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Mustangs to Warthogs
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska--Lt. Col. George Bickell was the first-named commander of the 355th Fighter Squadron. Affectionately referred to as "Uncle George," he also went on to become the third 354th Fighter Group commander during WWII. (file photo)
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A look at the history of the 355th Fighter Squadron

Posted 8/7/2007   Updated 8/7/2007 Email story   Print story


by Don Fenton
354th Fighter Wing Historian

8/7/2007 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Shortly after the last three A-10s depart Eielson on August 15, the 355th Fighter Squadron will inactivate. In other words, the designation "355th Fighter Squadron," along with all of its unit history will be 'placed on a shelf' to be re-activated and added to another day.

For example, if a new airframe or mission is added to the 354th Fighter Wing inventory in the future, the 355th's designation may be re-activated to assume responsibility for those aircraft and that mission. More importantly, the 355th's long and illustrious history would continue on.

Originally, known as the Pugnacious Pups during WWII, the unit developed its current emblem and motto, the Fighting Falcons, in 1957 when it activated at Myrtle Beach AFB, S.C.

Through the years, the unit has flown several different types of aircraft, from their GQ coded P-51 Mustangs and P-47 Thunderbolts during WW II, to their Myrtle Beach tail-coded F-100 Huns and A-7 Corsair IIs during Vietnam, to their Alaska tail-coded A/OA-10 Warthawgs for the last 30 years, which includes deployments in support of Operations DESERT STORM, DESERT FOX, SOUTHERN WATCH and ENDURING FREEDOM. The 355th FS flew each and every one of these aircraft in combat.

With more than 60 years of history, the 355th FS has had quite a few commanders as one can imagine. The first-named commander was Capt. George Bickell. Uncle George, as many called him, also became the third 354th Fighter Group commander during WWII.

When the 355th activated at Myrtle Beach AFB, Maj. Gerald Beisner assumed command, however Lt. Col. Richard Barton cased the colors in 1992 when the unit inactivated. Seventeen months later the squadron was reactivated at Eielson with Lt. Col. Frederick Knowles Jr. as commander.

Now, Lt. Col. Quentin "Q-Tip" Rideout has the distinct honor of closing another chapter of Air Force history until it may be opened again.

We all know the seasons will soon change here in the Interior of Alaska and the landscape will turn white.

We also know the 355th FS and their A-10s will not be here this time around. However, from Uncle George and the Mustangs in WWII, to Q-tip and the Warthogs in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, the history of the 355th FS will undoubtedly come alive again sometime in the future.

In the meantime, it will live on in the hearts and minds of those who served with Pugnacious Pups in Europe 60 years ago to the Fighting Falcons at Myrtle Beach and Eielson, to who knows where in the future.

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