Thursday, June 23, 2011

Unit Breakdown - The 555th Fighter Squadron ("The Triple Nickel")

The following squadron history is excerpted from F-15 Eagle at War by Tyson V. Rininger.
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The 555th Fighter Squadron

To put aircraft, bombs, and missiles precisely on target on time.

The Triple Nickel heritage began on November 25, 1942, when the 555th Bombardment Squadron, Medium, was flying the B-26 Marauder. During World War II, the Nickel led offensive actions against Axis forces from bases in England, France, and Belgium. For gallantry in action, the Nickel was awarded the first of its four Presidential Unit Citations.

Shortly after World War II ended, Nickel colors were retired as U.S. forces were drawn down. On January 8, 1964, the Nickel re-emerged at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, with the F-4C Phantom II as its steed. Being the first operational unit in the USAF to receive the Phantom II, the Nickel was deployed and then permanently assigned to the Pacific Rim in support of hostilities in Southeast Asia.

In February 1966, the Nickel returned to combat. Flying out of Udorn Royal Thai Air Base, they scored their first two victories April 23, 1966, and became the first “Ace” Squadron in Southeast Asia with six kills one week later.

In June 1966, the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron moved to Ubon Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand and joined the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, “Wolfpack.” There, the squadron led the first strike against MiG airfields in North Vietnam. The Nickel launched the first night bombing attacks against North Vietnam September 29, 1967. While at Ubon, the Nickel downed an additional fourteen aircraft, including four MiG-21s on January 2, 1967. The ickel was now the only “Quad Ace” Fighter Squadron, with twenty MiGs to its credit.

In 1968, the Nickel participated in the campaign against the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Linebacker campaigns against the NVN heartland in 1972. During Linebacker I and II, the Nickel returned to its air superiority role and brought its MiG tally to thirty-nine, confirmed victories: ten MiG-17s, three MiG-19s, and twenty-six MiG-21s, producing the first and second USAF aces, and earning the motto, “world’s largest distributor of MiG parts.” From 1966 to 1973, the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron earned three more Presidential Unit Citations, five Air Force Outstanding Unit awards with combat “V” device, the Republic of Vietnam gallantry cross with palm, and the 1973 Hughes achievement award.

It was the incredible talent of Nickel pilots that led the squadron to historical kill numbers. Such pilots included, Maj. Robert A. Lodge (three kills), Capts. Charles B. DeBellevue (six kills), Robert “Steve” Richie (five kills), John A. Madden (three kills), and Roger C. Locher (three kills).

The list of the unit’s achievements shows a relentless drive to engage the enemy at his great misfortune. After nine years of distinguished combat operations, the Nickel returned to the United States. In 1974, the squadron moved to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where it was again chosen to receive the Air Force’s newest fighter, the F-15 Eagle.

On April 1, 1994, the Nickel transferred to Aviano Air Base, Italy, and was honored again by being given the distinction of flying the single seat, supersonic, multi-role, 9G F-16C.

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