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.
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.
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
“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.
years later in 1997, the Shooters made history, standing up
as a combat-ready F-16CJ Fighting Falcon squadron in only 60
“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
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
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