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History of the 147th Attack Wing

Whether it is protecting the shores of the United States from enemy attack, or carrying the Stars and Stripes into combat, Houston's famed 147th Attack Wing has consistently performed its duties in a typical outstanding manner. Today's 147th Attack Wing provides two (24 hours a day, 7 days a week ) MQ-1B Predator Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) combat support sorties which provide theater and national-level leadership with critical real-time Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Air-to-Ground Munitions (AGM) 114 ( Hellfire Missile) precision strike capability. Also, the Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS) provides terminal control for weapons employment in a Close Air Support (CAS) scenario integrating combat air and ground operations. The men and women assigned to the unit are justifiably proud of their membership and point to a long and colorful history to back that claim.


The first 111th Aero Squadron was formed on 14 August 1917 from the Provisional Headquarters Squadron at Kelly Field; known simply as the "Post Headquarters Squadron" and later redesignated the 632nd Aero Squadron. The squadron was deactivated on 19 August 1919 but was called to service again and was mustered into the Texas National Guard on 29 June 1923 in the Houston Light Guard Armory as the 111th Observation Squadron, 36th Division. The unit moved to Ellington Field in September of 1923 where they received their Curtiss JH-6H Jenny's, capable of 80-90 mph. The Jenny's were retired in September 1927, which was followed shortly by a move to the new Houston Municipal Airport, later known as William P. Hobby Airport.

The 111th operated PT-1's and other various trainer aircraft until June 1928 when they changed to O-2 Observation aircraft. New Douglas O-38 Observation planes arrived in January 1931 which replaced the O-2's at the 111th.

The famous "Ace-In-The-Hole" emblem was approved by the War Department on 6 June 1933. The emblem, which was the squadron's third attempt to obtain a unit insignia, was designed by Lt Earl Showalter, the squadron's Chief Caretaker. The Ace-In-The-Hole emblem strongly reflects the unit's Texas heritage and has been grandfathered, exempting it from subsequent regulations guiding unit emblems.

The 111th transitioned into Douglas O-43A's in the winter of 1935. In 1938, the Ace-In-The-Hole squadron also added O-47's to their inventory as the 111th's reputation grew.

Rumbles of unrest began to drift across the Atlantic from Europe in 1939 and, as Nazi Germany's conquests continued to stack up and war clouds began to form, the 111th was inducted into Federal service on 25 September 1940. The unit trained with the 36th Division until Pearl Harbor was attacked. Fear fueled speculation that subsequent attacks were possible from Japanese farmers located in Mexico and the 111th deployed to Fort Clark Springs, Texas. The 111th stay was short and they were subsequently ordered to Macon, Georgia for deployment overseas.

At Macon, Georgia the 111th Observation Squadron joined the 68th Observation Group and prepared for their early deployment overseas. In September 1942 the Ace-In-The-Hole Squadron boarded the "Queen Mary" for Scotland and England, and in November a landing on the Algerian Beaches as part of Operation Torch.

Originally flying A-20's over the Mediterranean in submarine patrols, the squadron quickly converted to the P-39 and a Fighter Reconnaissance role. In March of 1943 the 111th left the 68th Group and was selected to support the Tunisian Campaign of the Army's II Corps. In June of 1943 the newly redesignated 111th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, flying Allison P-51's, became the eyes of the 7th Army in Sicily. They were temporarily assigned to the 5th Army but returned in July 1944, in time to support the 7th Army's invasion of Southern France. The 111th remained with the 7th Army through the end of the war.

In 23 months of continuous combat flying, from June 1943 to May 1945, the 111th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron flew 3840 combat missions. While keeping Army headquarters informed of enemy movements, the Ace-In-The-Hole destroyed 44 enemy aircraft, damaged 29, and had 12 probable kills. The 111th received eight Battle Stars, the Presidential Unit Citation, and was singled out by the French Government for the French Croix De Guerre with Palm in recognition of its accomplishments during World War II. In addition, Lt V.S. Rader was the squadron's Ace during the war, flying 80 missions resulting in 6 ½ kills.

After being released from active service in December 1945, the unit returned to Texas and was redesignated the 111th Fighter Squadron. Now equipped with P-51D Mustangs, the squadron returned to Ellington Field because their facilities at Hobby Airport had been leased out. The squadron had no more than stirred up the dust on the Ellington Field runways when the United States once more called for their services.

On 10 October 1950 the unit was mustered into service for the Korean War, first reporting to Langley AFB, Virginia. The unit was reorganized as the 111th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, attached to the 136th Fighter Group, in keeping with the new Air Force's combat wing structure. The Ace-In-The-hole squadron also converted to Republic F-84E "Thunderjets" in preparation for their overseas deployment.

The Squadron's first stop was Itazuke Airbase, Japan, where they immediately started flying combat sorties into Korea. Later that summer the 111th joined the rest of the 136th Fighter Bomber Wing at Taegu, Korea. Flying close air support and interdiction missions the squadron compiled an impressive list of accomplishments; destroying 1,343 railroad cars, 1,943 buildings, 88 bridges, 126 gun emplacements, 89 boats, 2 MIG-15 fighters, and accounted for 5,578 troop casualties in cutting off enemy supply lines and providing air support for the United Nations troops.

In addition, the Texas Wing was the first Air National Guard Wing mobilized since World War II, the first Air National Guard Wing to go to combat intact, and the first Air National Guard Wing to down a MIG-15 fighter (accomplished by a 111th pilot in a 182nd {Kelly} aircraft). The Texas Wing remained on active duty 22 months before it was transferred back to Texas without equipment in July 1952.

Upon returning  to Texas the 111th found out that Ellington was now full and quickly set up operations once again at Hobby Airport. The pilots trained in the F-51H Mustangs while awaiting newer aircraft from the Air Force. In September 1953 the 111th received F-80's and new T-33's and was redesignated the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS). 1 July 1956 found the 111th sitting alert at Hobby Airport in their F-80's. The Ace-In-The-Hole squadron once again moved to Ellington Field, for the final time, on 25 November 1956. The 111th converted to the F-86D in July 1957 and was assigned to Air Defense Command.

When the Air Force cut advanced flight training positions to the Air Guard in 1957, the 111th FIS proposed a Guard Operated Training School. Authorization was received and the 111th FIS formed and operated the Air National Guard Jet Instrument School from October 1957 to September 1961. The school, with a 50-man cadre, trained over 1000 Air Guard pilots in jet instrument flying those four years.

On 16 may 1958 the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group (FIG) was formed, with its five new squadrons, to support the 111th FIS. During summer camp the following year the 147th converted to F-86L's transferred from the deactivated 85th FIS. In August 1960 the unit was one of the first to transition to the F-102A all-weather Fighter Interceptor and began a 24-hour Alert to guard the United States borders.

The 147th FIG earned its first Air Force Outstanding Unit Award in 1966 when it was proclaimed "the most combat ready of all Air Guard units." From 1968 through 1970, pilots from the 147th FIG participated in "Palace Alert," which placed them in Southeast Asia in support of the Vietnam conflict.

The 147th FIG was relieved of their Alert commitment on 1 January 1970 to start an important new mission; that of training all F-102 pilots in the United States for the Air National Guard. On 6 May 1971 the unit received F-101F "VooDoo" Fighter Interceptors and became the training center for all Air Guard Interceptors.

After several aircraft flew to the United States from Cuba, the 147th FIG resumed its 24-hour Alert mission on 6 October 1972, while continuing its Combat Crew Training mission. In August 1974, after 14 years of service, the F-102's were retired, leaving the unit with a full complement of F-101 aircraft. The unit continued its Combat Crew Training Mission, RF-101 transition school, T-33 Aircraft Qualification Course, and its 24-hour Alert commitment in the F-101.

The U.S. Air Force deactivated at Ellington Air Force Base on 1 April 1976 and the 147th FIG took command under the jurisdiction of the Transition Caretaker Force (TCF) for its transition to the State of Texas Air National Guard. The 147th FIG operated Ellington ANGB for eight years until it was transferred to the City of Houston on 1 July 1984 and became known as Ellington Field. The Air National Guard, however, retained ownership of 214 acres which continues to house the 147th, the Texas Army National Guard 1-149th Army Aviation Regiment and U.S. Coast Guard Aviation through a joint use agreement with the city.

May of 1976 saw the 147th FIG Combat Crew Training School graduate its last student. During their six years of operation, they graduated a total of 667 students, flew 50,486 jet hours and 2,266 support aircraft hours in support of the school. Additionally, the 147th Radar Operations Section trained 244 controllers and 101 Intercept Control Technicians for the USAF, TAC and ANG.

The fall of 1978 brought a new challenge to the 147th, that of William-Tell-78. The International Fighter Interceptor Weapons Meet held at Tyndall AFB resulted in the 147th winning the F-101 competition and the overall competition. It was the unit's first William-Tell win and the first time the 147th's signature "Lightning Bolt Fin Flash" was displayed.

The 147th assumed Air Defense Alert at New Orleans, LA, in January 1979. October 1st of that same year saw the deactivation of the Aerospace Defense Command and a transfer to Tactical Air Command. The fall of 1980 brought another William-Tell which resulted in the unit's second consecutive win. The 147th also received its third Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period of 1 May 1979 to 30 April 1981.

1982 brought a new aircraft to the 147th FIG ramp, the F-4C "Phantom." The Ace-In-The-Hole squadron sat Alert at Ellington Field and New Orleans until 1985 when the 147th FIG Det 1 was moved to Holloman AFB, New Mexico. In addition, the 147th supported the Air National Guard's European Alert called "Creek Klaxon" from April 1986 to April 1987. A quick conversion to the F-4D and the retirement of the unit's last T-33 occurred in 1987 as well. The last T-33 was serial #52-9223 which was received new on 9 September 1953 and served its entire 34 year career at the 111th/147th.

October 1988 brought another William-Tell Competition which resulted in the 147th winning the F-4 maintenance and weapons loading awards. The 147th CAMRON was also awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.

In 1989, the 147th also took possession a C-26 Merlin aircraft (adding a second in 1991) to conduct counter-drug, law enforcement and Operational Support Airlift missions. Redesignated the RC-26B in 2005, the Merlin continues to be a valuable asset in homeland defense, counter-drug operations, law enforcement and forward deployed combat reconnaissance missions.

In September 1989 the 147th transitioned from the F-4D to the F-16A Fighting Falcon, receiving the last F-16 in April 1990. The F-16's were later modified as F-16 ADF (Air Defense Fighter) which improved the F-16 and allowed it to employ AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-120 AMRAAM radar guided missiles. September 1995 saw the end of the 147th FIG alert detachment at Holloman AFB, and in October 1995 the unit was redesignated the 147th Fighter Wing and began converting from the F-16A to the F-16C. The conversion was completed by February 1997.

In October 1998 the 147th Fighter Wing converted from the Air Defense Fighter (ADF) to the General-Purpose, air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, while continuing to maintain its Alert mission. September 2000 saw the 147th's first Air Expeditionary Forces (AEF) deployment to Prince Sultan Airbase, Saudi Arabia, in Support of Operation Southern Watch. Upon return from Saudi Arabia in 2000, the 147th once again began conversion, this time into the Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) mission.

Following the terrorist attacks on the morning of 11 September 2001, four 147th Fighter Wing aircraft were launched to escort the President - and former 147th FIG pilot - George W. Bush, onboard Air Force 1 from Florida to Louisiana, Nebraska and finally back to Washington DC that same day. December of 2001 saw the 147th deploy to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to fly Air Defense Combat Air Patrol missions over New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC in support of Operation Noble Eagle.


In August 2005  the 147th Fighter Wing deployed to Balad Airbase, Iraq to conduct combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War On Terrorism. The men and women of the 147th once again distinguished themselves by flying 462 sorties and almost 1900 hours in a two month span; setting unbreakable accomplishments of 100% maintenance delivery (zero missed sorties), 100% mission effectiveness, and 100% weapons employment/hits under the most challenging combat conditions.  The 147th Fighter Wing deployed to Balad Airbase, Iraq again in April 2007 and flew their last F-16 combat mission there.  In June 2008 the 147th Fighter Wing was redesignated the 147th Reconnaissance Wing.

In 2017 the wing began converting to the MQ-9 Reaper and in April the Wing was redesignated as the 147th Attack Wing.

The 147th Attack Wing has a long list of distinguished alumni that have gone on to serve in the 1st Air Force Commander, the Governor of The State of Texas and a former President of the United States, The Honorable George W. Bush.

Whatever the men and women of the 147th Attack Wing have been tasked with, they have quietly delivered time and time again in an outstanding manner; peacetime or wartime, home or abroad. Their dedication has often resulted in additional taskings that were accepted willingly and delivered professionally. The impressive list of achievements, compiled throughout its 90 year history, is only accomplished by people; very dedicated, highly motivated, well trained people. Throughout all the past, present and future changes, the 147th Attack Wing remains an essential part of the Texas Military Forces, Air National Guard, and United States Military.