Wings Over Wayne Airshow


Wings Over Wayne Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Airshow

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36 "This is the premier wing as far as, when the stuff hits the fan, we get the phone call," Doc said. "Our history and our heritage is part of what motivates us. When you are in this wing, and you real- ize the footsteps that you are fol- lowing from our very beginning through today, and every single time sacrifice and dedication, improvisation was required, this was the wing." Today the base is home to nearly 6,000 men and women who serve on active duty and as reservists. But its humble beginnings reflect the communities that surround it. Seymour Johnson Air Force Base began as Seymour Johnson Field 75 years ago as a training ground for Army Air Corps P-47 Thunderbolt pilots at the outset of WWII. Nine months prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, one of Wayne County's own, U.S. Navy Lt. Seymour Johnson, died as a test pilot when his Grumman F4F-3 crashed near Norbeck, Maryland, on March 5, 1941. Seven months after Pearl Harbor, the Army Air Force Technical Training School at Goldsboro became Seymour Johnson Field. "For a small farming community like this to send someone to the Naval Academy –– huge," Doc said of Johnson. The small-town-boy-makes-good story was already a source of pride for Goldsboro and Wayne County. For him to then die as a test pilot gearing up for what would be America's role in World War II cemented things, Doc said. Meanwhile, across the pond, 245 American volunteers had been fly- ing bravely with the Royal Air Force's Eagles Squadrons in defense of England for years. Out of those fertile beginnings, Aces earned their wings shooting down German fighters over the course of the war and the 4th Fighter Wing was born and bred on those exploits. Distinctions would follow in the Korean War as well. "This wing goes into the Korean War and by itself shoots down 70 percent of all the enemy aircraft shot down during the Korean War," Doc said. "Something like that will never happen again." Twenty-four pilots earned Ace status in Korea, and the Wing tal- lied 502 enemy kills, adding to the "Fourth but First" lore. After a brief stint in Japan fol- lowing Korea, the 4th Fighter Wing then moved stateside and now takes up residence at what is now SJAFB. In the space between WWII and Korea, SJ Field had been shut down. But as the Cold War heated up, city, county and state leaders saw there was a need for military installations along the East Coast and lobbied hard to get Seymour Johnson back into the fight. The efforts of men like then- Mayor Scott Berkeley paid off, and for a time Seymour Johnson played host to a fleet of B-52 bombers. "We were not the first wing, there was another wing here prior to us. But then Dec. 8, 1957, we became the host wing. So even during the periods in which we're a (Strategic Air Command) base, and we had B-52s (1963 to 1982), and of course, now we have the 916th Air Refueling Wing, the 4th FW is the host wing. So 1957 through today, that's been the case," Doc said. The 4th Fighter Wing's legacy predates its own name, and con- tinues to be forged today with calls for service in the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan. But through WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War of the 1990s and throughout the War on Terror, the call has been "Fourth but first." That tradition is perhaps exam- pled best in a story Doc said took place one day prior to the Allied Forces invasion of Europe in Normandy, France. D-Day minus one. "The defining moment of the 4th Fighter Wing –– June 5, 1944. Col. Continued from 9 It is an honor to serve our military families. to the men, women and families of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. thanks we give 515 N. SPENCE AVENUE • GOLDSBORO, N.C. (919) 778-7110 or 1-800-799-7110 Offices Located in Goldsboro & Kinston Dr. Fred Mitchell Dr. Pete Mitchell Dr. Sallie Wahl Dr. Alex Wahl Dr. Anthony Woolet Drs. Mitchell, Mitchell & Associates, Optometrists 45DSP0417L© See FOURTH BUT FIRST, Page 46 Fourth but First

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