Activated on November 15, 1942, at Hamilton Field, California, the first 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron pilots, nicknamed the "Pugnacious Pups," flew the P-39 Aircobra. After deploying to England in 1943, the squadron became one of the first American units to employ the P-51 Mustang and to fly bomber escort missions on deep strikes into Germany.
During and after D-Day, 355th Mustangs roamed the continent in ground support roles, moving squadron operations to liberated France. With ground attack now the primary mission, the 355th converted to the P-47 Thunderbolt.
The 355th was one of the few units to conduct air strikes during the first critical days of the "Battle of the Bulge." After the war ended, the 355th remained in Germany as part of the occupation forces until 1946, when it was inactivated.
Pugnacious Pup emblem during World War II (355th WWII Emblem, Courtesy of Gene Lamar)
355th Fighter Pilots are briefed before taking off on a mission over enemy territory in Germany, April 17, 1945.
In 1956, the unit was redesignated the 355th Fighter Day Squadron and assigned to Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. In 1957, the 355th began flying the F-100D Super Sabre. In 1968, the 355th was sent to Southeast
Asia to participate in the Vietnam conflict. Returning to Myrtle Beach in 1971, the squadron transitioned to the A-7D Corsair II and was sent to Southeast Asia again in 1972. In December 1972, the 355th participated in Operation Linebacker II.
The 355th returned to Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in 1973. For the next five years the squadron participated in numerous deployments including regular rotations to Panama and exercises in Hawaii. In 1978, the 355th "Fightin' Falcons" became the second squadron at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base to become combat operational in the A-10 Thunderbolt II.
The "Fightin Falcons" spent the decade of the 1980s conducting training operations supporting United States interests in the international arena. With primary emphasis being focused on the Cold War, the squadron completed several high-profile deployments supporting NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) exercises in Europe.
Colonel Evan Rosencrans, 354th Wing Commander, returning from a flight in aircraft #220. This was the first 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron aircraft to reach 100 hours flying time.
Members of the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron begin their last slow walk to the C-141 Starlifter, waiting on the Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base flight line to move them back to the Myrtle Beach Air Force
Base. The men packed up planes, equipment and men for the long flights home. The 355th arrived with the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing in October 1972, to bring the first Air Force A-7s to Southeast Asia.
The 355th Emblem
The falcon literally and figuratively conveys a sense
of the attack, symbolizing to all squadron members the single-minded attention to the primary mission for which they all must strive. The circular background represents the unity of purpose to which the squadron is dedicated, with each part equally important to the whole. The blue disc suggests the sky where the squadron's power holds sway. The gray band and the stars represent the individuality and contrast that each member of the squadron expresses within the framework of the united team. The Air Force blue and yellow colors show the squadron is a unit of the United States Air Force.
In August 1990, the 355th deployed to Saudi Arabia supporting coalition efforts to remove Iraq's occupying forces from Kuwait. Their innovative night air-to-ground tactics were instrumental in the quick, decisive Desert Storm victory. The "Fightin' Falcons" flew their last mission from Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in 1992, and the squadron's operations were moved to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
355th Tactical Fighter Squadron Last Group Photo, March 1991