Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Nov. 2, 1960: The Georgia Air National Guard Gets Global Mission

 By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


The first C-97 assigned to the Georgia Air National Guard arrives in Georgia June 1, 1961. The aircraft is still in its KC-97 configuration and will
require months of conversion to the C-97G model. The aircraft replaced the F-86L Sabre Jets (inset) flown by the 128th and 158th Fighter Squadrons.
Georgia National Guard Archives.

On Nov. 2, 1960, The Georgia Air National Guard announced that it would transition from a fighter aircraft to a global transport role. The 128th Fighter Squadron in Marietta and the 158th FS in Savannah were among nine fighter squadrons nationwide to be converted to air-transport. [1]

Maj. Gen. George Hearn

The announcement came ten months after a January 1960 directive by the Secretary of the Air Force to transfer a number of multi-engine Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter transport aircraft from the Military Air Transport Service to the Air National Guard. Squadrons of the Minnesota and California Air National Guard were among the first units tapped to receive the Stratofreighter aircraft.[2]

Major General George Hearn, Georgia’s Adjutant General and senior leaders of the Georgia Air National Guard discussed the possibility of a mission change with National Guard Bureau for more than six months before the final decision. Among the advantages of the conversion noted by Hearn was a ten percent increase in enlisted personnel and pilots for the two squadrons.

Following the November 2 announcement, Brig. Gen. Bernard M. Davey, commander of the 116th Air Defense Wing, confirmed the 116th would receive the C-97 air frame April 1, 1961 and be redesignated the 116th Air Transport Wing (Heavy). Pilots of the 128th and 158th would transition from the F-86L Sabre Jet to the four-engine pressurized aircraft capable of flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet at speeds of up to 260 miles per hour and a maximum range of 4,300 miles.

In addition to ushering in the global transport mission, the coming of the C-97 brought an immediate increase of 50 officers and aircrew to the Georgia Air National Guard to include pilots, navigators, flight engineers and panel engineers.[3]

The first KC-97 Stratofreighter is delivered to Dobbins Air Force Base June 1, 1961. Georgia National Guard Archives. 

The initial allotment of aircraft were KC-97 aerial refuelers previously assigned to the Strategic Air Command. Each aircraft required four to six months of conversion time following delivery in 1961. After removal of the refueling equipment, the aircraft were converted to the C-97G model.


U.S. Army Soldiers unload a C-97 Stratofreighter of the Georgia Air National Guard's 165th Air Transport Group at Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon,
Vietnam in December 1965. U.S. Air Force Photograph by Master Sgt. Lee Estes.

Over the next five years, the Georgia Air National Guard circled the globe in the C-97. In November 1965, C-97s of the Georgia Air National Guard flew the first of several transport missions to Vietnam. In 1966 the Georgia Air National Guard replaced the C-97 with the C-124 Globemaster.

[1] “Air Guard Gets Global Transports.” The Atlanta Constitution. Nov. 2, 1960, 6.

[2] “ANG Gets MAT Role.” The Georgia Guardsman. Jan. Feb, 1960, 9.

[3] “Global Missions Set for Air Guard as Wing Converts to Air Transport.” The Georgia Guardsman. Nov Dec 1960, 2.

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