Sabre Squadrons


from Henry Head

The 56th FIS evolved from the 56th Pursuit Squadron, a unit within the 54th Pursuit Group, at Hamilton Field, California. The 56th PS was activated on 15 January 1941, defending the war industry in Southern California until June 1942. On 20 June 1942, the 56th (now) Fighter Squadron, took their Bell P-39 Airacobras to Nome, Aaska, where they won a Distinguished Unit Citation for operations against the Japanese in November 1942. In 1943, the 56th FS returned to the ConUS, and were based at Bartow Army Air Field, Florida, where they converted to North American P-51 Mustangs. One year later, on 1 May 1944, the 56th FS was disbanded.

Re-constituted and activated at Seifridge AFB, Michigan in November 1952, the 56th (now) Fighter Interceptor Squadron was assigned to the 4708th Air Defense Wing, and equipped with North American F-86F Sabres. In February 1953, the 56th FIS began conversion to F-86D interceptors, and was assigned to the 575th Air Defense Group.

On 18 August 1955, under Project ARROW, the 56th FIS designation was transferred from Selfridge AFB to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, initially under operational control of the 4706th Air Defense Wing, then the 58th Air Division(Air Defense) on 1 March 1956, where the squadron was the primary air defense unit for southwestern Ohio and the research facilities at Wright-Patterson.

In the Spring of 1957, the 56th FIS began re-equipping with the North American F-86L Sabre, an improved version of the F-86D which incorporated the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment system, or SAGE. The unit, commanded by Lt.Col. Harad 'Axe' Askelman, became proficient with both the F-86L and SAGE, and won an Air Defense Command "A" award for live rocket SURE-FIRE missions in the late summer of 1957.

The transition into the F-86L was short-lived however, as the squadron began transition into the "missile-witha-man-in-it", the Lockheed F-104A in May 1958. The 56th FIS was now under operational control of 30th Air Division (Air Defense), before being transferred to the Detroit Air Defense Sector in April 1959.The 56th FIS was deactivated at Wright-Patterson on 1 March 1960.

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