547th Night Fighter Squadron honored with WWII plaque dedication

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. AJ Hyatt
  • 363d Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing
The California Aeronautical University and Olive Drab Drivers hosted a World War II Plaque Dedication Ceremony to honor the 547th Night Fighter Squadron (NFS), Sept. 18, 2023 at Meadows Field Airport in Bakersfield, Calif. The 547 NFS flew the P-61 Black Widow in the Pacific theater during World War II. They were the last US Army Air Force NFS to train for that mission at Meadows Field Airport, (previously Kern County Airport).
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeremy Hirsch, 547th Intelligence Squadron commander from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., was the keynote speaker for the event.
“As one of the newest members in a long line of Black Widows, it is truly humbling to be here for this dedication ceremony honoring the Night Fighters and their contributions to the Allied effort during WWII,” said Hirsch.
This plaque joins another WWII memorial plaque – the plaque for the 427th Night Fighter Squadron that was dedicated back in 1993, according to Ron Brewster, Kern County Director of Airports.
“Taking lessons learned from the British Royal Air Forces, U.S. industry developed the P-61 Black Widow with a radar sensor to track enemy aircraft and to conduct ground interdiction missions at night - and with enough power to intercept adversary aircraft to prevent them from threatening U.S. bases and U.S. forces,” Hirsch said. “U.S. Army Air Forces set up a training apparatus to teach our pilots night-fighter tactics. Much of that training occurred right where we are standing today and we appreciate the opportunity to be here for it.”
According to Mr. Michael Limmer, 363d ISR Wing Historian, the 547 NFS activated at Hammer Field, near Fresno, Calif. on March 1, 1944. A few months later, the 547 NFS moved south to Visalia Army Air Field, Calif., where its Airmen completed training before deploying to the Pacific. From Oct. 15, 1944 to August 3, 1945, the 547th flew cover for naval convoys, escorted PT boats, and conducted long-range intruder missions in the Southwest Pacific and Western Pacific, primarily at night.
“From Jan. 29-30, 1945, Airmen from the 547 NFS flew five sorties covering the Ranger Raid on and liberation of the Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines, which freed 511 POWs,” said Limmer.
Today, the 547 IS Black Widows provide foundational and emerging intelligence on threats to aerospace operations to educate the Joint Force and drive tactical-level readiness for combat with peer adversaries through analysis and application in live, virtual, and constructive training environment.
Additionally, the squadron hosts and maintains the Air Force’s unique Threat Training Facility.
“This is a yard on Nellis Air Force Base, which displays adversary weapons systems captured on various battlefields over the years, including enemy fighter aircraft, radars, surface-to-air missile systems, tanks and more,” said Hirsch. “Offering physical access to this equipment provides a unique training experience for Airmen to see and touch the systems we study, to ultimately better understand how to defeat them.”
The Secretary of the Air Force has identified China as the pacing threat.
“China is competing with the United States for influence in the Indo Pacific and globally, and is building capabilities, which they hope will give them a military advantage in the event of a war,” Hirsch added. “The Airmen of the 547th Intelligence Squadron, the Black Widows, will continue to tirelessly analyze and assess these threat capabilities to ensure that if our aircrew ever have to face those threats on the battlefield, they will be ready.”
The current state of the Black Widows is strong.
“While much of our heritage is derived from the Night Fighters, I wanted to share with you something we have also adopted along the way,” said Hirsch. “Our squadron patch reflects a scenario of three aircraft employing weapons on smoke created by ground forces to target the adversary, a nod to the phrase ‘HIT MY SMOKE,’ which was coined by Forward Air Controllers out of the Vietnam conflict, and later adopted as the 547th Intelligence Squadron’s motto.”
However, every Friday, the squadron wears the highly recognizable 547th Night Fighter Black Widow patch on their right shoulder.
“We are proud to carry on this legacy as we honor our heritage, and we offer our sincerest appreciation for being a part of today’s ceremony,” said Hirsch.