Geiger Field was born on March 11, 1941, when the Department of Defense purchased Sunset Field, southwest of Spokane, WA. The 17th Bombardment Wing, 2nd Bomber Command planned to facilitate training on WWII B-17 and C-47 crews. The name was changed to Geiger
Field in honor of Major George Geiger, an Army aviation pioneer.
The winters at Geiger, as many of you will attest, were not conducive to training. The first squadron was redeployed to Texas. Many B-17
Bomb Groups and squadrons transferred in and out of Geiger during WWII.
On August 3, 1942, the 922nd Engineer Aviation Regiment was activated at Geiger Field.
In 1944, Geiger Field was completely devoted to training U.S. Army Air Force aviation engineers. Very few transient aircraft flew into Geiger at
that time. The aviation engineers were responsible for building air strips, roads, dams and bridges in war zones all over the world.
The 445th FIS was born on the 20th of March in 1953 at Geiger Field. In July, the first F-86D aircraft were assigned. The pilots and airmen were relatively inexperienced and the maintenance crew small. Within eighteen months, this group became the finest combat unit in the Western Air Defense Force.
The highpoint in July 1954 was "Operation Checkpoint," a joint SAC-ADC exercise that extended for 3 days. With sunny days and early takeoffs, the pilotís proficiency increased rapidly and aircraft maintenance became the best in ADC.
In September of 1954, the 445th FIS was named tops in Western Air Defense, and led in hours flows, 810:30 per U.E., aircraft, scramble to airborne and turn around time.
On 20 November, rocketry training began at Yuma County Airport. When the smoke had cleared, every important Air Defense Command record in FHRT Air Rocketry had been broken.
In March of 1955, the 445th FIS became the first squadron in the 9th Air Division and the second in the Air Defense Command to fly over a
thousand hours (1007:45). Outstanding maintenance was a key factor.
In July, the W.A.D.F. Shoot Off was staged at Yuma County Airport. The 445th FIS, once again, took, the 9th Air Division Rocketry trophy.
On July 2, Geiger Field Base Commander, Col. Willcox, presented the 445th FIS with its first Flying Safety plaque. 2,750 hours flown without an accident.
On 17 July 55, Lt. Colonel Squire T. OíConnor was reassigned to Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
The new squadron commander was Lt. Colonel Warren A. Bennett from the 518th FIS, George AFB, CA. He had been assigned as Executive Officer at George.
On February 18, 1953, the 497th FBS was reactivated as a fighter interceptor squadron assigned to the 503rd Air Defense Group based at
Portland International Airport in Oregon. The 497th FIX initially flew F-94A Starfires until the spring of 1954, when the F-94Aís were replaced with the F-89D.
In August, "Project Arrow" replaced the 445th FIS with the 497th FIS that was moved up from Portland. The 445th FIS was transferred, on paper only, to Oscoda, MI in CADF. The 498th FIS sister squadron, was also activated at Geiger Field in August of 1955. One of the 497th FIS key assignments was to protect the 498th!!
The first accident free year was achieved on October 9, 1955, earning a second Flying Safety award. At years end, the Western Air Defense Force honored the 497th FIS with its Ground Safety award for the period.
In February 1956, the squadron made its second deployment to the Yuma desert. The result surpassed the í54 competition. The Air Force record of 225 hits was equaled and all other existing rocketry records were broken.
The 3rd consecutive Flying Safety award was achieved on the 9th of April with 14,005 hours. The flying safety record continued 23 months for a total of 17,217 hours. A minor accident in September, caused by material failure, ended the streak. This achievement was the result of the outstanding teamwork of the men of the 497th FIS.
The squadron was not only very proficient at combat readiness, it also excelled at intramural sports. In 1955 and 1956, the 497th FIS made a clean sweep with championships in softball, basketball, golf, volleyball, and football.
Torrejon AFB, Spain, opened on June 1957. The 497th FIS was chosen to deploy to Torrejon based on outstanding achievements in maintenance (combat readiness), rocketry proficiency, and flight safety.
Torrejon Air Base History
During the Cold War, the facility was known as Torrejon Air Base and was the headquarters of the United States Air Forces in Europe Sixteenth
Air Force, as well as the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing.
Aircraft based at Torrejon were rotated to other USAFE airbases at Aviano AB, Italy, and at Incirlik AB, Turkey. Torrejon was, in addition, a staging, reinforcement, and logistical airlift base. The USAF withdrew its forces on 21 May 1992.
Torrejon Air Base was originally the home of the Spanish National Institute of Aeronautics. However, following the U.S.-Spanish Defense Agreement of 26 September 1953, construction began at Torrejon on a new 13,400-ft. concrete runway to replace the existing 4,266-ft. grass
airstrip and on a massive concrete apron and other necessary maintenance and shelter facilities to accommodate the largest United States Air Force Strategic Air Command bombers, supporting SAC Reflex missions.
Torrejon was one of three major USAF Cold War airbases in Spain, the others being Zaragoza Air Base near Zaragoza and Moron Air Base near Seville.
Strategic Air Command
USAF support activities began under the 7600th Air Base Group located in Madrid in July 1956, to support construction and base organizational functions. Torrejon Air Base opened officially on 1 June 1957 with the SAC activating the 3970th Strategic Wing on 1 July 1957.
Torrejon Air Base was a major SAC command base, hosting Sixteenth Air Force as well as SACs 65th Air Division (Defense) where it cooperated with Spanish Air Force units in the Air Defense Direction Centers (ADDCs). The 65th Air Division directed base construction, and the establishment of off-base housing and radar sites. The divisionís fighter squadrons flew air defense interceptions over Spanish airspace. The division also controlled the operations of numerous attached tactical fighter squadrons that were deployed to Spain for temporary duty.
Assigned or attached units of the division participated in numerous exercises with the Spanish Air Defense Command, and in some instances,
with the U.S. Sixth Fleet.
In addition to the command and control mission, Torrejon Air Base hosted SAC reflex operations. Reflex operations consisted of rotating Boeing B-47 Stratojet wings overseas for extended duty as part of a dispersal program. Another reason for establishing Reflex bases was the relatively short range of the B-47, unlike the intercontinental range of the Convair B-36 "Peacemaker" and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress which could remain based permanently in the United States. Also, in this way SAC could spread out its potential as a Soviet target by placing its aircraft, weapons,
and personnel on many more bases, with each bombardment wing having two additional installations to which it could disperse.
Reflex bases located from Greenland to North Africa projected American nuclear might to within striking distance of the Soviet Union heartland.(1)
On 5 July 1958, the 497th FIS arrived at the new Torrejon AFB, Spain. Many of the facilities were still under construction. The new barracks were outstanding, the hanger, under construction. The 497th FIS F-86Ds were transported to Spain by ship from Mobile, Alabama.
In time, all the F-86Ds arrived from the States. Construction was completed and gear put away.
The new base for Rocketry Training was Sidi Slimane, Morocco. The competition between squadrons had ceased because now the 497th FIS
was under SAC. SAC may have been the only down side to being at Torrejon.
Spain proved to be some of the best duty in the Air Force.
There were sad times at Geiger Field and Torrejon. Aviation can be a dangerous occupation. Several airmen and aviators were lost while
assigned to the 497th FIS. Frederick Davis, III was lost in a T-33 accident, Richard Dill in an auto accident in Spain, and Jim Seigers in an F-86D crash by Torrejon. An airman was killed on the ramp at Torrejon. Sorry, we donít have all the names. (2)
On 26 April 1960, the 497th FIS transitioned to the F-102A Delta Dagger and operated under SAC control until its transfer to the USAFE 86th Air Division (Defense) at Ramstein Air Base West Germany on 1 July 1960. This transfer was made in order that all USAF fighter assets in Europe could be concentrated in one command. It operated F-102s until 3 June 1964, when the squadron was reassigned to the 8th TFW at George AFB, California as an F-4C Tactical Fighter Squadron. Its F-102A aircraft were transferred to other USAFE FIS squadrons. (3)
The 497th FIS survivors are in the autumn of their years. Many members have passed on. The squadron has afforded many wonderful memories and more than a small measure of sorrow. When all is said and done, as we approach the end of our days, we have our memories. (2)
(1) Wikipedia (Madrid/Torrejon Airport)
(2) Dave Paup
(3) Wikipedia (Madrid/Torrejon Airport
497th Fighter Interceptor Squadron Lineage
The 497th began similarly to the 496th, as the 302nd Bombardment Squadron (Light) on 10 February 1942, as part of the 8th Bombardment
Group. Based at Savannah AB, Georgia, the unit flew the Vultee V-72 Vengeance and A-24 until August 1943, when it was redesignated the
497th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. Starting out with the P-39, the 497th FBS soon transitioned into the P-47. On 4 October 1943, the unit moved
to Harding Field, Louisiana, where it remained until 1 April 1944, when the 497th FBS was inactivated.
On 18 February 1953, the 497th FBS was reactivated as a Fighter Interceptor Squadron assigned to the 503rd Air Defense Group. Based at Portland International Airport in Oregon, the unit initially flew the F-94A. The Starfire remained with the 497th FIS until the spring of 1954, when
the unit traded them in for the F-89D. Project Arrow moved the 497th FIS on 18 August 1955, a few hundred miles away, taking over the 445th
FIS F-86Ds at Geiger Field in Washington. Assigned to the 8th Fighter Group, the 497th FIS remained at Geiger Field until 20 June 1958, whe
n it was transferred to SAC.
The 497th FIS was assigned to the 16th Air Force in Europe and was based at Torrejon AB in Spain. The unit continued to fly the F-86D while in Spain, operating the type until the arrival of the F-102A on 26 April 1960. The F-102A remained with the 497th FIS until they were traded for the
F-4C in 1964. Concurrently, the 497th FIS moved to George AFB in California as a Tactical Fighter Squadron.
In December of 1965, the 497th TFS moved to Ubon, Thailand as part of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing. Still flying the F-4, the 497th TFS flew
combat missions over Vietnam for the next eight years. While there, the unit developed night mission tactics during "Night Owl" FAC and interdiction missions. In 1974, the 497th TFS was deactivated when the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing moved to Kunsan AB in Korea. The unit was reactivated in 1978 at Taegu AB in Korea, where it remained until deactivation in 1988.
The designation returned to Air Force ranks on 31 October 1991 as the 497th Fighter Training Squadron based at Paya Lebar Air Base in Singapore. The unit was redesignated the 497th CTS Combat Training Squadron in August of 1994, and continues to operate out of Singapore today, holding the Singapore Sling combat training program on a regular basis.