123d Airlift Wing

In This Section


  • Mustang P-51 (1946 - 1952)
  • Thunderjet F-84 (1952 - 1956)
  • Sabre F-86 (1956 - 1958)
  • Canberra RB-57 (1958 - 1965)
  • Voodoo RF-101 (1965 - 1976)
  • Phantom RF-4C (1976 - 1989)
  • Hercules C-130 (1989 - Present)

Learn more about the aircrafts used by the Kentucky Air National Guard

123d Airlift Wing

Airlift became the primary mission of the Kentucky Air National Guard in 1989 when C-130B Hercules transports were assigned to replace the RF-4C. With the Hercules, a large four engine turbo-prop aircraft, a complete retraining of ground and flight crews was needed. Redesignated the 123rd Tactical Airlift Wing/ 165th Tactical Airlift Squadron (TAS), its composition was now the 135th TAS (Maryland ANG), 156th TAS (North Caroline ANG), and 164th TAS (Ohio ANG). Although not federally mobilized during "Operation Desert Shield" and "Desert Storm," the Kentucky ANG using volunteers airlifted more cargo in support of the effort than any other ANG unit. On February 6, 1992, a C-130B on a training flight practicing takeoffs and landings at the Evansville, Indiana Airport crashed into a nearby hotel. Fatalities included the five crewmembers aboard the aircraft and eleven on the ground.

Deliveries of twelve new C-130H Hercules commenced during May 1992. Included in the dozen was the 2000th C-130 built by the manufacturer, Lockheed Aircraft Company. Into the 1990s, the Kentucky ANG has participated in numerous humanitarian airlift missions worldwide. Among these were relief flights in 1993 into Somalia for "Operation Restore Hope" and "Provide Relief." The same year it was deliveries of food and supplies to Bosnia-Herzegovina to support "Operation Provide Promise." During "Operation Support Hope," relief missions were flown into Rwanda and Zaire in 1994. Personnel assisted in security and cleanup efforts after the 1996 Bullitt County tornado and 1997 Kentucky floods.

As a result of Air Force restructuring in 1992, the Kentucky ANG received its current designation, the 123rd Airlift Wing/ 165th Airlift Squadron. No longer are any out of state units attached to the 123rd. Wing commanders from the 1970s into the late 1990s have been Maj. Gen. Carl Black, Brig. Gen. John L. Smith, Col. Joseph L. Kottak, Col. John V. Greene, Maj. Gen. Stewart R. Byrne, and Col. Michael L. Harden. During 1995, as a result of the expansion of Louisville International Airport, the base was moved to a new 81.5-acre facility on the northeast side of the airport.

In 1997 the Kentucky ANG celebrated its 50th anniversary. Over this period of time, it has been recognized with many prestigious awards including three Spaatz Trophies, the Metcalf Trophy, ANG Distinguished Unit Plaque, Air Force Safety Plaque, and nine Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards. The 1203 member unit contributes annually a total economic impact on the community exceeding $55 million

359th Fighter Group

Constituted as 359th Fighter Group on 20 Dec 1942. Activated on 15 Jan 1943. Apparently not manned until Mar 1943. Moved to England in Oct 1943 and became part of Eighth AF. Entered combat in mid-Dec, after some of the pilots had already flown combat missions with another fighter group. Began operations with P-47's; converted to P-51's in Apr 1944. In combat, Dec 1943-May 1945, flew escort, patrol, strafing, dive-bombing, and weather-reconnaissance missions. At first, engaged primarily in escort activities to cover bombers that attacked airfields in France. Expanded area of operations in May 1944 to provide escort for bombers that struck rail centers in Germany and oil targets in Poland. Supported the invasion of Normandy (Jun 1944), patrolling the English Channel, escorting bombardment formations to the French coast, and dive-bombing and strafing bridges, locomotives, and rail lines near the battle area. During the period July 1944-Feb 1945, engaged chiefly in escorting bombers to oil refineries, marshalling yards, and other targets in such cities as Ludwigshafen, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Berlin, Merseburg, and Brux. Received a DUC for operations over Germany on 11 Sep 1944 when the group protected a formation of heavy bombers against large numbers of enemy fighters. In addition to its escort duties, the group supported campaigns in France during Jul and Aug 1944, bombed enemy positions to support the airborne invasion of Holland in Sep, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge (Dec 1944-Jan 1945). Flew missions to support the assault across the Rhine in Mar 1945, and escorted medium bombers that attacked various communications targets, Feb-Apr 1945. Returned to the US in Nov 1945. Inactivated on 10 Nov 1945.

Distinctive Unit Insignia

123d Fighter Group

Redesignated 123d Fighter Group. Allotted to ANG (Ky) on 24 May 1946.

Extended federal recognition on 20 Sep 1947.

Ordered into active service on 10 Oct 1950. Redesignated 123d Fighter-Bomber Group. Assigned to Tactical Air Command. Trained with F-51's until late in 1951.

Converted to F-84's in Nov and moved to England to become part of United States Air Forces in Europe. Transferred to the US without personnel and equipment, relieved from active duty, returned to control of ANG (Ky), and redesignated 123d Fighter-Interceptor Group, on 10 Jul 1952. Redesignated 123d Fighter-Bomber Group in Jan 1953.


156th: 1950-1952.
368th (later 165th): 1943-1945; 1950-1952.
369th (later 167th): 1943-1945; 1950-1952.
370th: 1943-1945.


Westover Field, Mass, 15 Jan 1943;
Grenier Field, NH, 7 Apr 1943;
Republic Field, NY, 11 Jul 1943;
Westover Field, Mass, 23 Aug-2 Oct 1943;
East Wretham, England, Oct 1943-Nov 1945;
Camp Kilmer, NJ, 9-10 Nov 1945.
Standiford Mun Aprt, Ky, 10 Oct 1950;
Godman AFB, Ky, c. 20 Oct 1950-15 Nov 1951;
Manston RAF Station, England, 10 Dec 1951-10 Jul 1952.


Col Avelin P Tacon Jr, Jan 1943;
Col John P Randolph, 12 Nov 1944;
Lt Col Donald A Baccus, 8 Apr 1945;
Lt Col Daniel D McKee, c. 16 Sep 1945-unkn.
Col Philip P Ardery, 10 Oct 1950;
Lt Col William J Payne, 26 Oct 1950;
Lt Col Chesley G Peterson, 20 Apr 1951;
Lt Col Delynn E Anderson, 4 Aug 1951-Jul 1952.


Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe.


Distinguished Unit Citation: Germany, 11 Sep 1944. (The Distinguished Unit Award later became the Presidential Unit Citation.)

Mustangs to Phantoms (1947-1977)

The story of the first 30 years of the Kentucky Air National Guard.

We've broken this book into three parts to make to easier to view on your device. Below is a table of content.

  • Mustangs to Phantoms - Part 1
    • Dedication
    • Foreword
    • In Memoriam
    • Organization
    • Commanders
    • Field Training Locations
    • Early History
  • Mustangs to Phantoms - Part 2
    • The Mustang Years: 1947-56 (continued)
    • The Sabre Jet Years: 1956-57
    • The Canberra Years: 1958-65
  • Mustangs to Phantoms - Part 3
    • The Voodoo Years: 1965-76 (continued)
    • The Phantom Years: 1976-77
    • 1977: The 30th Anniversary Reunion
    • Present and Former Members
    • Chronology of the KyANG: 1942-77
    • Index to Advertisers & Patrons

A Brief History

Based on information provided by Charles W. Arrington and Mustangs to Phantoms 1947-1977 - The Story of the first 30 years of the KY Air National Guard. With updates and additions by Jason M. LeMay and John M. Trowbridge April 2007

A Brief History of the Kentucky Air National Guard

About the Author - Charles W. Arrington

Charles W. Arrington
Charles W. Arrington

Charles W. Arrington is a retired middle school social studies teacher and is very interested in the aviation history of Kentucky, especially that of the Louisville area. He has published several articles on the Kentucky Air National Guard and Louisville`s Bowman Field airport.

He holds membership in the American Aviation Historical Society, the F-4 Phantom Society, the Air Force Association, and the Aviation Museum of Kentucky.

His goal is to continue to do research on the history of Kentucky aviation and collect information about the personalities, airports, and aircraft, both military and civilian, associated with the state.


Historical Newsletters

View Historical Newsletters from the Air National Guard

123d Airlift Wing