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159TH FIGHTER WING HISTORY

Posted 4/30/2009 Printable Fact Sheet
 
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The Louisiana Air National Guard's 159th Fighter Wing, originally named the 122nd Observation Squadron, was formed in December 1940 at the New Orleans Municipal Airport, (currently known as Lakefront Airport). Two months later, with an assortment of 0-38s, 0-46s, 0-47s, 0-49s and BC-1As to fly, the unit was called to active service at Esler Field in Alexandria, LA, in response to a general military call-up following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

With the United States' entry into World War II, the 122nd returned to New Orleans in December 1941 to conduct anti-submarine patrol over the Gulf of Mexico. Four missions were flown each day, the aircraft flying in pairs, as far as 100 miles out into the Gulf.

In February 1942, the Squadron was re-equipped with A-20 Havoc Attack Bombers, transferred to Fedala, French Morocco and participated in the capture of Casablanca. There, the squadron became part of the 68th Observation / Reconnaissance Group.

Several months later the A-20s were replaced by P-38 Lightenings, P-39 Cobras and P-40 Warhawks, and the unit was reorganized as a branch of the North African Fighter Training Command. In the summer of 1943, the unit was moved to Bertaux, Algeria, where members trained French and American pilots in navigation and general fighting tactics. 

In the fall, the 122nd became the 885th Bombardment Squadron (heavy) and was assigned to the 15th Air Force in the European Theater of Operations. Equipped with B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators, the unit transported supplies to partisans and dropped leaflets in occupied Europe.
At the end of World War II, the Squadron was designed the 122nd Bomb Squadron (light) and returned to guard status in New Orleans, where it was out-fitted with A-26 Invader's.

Following the start of the Korean Conflict, the 122nd was called back to active duty and assigned to Langley Field in Virginia to conduct training. The squadron remained there for the duration of the conflict, at which time it returned to New Orleans. In January 1953, Air National Guard status was resumed.

In June 1956, the unit was reorganized and became part of the newly created 159th Fighter Group, Air Force Air Defense Command. With the responsibility of defending the Gulf's shores from surprise air attack, the unit flew F-80C Shooting Stars. Later that year, the Squadron received F-86D/L Sabers. The unit's headquarters was located on Alvin Callender Field, United States Naval Air Station, (currently the Naval Air Station - Joint Reserve Base) Belle Chasse, Louisiana. In 1958, with the F-86D conversion complete, the 159th became one of the nation's first Air National Guard units to stand alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In July 1960, the 159th converted to the F-102 Delta Darts. In 1962, the 122nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron was assigned to Gulfport, Mississippi, for six weeks of intensive flying training. Involved were 150 officers and airmen, including support elements from the 159th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 159th Material Squadron and 159th Air Base Squadron.
December 1970 saw the unit reassigned from the Aerospace Defense Command to the Tactical Air Command. At that time, the unit converted to F-100 Super Sabers the 24-hour alert status ended and retraining tactical missions began.

Conversion to the F-4C Phantom II began in April 1979. The units were assigned dual missions with TAC and ADC while phasing out the Phantoms in favor of the F-15 Eagles beginning the summer of 1985.

In 1989, the unit was assigned a C-130 Hercules. The Louisiana Air National Guard is one of only three states with C-130 Operational Support Aircraft (OSA).
In March 1992, the 159th Fighter Group was reassigned from the Tactical Air Command to the Air Combat Command. On 1 October 1995, the Fighter Group was re-designated as the 159th Fighter Wing.

The year 2000, and with membership of over 1400 guardsmen and women, the 159th Fighter Wing (ACC) continues to provide worldwide deployable aircraft and combat resources operated, maintained, and supported by professionals dedicated to supporting National Policies and Serving the Citizens of Louisiana.







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