KC-97G Stratotankers of the 108th Air Refueling Squadron, 126th Air Refueling Wing, Illinois Air National Guard refuel five North American F-100C Super Sabres of the 121st Tactical Fighter Squadron, 113rd Fighter Group, District of Columbia Air National Guard during Operation READY GO, the first non-stop trans-Atlantic deployment of U.S. Air National Guard fighters to Europe, August 1964.

Home : Features : 2016 : Vietnam War 50th Commemoration : 1964

In early August 1964, the North Vietnamese military reportedly attacked U.S. vessels operating off the coast of Vietnam. In response, the U.S. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to use military force in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, the National Guard continued to evolve to meet the Nation’s military needs.

Through the 1960s, the Air National Guard implemented several policies intended to increase the operational readiness of Air Guard units. During the Berlin Crisis in 1961, 11 Air Guard fighter squadrons had mobilized and deployed to Europe. Readiness and equipment problems plagued the units, and following the crisis, the Air Force concluded that the Air Guard fighter squadrons had been of limited operational value. In February 1963, the Air Force announced a plan to create a strategic reserve of immediately deployable and operationally ready reserve units. In addition, the Air Guard continued to update and diversify its operational aircraft. In 1962, the Air Guard acquired air refueling tankers and began routine overseas deployments to conduct annual training. By 1964, these changes allowed the Air National Guard to conduct a non-stop deployment of Air Guard fighter aircraft to Europe using Air Guard refueling capabilities. Meanwhile, National Guard airlift squadrons began the regular transport of cargo for the Military Air Transport Service in Europe and Asia as part of their regular training.

In contrast, Army National Guard readiness increased primarily as a result of the Army’s reorganization of its reserve components, which entailed eliminating force structure and transferring their personnel and equipment to other units. Although seventeen Army National Guard divisions cased their colors through reorganizations during the Vietnam era, the Congressionally authorized strength of the Army National Guard remained the same, with individual unit strength increasing from an average of 80 percent in 1964 to over 90 percent by 1968. At the same time, state overhead of headquarters and training site personnel was increased to better manage recruiting for, and the equipping and training of Army National Guard units during peacetime.