Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Georgia Air National Guard Flies Training Mission in Support of Ground Observer Corps

 By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


Georgia Air National Guard pilots and plotters supported Air Defense Command during an exercise Dec. 14, 1952.[1] The purpose of the mission was to test the effectiveness of the Ground Observer Corps, a volunteer program of the Office of Civil Defense which organized and trained citizens to spot and report enemy aircraft activity.


Capt. Glenn Herd, operations officer of the 128th Fighter Bomber Squadron in an F-51 with his crew chief TSgt. Moore. Herd flew more than 100
combat missions over Korea and was credited with shooting down a MiG 15. Georgia National Guard Archives

Pilots of the 128th Fighter Bomber Squadron were tasked with flying specific courses over north and central Georgia. The pilots were briefed on their specific flight patterns by Capt. Glenn Herd, operations officer of the 128th FBS. Lieutenant William Tennent was assigned to fly the northwest mission corridor in a T-6 while Captains Doug Embry and Merrill Nuss flew a second T-6 on a course over southwest Georgia. Lieutenant Robert W. Carmichael, piloting an F-51 H Mustang flew over northeast Georgia.

With the exact flight paths known, Guardsmen of the 129th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, commanded by Capt. W. H. Thomason, plotted the positions of the aircraft as they were reported through the Atlanta Filter Center by Observer Corps volunteers across the state. Capt. W. W. Lee, a controller with the 129th supervised ten Guardsmen who tracked the aircraft and plotted their positions. In remarks following the exercise, Lee concluded that the Guardsmen demonstrated capability and skill in performing their assigned mission and was confident that they would be able to carry out their duties in the event of a real emergency.


Maj. Walter H. Thomason, with plaque, original commander of the 129th Air Control and Warning Squadron with original members of the unit at Thomason’s
retirement ceremony in December 1959. Left to right, kneeling: Capt. Thomas Burns, Maj. George J. Patsois, Maj. Walter H. Thomason Jr., Capt. Robert L. Robinson Jr.,
Capt. Curtis Walker and MSgt. Roy Largin. Back Row: WO Lynn S. Elliott, Capt. Iverson Copeland, Lt. Ben J. Nash, Lt. Warren Montgomery, MSgt. Lackland
and Capt. Pete Cross. A Georgia National Guard Soldier before World War II, Thomason flew B-17s in Europe and earned the
Distinguished Flying Cross. Thomason commanded the 129th from its organization Oct. 13, 1952 to his retirement in December 1959. 

Organized in World War II to facilitate early detection of enemy aircraft, the Ground Observer Corps was reorganized in Georgia in January 1951 with a call for 15,000 volunteers.[2] The Atlanta Air Defense Filter Center was located at 2939 Peachtree Road Northeast. Staffed by U.S. Air Force personnel and Ground Observer Corps volunteers, the Filter Center was capable of conducting 24-hour operations to supplement radar networks in receiving and transmitting information for interception of hostile aircraft.[3]


[1] “Air Guard flies Defense Mission.” The Georgia Guardsman. January 1953, 11.


[2] Katherine Barnwell. “700 Plane Observation Posts Due for Georgia.” Atlanta Constitution. Dec. 26, 1951, 15.


[3] “Filter Center Open House Set May 17.” Atlanta Constitution, May 6, 1953, 13.

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