Watch over the Rhine, F-104 edition

Watch over the Rhine by artist Ken Riley, 2004 (Image: USAF – Heritage Series, VIRIN: 100606-F-JZ025-803)

The above image depicts the F-104A Starfighter aircraft of the Tennessee Air National Guard’s 134th Fighter-Interceptor Group, “somewhere over West Germany” that looks very similar to Castle Burg-Hohenzollern, near Ramstein Air Base.

One of 35 Air Guard and Air Force Reserve tactical squadrons activated in April-May 1961 and rushed to Europe as a response to the Berlin Wall Crisis, the 134th FIG called up 400 Guardsmen, of which about all but one reported within 24 hours of activation. Of those men, 250 headed overseas with 17 Starfighters and were soon certified ready for service along the front line of the Cold War. 

Official caption:

Germany, 1961-1962. As the Russians tightened their grip on West Berlin, and events appeared to be escalating toward a nuclear showdown in the world, President John F. Kennedy dramatized America’s determination by mobilizing 65,460 officers and men of the Army and Air National Guard. Less than 30 days after the mobilization, citizen-airmen of the Air National Guard flew 216 fighter and reconnaissance jet aircraft swiftly and smoothly across the Atlantic in the largest mass deployment of jets in the nation’s history. The prompt reaction represented the greatest display of National Guard readiness ever. In a modern version of the “Watch on the Rhine,” the Air Guardsmen continued patrolling the skies over Europe until their demobilization a year later. Protecting the NATO nations from surprise attack, the Guardsmen wrote into the record a clear-cut example of the deterrent power of our 20th Century Minute Men, the combat-ready forces of the Air National Guard.

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