Sunday, March 19, 2023

March 1950: Georgia Air National Guard Conducts Rapid Deployment Alert

 By Major William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


Left: Brigadier General James L. Riley (seen in 1949 as a colonel) commanded the 54th Fighter Wing. Right: An F-47 Thunderbolt of the Georgia
Air National Guard’s 54th Fighter Wing, 128th Fighter Squadron at Marietta Air Force Base in May 1946. Georgia National Guard Archives.

The 54th Fighter Wing representing Air National Guard units in Georgia and South Carolina staged a mock alert March 19, 1950 in order to test the capability of the Air National Guard to react to a surprise enemy attack. Brigadier General J. L. Riley, commander of the Marietta-based 54th Fighter Wing, ordered the alert which went out over all Atlanta radio stations. Within 30 minutes, all fourteen units based at Marietta Air Force Base had responded and four F-47 Fighters were in the air. Within another 15 minutes, 20 F-47s were aloft. [1]

Lt. Col. Aldo Garoni in 1949.
Georgia National Guard Archives
The project officer for the alert exercise was Lt. Col. Aldo Garoni, personnel officer of the 54th Fighter Wing. Garoni enlisted in the 128th Observation Squadron in 1941 at Candler Field in Atlanta and served with the unit until 1942 when he entered officer candidate school. Commissioned a 2nd lieutenant, Garoni served in Africa and participated in the Allied landing at Sicily. Returning from the war as a major, he was part of the effort to reorganize the Georgia National Guard. In 1950, as the assistant manager of radio station WFOM Garoni facilitated the radio alert that called the Citizen-Airmen of the Georgia Air National Guard to action.[2]

As part of the alert exercise, the Georgia National Guard’s 128th Fighter Squadron provided air support for Third Army troops in the Atlanta area from their base in Marietta while F-80 jets of the Savannah-based 158th Fighter Squadron scrambled to intercept simulated enemy aircraft. "Enemy" fighters of the South Carolina Air National Guard were intercepted in the skies over Congaree, S.C. where the Airmen of Georgia and South Carolina engaged in mock air combat.

Nearly 75 percent of the personnel assigned to the 14 Georgia Air National Guard units at Marietta Air Force Base participated in the alert with some continuing to respond as late as 10:00 p.m. Major General Ernest Vandiver, Georgia’s Adjutant General observed the alert and response of the Georgia Air National Guard.

F-47 Thunderbolts of the Georgia Air National Guard’s 128th Fighter Squadron conduct a rapid deployment alert in March 1950. Georgia National Guard Archives.

Less than five months after the alert exercise, pilots of the 128th Fighter Squadron were activated for service during the Korean War.

[1] “Wing Alert Gets 20 Fighters in Air Within One Hour, Four in 30 Minutes. The Georgia Guardsman. May 1950, 11.

[2] “Colonel Aldo Garoni.” The Georgia Guardsman, March April 1956, 3.

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