By SM Sgt. Wilbur Tackaberry
In September of 1950 Brig. General Winston W. Kratz was succeeded by Colonel Ben W. Lichty as Wing Commander who, like his predecessor, had been a member of the unit for many years prior to World War II. On March 1, 1951, as a result of the Korean emergency, the Wing was recalled to active Federal service for a period of 21 months. The Wing, under direction of Colonel Lichty moved to Bergstrom Air Force Base, Austin, Texas and redesignated the 131st Fighter-Escort Wing of the Strategic Air Command. Command of the Wing was assumed by Donald J.M. Blakeslee, world famous fighter ace. [Photo: Actress Marian Marlowe pays a visit to the men stationed at Lambert. Enlargement ]
In July of that year the Wing moved to George Air Force Base, Calif., where it was reassigned to control of the Tactical Air Command and redesignated the 131st Fighter
Bomber Wing. Colonel Virgil L. Zoller, a West Point graduate and native of Marion, Ill., became commander of the unit. During Februrary, March and April 1952 a major portion of the Wing participated in "Operation Longhorn" conducted throughout Central Texas. The 131st effectively displayed its capability to operate under field combat conditions.
Packing personal belongings for deployment [enlargement]
The Wing sent a large number of personnel to overseas assignments. Tactical units were rotated in support of NATO operations in Iceland and many individuals saw action in the Korean area.
In the fall of 1950, the 110th participated in a gunnery meet at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida competing with all other Air Force Fighter Bomber Units. A trophy for excellent marksmanship and gunnery was won by the team.
In November 1952 demobilization was completed and the Wing once again re-established its headquarters at Lambert Field.
P-51's in the winter of 1952, Lambert Field. [Enlargement] ]
Shortly after the unitís return, it was re-equipped with the B-26 light bombardment aircraft and redesignated the 131st Light Bombardment Wing with Colonel John B. Logan the Commanding officer. A unit from St. Joseph, Mo., and another from New Orleans, La., comprised the Wingís Tactical element. Summer Training Encampments were held at Casper, Wyo., in 1953 and 1954.
At about the same time this writer received a discharge from the United States Navy and enlisted in the Missouri Air National Guard. The transition from a "Sea-faring" life to that of an airman was to be a real experience for me. My new associates could not comprehend my Navy lingo nor could I understand the technical jargon of the "Wild Blue Yonder" crews. During my first summer encampment I met quite a few prior service men and was sold on making the Air National Guard my career. I was employed as a full time technician in the fall of 1954.
I was to become a coworker of some of the old-timers, among whom were CMS Joe Delia, SMS "Slim" Gardner, CMS Al Fischer, SMS John Zuber, SMS Frank Russo, SMS Walter Wilde, CMS Arthur Rethemeyer, SMS Paul Goldstein, MS Carl Taschinger, CMS Dan Wheeler and CMS Jim Weaver, among others who are still employed with the Guard. SMS Wilde has retired and CMS Arthur Rethemeyer passed away a few years ago. [Photo: MoAng B-26 crew]
More than 300 of the original group of officers and airmen who had served with the unit on active duty had returned to the Wing at Lambert Field to form a strong nucleus for the new organization. Colonel Charles H. Dubois assumed command of the Wing in October 1956 and shortly thereafter was promoted to the grade of brigadier general.
Lambert Field was keeping pace with the "jet age" extending the runways and making other major improvements. Among them were the addition of navigation and air traffic control systems to insure safe control of aircraft both in the air and on the ground. The latest in lighting equipment, as well as the most sophisticated radar and radio systems were installed. These advancements were all in keeping with the rapidly expanding technology of modern flying.
Loading rockets on the B-26. [Enlargement]
B26 aircrew final briefing. Left to right: TSGT Jack Haddon, Ray Newlon, Capt. John Dolan, Col. Chas. Dubois [Enlargement]
St. Louis National Guard member Capt. Robert A. Madden returns home after a long ordeal as a POW in a North Korean prison. [Enlargement] He is shown here being greeted by his mother. Madden was captured in 1952 after his plane (on a scouting mission) was hit by ground fire. During his captivity by the Communist, he was kept in solitary confinement and suffered through periods of intense interrogation lasting as long as seven weeks at a time.
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