DURING THE KOREAN WAR, from June 1950 to July 1953, Grenier Air Force Base in Manchester was a busy place. It continued to be home to the New Hampshire Air National Guard and its 133rd Fighter Squadron.
This came under federal control in February 1951 and was renamed the 133rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron. That year Grenier served as the temporary home for the 101st Fighter Interceptor Wing, a federalized National Guard unit from Dow Air Force Base (AFB) in Bangor, Maine.
In early 1952 the 435th Troop Carrier Wing from Miami, a reserve unit of the U.S. Air Force, operated out of Grenier for two months while it participated in Operation Snowfall, a large-scale joint Air Force-Army training exercise.
Grenier was an important staging site for training exercises for federalized National Guard units from the region, and the 133rd provided pilot and crew training for Air Force recruits. After the 133rd was returned to state control on Nov. 1, 1952, the 48th Fighter Interceptor Squadron from Dow AFB, that had recently emerged from inactive status, was transferred to Grenier. The pilots of both the 133rd and the 48th flew F-47 Thunderbolt fighter planes. In early 1953 the 48th was again transferred, this time to Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va.
During the war Grenier served as an administration and training facility for new federalized Air National Guard Aircraft Control and Warning squadrons. This program was part of the country’s overall military defensive strategy to counter Soviet aggression during the Cold War. In 1952 and 1953 at least 11 of these specialized radar and communications squadrons were activated at Grenier. With the exception of one squadron that was sent to Willow Run Air Force Station near Ypsilanti, MI, the remaining units were deployed to the Canadian provinces.
One example was the 916th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, which was activated at Grenier on Feb. 12, 1952. A general surveillance radar unit, the 916th was assigned to Beauséjour Station in Manitoba, Canada on Dec. 1, 1952.
The purpose of this American air base was to search for intruder aircraft from the Soviet Union, and if a threat was perceived, fighter planes stationed in Duluth, Minnesota would be sent out to respond. This air station would come under Canadian control in 1961, and would later become part of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), a joint American-Canadian operation. The Beauséjour station would close in 1986.
Beginning in April 1953 Grenier became part of the U.S. military’s air transport infrastructure. On April 1953 the 44th Air Transport Squadron was activated at the airbase. This unit started with only two officers and two airmen on staff. The squadron gradually took shape and its first Douglas C-54 Skymaster landed at Grenier on July 1, 1953. The 44th began flying strategic airlift missions soon after that date, and it would be fully operational by March 1954.
The Korean War ended with the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953. That month the Air Defense Command, which had been overseeing base operations, transferred control of Grenier to the Military Air Transport Service (MATS). The 44th became part of MATS at Grenier, and it was assigned to the new 1610th Air Transport Group, which was activated at the base on the same day that the squadron’s first plane arrived. The 1610th was a component of the Northeast Air Command. The unit’s mission was to support U.S. military operations in the Arctic Region.
Another unit that became part of the 1610th was the 83rd Air Transport Squadron which had been activated at Dow AFB in September 1952.
The 83rd and its eight C-54s moved to Grenier on May 29, 1953. It flew its first airlift mission from the Manchester airfield only three days later.
It may have appeared from its successful beginning that the 1610th was destined to enjoy a bright future at Grenier Air Force Base, but this was not to be. The unit was deactivated in August 1955, in part because the C-54 Skymaster, a World War II-era four-engine aircraft, was being phased out of the military. It continued to be used for civilian purposes and some Skymasters that had been converted into fire-fighting tankers were still flying well into the 1990s.
Next week: Grenier Air Force Base in the late 1950s.