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LakenHeath AFB Factsheets

1952 - 1960

Because of the mounting concern of communist aggression in Korea and Europe in the early 1950s, the United States rapidly expanded its air forces, increasing the number of combat wings from 48 in 1950 to 95 in June 1952. Thus the 48th Fighter-Bomber Wing was born July 10, 1952, as part of that new concept.

Construction at Chaumont began in late 1951 and by the time the 48th Fighter-Bomber Wing arrived in May 1952, all that existed was two prefabricated aircraft maintenance hangars, tarpaper shacks for office space, and a concrete runway.

Assigned to 12th and later 17th Air Force, the 48th FBW contained four groups: 48th Fighter-Bomber Group, 48th Maintenance and Supply Group, 48th Air Base Group and 48th Medical Group. The 492nd, 493rd and 494th Fighter Squadrons were again activated and assigned to its original combat group. Wing flying assets included 58 F-84Gs, six T-33s, two C-47s, one T-6 and one L-5B. The F-84Gs and T-33s belonged to the combat group while the other aircraft met maintenance and supply needs.

New name, new aircraft
In 1954, the wing exchanged its F-84Cs for newer F-86F "Sabers." The 48th also received its name, the Liberty Wing, July 4, 1954. It was bestowed upon the wing by the French people because of the area’s long association with Americans. The mayor and citizens of Chaumont were so fond of the wing that they gave the wing the unofficial name of the Statue de la Liberte wing because Bartholdi, original designer of the statue in New York Harbor, had his workshops only a few miles from the air base. In the spring of 1956 a bronze three-meter statue was created from the original Statue of Liberty molds.

On the operations side, crews diligently trained for their NATO strike missions, often deploying to Morocco for bombing and gunnery training. But transition was not far off for the 48th.

The wing received word in late 1955 that the Air Force would exchange the 48th’s Sabers for a newer aircraft: the F-100D "Super Saber." The larger-bodied F-100 was capable of carrying more ordnance than the F-86 and was one of the first fighters designed to operate at supersonic speeds.

Reorganization, then re-designation
The wing began realigning its units March 15, 1957, as part of an Air Force worldwide reorganization. Combat groups were inactivated, assigning the unit’s fighter mission to the wing. The same process was applied to the 48th Maintenance and Supply group. Its supply and transportation elements were attached to the 48th Air Base Group while the newly activated 48th Field Maintenance Squadron assumed maintenance responsibilities.

As part of yet another organization change, the 48th dropped the "Fighter Bomber" designation July 8,1958, becoming the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing - a designation that would last more than 30 years. The three flying units also changed designation, becoming tactical fighter squadrons.

A change in residence, however, loomed on the horizon for the 48th. Disagreements arose concerning atomic storage and custody issues within NATO, resulting in a decision to remove Air Force atomic-capable units from French soil.

Simultaneously, the advent of the inter-continental ballistic missile had reduced the United States’ dependence on European-based airborne medium-and long ranged bombers.

One of the bases vacated by rotating Strategic Air Command units was a former World War II airfield, nestled away in the East Anglian countryside called Royal Air Force Lakenheath. In the early morning hours of Jan. 15,1960, the wing’s three fighter squadrons lifted off Chaumont’s runway and, after making farewell passes over the outlying village, headed toward the English Channel.