The 142nd Fighter Wing's rich history began just prior to World War II as the United States increased its military readiness while war raged across Europe and Asia.
Today, as a vital Air National Guard asset to Air Combat Command and Air Expeditionary Force structures, the 142nd Fighter Wing conducts Air Sovereignty Alert operations 24/7 in the Pacific Northwest. The wing also participates in contingency operations in support of state and federal authorities.
The Oregon Air National Guard and the 142nd Fighter Wing's history began just prior to World War II when the United States, monitoring the war raging in Europe and China, began focusing less on neutrality and more on preparedness. Answering the call to arms was Major G. Robert Dodson, an Oregonian serving with the 321st Observation Squadron, U.S. Army Reserve at Pearson Field in Vancouver, Washington. He requested the National Guard Bureau's authorization to form an Oregon flying unit. His short, official request -- "We've got people, we've got a place, and we're ready!" -- launched the 123rd Observation Squadron on April 18, 1941. The newly formed unit began operations with two officers, 108 enlisted men and two aircraft, a North American BC-1A (like the AT-6) and a Douglas O-46A.
Five months later, on September 15, 1941, the squadron was federally activated and deployed to Gray Field at Fort Lewis, Washington from which it conducted coastal patrol and training operations in the Pacific Northwest with the North American O-47. This included one of the first missions flown from a U.S. base on December 7, 1941. In March 1943 the 123rd was redesignated as a Reconnaissance Squadron, and redesignated again in August 1943 as the 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron (PRS). From September 1944 to August 1945 the unit flew the F-5 reconnaissance variant of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning in combat operations in the China-Burma-India theatre as part of the Fourteenth Air Force, the famous "Flying Tigers." The squadron received credit for participation in seven campaigns in World War II. Not all 123rd personnel served with the 35th PRS, as some were diverted to other units as early as 1942 and served elsewhere in the Pacific and in Europe. As part of the large drawdown of forces after the war, the 35th PRS inactivated on November 7, 1945 at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.
Less than a year later, the 35th PRS was revived, redesignated as the 123rd Fighter Squadron (Single Engine, SE) and allocated to the State of Oregon National Guard, effective 26 June, 1946. At a similar time, and as part of a larger ANG reorganization, the 371st Fighter Group was allocated to the State of Oregon, and redesignated as the 142nd Fighter Group on May 24, 1946. The 123rd FS (SE) fell under the 142nd Fighter Group at Portland Air Base. The 142nd inherited the lineage and honors of the 371st FG, which flew combat missions with the P-47 Thunderbolt in the European Theater of Operations in World War II and received a Distinguished Unit Citation for exceptional heroism in 1945. Thus the 142nd FG began fighter operations for the first time in the North American P-51D Mustang with 75 officers and 800 enlisted. men.
Beginning in 1950, the group mobilized in response to the Korean War. Individually activated pilots of the 123rd FS flew over 1,000 combat missions with active duty squadrons of the 18th Fighter Bomber Wing in the F-51D Mustang. The 142nd Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron deployed to Alaska to bolster ground radar coverage in remote areas against the growing Soviet bomber threat, while the 142nd Fighter Group performed the air defense mission as part of the Continental Air Command. In 1952 both the group and squadron were redesignated Fighter Interceptor units.
After supporting the Korean conflict the 142nd Fighter Interceptor Group remained very active in air defense matters through the Cold War years. In the summer of 1958, the 142nd began standing 24-hour air defense alert and continues to this day. As an example of the unit's readiness and capability, in 1976, the unit won top honors at a pair of Aerospace Defense Command (ADC) competitions, the Weapons Loading Competition and the famous William Tell Air Defense Competition. SMSgt Alan Kaser, TSgt Lane Hoffman, TSgt Mark Wiebold and TSgt Joe Woodburn won the Weapons Loading Competition with two near perfect loads, a high test score and maximum points on the tools and equipment checks. In William Tell 1976, the 142nd garnered first place in the F-101 category and Lt. Col. Don Tonole and Maj. Brad Newell captured the overall "Top Gun" title flying the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo. Success came again at William Tell 1984 when the unit placed first in the F-4 category flying the McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom II and beat many of its F-15 Eagle and F-106 Delta Dart rivals in the overall competition. Majors Ron Moore and Bill Dejager were the overall F-4 "Top Guns" of the competition. In the 50th Year of William Tell Anniversary Competition held in 2004, the 142nd Fighter Wing was rated first in Maintenance, Element Attack and Gun categories. These William Tell successes demonstrate Oregon's long history of excellent performance and readiness to accomplish the real world mission.
Since the end of the Cold War, the 142nd has served as the principle air defense unit of the Pacific Northwest. In 1992, as part of a large USAF reorganization, both the group and squadron were redesignated yet again as the 142nd Fighter Group and the 123rd Fighter Squadron, respectively. In 1995 the group was elevated to wing status, beginning its current designation as the 142nd Fighter Wing. The wing participated in a wide variety of expeditionary and humanitarian assistance missions in the turbulent post-Cold War environment while providing air defense of the Pacific Northwest. These included major deployments to Turkey in 1998 for Operation NORTHERN WATCH and to Saudi Arabia in 2000 for Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, patrolling the no-fly zones then in place over Iraq. The wing deployed aircraft to Panama in 1998 in support of counterdrug missions, helping stem the flow of the drug trade by air. Wing personnel deployed on various other missions, sending medical troops to Belize, civil engineers to Macedonia, and to such places around the globe as Curacao, Denmark, Germany, Guam, Kuwait, Spain and the United Kingdom.
On September 11, 2001, the wing was one of the first units to respond to the dastardly terrorist attacks on the east coast with increased air defense to enhance security on the west coast, and subsequently participated in Operation NOBLE EAGLE, the national military response to homeland defense. In 2004, unit personnel provided humanitarian aid in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the 2007 floods in Vernonia, Oregon. The wing also supported ongoing contingency operations in Southwest Asia, including Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM, such as in the 2004 deployment of medical personnel to Qatar and the 2009 deployment of Security Forces Squadron personnel to Iraq.
From its creation, the 142nd Fighter Wing has flown the P-51/F-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, F-94 Starfire, F-89 Scorpion, F-102 Delta Dagger, F-101 Voodoo, F-4 Phantom II fighter planes and a host of support aircraft.
Today, the fighting "Redhawks" are proud to continue service as a vital part of the Total Force team, defending our nation with the F-15 Eagle, providing both continuous air defense and air superiority capabilities. With more than 1,000 officers and airmen, the 142nd Fighter Wing guards the Pacific Northwest skies from northern California to the Canadian border, on 24-hour Air Sovereignty Alert as part of Air Combat Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The wing also stands ready to participate in state and federal contingency missions as required.