History of the 36th TFW as told by......

(This text was taken from http://members.aol.com/thudeur2/bitburg.htm)

Bitburg Air Base, Germany 1961 - 1966
49 Degrees 57' N, 06 Degrees 34' E

The red, blue, and yellow colors in the wing's emblem stand for the 22nd, 23rd, and 53rd Tactical Fighter Squadrons, respectively. These three colors were also used, top to bottom with white cheat lines, in the tail stripes of the wing's F-105 Thunderchiefs.

The wing emblem was approved on June 19, 1940, for the 36th Group and on July 17, 1952, for the 36th Wing. The wing motto "Prepared to Prevail" was later approved on August 14, 1979. Under contract with the US, the French Army began construction of what would become Bitburg Air Base in Western Germany's Eifel Mountains in the Rheinland-Pfalz in early 1951. Bitburg Air Base was officially established as a United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE) installation on September 1, 1952, after the arrival of the 53rd Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 36th Fighter-Bomber Wing (FBW), in July from Furstenfeldbruck AB, Germany. The remainder of the wing (the 22nd and 23rd Fighter-Bomber Squadrons) arrived with their F-84E Thunderjets in November 1952. The 36th FBW had been established as the 36th Fighter Wing (FW) on June 17, 1948, and formally activated on July 2, 1948, at Howard AFB, Canal Zone. The wing was immediated reassigned on August 13, 1948, to Furstenfeldbruck AB, Germany, to begin training with their Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star jet fighters. In May 1949, the 36th FW formed the "Skyblazers" aerial demonstration team to perform at European and Mediterranean area airshows. The 36th FW was redesignated as the 36th FBW on January 20, 1950, and began flying the Republic F-84E Thunderjet that fall. Some of the 36th FBW F-84s carried non-standard markings, such as Wing Commander Col. Bob Scott's 59-2299 with his personal "Flying Tiger" markings -- he had once commanded the 23rd Fighter Wing, whose emblems were on the Thunderjet he regularly flew. In 1953, several of the experienced Skyblazer aircrews formed the initial nucleus of the now world-famous Air Force Thunderbirds, flying Republic F-84G Thunderjets at Luke AFB, AZ. The 36th was designated as a Fighter Day Wing on August 8, 1954, after transitioning to the North American F-86F Sabre and adding two new squadrons, the 32nd Fighter Day Squadron from Soesterberg, NL, and the 461st Fighter Day Squadron from Hahn AB, GE (the 461 FDS was disbanded in 1959 and the 32nd FDS transferred to the 86th FIWing, Ramstein AB, GE, in 1960). At first the 36th's F-86 markings consisted of Korean Theater-styled yellow and black-bordered bands, but squadron-specific colored bands were eventually applied to all the 36th FDW Sabres. By June 1956, the F-100C Super Sabre was being flown by two 36th FDW squadrons and all five of the squadrons were operating "Huns" by the end of the summer. Squadron-specific colored bands were applied to the tail fins of the F-100s, with five tail stripes for the wing commander's aircraft. On May 15, 1958, the 36th FDW was redesignated as the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW), with its squadrons redesignated as Tactical Fighter Squadrons, because its missions had now grown to include delivery of tactical nuclear weapons (continual hot standby "Victor Alert" duty) under NCA and SACEUR direction. In 1957, the 525th Fighter Interceptor Squadron became a tenant unit at Bitburg, flying the F-102 Delta Dagger (in 1968, the 525th was officially assigned to the 36th TFW and continued to fly the "deuce" until converting to F-4s a year later). The Skyblazers continued demonstrations with the F-100C until January 1962, when the Thunderbirds got their own "long legs" with the air-refuelable F-100D.

The three squadrons of the 36th TFW began receiving their F-105D Thunderchief fighter-bombers in mid-May 1961. Formal USAFE acceptance of the Mach 2 fighter-bombers was held at the Paris Air Show on June 3, 1961. Deliveries of the F-105D model were completed in 1963, and the 36th carried on its Cold War mission of tactical nuclear weapons delivery. The first of the wing's 2-place F-105Fs arrived in March 1964, and all were on base by the end of the year -- they performed the same roles and missions as the single-seat D models. The F-105s were specifically designed for the nuclear strike role, with the primary armament being a "special store" (a euphemism for a nuclear weapon) housed in the Thud's bomb bay. This weapon was usually a Mk 28 or a Mk 43 nuclear weapon. However, a Mk 61 store could be carried underneath the left or right inboard underwing pylon and a Mk 57 or a Mk 61 store could be carried underneath the centerline pylon. However, as nuclear conflict became less and less likely in the European theater, the nuclear weapon carried in the bomb bay was usually replaced by a 390-gallon internal fuel tank, the offensive load being carried on four underwing pylons and/or on a pylon mounted underneath the fuselage on the centerline (attached to the bomb bay doors).

The Wing's operation of the Thunderchief dwindled in 1966 as new F4D Phantom IIs in European camoflage were delivered from St. Louis to carry on the nuclear delivery mission. By December 1966, all the 36th TFW Thuds had been ferried Stateside for combat crew training duties at McConnell AFB, Kansas, or on to warfighting glory in SEA after stateside refurbishment. In 1969, the 23rd TFS left the 36th TFW and moved to the new 52nd TFW at neighboring Spangdahlem Air Base. The 36th transitioned to the F-15 Eagle in 1977. The 22nd, 53rd, and 525th TFS flew the F-15A until transitioning to C-models in 1981, and then to MSIPed F15Cs during the last half of the decade. In 1992, the 525th "Bulldogs" retired their colors, while the 22nd "Stingers" and 53rd "Tigers" remained at Bitburg Air Base. In July 1993, USAFE announced another in a series of post-Cold War force drawdowns in Europe which directly affected the 36th, now a Fighter Wing (FW) and Bitburg Air Base itself. With the closure of Bitburg planned under the USAFE drawdown, the 22nd and 53rd Fighter Squadrons joined the 23rd FS at Spangdahlem's 52nd Fighter Wing, along with their F-15 aircraft. The 52nd FW also gained Bitburg's 1,200 housing units, its base high school and hospital, and several exchange service and Defense Commissary Agency facilities. In 1994, the 36th Fighter Wing was officially deactivated and the final 36th Wing Commander, Brigadier General Roger E. Carleton, returned Bitburg Air Base to the German nation.

The 36th TFW is honored as the first USAFE wing to introduce the first allied jet fighters in Europe (the F-80 Shooting Star) and the first to convert to the F-84 (1950), F-86 (1953), F-100 (1956), F-102 (1959), F-105 (1961), F4 (1966), and F15 (1977) aircraft in the European theater. Periods of aircraft employment by the 36th TFW in Europe: F-51D 1944-1948; F-80 1948-1950; F-84E 1950-1953; F-86F 1953-1956; F-100D/F 1956-1960; F-102D (525th FIS as an air base tenant) 1959- 1968; F-105D/F 1961-1966; F4D/E 1966-1977; and F15 1977-1994.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: "Thunderchiefs on the Rhine," Lars G. Soldeus, Journal of the American Aviation Historical Society, Spring 1973, pp. 34-37 o ROLL CALL: THUD, John M. Campbell and Michael Hill, Foreword by Col Jack Broughton, USAF (Ret), Schiffer Military/Aviation History, Atglen, PA, 1996 o American Military Aircraft Encyclopedia, Edited by Joe Baugher, Hosted on the Canadian Elevon WWW site o Overview of the F-105 Thunderchief o Air Force Combat Wings - Lineage and Honors Histories - 1947-1977, by Charles A. Ravenstein, AFHRC, Office of Air Force History, Washington, DC, 1984, pp. 63-65

Subject: Bitburg 1952/1953
Date: Tuesday, August 15, 2000
From: Clem Anderson (ANDY32@bmd.clis.com)

Howdee Ed I finished Hi school in 1951 and my Air Guard unit was called up in Aug 51. I was very lucky that when the 114th AC&W Sq. was shipped out, we went to Bitburg AFB. At that time, it was almost new--my barrack was still being finished as we moved in. I was an A1C Communication spec. assigned to Special Services and did absolutely nothing but play baseball,basketball and volleyball. When I got "caught up", I did manage to get in a little pingpong. This was tough duty, but...I only had 9 months left and was released Jul 23, 1953. This was the greatest time of my young life--traveling throughout France, Germany, Luxenburg and a little of Belguim. My brother fought with 99th and 4th divs. in 44 & 45 and I had a chance to travel through some of the same places. Im sure you know the history of the cold war. I had the honor of serving under Col (Gen) Robt Scott of the Flying Tigers. He only took a star when his flying days were aboutover. In 52/53 they flew F84's (the old stovepipes with straight wings). The sweptwing F84D/F came in in 53 I believe. This was the beginning of the Thunderbirds. Except for P80s, this was my first look at jets. I am still excited to watch these young jocks with the bird on their bellies. Nothing prettier, except maybe a P51 with a merlen engine. Ed, Im sorry I cant give you much real history about Bitburg. As a 19 yr old just out of school, I really didnt have much on my mind but having a good time and seeing as much as I could. And this, I did accomplish. Hope you get some bites on Bitburg--there's bound to be some better memories than mine still around. Luck to you and 73. Andy

Subject: 36th TFW History
Date: Wed, 02 Jul 1997 21:54:18
From: Edward R Harrell (eharr@centuryinter.net )

I was in the 36th TFW Command Post from 1967 to 1971. Perhaps I can give you a little of what happened while I was there. First I have something on it during the years before your net page which picks it up in 1948. In a book titled, "The Republic F-105", it tells when and where the 36th was activated. If you don't already have it, you might can locate it, but I doubt you will be able to find it. The book was published in 1969 by, Aero Publishers, Inc. 329 Aviation Road, Fallbrook, CA (No ZIP). Library of Congress catalog # 71-102870. It has pictures of the F-105, in black and white as well as color. Some were taken at Bitburg. Some are airborne photos. Tells of other units the aircraft was assigned to. If you can't get the book, send me your surface mailing address and I will make copies of some of the pages for you. When I arrived Bitburg Colonel Charles Patillo was Wing Commander. He and his twin brother were once on the Thunderbird Demonstration team. He eventually attained three star general. Following him was Colonel Cross, who was the Inspector General at USAFE before Bitburg. Then came the Colonel who was commander of Hahn AB. I heard once that being commander of the 36th. usually meant becoming a Brigadier General next. I can remember the 36th loosing one aircraft from an airborne mission. A Captain Sandall, a pilot in the 22nd Squadron was somewhere over France, when his airplane had some type of problem. He could have ejected, but he didn't, probably because of the population in the area he was over. He flew it into the ground, killing him, of course. At the present time that is about all I can remember about the 36th., except the missles that were there. You might call up the Pentagon at www.DTIC.mil/defenselink or the Air force at www.af.mil. One of them might have an Email address that you could ask about the 36th. Edward Harrell Rt 3 Box 16 Selmer, TN 38375 eharr@centuryinter.net

Subject: Bitburg
Date: Tue, 27 May 1997 23:01:13
From: Edward L. Henry (eh303@ix.netcom.com)

Hi: Glad to see something about Bitburg on the INet. It was home to me for many years: 1955-1959, 23rd TFS, F-86F and F100C Crew Chief. 1962-1966, 36 CAMRON (F-105D)and 36th TFW (Chief of Maint. Branch) and Production Analysis. 1971-1974, 36th TFW, Production Analysis. 36 TFW is deactivated now and colors moved to 36 ABG, Guam, where they originated in WWII. Thanks for the memories.

Date: Sun, 17 Aug 1997
From: Jerry R Robinson , (JROB1@fishbone.com)

I was stationed at Bitburg AB from Dec 91 Until Closure with the 53 FS as a crew chief. I also transfered to Spang with the Squadron. During the close down, the 53rd was deployed to Incirlik AB in Turkey for Operation " Provide Comfort " the squadron maintained it's cat 1 flight status all during the shut down. The 22FS moved to Spang but in name only. They are now a F-16c Squadron flying the wild weasel missions. The 53FS is said to be casing her colors in 98. With the closure of Bitburg AB, the host people of Bitburg, and all who were fortunate enough to have been stationed there will always be missed and looked at as " a special " breed of airmen. Jerry R Robinson "Robbie" SrA (Ret) \ CC Acft 84-0024

Date: Wed, 03 Sep 1997 22:53:08
From: Thomas f. Schmidt" (TSCHMIDT@inet-direct.com)


Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 14:58:34
From: Normalyn Armour, (March ARB) (NORMALYN.ARMOUR@riv.afres.af.mil)

I read your email about wanting to know some history about Bitburg. Did you know that in the late 50's (57-59) the 22d Fighter Squadron (Bumblebee Sq) was assigned there? Did you also know that the Astronauts Buz Aldrin and Ed White were assigned to that squadron when they were selected to become astronauts? There were more people that ended up becoming famous in their own right when they left there. Perhaps you already know these things?!

Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 16:35:19 EDT
From: James Dowling (JDOWELL919@aol.com)

I was stationed at Bitburg Air Base 1953 to 1957.36th Motor Vehicle Squadron I still have Many copies of the Skyblaser our base paperfrom those years.It is interesting to me to go back and read them to recall the wonderful years I spent at Bitburg.When I arrived Bitburg It and the housing area were still under massive construction.There was an operation codename "operation Coronet" taking place at that time.A joint operation with 4th allied Tactical Air Forces which included the English(Canadian pilots-they are very daring)and the Froggies(French). The 36th had just moved up from Furstenfeldbruck in 52.Furstie is in southern Germany by Munich.We went back there in 1956 with a squadron of aircraft during the Hungarian Revolution. Lt. White,the astronaught who died in the capsule fire was in charge of taking a convoy of support vehicles down to Furstie on 11 November 1956.We came back just before Christmas.We went down and back out any serious incidents.I still have my commendation from BAB and signed by him.My job on this venture was Sgt in charge of all vehicle maintenance (from jeep,ground power units to refueling rigs,and wreckers).ASgt Shook was in charge of the driver Personnel.I could go on and on about BAB. I live near your employerin upstate NY.If you would like to contact me my name is James Dowling.E-mail address is Jdowell919@aol.com

Date: Saturday, March 11, 2000 6:28 PM
From:Conrad Sandy (CONRADO@gateway.net)

I don't know if you are still interested in updating the web page or adding- I suppose if I were to tell you anything new I'd tell you what I remember about the bicentennial celebration at Bitburg A.F.B.. That was a great year!! General Kyler put on a spectacular fire works display for all the VIP's (especially the German's). There was allot going on all around the base. Even the snack bar had drinking glasses you could buy, commemorating the whole ordeal. Then there was the Bitburg Baron football team. They were a great team!! They won the European championship games a couple times while I was stationed there. But the most exciting game of all was the keger game with Spangdolum....... this was like the homecoming game. "Big hype"!!!!! I guess this was really the wing commanders' game. Even after I returned stateside I herd the team won the USAFE championship game again. When Bitburg received their first F-15's- General Kyler brought the first one in. Everyone was out by the flight line to greet the new arrival. Many thought the general would do a fantastic fly over, to show it off. When the time came he landed in a safe and professional manner. A little disappointment to say the least. But we were excited to have the new F-15 (first in Europe). One of the best celebrations of course was the border fest in the town proper. It was great to see so many people from all the bordering countries, their dances, songs, costumes and traditions. The Schwine (pig) fest near spang was also one of the great ones for the nearby people. I lived in a small dorf about 20 mi. from Bitburg. The name of the town is Baustert. Just before I left in 1978, the church (catholic) celebrated 1000 years of existence. That was really nice for a town of it's size. Well since I'm not sure if or what you need... I am going to close. If I can help in any way, get back in touch. Conrad Sandy, Ut.

Updated October 28, 2000