|Country United States|
Part of Pacific Air Forces
Motto(s) Deftly and Swiftly
|Active 1941–1945; 1946–1957; 1990-Present|
Branch United States Air Force
The 51st Operations Group is the operational flying component of the United States Air Force 51st Fighter Wing, stationed at Osan Air Base, South Korea.
- Assigned Units
- World War II
- Korean War
- Cold War
- Return to Korea
The group was first activated during the buildup for World War II as the 51st Pursuit Group. It was one of the first groups deployed from the United States after the Attack on Pearl Harbor, traveling west to India via Australia and Ceylon. It has never returned to the United States. Later, during the Korean War, the group's aircraft were some of the first United States Air Force fighters to engage in combat operations over South Korea, frequently engaging enemy fighters in air-to-air combat.
The 51st Operations Group is the most forward deployed USAF operations group in the world, providing combat ready aircraft for the close air support, air strike control, counter air, interdiction, theater airlift, and communications in the defense of the Republic of Korea.
The 51 Operation Group (Tail Code: OS) consists of the following squadrons:
HistoryFor additional history and lineage, see 51st Fighter Wing
World War II
During 1941, trained in the United States for fighter operations. After the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December, the 51st served as part of the defense force for the west coast. Operational squadrons of the group were the 16th, 25th, 26th and 449th.
The group was deployed to India via Australia and Ceylon beginning in January 1942 and arriving in March, serving in the China Burma India Theater of World War II. It was assigned to Tenth Air Force and equipped with Curtiss P-40 Warhawks and Lockheed P-38 Lightnings. The group defended the Indian terminus of the "Hump" airlift route over the Himalaya Mountains between India and China and airfields in that area. The group flew strafing, bombing, reconnaissance, and patrol missions in support of Allied ground troops during a Japanese offensive in northern Burma in 1943.
After moving to China in October 1943 the 51st FG was assigned to the 69th Composite Wing of Fourteenth Air Force. The group defended the Chinese end of the Hump route and air bases in the Kunming area. Attached Japanese shipping in the Red River delta of Indochina and supported Chinese ground forces in their late 1944 drive along the Salween River. The group was reequipped with North American P-51D Mustangs in 1945 to defend the eastern end of the route over the Hump, and to guard air bases in the Kunming area.
The 51st Fighter Group returned to India in the fall of 1945 and sailed for the United States in November. The group was inactivated on 13 December 1945.
The group was reactivated at Yontan Air Base Okinawa in 1946 and moved to Naha AB when Yontan closed in 1947. The group was assigned to the Twentieth Air Force, 301st Fighter Wing. The group served as part of the occupation force and provided air defense for Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands until 1950.
With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, elements of the 51st were dispatched first to Japan, then to South Korea. It entered combat service flying the Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star on 22 September of that year, when it moved to Itazuke Air Base, Japan to support the breakout of the U.S. Eighth Army from the Pusan Perimeter. For nearly 4 years thereafter, the 51st FIW played a key role in the defense of South Korea despite moving to four different locations within a year and operating under austere conditions.
The wing moved to South Korea in October only to return to Japan in December, leaving combat elements behind. In May 1951, the 51st FIW moved to Suwon Air Base, southwest of Seoul, but retained maintenance and supply elements at Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, to provide rear echelon support. In November 1951 the 51st FIW transitioned to the North American F-86 Sabre with two squadrons (16th, 25th), adding a third squadron (26th) the following May.
The group operated a detachment at Suwon AB, Korea, beginning in May 1951, and relocated there in October 1951, with maintenance and supply elements remaining in Japan until August 1954. The wing ceased combat on 27 July 1953. The 51 FIW's war record was impressive. Wing pilots flew more than 45,000 sorties and shot down 312 MiG-15s; this produced 14 air aces including the top ace of the war, Captain Joseph C. McConnell. The ratio of aerial victories to losses was 10 to 1. Unfortunately, the wing lost 32 pilots to enemy action; however, nine that became prisoners of war were repatriated later.
On 1 August 1954, the 51 FIW returned to Naha Air Base to resume air defense coverage of the Ryukyu Islands. Operational squadrons were the 16th, 25th 26th FISs. At the same time, the wing demonstrated its mobility readiness in response to three regional crises. During the period when the 51st was stationed at Naha, Okinawa, it was called upon to fly cover for the National Chinese who were evacuating the mainland. The 25th went to Formosa and flew out of Chie in the central part of the island and provided assistance to the Seventh Fleet as well as flying recon flights over the mainland of China.
The group was inactivated on 25 October 1957 when the group's parent wing adapted the Tri-Deputate organization and the operational fighter squadrons were assigned directly to the wing.
Return to Korea
Since 1990, trained and took part in a series of exercises to maintain combat readiness for the air defense of South Korea.