Fox Able I
July 20th is most remembered for an event that took place a quarter million miles from here.
There were 16 other important landings, on this date in 1949.
The Soviets were testing Western resolve with the Berlin Blockade. The Berlin Airlift, to relieve the city had just started.
The postwar reduction in force in Europe left little in the way of NATO airpower to confront any danger. Shipping more fighters from the U.S. meant loading them on slow ships for the trip across the Atlantic.
David C. Schilling had a better idea, that he had been promoting for some time. Events gave him a chance to use it, with the full blessing of Air Force Headquarters.
Schilling had risen to the rank of Colonel, in the elite 56th Fighter Group during WW-II. This was the first unit to fly the P-47 Thunderbolt from England. They shot down more Luftwaffe planes than any other group. Shilling himself, had over 20 Kills, five of them on a single mission.
After other duties, he was again in command of the 56th, at Selfridge AFB, Michigan.
He led 16 Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars to Germany, by air, saving the boat ride, and weeks of precious time. The operation was named “Fox Able I”. The phoenetic letters stood for ‘Fighter, Atlantic, first flight.
They flew the Pond in stages, as the F-80 had only a 900 mile range. Selfridge to Dow AFB, Maine. Then via Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, England, and finally landing inGermany.
Fox Able I proved to the world, that Europe could be reenforced quickly, …a point certainly not lost on the Soviets!
It was the first combat-ready, squadron strength, deployment of jet fighters across the Atlantic, however, they were not the first jet fighters flown across. Six RAF Vampires flew the other way two weeks earlier, to provide demonstrations at airshows in Canada and the U.S.
Schilling led other long-distance fighter flights, including the first nonstop England to U.S. flight, (with three aerial refuelings,) and the first Wing sized deployment of jets from the U.S. To Japan.