Fifth Air Force: Wikis


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Fifth Air Force
5th Air Force.png
Fifth Air Force emblem
Active 16 August 1941
Country United States of America
Branch United States Air Force
Part of Pacific Air Forces
Garrison/HQ Yokota Air Base
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg Army of Occupation ribbon.svg KSMRib.svg
  • World War II
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (1941-1945)
  • Army of Occupation (Japan) (1945 - 1952)
  • Korean Service (1950-1954)
Lieutenant General Edward A. Rice, Jr.
George Kenney
A flight of F-15C Eagles from the 18th Fighter Wing, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa
An F-16 from the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base, Japan
C-130 Hercules aircraft from the 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan.

The Fifth Air Force (5 AF) is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). It is headquartered at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

The command's mission is to enable fully successful air, space and cyberspace operations through, from and with Japan. It is one of very few numbered air forces of the United States Air Force never to have been based in the United States itself. It is also one of the oldest and continuously active US air forces.

Established on 16 August 1941 as the Philippine Department Air Force at Nichols Field, Luzon, Philippines. 5 AF was a United States Army Air Forces combat air force in the Pacific Theater of World War II, engaging in combat operations primarily in the Southwest Pacific AOR. 5 AF units first engaged the Japanese during the Philippines Campaign (1941–1942), then afterward withdrawing to Australia after the Japanese conquest of the islands. Rearmed, it engaged the Japanese in New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies and then as part of the liberating forces in the Philippines Campaign (1944–45). In the postwar era, 5 AF was the primary USAF occupation force in Japan. During the Korean War, 5 AF was the primary command and control organization for USAF forces engaged in combat operations over Korea, and during the Cold War was the main USAF defense force in Japan.

5 AF is commanded by Lt. Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr.. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sgt. Craig K. Deatherage.



5 AF is the Headquarters Pacific Air Forces forward element in Japan, conducting activities to include maximizing partnership capabilities and promoting bilateral defense cooperation. In addition, 5 AF is the air component to United States Forces Japan (USFJ).

Its mission is three-fold. First, Fifth Plans, Conducts, Controls, and Coordinates Air Operations in accordance with tasks assigned by the PACAF Commander. Fifth Air Force maintains a level of readiness necessary for successful completion of directed military operations. And last, but certainly not least, Fifth Air Force assists in the mutual defense of Japan and enhances regional stability by planning, exercising, and executing joint air operations in partnership with Japan. To achieve this mission, Fifth Air Force maintains its deterrent force posture to protect both U.S. and Japanese interests, and conducts appropriate air operations should deterrence fail.


Major units of Fifth Air Force are:

Non-Flying Units (Yokota Air Base)

  • 605th Air Operations Group
  • 605th Air Operations Squadron
  • 605th Air Intelligence Squadron
  • 605th Air Support Squadron
  • 605th Air Communications Flight
  • 20th Operational Weather Squadron




  • Established as Philippine Department Air Force on 16 Aug 1941
Activated on 20 Sep 1941
Redesignated: Far East Air Force on 28 Oct 1941
Resesignated: 5 Air Force on 5 Feb 1942
Redesignated: Fifth Air Force* on 18 Sep 1942.

* Fifth Air Force is not to be confused with a second "Fifth" air force created as a temporary establishment to handle combat operations after the outbreak of hostilities on June 25, 1950, in Korea. This numbered air force was established as Fifth Air Force, Advance, and organized at Itazuki AB, Japan, assigned to Fifth Air Force, on July 14, 1950. It moved to Taegu AB, South Korea, on July 24, 1950, and was redesignated Fifth Air Force in Korea at the same time. After moving, it apparently received command control from U.S. Far East Air Forces. The establishment operated from Pusan, Taegu, and Seoul before being discontinued on December 1, 1950.


  • Philippine Department, U.S. Army, 20 Sep 1941
  • US Forces in Australia (USFIA), 23 Dec 1941
Redesignated: US Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA), 5 Jan 1942
Redesignated: Pacific Air Command, United States Army, 6 Dec 1945
Redesignated: Far East Air Forces, 1 Jan 1947
Redesignated Pacific Air Forces, 1 Jul 1957-Present


Major Components


Became Army Air Force Infantry unit during Battle of the Philippines (1941–42) (20 Dec 1941-9 Apr 1942)
  • Far East Air Service (later, 5 Air Force Base; V Air Force Base): 28 Oct 1941-2 Nov 1942


Operational History


Fifth Air Force traces its roots to the Philippines when U.S. military aviation made its first presence in the region there in March 1912. Starting with a flight training school near Manila, its presence grew to the establishment of several aero squadrons over the next thirty years. The Philippine Army Air Corps was created by the Philippine National Assembly's National Defense Act of 1935. By 1940, the corps had around 40 aircraft and 100 pilots.

What would become Fifth Air Force was constituted as the Philippine Department Air Force on 16 August 1941. It was activated in the Philippines on 20 September 1941. This was in response to the proposal by Chief of the Army Air Forces, Major General Henry H. Arnold, who in July 1941 proposed sending four heavy bombardment groups (340 aircraft) and two pursuit squadrons (260 aircraft) to the Philippines.

The organization was redesignated Far East Air Force in October 1941. The Philippine Army Air Corps was incorporated as part of the new organization.

Order of Battle, 6 December 1941

The mission of Far East Air Force on 6 December 1941 was air defense of the Philippine Islands. Its commander was Major General Lewis H. Brereton. Its order of battle was as follows:

19th Bombardment Gp (Heavy), Clark Fld
14th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) (B-17)
28th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) (B-17)
30th Bombardment Squadron(Heavy) (B-17)
32d Bombardment Squadron(Heavy)
Ground echelon en route from US to Philippine Islands, air echelon at Hamilton Field, California (B-17))
38th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy)
Ground echelon en route from US to Philippine Islands, air echelon en route from US to Hawaii, destroyed in Pearl Harbor Attack.
93d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) (B-17)
27th Bombardment Gp (Light), Fort William McKinley
16th Bombardment Squadron (Light) (none)
17th Bombardment Squadron (Light) (none)
91st Bombardment Squadron (Light) (none)
24th Pursuit Gp (Interceptor), Clark Field
3d Pursuit Sqd (Interceptor), Iba Field (P-40E)
17th Pursuit Sqd (Interceptor), Nichols Field (P-40E)
20th Pursuit Sqd (Interceptor), Clark Field (P-40B)
21st Pursuit Sqd (Interceptor), Nichols Field (P-40E)
34th Pursuit Sqd (Interceptor), Del Carmen Field(P-35A)
6th Pursuit Sqd, (Philippine Army Air Corps) Batangas Field (P-26)
2d Observation Sqd, Nichols Field (O-46, O-52)

Operational strength Far East Air Force consisted of 81 P-40s and 35 B-17s

World War II

Battle of the Philippines (1941–42)

Immediately after the outbreak of the Pacific War in December, Brereton sought permission from theater commander General Douglas MacArthur to conduct air raids against Japanese forces in Formosa, but was refused. As a consequence, FEAF was largely destroyed on the ground by Japanese air attacks from Formosa within three days, and by December 10th, the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Philippines was essentially wiped out. The few remaining aircraft flew until the fall of Bataan, but accomplished little.

  • The B-17s of the 19th Bombardment Group were ordered into the air and to patrol the waters around Luzon after the Pearl Harbor Attack. After two days, General Brereton finally got approval to carry out the strike against Japanese bases on Formosa, and the B-17s were recalled to Clark. When the Fortresses returned to Clark, three of them were equipped with cameras for reconnaissance and the remainder were loaded up with 100-lb and 300-lb bombs in preparation for the planned mission to Formosa. The three reconnaissance B-17s were taxiing out for the initial photographic mission to Formosa when about 200 Japanese aircraft struck. Unfortunately, all the P-40 fighters had been recalled for refuelling and were on the ground. The attack was devastating. All except one of the B-17s were destroyed or damaged on the ground. By December 14, only 14 remained in the Philippines. They were all stationed at Del Monte Airfield on Mindanao, hopefully out of range of Japanese aircraft. Beginning on December 17, the surviving B-17s based there began to be evacuated to Batchelor Field near Darwin, Australia. The advancing Japanese forces managed to obtain a collection of different types of Allied aircraft that they were able to put back into the air with fairly little effort. The Japanese captured at least three Fortresses, one B-17D and two early B-17Es (ref Air Classics v9 n5 May 1973, "Japan's Mystery Fleet of American Bombers" by Robert C. Mikesh) (also Japanese Captured Aircraft Special Section), which were flown to Japan for use in a public display of captured enemy aircraft. These captured B-17s were used for careful evaluation of their capabilities and the development of fighter tactics that would be useful against them.
  • The ground echelon of the 27th Bombardment Group had arrived at Fort William McKinley on 20 November; however its A-24 aircraft and pilots had not yet arrived by 6 December. When the Imperial Japanese Army attacked the Philippines on 9 December 1941, the situation had not changed. To avoid capture or destruction, the ship carrying the planes was diverted to Australia when the war escalated. The ground echelon of the 27th was formed into the 2nd Battalion (27th Bombardment Group) Provisional Infantry Regiment (Air Corp). The 27th Bomb Group became the only Air Force unit in history to fight as an infantry regiment, and were the only unit to be taken captive in whole. After surrendering, they were forced to endure the infamous Bataan Death March. Of the 880 or so Airmen who were taken, less than half survived captivity. The air echelon of the 27th Bomb Group eventually reformed in Australia in 1942 and fought in the Dutch East Indies and New Guinea campaigns.
  • The 24th Pursuit Group was essentially unrecognizable as a cohesive fighting force by the end of December 1941, as the men and aircraft of the group were either killed or captured although a few did escape to Australia. The unit was never remanned but was kept on the list of active USAAF organizations until after the war ended.
The P-26s of the 6th Pursuit Squadron were mostly destroyed on the ground in the first Japanese attacks following Pearl Harbor, but two flown by Filipino pilots scored victories over Japanese airplanes. In 1942, in a desperate defense of their homeland, the few surviving P-26s which the Filipino 6th Pursuit Squadron still had at its disposal were completely overwhelmed by Japanese A6M Zero fighters.
The 34th Pursuit Squadron was a composite group manned by both American and Filipinos from the Philippine Army Air Corps. It consisted of 40 Seversky P-35As. On 8 December 1941, when the Japanese launched the first air attacks on the Philippines, the P-35A fighters were an important part of the first line of defense of these islands. They were completely inadequate for the task. By late 1941 standards, the P-35A was hopelessly obsolescent. It was too lightly armed and lacked either armor around the cockpit or self-sealing fuel tanks. Consequently, the P-35A stood little chance against the A6M Zero fighters and were badly mauled. Most of the P-35As were quickly shot down in combat or else were destroyed on the ground. By 12 December there were only eight airworthy P-35As left.
Establishment of Fifth Air Force
5th usaaf.png

Following the Japanese conquest of the Philippines, the remnants of Far East Air Force relocated southwest to bases in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). After those islands also fell to Japanese forces early in 1942, FEAF headquarters moved to Australia and was reorganized and redesignated Fifth Air Force on 5 February 1942. It seemed at the time that the Japanese were advancing just about everywhere. The remaining heavy bombers of the 19th Bombardment Group were based in Australia flew missions against the Japanese on Java in an attempt to stop their advance. They were joined in January by the B-17Es and LB-30s of the 7th Bombardment Group. The small force of bombers could do very little to stem the tide of the Japanese advance, launching valiant but futile attacks against the masses of Japanese shipping.

The 7th Bombardment Group was withdrawn to India in March 1942, leaving the 19th to carry on as the only B-17 Fortress-equipped group in the South Pacific. About this time it was decided that replacement B-17s would not be sent to the southwest Pacific, but be sent exclusively to the Eighth Air Force which was building up in England. By May, Fifth Air Force's surviving personnel and aircraft were detached to other commands and the headquarters remained unmanned for several months, but elements played a small part in the Battle of the Coral Sea (7-8 May 1942) when the 435th Bomb Squadron of the 19th Bomb Group saw the Japanese fleet gathering in Rabaul area nearly two weeks before the battle actually took place. Because of the reconnaissance activity of the 435th Bomb Squadron, the US Navy was prepared to cope adequately with the situation. The squadron was commended by the US Navy for its valuable assistance not only for its excellent reconnaissance work but for the part played in the battle.

Headquarters Fifth Air Force was re-staffed at Brisbane, Australia on 18 September 1942 and placed under the command of Major General George Kenney. United States Army Air Forces units in Australia, including Fifth Air Force, were eventually reinforced and re-organised following their initial defeats in the Philippines and the East Indies. At the time that Kenney had arrived, Fifth Air Force was equipped with three fighter groups and 5 bombardments groups.

Fighter Groups:

  • 8th FG (P-39) Townsville, Australia
  • 49th FG (P-40) Darwin, Australia
  • 35th FG (P-40) Port Moresby, New Guinea

Bomber Groups:

  • 3rd BG (B-25, A-20, & A-24) Charters Towers, Australia
  • 19th BG (Non-Operational. Battle scarred from Philippines & Java) Mareeba, Australia
  • 22nd BG (B-26) Woodstock, Australia
  • 43rd BG (Not Equipped) Port Moresby, New Guinea
  • 38th BG (B-25) Charters Towers, Australia

In addition, Fifth Air Force controlled two transport squadrons and one photographic squadron comprising 1,602 officers and 18,116 men.

Kenney was later appointed commander of Allied air forces in the South West Pacific Area, reporting directly to General Douglas MacArthur. Under Kenney's leadership, the Fifth Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force provided the aerial spearhead for MacArthur's island hopping campaign.

US Far East Air Forces

On 4 November 1942, the 5th Air Force commenced sustained action against the Japanese in Papua New Guinea and was a key component of the New Guinea campaign (1942-1945). Fifth Air Force engaged the Japanese again in the Philippines campaign (1944–45) as well as in the Battle of Okinawa (1945).

Fifth Air Force along with Thirteenth Air Force in the Central Pacific and Seventh Air Force in Hawaii were assigned to the newly-created United States Far East Air Forces (FEAF) on August 3, 1944. FEAF was subordinate to the U.S. Army Forces Far East and served as the headquarters of Allied Air Forces Southwest Pacific Area. By 1945, three numbered air forces -- 5th, 7th and 13th -- were supporting operations in the Pacific. FEAF was the functional equivalent in the Pacific of the United States Strategic Air Forces (USSTAF) in the European Theater of Operations.

Order of battle, 1945
V Fighter Command Night Fighter Units V Bomber Command Photo Reconnaissance 54th Troop Carrier Wing
3d ACG (P-51, C-47) 418th NFS 3d BG (L) (B-25, A-20) 6th RG (F-5, F-7 2d CCG
8th FG (P-40, P-38) 421st NFS 22d BG (M/H) (B-26 - B-24) 71st RG (B-25) 317th TCG
35th FG (P-47, P-51) 547th NFS 38th BG (M) (B-25) 374th TCG (1943 only)
49th FG (P-40, P-47, P-38) 43d BG (H) (B-24) 375th TCG
58th FG (P-47) 90th BG (H) (B-24) 433d TCG
348th FG (P-47, P-51) 312th BG (L) (A-20)
475th FG(P-38) 345th BG (M) (B-25)
380th BG (H) (B-24)
417th BG (L) (A-20)

LEGEND: ACG - Air Commando Group, FG - Fighter Group, NFS - Night Fighter Squadron, BG (L) - Light Bomb Group, BG (M) - Medium Bomb Group, BG (H) - Heavy Bomb Group, RG - Reconnaissance Group, CCG - Combat Cargo Group, TCG - Troop Carrier Group

When the war ended, Fifth Air Force had an unmatched record of 3,445 aerial victories, led by the nation's two top fighter aces Major Richard Bong and Major Thomas McGuire, with 40 and 38 confirmed victories respectively, and two of Fifth Air Force's ten Medal of Honor recipients.

Shortly after World War II ended in August, Fifth Air Force relocated to Irumagawa Air Base, Japan, about September 25, 1945 as part of the Allied occupation forces. The command remained in Japan until December 1, 1950 performing occupation duties.

Korean War

  for the units, stations and type aircraft flown in combat during the conflict (25 Jun 1950 - 27 Jul 1953)

North American F-86F-25-NH Sabres of the 4th FIW over Korea. Serial 52-5346 identifiable

In 1950, Fifth air force was called upon again, becoming the main United Nations combat air command during the Korean War, and was instrumental in bringing about the cease-fire that formally ended that conflict in 1953.

In the early morning hours of June 25, North Korea launched a sudden, all-out attack against the south. Reacting quickly to the invasion, Fifth Air Force units provided air cover over the skies of Seoul. The command transferred to Seoul on December 1, 1950, remaining in South Korea until September 1, 1954.

In this first Jet War, units assigned to the Fifth Air Force racked up an unprecedented 14.5 to 1 victory ratio. By the time the truce was signed in 1953, Fifth Air Force had flown over 625,000 missions, downing 953 North Korean and Chinese aircraft, while close air support accounted for 47 percent of all enemy troop casualties.

Thirty-eight fighter pilots were identified as aces, including Lieutenant Colonel James Jabara, America's first jet ace; and Captain Joseph McConnell, the leading Korean War ace with 16 confirmed victories. Additionally, four Medals of Honor were awarded to Fifth Air Force members. One other pilot of note was Marine Major John Glenn, who flew for Fifth Air Force as part of an exchange program.

With the end of combat in Korea, Fifth Air Force returned to normal peacetime readiness Japan in 1954.

Cold War

Not only concerned with maintaining a strong tactical posture for the defense of both Japan and South Korea, Fifth Air Force played a critical role in helping the establishment of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force as well as the Republic of Korea Air Force. These and other peacetime efforts lasted a decade before war clouds once again developed in the Pacific.

This time, the area of concern was Southeast Asia, beginning in 1964 with the Gulf of Tonkin Crisis. Fifth air force furnished aircraft, Aircrews, Support personnel, and supplies throughout the eight years of combat operations in South Vietnam and Laos.

Since 1972, the Pacific Region has seen relative calm, but that doesn't mean Fifth Air Force hasn't been active in other roles. The command has played active or supporting roles in a variety of issues ranging from being first on the scene at the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 shoot down in 1983 to deploying personnel and supplies for the Persian Gulf War in 1990.

During this time span, the size of Fifth Air Force changed as well. With the activation of Seventh Air Force in 1986, fifth left the Korean Peninsula and focused its energy on continuing the growing bilateral relationship with Japan.

Post Cold War

The Fifth Air Force's efforts also go beyond combat operations. Fifth Air force has reacted to natural disasters in Japan and abroad. These efforts include the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and Super Typhoon Paka which hit Guam in 1997. Fifth Air Force has reached out to provide assistance to victims of floods, Typhoons, Volcanoes, and Earthquakes throughout the region.

See also


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129..



  • Bartsch, William H. Doomed at the Start: American Pursuit Pilots in the Philippines, 1941-1942. Reveille Books, 1995. ISBN 0-89096-679-6.
  • Birdsall, Steve. Flying Buccaneers: The Illustrated History of Kenney's Fifth Air Force. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1977. ISBN 0-38503-218-8.
  • Craven, Wesley F. and James L. Cate. The Army Air Forces in World War II. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948-58.
  • Holmes, Tony. "Twelve to One": V Fighter Command Aces of the Pacific. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-84176-784-0.
  • Rust, Kenn C. Fifth Air Force World War II. Temple City, California: Historical Aviation Album, 1973. ISBN 0-911852-75-1.

External links


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