Squadron History

This material comes from past issues of the
A-1 Skyraider Association Newsletter

1st SOS (formerly 1st ACS)

The 1st Air Commando Squadron, Composite, was activated on 17 June 1963. It was redesignated the 1st Air Commando Squadron, Fighter, on 15 August 1967 and became the 1st Special Operations Squadron on 1 August 1968.

Parent Units

During its SEA experience, the squadron was assigned to the following parent units: 34th Tactical Group, 8 July 1963; 6251st Tactical Fighter Wing, 8 July 1965; and later attached to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing, 21 November 1965. While with the 3rd Fighter Wing, the squadron was part of the 2nd Air Division and remained attached to the 3rd TFW until 8 March 1966. They moved on to the 14th Air Commando Wing on 8 March 1966. The unit still had one more move and that was on 20 December 1967 when it became part of the 56th ACW (later 56th SOW). The 1st SOS left the 56th SOW on 15 December 1972.


The 1st ACS/SOS was stationed at the following bases: Bien Hoa, Vietnam, 8 July 1963; Pleiku, 5 January 1966. Approximately one-half of the squadron was deployed to Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, Thailand for a period 25 October - 15 December 1967. The rest of the squadron was brought together at NKP on 20 December 1967 and remained there until 15 December 1972.


The 1st ACS/SOS operated a variety of aircraft during the SEA years. They started with the A-26, and at various times operated T-28's, U-10's, C-47's and RD-26's. The Skyraider arrived in May 1964 and became the major weapons system. While at Bien Hoa, operations included bombardment, fighter missions, psychological warfare missions, airlift, photo recce, and training of VNAF pilots. During assignment with the 56th at NKP, December 1967-November 1972, the squadron flew air cover, close support, direct air strike, armed recce, and the famous SAR missions. In October and November 1972 A-1's were transferred to the VNAF. The 1st SOS flew their last A-1 missions on 7 November 1972. The 1st SOS and NKP parted company on 15 December 1972 when they moved without personnel or equipment to Kadena AB. The 1st SOS later flew the C-130 MC-130 on operational unconventional warfare missions.


1st ACS, Composite 17 June 1963-14 August 1967 commanders were: Col George K. Finan, 8 July 1963; LtC Jack A. Robinson, 26 August 1963; LtC Charles J. Chenault, 11 April 1964; LtC John M. Porter, 18 May 1964; LtC William R. Eichelberger, (by) December 1964; LtC John J. Knight, 10 May 1965; LtC Eugene P. Deatrick, Jr., 17 March 1966; LtC Joseph L. Hart, 22 January 1967; LtC Robert A. Madden, 25 February 1967; LtC James R. Hildreth, 17 April 1967.

1st ACS/SOS 20 December 1967-15 December 1972 commanders were: LtC John A. Saffell Jr., 20 December 1967; LtC William B. Canning, (by) June 1968; LtC John M. Vargo, (by) March 1969; LtC Wallace E. Lowman, 11 December 1969; Robert S. Johnson, (by) June 1970; LtC William J. Hagan, 15 December 1970; LtC Francis J. Kaiser, 17 July 1971; LtC Martin W. Barbena, 28 July 1971; LtC James C. Harding, June 1972; LtC William H. Latham, 23 October 1972.

Unit Decorations

Unit decorations are as follows: The 1st received the Distinguished/Presidential Unit Citation (AF) as follows: (SE ASIA) 1 August 1964-15 April 1965; (SEA) 8 March 1966-7 March 1967; (SEA) 1 November 1968-1 May 1969; (SEA) 1 October 1969-30 April 1970; (SEA) 1 April 1972-15 December 1972. AF Outstanding Unit Awards with Combat 'V' Device: 1 December 1970-30 November 1971; 1 December-29 February 1972. AF Outstanding Unit Award: 1 May 1963-31 July 1964. Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm; 1 August 1968-15 December 1972.