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The West Virginia Air National Guard was founded after World War II. Lt. Col. James K. McLaughlin organized the 167th Fighter Squadron in Charleston, and it was recognized by federal authorities on March 7, 1947. The 167th’s first P-47D Thunderbolt fighter planes were delivered from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Thunderbolts were soon replaced with the famous P-51D Mustangs.

The squadron was called to active duty during the Korean War in 1950 and moved to Godman Air Force Base in Kentucky as part of the 123rd Fighter Group. Twelve 167th pilots served in Korea and two died there, Roma Fogelsong and Lee Harper. Maj. Woodford Sutherland was killed after a training flight in Florida when his parked P-51 was hit by another Mustang in 1951. Tragedy struck again on April 8, 1951, when a C-47 transport filled with 167th personnel going to attend Sutherland’s funeral crashed near Kanawha (now Yeager) Airport, killing 21.

The 167th was reorganized during 1953 and moved to Martinsburg in late 1955, where it later received jet fighters, F-86H Sabres. Prior to this move the 130th Troop Carrier Squadron was formed from a cadre of 167th men who would remain in Charleston. Early in its history the 130th furnished SA-16 amphibious planes and crews assigned to help invade Cuba had the 1961 Bay of Pigs landing succeeded. The 130th operated the C-119 transports from 1963 until 1975, when they received C-130Es.

The 167th in Martinsburg lost its fighter jets on April 1, 1961, and began operating C-119s as an Aeromedical Transport Squadron. C-121G Super Constellations replaced the 119s in July of 1963, and the unit flew supply missions to Vietnam using C-121Cs. Almost phased out in 1967 and 1971, the 167th was rescued by Sen. Robert C. Byrd and given C130As. During the Gulf War the 167th Tactical Airlift Group was in charge of ‘‘Operation Volant Pine’’ in Europe, the command unit of the five Air National Guard units. Simultaneously, the 130th flew combat support missions in the Middle East.

The 130th now operates eight C-130H turboprop transports from its base at Yeager Airport in Charleston. In 2006, the 167th traded its Martinsburg C-130s for ten C-5 Galaxy aircraft. In order to accommodate the huge jet transport planes, more than $220 million in improvements were made to the Martinsburg airfield. In 2014, the Martinsburg base began replacing the aging C-5s with newer C-17 Globemaster jet transports. The Globemasters require less maintenance than the planes they replaced, with a corresponding reduction in base personnel at Martinsburg.

On January 8, 2014, the Charleston Air National Guard base was renamed McLaughlin Air National Guard Base.

This Article was written by Jack H. Smith

Last Revised on August 29, 2017

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Sources

Smith, Jack H. The Coonskin Boys. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1987.

Smith, Jack H. Mountaineer Sabres. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1988.

Smith, Jack H. Mustangs and Unicorns. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1997.

Smith, Jack H. West Virginia Air Power. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1992.

Cite This Article

Smith, Jack H. "Air National Guard." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 29 August 2017. Web. 12 December 2018.

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