Korean War Call-up of the 142nd Fighter Group

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. (ret.) Terrence Popravak, jr.
  • 142nd Wing / History Office

As the Korean War continued 70 years ago, more of the Oregon Air National Guard (ANG) was called to duty.  On 1 March 1951, the 142nd Fighter Group (142FG) was activated for federal service at its home station, Portland Air Base, Portland, Oregon.

This call-up included the personnel of the 142FG’s subordinate Air Base, Maintenance & Supply and Medical squadrons. At this point all but one squadron of the Oregon ANG was federalized, and that last one, the 142nd Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron, would soon be called to active duty.

The group didn’t stay in Portland for long.  By the end of the month many personnel were reassigned to join other units of the Air Defense Command’s (ADC) Western Air Defense Force at bases across states west of the Rocky Mountains. 

Some Oregon Airmen were reassigned to other units which carried them overseas, for example to RAF Shepherds Grove in England where the 81st Fighter-Interceptor Wing deployed, as the late CMSgt Gene Thomas, long-time history contributor who passed away just last week, wrote about in: “The Oregon Air National Guard and the Korean War: Remembering the Call to Active Duty, 1951,” here.

As the core of the operational capability of the federalized Washington ANG’s 142nd Fighter Interceptor Wing (142FIW), on 10 April 1951 Oregon’s 142FG received orders to report to O’Hare International Airport (IAP), Chicago’s airport near Park Ridge, Illinois by 18 April 1951. (Note:  Washington’s 142FIW, then commanded by Colonel N. Lavin, is not to be confused with Oregon’s 142nd Wing; they are two separate units but that’s another story to be written)

The 142FG was redesignated as the 142nd Fighter-Interceptor Group (142FIG) and by 27 April assumed responsibility for the fighter operations of the wing as part of ADC’s Central Air Defense Force.  Colonel Harold W. Scruggs, a fighter pilot who flew the P-51 Mustang on 66 combat missions over Europe with the 339th Fighter Group during World War II, commanded the group in this active-duty period.

Based at O’Hare was the 62nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (62FIS), as seen in this picture of North American F-86A-5-NA Sabre jet fighter, serial number 49-1010, at the ready on the ramp at O’Hare, with the former Douglas C-54 Skymaster transport production factory in the background.  The 62FIS is one of the famed 56th Fighter Group “Wolfpack” squadrons which achieved distinction in the European Theater of Operations during World War II.  But in the 1951-1952 timeframe it was part of the group at O’Hare.

While at O’Hare the 142nd FIG was responsible for the operations of three geographically-separate squadrons defending parts of the upper Midwest region for the following periods of time:

62FIS at O’Hare IAP, IL from 1 May 1951 to 5 Feb 1952

97FIS at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH from 20 May 1951 to 5 Feb 1952

166FIS (Ohio ANG) at Lockbourne AFB, OH from 20 Sep 1951 to 31 Oct 1951

As part of an ADC reorganization, the 142FIG and 142FIW inactivated at O’Hare IAP on 6 February 1952 with squadrons being turned over to the 4706th Defense Wing.  Both 142nd group and wing formations remained inactive for some months afterward as the USAF adjusted forces in the Continental US.  The 142FIG reverted to state control in Oregon back at Portland Air Base on 1 December 1952, while the 142FIW reverted to Washington State control and returned to Geiger Field, near Spokane, Washington at the same time.

For more about the Oregon Air National Guard in the Korean War, read “They Waived Everything but Goodbye – Oregon Air National Guard in the Korean War,” here.

Note:  If any members of the Oregon ANG or public have historical information and/or pictures about the unit’s Korean War experience which they would like to share, please contact the 142nd Wing Historian.