Airmen from the 4th Fighter Wing honored their heritage by launching nearly 70 F-15E Strike Eagles in a Turkey Shoot training mission April 16 here.

The Strike Eagles taxied one after the next down the base flightline before heading to bombing ranges across North Carolina to destroy more than 1,000 targets. The purpose of this mass launch was two-fold.

“This F-15E Strike package and Turkey Shoot honored the excellence and sacrifices of our Wing’s past while ‘flexing’ 4th (Fighter Wing) airpower today, sharpening our warfighting spirit and skills as we look toward the future,” said Col. Patrick Doherty, the 4th FW commander.

The term Turkey Shoot dates back to a mission that took place June 19, 1944, during World War II.

On this day, U.S. Navy carrier aircraft downed 373 Japanese planes with the loss of only 23 American planes,” said Dr. Roy Heidicker, the 4th FW historian. A Navy pilot who participated in this mission was attributed as saying, “It was like a turkey shoot,” and the term stuck.

Toward the end of WWII, the greatest challenge in Europe for the 8th Air Force was destroying a Luftwaffe, or German Air Force, that refused to take to the air. One of the 4th Fighter Group’s most notorious missions during WWII was also its final major mission. The group’s Airmen were tasked to take out the Luftwaffe. In two airfield attacks, the group’s aviators destroyed 105 enemy aircraft April 15, 1945.

“While ‘A’ Group attacked airfields in the region of Prague, ‘B’ Group, devastated the Luftwaffe base at Gablingen in 40 minutes of continuous strafing,” Heidicker said. “That same day other 8th Air Force fighter groups attacked Luftwaffe airfields all over Germany, claiming a total of 752 aircraft destroyed. The Luftwaffe never recovered from this terrible and devastating blow.”

Aircraft Maintenance Unit perform a pre-flight inspection on an F-15EDuring a pre-flight inspection at Seymour Johnson AFBF-15E Strike Eagles Turkey ShootF-15E Strike Eagles Turkey Shoot
70 F-15E Strike Eagles Turkey ShootAn F-15E Strike Eagle takes off during a Turkey Shoot trainingF-15E Strike Eagle at Bagram Airfield, AfghanistanUS Air Force F-15 Eagle 65th Aggressor Squadron

During World War II, competition began between the 4th and 56th Fighter Groups to see what unit could destroy the most enemy aircraft, officials said. The 4th FG finished the war with 1,016 aircraft destroyed, and the 56th FG’s final tally was 1,006. While supporting the war effort, the 4th FG destroyed more enemy aircraft than any group or wing in Air Force history.