One of three fighter squadrons assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing, providing combat-ready airpower and Airmen in three major conflicts, the “Fighting Fifty-Fifth” is approaching 100 years of dedicated service to the defense of freedom.
Tracing back to Aug. 9, 1917, the 55th Fighter Squadron, also known as the Shooters, first began as the 55th Aero Squadron assigned to Kelly Field, Texas. During World War I, the unit was redesignated as the 467th Aero Construction Squadron, building and maintaining facilities to support flight operations along the Western Front.
In November of 1930, the squadron gained its wings as the 55th Pursuit Squadron, first flying Boeing P-12s before changing aircraft several times, aiming high in vessels including the Boeing P-26 Peashooter and the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.
On May 15, 1942 the 55th PS officially became the 55th Fighter Squadron.
The unit continued to soar through the World War II era when it supported the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, flying from Wittering then King’s Cliffe, England, in Lockheed P-38 Lightnings and North American P-51D Mustangs.
During World War II more than 10,000 P-38s were manufactured, providing airpower to more than 130,000 missions around the world. This fighter is a 55 FS, P-38J, 43-28301, code letters KI-O that was flown by Lt Edwin E. Wasil. Lt Wasil joined the 55th in April 1944. During his tour, he destroyed two German Do 18 flying boats while strafing. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
During the Gulf War as part of Joint Taskforce Proven Force, members of the 55th deployed to Turkey, flying more than 144 sorties and accumulating 415 combat hours without a loss.
“The 55th is unique in the history that we have,” said Capt. Zach Nordahl, 55th FS pilot. “A lot of fighter squadrons have been shut down, deactivated and moved around. The Shooters certainly have that in their history, however only a handful can trace their roots all the way back to World War I and have been a combat Air Force squadron the entire time. The Shooters have been flying combat sorties for the majority of their history.”
Through all those conflicts, the 55th rolled down the flightline of various bases, finally finding its way to its current home at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Jan. 1, 1994.
A few years later in 1997, the Shooters made history, standing up as a combat-ready F-16CJ Fighting Falcon squadron in only 60 days.
“The squadron went from the primary mission of close-air support to being a multi-role fighter unit which changed the dynamic of the squadron,” said Christopher Koonce, 20th FW historian. “A multi-role fighter can perform air defense, close-air support and tactical bombing missions, so it is both air-to-air and air-to-ground unlike the A-10.”
Throughout nearly 100 years of integrity, service before self and excellence in all they do, the hard work of many men and women earned the unit the Distinguished Unit Citation, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and multiple service and campaign streamers. Within its long, enduring history, the squadron has experienced various missions, aircraft and station changes and continues to ‘Roll ‘em’ with the punches.
The 55th vision statement reads, "Shooters will be lethal, disciplined, and innovative. We will be combat mission-ready and provide premier counter-air capabilities to the 20th Operations Group. We will develop Airmen for the long haul."
By U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney
Provided through DVIDS
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