This Week In AFLCMC History – May 20 - 26, 2024

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
20 May 1951 (Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate)
Today in 1951, then-Capt James Jabara—the son of Lebanese immigrants—shot down his 5th and 6th MiG-15s, becoming the first jet ace of the Korean War, and the first jet-versus-jet ace of all time. Captain Jabara was flying with the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron in a North American F-86 Sabre. The Sabre, the USAF’s first production swept-wing jet fighter, was famously effective against enemy MiGs during the war in Korea—though it was remarkably similar to its Soviet equivalent, the MiG-15, which also featured swept wings, and was quick, maneuverable, and heavily armed. However, American pilots tended to have better training and were more aggressive in combat, which helped to explain why the similarly sophisticated aircraft, when put head to head, still resulted in an 8-to-1 kill ratio in favor of the U.S. By the end of the war, Capt Jabara had 15 credited kills. Unfortunately, he would die in a car accident in 1966, aged 43.
21 May 1944 (Robins AFB)
Eighty years ago today, Col Charles E. Thomas, Jr., concluded his command of what would eventually become Robins AFB and the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex (WR-ALC). Colonel Thomas was important to the development of Robins for several reasons. He was the first depot commander, taking charge in Oct 1941 of what was then “the Southeast Air Depot at Wellston.” In this role, he also served as the first base commander. In addition to leading the construction and development of the new base, it was Col Thomas’s efforts that saw the base renamed Robins Field (and the depot renamed the Warner Robins Air Service Command, and eventually the WR-ALC)—in honor of his late mentor and friend, Brig Gen Augustine Warner Robins. Because depots were named for the nearest city or town at the time, this meant that he had to convince the citizens of Wellston to change their name to “Warner Robins,” which they did. Thomas would return to now-Robins AFB in 1950 to lead the 14th Air Force, before retiring in 1955.
22 May 1979 (Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence & Networks Dir.)
On this date, 45 years ago, Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was achieved by the Air Force Satellite Communications (AFSATCOM) program. General Richard Ellis, commander-in-chief of Strategic Air Command (SAC), declared IOC from the Type-12 Terminal in SAC HQ at Offutt AFB, noting that it opened “a New Chapter in Command and Control Communications for the Strategic Forces of the United States.” Receiving the initial message were the EC-135C Airborne Command Post (flying its Looking Glass mission), three B-52s from Minot AFB, North Dakota, and an AFSATCOM terminal at Shemya, Alaska. The AFSATCOM program had been established in Mar 1974 within the Electronic Systems Division (ESD) Deputy for Communications and Navigation Systems, and, when completed, represented the first new command and control system for SAC since 1967. It was a dedicated, ultra-high frequency worldwide satellite communications system designed for sending emergency messages and directing forces.
23 May 1988 (ISR & Special Operations Forces Directorate)
On this date, the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey was revealed to the public for the first time during a roll out ceremony at the Bell Helicopter Textron plant in Arlington, Texas. It was the first production tilt-rotor aircraft. The Air Force version of the Osprey, the CV-22, is used by Special Operation Forces, with the first operational CV-22 delivered in Jan 2007. The CV-22 has many of the same characteristics as its Marine Corps counterpart (the MV-22), but sacrifices cruising speed for increased range, carrying about 300 gallons of additional fuel.
24 May 1964 (Hill AFB)
On this date, 60 years ago, Hill AFB’s then-new, and still open, base chapel was dedicated in a 0900 ceremony. Speakers included Col John D. St. John, Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC) chaplain, and Col E. P. Donahue, Hill AFB commander. Other special guests included Lt Gen Kenneth B. Hobson, AFLC vice commander; Maj Gen Don Coupland, Ogden Air Materiel Area commander; Rabbi Maurice Schwartz; and base chaplain Maj Lucas W. Buttry. The new chapel replaced the WWII-era chapel build in 1942—which is now at the Hill Aerospace Museum—and could seat 300 people when built. It also included facilities for educational and social functions, and, in a sign of the times, a fall-out shelter in the basement. Construction on the chapel, with the work contracted out to the Culp Construction Company (whose representative, Mr. K. S. Webb, also attended the ceremony), began in May 1963.
25 May 1984 (Wright-Patterson AFB/88th Air Base Wing)
Forty years ago today, a ceremonial 105mm Howitzer cannon was dedicated adjacent to the 2750th Air Base Wing’s (now the 88th ABW) flagpole at Wright-Patt’s Building 10, Area C (now Area A). For years, the cannon was fired as a part of wing, group, and squadron changes of command ceremonies, as well as at monthly base retreat ceremonies. It even saw use as the “starting gun” at the first several USAF Marathons. Its use began to decline as those ceremonies moved to other locations, and the advent of car alarms and 9/11 also impacted its use: Shockwaves from the cannon would set off car alarms over a two-block radius, and emergency lines would be flooded with calls about “explosions.” It was last fired in 2006.
26 May 1959 (Armament Directorate)
On this date, 65 years ago, the Air Force gave the Douglas Aircraft Company a contract for advanced design studies of the Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile. A full development contract would be issued the next year, in 1960. Ground-launched missiles at the time were not accurate enough to hit their targets in the Soviet Union and manned bombers carrying nuclear gravity bombs were highly vulnerable to improved air defenses. The nuclear-armed Skybolt was launched from a bomber outside of enemy territory, primarily to take out interceptor bases and surface-to-air missile sites to clear the way for other bombers. The program was cancelled in 1962 as effective intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) entered service. (Photo: NMUSAF)

Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Highlight:
Major Fred F. Ohr
Major Fred F. Ohr was the first and only known Korean-American fighter ace of World War II.
Although he was born in Oregon on July 15, 1919, Ohr was mostly raised on a farm outside of Boise, Idaho. His native Korean parents had fled to the United States following Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910, and despite his father’s originally coming from the aristocracy in Korea, the family barely scratched out a living as subsistence farmers in Idaho. At about six or seven years of age, Ohr saw his first airplane fly by—a United States Air Mail flight—and he knew instantly that he wanted to be a pilot when he grew up.
In 1938, his final year of high school, Ohr signed up for the Idaho National Guard, partly to avoid getting drafted into the infantry, and was assigned to the 116th Cavalry. While serving with the Guard, he attended two years of college, since he knew that he needed more than a high school education to get into the Air Corps. Despite his ambitions to fly, though, he had to battle prejudices to get the chance. The first time he walked into an Air Corps recruiting office, the recruiter took one look at him and, without a single spoken word, immediately pointed him at the exit door. He had a similarly hard time trying to join the Navy. Given these challenges, Ohr ended up initially serving as a radio communicator at Fort Warren in Cheyenne, Wyoming (now Francis E. Warren Air Force Base). His big chance to fly came when a fellow radio operator—a friend of his named Leon—asked Ohr to accompany him to the Air Corps Examining Board, as he was nervous about taking the test. While Ohr was waiting for his friend outside, a colonel leading the recruitment effort approached Ohr and invited him to take the test as well. Despite never applying in the first place, he passed and was sent to flying school.
Ohr got his wings in 1942, and was initially assigned to a non-flying mission with the 68th Materiel Service Squadron at Daniel Field, Georgia. That fall, though, his unit deployed to England to prepare to support the North African campaign. Even then, Ohr would have to wait until early 1943 to fly, when he was finally assigned to the 52nd Fighter Group’s 2nd Fighter Squadron. Initially flying in British-built Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Vs, Ohr got his first air-to-air kill over Sicily. The unit soon moved to P-51 Mustangs, and Ohr won five more air-to-air victories over Europe, becoming a fighter ace. He was additionally credited with destroying 17 enemy aircraft on the ground.
Ohr also served as a flight leader and eventually the 2nd Fighter Squadron’s commander, as a captain.
After the war, now-Maj Ohr retired from the U.S. Army Air Forces to raise a family, and opened a dental practice in Chicago, Illinois. He worked there until retiring in 2005. Ohr died on September 16, 2015.