In the Beginning
The 59th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) was constituted 20 Nov. 1940 and activated 15 Jan. 1941 at Mitchel Field, New York, as part of the 33rd Pursuit Group. The squadron was originally equipped with Bell P-39 Airacobra aircraft. When the U. S. entered World War II, the 59th was re-deployed to various locations for air defense of the East Coast. The squadron was redesignated the 59th Fighter Squadron and transferred with The 58th Fighter Squadron to Paine Field, WA during May and June, 1942, then transferred back to Philadelphia when the threat to the West Coast of the U. S. was greatly lessened by the victory at the Battle of Midway.
During 1942, the 59th was equipped with Curtiss P-40 Warhawk aircraft. When forces for the Invasion of North Africa were selected, the 59th was included and in October 1942, the P-40s were loaded aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Chenango and transported with the Invasion forces to the coast of North Africa. Ground personnel of the squadron were among the initial landing forces coming ashore at Port Lyautey, French Morocco, on 8 Nov. 1942. The 59th pilots in their P-40s were catapulted from the carrier on 11 November, landing on the bomb-torn runway at Lyautey. The squadron was moved to various other locations during the final stages of the Battle for North Africa. The squadron saw further action in Sicily, Italy, India, Burma and China during the remainder of WWII.
On 2 Feb. 1944, after 15 months in service in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, flying a total of 4,048 combat sorties and claiming 39 victories, the 59th ceased operations in the European Theater and was transferred to Karachi, India. During these 15 months, the 59th lost 12 pilots. They never lost a bomber during an escort mission. Their P-40 aircraft were left at Cercola Airfield near Naples since new P-40s awaited them in India. The transfer involved 26 pilots, 4 ground officers and 86 enlisted men. After picking up their new aircraft, the squadron was sent to Fungwanshan, China.
In October 1944, they transitioned to Republic P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft and aided in the opening of the Burma Road and the capture of Lashio and Mandalay. In April 1945, the squadron began receiving Lockheed P-38 Lighting aircraft and transferred their P-47s to other units. Little action occurred between then and the end of the war. In August 1945, when the Japanese government accepted Allied Terms of Surrender, the 59th ceased all flying to allow the aircraft to be put into condition for transfer. Flying resumed for a short time in September, but the aircraft were then transferred out and by November, the squadron personnel were on their way home. The squadron was inactivated 8 Dec. 1945 at Camp Shanks, N. Y.
The 59th Fighter Squadron was reactivated 20 Aug. 1946 at Neubiberg, Germany, and equipped with North American F-51 Mustang aircraft as part of the U. S. occupation forces in Germany. However, they did not stay long in Germany. The squadron was transferred to Roswell, N. M. 16 Sept. 1947 as part of the 33rd Wing along with the 58th and 60th squadrons. F-51s were flown until early 1948, when the squadron was equipped with the new Republic F-84 Thunderjet. During this period, the squadron was assigned to SAC as Bomber Escorts with the 509th Bomb Wing and renamed the 59th Fighter Squadron, Jet, on 14 Jun. 1948. After being equipped with F-84s in 1948, the 33rd Wing, including the 59th, was transferred to Otis AFB, Massachusetts on 16 Nov. 1948 under control of the 4707th Defense Wing. The squadron was renamed the 59th Fighter Interceptor Squadron on 20 Jan. 1950 and equipped with the North American F-86 Sabre-Jet prior to June. At the outbreak of the Korean War the 59th deployed in detachments to several locations for the air defense of New England. By the end of the year, the squadron was back at Otis and great changes were in the wind for the 59th as well as the entire Air Force.
Goose Bay, Labrador
As the result of the current Cold War getting “Hot” in Korea and for the need to increase national security, the U.S. Air Force Air Defense Command (ADC) was inaugurated. The United States was divided into the Eastern, Central and Western Air Defense Areas and their Fighter Interceptor Squadrons received the first U.S. Jet Fighter Interceptor radar equipped aircraft, the new Lockheed F-94A Starfire. The two-place F-94 was this nation's first operational jet all-weather interceptor. It was developed from the T-33 trainer which had been a modification the Army Air Forces' first operational jet aircraft, the F-80. Although the F-94 had a redesigned fuselage to accommodate the large radar unit and the addition of an afterburner, it used the T-33 tail, wing, landing gear and engine. The Starfire was also the first U.S. production jet to have an afterburner, which provided brief periods of additional engine thrust. The especially designed radar in the nose permitted the observer in the rear seat to locate an enemy aircraft at night or in poor weather. The pilot then flew the Starfire into proper position for an attack based upon the observer's radar indications and information. The armament consisted of four 50-cal. machine guns mounted in the nose.
In early 1951, the Air Force began advertising for personnel to become Radar Observers to fly in the rear seat of the F-94 and, using sophisticated intercept radar equipment, direct the pilot to the target. RO training was conducted at James Connally AFB, Waco, Texas, and lasted only six months. Many young men awaiting assignment to a Navigator class switched to the Radar Observer training. The trainees graduated as Second Lieutenants and were awarded Radar Observer Wings in half the time the 12-month Navigator School required.
The squadron at Otis AFB began converting to the F-94B aircraft early in 1951. Many highly experienced Jet Fighter Pilots, who had previously flown only single seat fighter aircraft and with prior combat experience in both Korea and WW II, were assigned to the squadron. Typical reactions from single seat pilots who had never flown a fighter with a back seat Radar Observer as a “passenger”, after being assigned to an Air Defense Squadron:
“I’d always flown single seat, single engine fighters. This was a new twist for me. Like most fighter pilots, I was not very happy about having someone in the back seat. Nor could I imagine why anyone would want to ride back there during all the gyrations we go through." One RO, when asked why he was a Radar Observer at the bar one evening replied, “Everyone has to be some place.” When asked what ROs were good for? A fighter pilot replied, "If you go down in the arctic, you could eat ‘em.”
The new ROs were three distinct types. Some were in their thirties and were holdovers from World War II night fighters, others were refurbished WWII Navigators and Bombardiers and some were new kids in their early twenties, straight from Radar Observer School.
The squadron was scheduled for Gunnery Training in the F-94B in the fall of 1951 out of Eglin AFB, Florida. Many of the pilots scored a high percentage of “hits” and both the squadron and the individuals were commended. As the training continued, Pilots and Radar Observers became “teams” and increased their proficiency in finding “bogies” and guiding their planes to within firing range on radar. The squadron was composed mostly of pilots of the rank of Captain, with only two or three 1st Lts. It was one of the most “experienced” squadrons in ADC, if not the entire Air Force. Probably because of this high pilot experience level the 59th was alerted in April or May, 1952, to be transferred to Goose Bay, Labrador, a strategic air defense location, in October.
During this period, the squadron only had nine F-94s and had broken all previous flying records. More than 1,000 hours were flown in the month of June alone! In June and July, six 2/Lt. Pilots reported to the squadron. All were from Pilot Training Class 51-H, which graduated with their wings in December 1951, except for one from 52-A who graduated in February 1952. These pilots had flown T-6s and B-25s in pilot training and had been sent to Jet Transition in T-33s and Jet Instrument School at Moody AFB, Georgia, after getting their wings. When they completed the training in Georgia, they proceeded to Tyndall AFB, Florida for checkout in the F-94. They then teamed up with newly graduated Radar Observers and began Radar Intercept training.
The wife of one of the 59th Supply Airmen or NCOs had designed a new 59th Squadron Patch early in 1952. Her new patch depicted a black bat on a yellow “Moon” background with “59” on the top part of the moon and “Freicudan Du,” Gaelic for Black Watch or Black Guard, below the bat and across the bottom part of the moon. The new patch was called “The Bat on the Moon”. It more fittingly represented an All-Weather Fighter Interceptor Squadron, flying mostly at night and in bad weather, than the existing 59th Lion patch with the phrase, “Golden Pride”. In June one of the newly reporting 2/Lt pilots, William R. Tuxhorn, refined the design making the bat look more “ferocious” and that design was adopted as the new squadron patch. Unfortunately, this Bat on the Moon patch was never submitted to the Air Force for official recognition. Never-the-less, it became the 59th Squadron Emblem for the Goose Bay Northeast Air Command period from mid 1952 until the squadron was inactivated in 1967. A bat, without the moon, was painted on both sides of the nose of the F-94 squadron aircraft between the gun ports and air intake duct.
Additional F-94Bs joined the squadron that summer and the squadron moved to Goose Bay in late October, 1952. Although there was some new construction going on, the base had changed very little from its World War II configuration. Initially, a major problem was where to house the officers of an entire new squadron. A new BOQ building was not yet completed and work had been suspended for the cold months. So all officers, from the Commander down to the newest Second Lieutenant were housed in one large bay on the top floor of a WW II “H” shaped building constructed of wood with a heavy outside covering of black tar paper. There was one large latrine/shower room. The plumbing was in such disrepair that occasionally water was ankle deep in the latrine and additional boards had to be thrown down to walk on. In the large open bay, bunks were tiered two high and so many windows were missing glass that snow was scooped up from the floor to chill the Scotch. The squadron enlisted men were quartered in another building with similar comforts.
There were separate facilities for Squadron Operations. The 59th was given a couple of large rooms on the south side of Base Operations. Directly outside the building, about 50 yards away, and located in the open cold of the late Labrador fall and early winter were the two Red-Alert F-94s and the two 15-minute-alert aircraft. When scrambled, the flight crews ran out the south door of the Operations Building to their aircraft. As the crews climbed in the cockpit, the pilot brought the throttle “around the horn” to complete the starting process that the ground crews had initiated to facilitate the scramble time. Checklists were addressed as crew was buckling in and the aircraft was taxied to the end of the runway for take off. Even in that primitive alert environment, three-minute scrambles were the rule.
A detachment of the 59th, a flight of four aircraft and their crews was assigned to Thule AFB, Greenland in September 1952. The 59th crews continued to stand alert at Thule until the 318th FIS arrived at Thule to replace them in late July and early August 1953.
In the spring of 1953, the new BOQ was completed at Goose Bay and the 59th officers were assigned quarters in the facility, two per room. This was a great improvement over the original officers quarters and moral skyrocketed. However, when the long awaited Spring Thaw arrived and snow melted revealing hundreds of empty whiskey, wine and beer bottles and cans around the old BOQ, all the Officers of the squadron were summoned to the Base Theater for a “Dressing Down” by the “dismayed” Base Commander. He had a couple of six-bys vehicles turned over to the 59th Officers who were told to police up the mess! He thought this would serve as punishment but actually the men had a good time in the process.
For about 10 years before the 59th was assigned to Goose Bay there had been U. S. Air Support activities on the Canadian base. The base had also been a civilian refueling alternate for aircraft flying from Canada and the United States to Europe using the “Great Northern” route through Goose Bay, BW-1 Greenland, Keflavik, Iceland, Prestwick, Scotland and on to their final destination. The 59th was the first Fighter Squadron assigned to Goose Bay on a full-time basis. Almost from the beginning of the squadron’s stay at Goose, relationships between squadron officers and the Officers Club OIC (Officer in Charge) and other Base Wheels had been strained. These “ground-pounders” and an ever changing contingent of SAC “Weenies” were not acquainted with the free wheeling behavior of Fighter Crews. More “conservative” members of the Club frowned upon their off-duty behavior. The Club Officer was “shocked” and other non-59th “wheels” began to complain of the conduct of 59th officers. Col. Dow, the 59th Commander who had brought the squadron from Otis, spent many an hour in front of the Base Commander, Col. Thomas, attempting to explain minor incidents (some may have been more notable), as the result of exuberant camaraderie to be expected from Fighter Crews. From time to time, an individual might be barred from the Club for a few days or a week, but Col. Dow became the buffer and protector and no “mass” punishment was inflicted on the squadron during the first year at Goose Bay while he was in command.
A new group of 59th officers, who were replacing those who had served their tour, continued to stretch the patience of other officers who were not in the squadron and who did not appreciate the uninhibited style. In other words, this second group of officers dutifully carried on the squadron’s dubious reputation until finally, the entire squadron was banned from the O-Club.
The result was the now famous “Scramble Inn”. In a vacant corner of the BOQ basement, from the creative resourcefulness of the eager and motivated volunteer 59th officers, emerged a uniquely decorated party room complete with tables, chairs, sofas and a well stocked bar. On Christmas Eve 1953, the Scramble Inn held its grand opening and survived to enhance the tours of Goose Bay airmen for many years after.
During 1954, Squadron Commanders came and went. In January, a flight of two F-94s making an instrument approach to the base in an ice fog lost the horizon when they went visual and crashed onto the bay ice in formation. One cold Saturday night in February, an F-94 buzzing the Scramble Inn struck an unlighted radio tower near the BOQ but the pilot managed to get a badly beat up airplane on the ground with no injuries. Another aircraft ran out of fuel and the plane was lost in the Queen’s timbers. Fortunately, pilot and RO were unhurt, used some of their survival training for one night, and came home on foot the next day. Another F-94 aborted the take off, ran off the end of the runway and burned. The RO, using a .357 Magnum, got out by blowing a large hole in the jammed canopy and then dragged his pilot out. The pilot was also trapped under the jammed canopy and would not have made it without the ROs help. It was a tough year accident-wise.
The 59th was in process of taking over an old WWII hangar and painting and fixing up office spaces in preparation for moving the Squadron Orderly room there. Paints and solvents were stored in the furnace room. One midnight, it all burned. All of the 59th maintenance records and field personnel records were lost and it was back to square one using whiskey cases for filing cabinets. Luckily, no one was injured.
A great amount of construction began in 1954 to replace the old WWII structures. A new Base Theater, Chapel, Base Exchange, nine hangars, four warehouses, a steam power and heating plant, new Base Ops building, two fire stations, several shops were built and the runway and ramps were repaired. Compared to what the 59th crews found in October 1952, it began to look like a modern air base.
Towards the end of 1954, the 59th began receiving Northrop F-89D Scorpion aircraft and crews. The F-89D was a twin-engined interceptor, equipped with 104 unguided rockets located in launch-tube pods in front of the wing-tip fuel tanks. It had a more sophisticated radar system than the F-94. It also had a Pilot and Radar Observer. The F-89D was the first all-rocket armament equipped USAF fighter. Early 1955 saw the end of F-94Bs and those F-94 crews who had not completed their year tour commitment transitioned into The F-89. The squadron’s F-89Ds were replaced in 1957 with F-89Js. The F-89J was actually a modified F-89D with a new fire control system for launching the Genie (AIR-2A) nuclear unguided rocket missile (the first USAF nuclear equipped fighter). The F-89J carried two Genies on launching rails that were mounted on the under-wing pylons. The wingtip armament/fuel pods of the F-89D were removed and replaced by 600-gallon fuel tanks.
Harmon AFB, Newfoundland, and Thule AFB, Greenland were slated to be equipped with F-102As in the summer of 1957. The Convair F-102A Delta-Dagger was a single pilot crew, delta wing, supersonic all-weather interceptor, a USAF first. It was armed with 24 unguided and 6 guided missiles. After electronic equipment on board the F-102 had located the enemy aircraft, the radar control system would guide it into position for attack. At the proper moment, the electronic fire control system would automatically fire the F-102's air-to-air rockets and missiles.
It turned out the F-102 was not ready for NEAC winters. Thule aircraft were delayed and Harmon got the Truax AFB “Deuce” squadron in about October. Within a week, the 59th had to send some F-89s to Harmon along with ground crews to stand alert while the Truax Squadron tried to work the “Cold Weather Bugs” out of their Deuces. In addition to this additional alert commitment at Harmon, the 59th sent F-89 crews to Thule because the pipeline flow of their F-89 crews had been terminated in anticipation of the scheduled replacement of the F-89 by F-102s.
The 59th released their F-89J aircraft in early 1960. The remaining ROs were then reassigned. Canadian CF-100 aircraft from RCAF Squadron 433 at North Bay temporarily took over the alert commitment at Goose on 31 May 60, while the 59th pilots transitioned into F-102As during temporary duty to Harmon AFB. This training was completed and the 59th pilots retook the alert commitment at Goose on 6 Sep 1960 in their F-102s.
Thirteen Jet Interceptor Squadrons sent teams to Tyndall AFB, Florida, in late 1961 to compete in the bi-annual William Tell “turkey shoot.” Five of these teams flew F-102A Delta Daggers. Ryan Firebee 23-foot long drones were used as targets. Each team sent out a flight of two on four separate missions. They were graded on procedures as well as “hits”. The 59th flight crews received the first perfect score in the history of the competition. To top it off, the 59th Missile Loading Team won first in the Missile Loading competition. The victorious 59th was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period of 1 Dec 1960 – 1 Dec 1961.
Events early in the “Cold War”, the USSR’s possession of the A and H Bombs and the eruption of the conflict in Korea, contributed to the beginning of the 59th Fighter Squadron’s stay as part of the 64th Air Division of the Northeast Air Command. Changing world events also had a lot to do with the end of the 59th in NEAC. The United States had become an active participant in Southeast Asia and military technology had produced the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. The result was that fighter crews were needed in Vietnam and the bomber threat against the U. S. and Canada was now greatly reduced. The 59th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was inactivated by the Air Force effective 2 January 1967. Colonel Dale L. Flowers was the last Commander of the Squadron at Goose Bay, as noted in the Squadron’s last Quarterly Historical Report, which ended 30 June 66. The majority of the squadron pilots were transferred to the 75th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing Bergstrom AFB, TX, flying new McDonnell RF-4C Phantom aircraft. Their unit became Operationally Ready in the fall of 1967 and deployed to Udorn, Thailand, where they flew missions over North Vietnam.
The 59th FIS was reactivated under the 408th Fighter Group 30 September 1968 at Kingsley Field, Oregon, and equipped with McDonnell F-101B Voodoo interceptor aircraft crewed by a Pilot and a Weapons Systems Officer. The squadron was again inactivated 17 December 1969. This marked the end of the period the 59th was assigned to the Air Defense Command.
BACK TO THE 33rd FIGHTER WING
On 1 September 1970, the 59th was reassigned to the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing “Nomads”. It was renamed the 59th Tactical Fighter Squadron and was stationed at Eglin AFB, Florida. They resumed the use of the 59th Proud Fighting Lion symbol and patch. The squadron did not actually become operational until 1974, flying McDonnell F-4 Phantoms. In May, 1979, the 33rd Wing replaced the F-4s with the McDonnell F-15A Eagle. The 33rd Wing, at one time composed of up to eight F-15 squadrons, flew various models of the F-15 in combat air patrols and intercept missions in Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada) in 1983, Operation Just Cause (Panama) in 1989 and Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm 1990-1991. On 15 April 99, the 59th TFS was once more officially inactivated.
On 3 December 2004, with an entirely new mission, the 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron under the 53rd Test and Management Group was activated at Nellis AFB, NV. The squadron tests, evaluates and reports on weapons and avionics systems being procured or improved to support the Air Force. They also use the Proud Fighting Lion symbol and patch, but have incorporated the classic Goose Bay, 59th Black Bat patch as their Friday nametag.
Mitchel Field, New York (15 Jan 1941)
(Operated from Tumbell Field, Groton, Conn. 8 – (14 Dec 41)
Glen L. Martin Airport, Baltimore, Md. (15 Dec 41)
(Operated from Millville, N.J. (Apr –9 May 42)
Municipal Airport, Philadelphia, Pa. (10 May – 12 Oct 42)
(Operated from Paine Field, Wash. (21 May – Jun 42)
Port Lyautey, French Morocco (10 Nov 42)
Cazes Airdrome, Casablanca, French Morocco (15 Nov 42)
Thelepte, Tunisia (8 Jan 43)
Youds-les-Bains, Algeria (10 Feb 43)
Telergma, Algeria (12 Feb 43)
Berteaux, Algeria 2 Mar 43 (detachment operated from Sbeitla, Tunisia 20 Mar – 12 Apr 43)
Ebba Ksour, Tunisia (12 Apr 43)
Menzel Temine, Tunisia (15 May 43)
Sousse, Tunisia (9 Jun 43)
Pantelleria, Tunisia (16 Jun 43)
Licata, Sicily (16 Jul 43)
Milazzo, Sicily (2 Sept 43)
Paestum, Italy (13 Sept 43)
Santa Maria Capua, Italy (18 Nov 43)
Cercola, Italy (1 Jan – 5 Feb 44)
Kerachi, India (10 Feb 44)
Fungwanshun, China (19 Mar 44)
Moran, India (5 Sept 44)
Mohanbari, India (18 Oct 44)
Nagaghuli, India (21 Nov 44)
Dudkhundia, India (15 May – Nov 45)
Camp Shanks, N.Y. (8 Dec 45)
Neubiberg, Germany (20 Aug 46)
Bad Kissingen, Germany (5 Jul – 25 Aug 47)
Andrews Field, Md. (28 Aug 47)
Roswell Army Air Field (later Walker AFB) N. M. (16 Sept 47)
Otis AFB, Mass. (16 Nov 48 – 28 Oct 52)
Goose Bay (later Goose AB), Labrador (28 Oct 52 – 1 Jan 67)
(Operated Detachment 1 out of Thule, Greenland (Sept 52 – Aug/Sept 53)
Bergstrom AFB, Texas (1 Apr 1966 – 2 Jan 67(?)
Kingsley Field, Oregon (30 Sept 68 – 17 Dec 69)
Eglin AFB, Fla. (1 Sept 70 – 15 Apr 99)
Nellis AFB, NV. (3 Dec 04 - Present)
Major Mark E. Hubbard (by) Nov 42
Capt. J. P. Crowder, 8 May 43;
Major Mark E. Hubbard, 12 Mar 43
Capt. Charles H. Duncan, 4 May 43
Capt. Donald A. Halliday, 3 Sept 43
Major Blanchard K. Watts, 21 Jan 44
Capt. Walter L. Moore, Jr., 2 Feb 44
Capt. Richard K. Turner, 2 Mar 45
Capt. Frank A. Duncan, 1 Apr 45
Capt. Charles R. Langdon, 20 Apr 45
Capt. John W. Sogneir, 23 May 45
Capt. Edward R. Tyler, 12 Jun 45
Capt. Howard Schulte, 26 Aug 45
Major Chester L. Can Etten, 20 Aug 46 – Mar 47
Major Frank Q. O’Conner, 7 Nov 47
Lt. Col. Albett A. Cory, 10 May 48
Major Jarold J. Quandt, 2 Jun 48
Lt. Col. Woodrow W. Karges, 27 Jul 48
Major Jack C. West, 4 Mar 49
Lt. Col. Oscar R. Coen, 17 Jan 50
Lt. Col. Robert Dow, Jan 51
Major Morris F. Wilson, Aug 51
Lt. Col. Robert Dow, Dec 51 – Oct 53
Lt. Col. Fergus C. Fay, Oct 53
Major Voy A. Winders, 1954
Major Francis R. Davison, Jul 54
Major Victor G. Prarat, 10 Jan 55
Lt. Col. Victor E. Walton, 10 Feb 55
Lt. Col. William A. Shomo, 4 May 55
Lt. Col. Leonard F. Koehler, 1957
Lt. Col. Frank R. Jones, 1 Apr 61
Col. Edward R. Haydon, 8 Jan 63
Col. William J. Murphy, Jr., 1 Jul 65
Major Robert J. Skinner, 15 Jun 66
Col. Dale L. Flowers,29 Jun 66
Lt. Col. William Savidge, 30 Sept 68
Lt. Col. Ronald J. Layton, 30 Jun 69 – unk.
Lt. Col. Peter K Nicolos, 1 Jul 73 – 1 Juln75
Lt. Col. Robert D. Rasmussen, 1 Jul 75 – 1 Apr 77
Lt. Col. John P. Heffernan, 1 Apr 77 – 22 Mar 79
Lt. Col. Jerry Cox, 23 Mar 79 – 13 Mar 81
Lt. Col. John R. Lippolt, 13 Mar 81 – 31 Jul 81
Lt. Col. Rudolph U. Zuberbuhler, 31 Jul 81 – 1 Jun 83
Lt. Col. William K. Matthews, 1 Jun 83 – 29 May 85
Lt. Col. James D. Woodall, 29 May 85 – 29 May 87
Lt. Col. Stevan G. Wilson, 29 May 87 – 20 Jan 89
Lt. Col. Michael E. Fain, 20 Jan 89 – 19 Feb 91
Lt. Col. James H. Davis, 19 Feb 91 – 6 Jul 92
Lt. Col. James G. Boehm, 6 Jul 92 – 8 Jul 94
Lt. Col. Michael J. Kosor, 8 Jul 94 – 8 Jul 95
Lt. Col. Mark A. Morris, 8 Jul 95 – 1 May 97
Lt. Col. Thomas A. "T-Mac" McCarthy, 1 May 97 – 14 Dec 97
Lt. Col. David "Gorby" Raggio,
3 Dec 04 - 11 Aug 06
Lt. Col Michael "Fangs" Kensick, 1 Aug 10
Goose Bay Notes
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador is located in Canada's most easterly province, Newfoundland and Labrador. More precisely, Happy Valley-Goose Bay is located at the extreme western end of Lake Melville, a long salt water lake that extends 210 km inland from the Labrador Sea, and ultimately empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1941 Canada and the United States built an airfield on the present site for anti-submarine patrol Aircraft and staging Aircraft to Britain. The site was selected because of the excellent flying weather, ease of construction, accessibility by sea during the summer months and strategic location. Three runways of 7,000 feet were built in record time in the triangular pattern typical of Commonwealth airfields. From October 1942 until the end of the war 24,000 Canadian and American built fighters and bombers staged through Goose Bay on their way to Europe.
The Data Maintenance Control Centre (DMCC), as it was called, was originally the Melville Manual NORAD Control Centre (MNCC) and had its beginnings in the early fifties. Melville Air Station was a part of a network of radar installations designed to detect and protect the North American continent from attack by enemy aircraft. With the start of the Cold War, a line of radar sites was built from Newfoundland along the Labrador coast to join the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line at Cape Dyer. These radar stations were constructed and strategically located to counter the Soviet air threat against North America, and initially, they were fully manual early warning or aircraft control and warning (AC&W) systems. There were three radar "lines" protecting North America. The northern most radar line was the "DEW Line"(Distant Early Warning). Heading southward, the next radar line was called the "Mid Canada Line", followed by the southern most line, the "Pinetree Line". Melville was part of the Pinetree Line. The Pinetree Line was the first to become operational, during the 1952-1953 time period. It was, more or less, centered on the 50th parallel - with a section covering southern Ontario, and another extension covering the Labrador coast - going as far north as Frobisher Bay. The Pinetree Line was composed of 44 long range radar stations, and six USAF manned Gap Filler radar stations. Some of these locations had a very short operational life (the complex of sites at Cartwright, Hopedale, Sagalek and Resolution Island were eventually de-activated by the USAF in the sixties) - while others remained operational for more than 35 years. The USAF 641st Aircraft Control and Warning (AC&W) Squadron at Melville was activated on 1 August 1953 under the command of Major Joseph A. Kuhborn. The site's responsibilities were surveillance, identification and interceptor control for the Labrador area. This was accomplished by the outlying Radar Sites reporting to Melville where the over- all command was exercised.
Along with these Pinetree radars, the USAF increased its strategic presence by deploying KC-97 tankers in support of B-47 bombers. Air Defense Command stationed a full squadron of interceptors here and by the early 60's, KC-135 tankers were operating from Goose Bay in support of B-52 bombers. Most of the construction on the American Side took place between 1951 and 1965 and the infrastructure was capable of supporting 12,000 servicemen and dependants. From its origin under the North East Air Command, Melville was maintained and manned by the USAF through many organizational changes within NORAD. It was handed over to the Canadian Forces on 1 July 1971 by Lt Col W.S. Humphreys (USAF) to Lt Col J.E. Lind (CF).
The 1970's saw the RCAF move from the Canadian end of the airfield to the southern portion - still referred to as the Canadian and American sides respectively. The CF reduced its presence in Goose Bay and the Station's principal reason for being was solely to support the Melville Radar Site. The Melville MNCC then became a part of the Canadian Forces Air Defense Command System which stretches from "Coast to Coast" across Canada. In July 1975 the MNCC then became a limited Long Range Radar (LRR) in that the radar inputs are now automatically passed to the Control Centre in North Bay. By 1976, all Strategic Air Command units had been withdrawn and the USAF operation was reduced to a Military Airlift Command detachment committed to transient servicing of C-5, C-141 and C-130 transport Aircraft. In February 1988 the closure of the Melville DMCC was announced and on 1 July 1988 it ceased operations.