wing a year later.
The 18th Wing is a symbol of American goodwill in the Pacific region. 18th Wing Airmen conducted disaster relief operations in the Philippines after severe flooding there in November 2004. A month later, the Wing delivered critical aid during the search, rescue and relief operations in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka after the devastating tsunami of December 2004. In March 2011, the Wing delivered supplies and supported search and rescue operations in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Additionally, the 18th Wing continues to deploy aircraft and people in support of operation Enduring Freedom and other Air Force missions worldwide. The Wing has earned a total of 3 Distinguished Unit Citations and 21 Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards.
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