BRIEF HISTORY OF THE 798TH AC&W/RADAR SQ


Read at the plaque dedication by Dave Creamer on April 24 1999

I have in my possession official USAF orders dated, 30 May 1951 and 18 June 1967, which I believe are the first and last orders issued for this Squadron. Thus, from the day it opened until the day it closed this site was officially called the Belleville Air Force Station. Unofficially and affectionately this site is referred to as Turkey Hill. The United States Air Force designated the occupants of this site as the 798th Squadron. According to records maintained at Headquarters Air Force Space Command the official history of the 798th reads as follows:

"Activated 1 May 51 Belleville AFS IL; assigned to 546th AC & W group; transferred to 159 AC & W Gp 4 June 51; transferred to 33d Air Division 6 Feb. 52; transferred to 20th Air Division 1 March 56; transferred Kansas City ADS 1 January 60; transferred to Chicago ADS 1 Jul 61; re-designated from AC & W Sqd. to Radar Squadron (SAGE) 1 March 62; transferred to 20th Air Division 1 April 66; reassigned to 30th Air Division 1 December 67; discontinued 18 June 68."

That's the bare bones or skeleton view of the 798th. Now as the official unofficial Squadron historian let me attempt to put some flesh on those bones. The U.S. government acquired this property, which at one time was a turkey farm, in 1949. Construction began the same year for an early warning radar site. This site would be included in the U.S. Air Force's network of early warning radar sites. Construction was completed in the late spring of 1951 and this site was officially designated the 798th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron. At the same time the 798th companion Squadron the 113th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was activated. The 113th was soon replaced by the 85th FIS which was located at Scott AFB.

The 798th AC & W Squadron was initially staffed by two Air National Guard units that were activated for that specific purpose. One unit was from Denver CO and the other unit was from Southern California. Both units arrived here in May/June 1951.

From the very beginning, due to the nature of our assignment, this site was clothed in secrecy. The town people and even the personnel at Scott Air Force Base new little to nothing about this location. In these early years there are a number of stories that newly assigned personnel can tell about their endeavors to locate this 798th Squadron.

The first Commanding Officer was Major Walter J. Sherrell from the Air National Guard unit from Denver, CO. Major Sherrell served as the Commanding Officer here until August 1953 when he was replaced by Major John F. Cercak. The first public acknowledgement of this radar site was from a press release published in the Belleville News Democrat dated 11 November 1951. It addressed the mission of the Squadron and read in part,

" Our job involves the use of radar to detect the approach of enemy planes which might attack the St. Louis area. We are also charged with directing the U.S. Air Force fighters to intercept any attacker in this area. This organization is part of the 33d Air Division with headquarters in Oklahoma City and under the Central Air Defense Force, and the Air Defense Command." As they years passed the mission and operations of the Squadron changed. On 1 July 1959 our sister Squadron the 85th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was inactivated. Nike Ajax and Hercules missiles replaced the F- 86 Sabrejets as the local air defense guardian. The 1st Missile Battalion, who became tenants of this site, controlled from here it's four firing batteries which ringed the Scott/St. Louis area. Then in 1962 the 798th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was re-designated the 798th Radar Squadron (SAGE). Thus, the Squadron converted from a ground control intercept station to a semi-automatic ground environment surveillance station. That's when a simple radar scope became a GDP or Graphic Display Position indicator.

Made obsolete by technological advances this radar site was abandoned in 1968. The last Commanding Officer of the 798th was Lt. Col. Brady A. Miracle. According to a first-hand witness, on 23 June 1968 all the equipment had been shipped, the buildings were closed and secured , including the housing area, and the keys to the main gate were turned over to Scott Air Force Base who became guardian of this site. The last chapter in the book on the 798th Squadron was finished.