The 108th, And How It Got That Way.
I guess a simplified version of the story would go something like this.
Originally, an outfit called the 802nd Aero Repair Squadron was formed down at Kelly Field, Texas back in 1917. Since there was a war on. . . World War 1, if you remember, and there were airplanes needing repair in France, the War Department sent them over to help repair aircraft. Upon return to the US after the war, the unit was assigned to Mitchell Field, New York, designated the 108th Aero Squadron, and immediately de-activated.
In June 1927 the 108th Aero Squadron was re-activated, and designated the 108th Observation Squadron, 33rd Division Aviation. Chicago, Illinois. In July 1927 the unit received federal recognition and became the FIRST Air National Guard Squadron in Illinois. During the ensueing years, membership in the 108th Observation Squadron was a coveted assignment. Applicants were said to have been on waiting lists for as much as 4 years prior to being called.
During the next 10 years, the 108th performed outstanding civic service to the State of Illinois, dropping medicine and relief supplies to many of the towns in central and southern Illinois that were isolated by floodwaters, tornados , and fires. Captain Wilson V. Newhall, later to become the first Chief of Staff of the Illinois Air National Guard was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal during flood duty, in 1937, as a member of the 108th Observation Squadron.
In February 1941, 10 months before Pearl Harbor was attacked, the 108th Observation Squadron was called to federal active duty and assigned to the Panama Canal Zone where they were charged with maintaining anti-submarine patrols and convoy reconnaissance as well as air search and rescue support. After 1943, the unit was de-activated and personnal were re-assigned to various units around the European and Pacific Theaters of Operations. After the war, the Air National Guard was expanded and staffed with many returning service men from the Chicago area. The unit designation became the 56th Fighter Wing,,,,and then the 66th Fighter Wing, and upon receiving the Douglas B-26 Invader aircraft, reclaimed the designation of the 108th ….but this time, the 108th Bomb Squadron. It didn’t take long for the federal government to call us back to active duty…April 1st 1951 the 108th Bomb Squadron joined by their sister squadrons, the 168th and the 180th formed the 126th Bomb Wing (L) and became the first NATO air combat organization assigned to France since the end of World War 2.