The National Security Act of 1947 established the current United States Department of Defense and established the United States Air Force as a separate service from the Army Air Forces. MP units that had been serving with the Army Air Corps were transferred to the Air Force. The Army-Air Force agreement stated that “each department will be responsible for the security of its own installations.” On January 2, 1948, General Order No. 1 from USAF Headquarters designated those transferred units and personnel as “Air Police.”
American and South Korean forces were not well prepared for the Korean War and were forced to fall back hurriedly in the face of the communist onslaught. Air bases in forward areas found themselves suddenly overrun by the enemy. In many instances, Air Police were the only armed force on the base. These experiences led to the decision that the Air Force needed to develop a more extensive base defense capability by concentrating on the training of Air Police. On 1 September 1950, the first Air Police school was established at Tyndall AFB, Florida. A popular story referencing the “Kimpo Massacre” persists to the present day, but no documented source can be found to confirm that it was an actual event. According to ‘USAF Police.org,’ the Kimpo Massacre never occurred, but was a story used as an example of the human cost of the Air Police being unprepared, under-trained, and under-equipped to provide for the defense of air bases.
With the outbreak of the Korean War, the Air Force began urgent operations focused on air base defense. A buildup of ground combat forces began, leading to an expansion of the Air Force Air Police from 10,000 in July 1950 to 39,000 in December 1951. Still, one year into the war, the Air Provost Marshal reported that “the Air Force is without policy or tactical doctrine for Air Base Ground Defense.” In haste, Air Police were outfitted with armored vehicles, machine guns, and recoilless rifles. Air base defense was officially implemented by Air Force Regulation 355-4 on March 3, 1953. The regulation defined air base defense as “all measures taken by the installation commander to deny hostile forces access to the area encompassing all buildings, equipment, facilities, landing fields, dispersal areas and adjacent terrain.” AFR 355-4 did not include provisions for sustained ground defense operations. Performance of this mission fell to the provisional base defense task forces to be organized and equipped like infantry. The Strategic Air Command rejected the notion that the USAF’s ground defense mission conflicted with Army functions. SAC officials felt that success of the Air Force mission might require point defense elements which the Army could not afford to protect, much less have the Air Force rely on the Army to come to the rescue. The Air Police school was transferred to Parks AFB, California and redesignated as the “Air Base Defense School” to emphasize air base defense capabilities. It soon became evident the emphasis on air base defense was not making much headway. On October 13, 1956, Air Police training was transferred to Lackland AFB, Texas where it evolved into Security Police training and eventually became the US Air Force Security Forces Academy.
The Air Police Badge
In 1947, the United States Air Force separated from the Army, and the proud tradition of the Security Forces began. At first, the Security Forces were still called the Military police, and still wore the old Army arm band, or “brassard”. Soon the Military Police were renamed the Air Police, but they continued to wear the arm band. During this change the brassard was redesigned to show the words Air Police in yellow on a background of Air Force blue. Further editions of the brassard showed the same Air Police in dull gray on a background of dark blue.
The ''Air Force Security Police Badge'' is a military badge of the Air Force Security Forces of the United States Air Force. Originally known as the "Air Police Badge," the Air Force Security Police Badge has existed since the early 1960s. The badge is worn in the center of the left shirt pocket of all Air Force uniforms, with the exception of the Mess Dress Uniform, where it is not worn in accordance with regulations, and is the primary identification for officers and enlisted airmen of the Air Force Security Police. The Air Force Security Police Badge is considered a symbol of legal authority and Force Protection on Air Force Installations.
Below: Air Police truck on Moron Air Base, A2C David Kerr
"At Moron and other air bases, three flags were permanently mounted on the back of AP trucks. The flags designated status "7 High," "Redskin," or "Broken Arrow." When not in use, a cover slipped down over the flags. On bases where the flags were not permanently mounted to a truck, they were on broom handles and rolled around in the bed of the truck." ~ Los Toros commentator Steve Marston
Air Police - Law Enforcement and Base Security
*Click photos to enlarge
Above - Left: A1C Alex Furmanski, Law Enforcement Class A uniform,
Right: Bill Brewer, summer uniform, with Spanish counterpart
Above - Left: A2C Bob Lockhart, Unit 22 Patrol, Right: A1C Smallwood, Base Police
Above - Left: Airman Duggins, A1C John Baker, Right: A1C Bob Sterkenburg at the Main Gate
Above - A1C John Baker, Ssgt Lopez, and unidentified AP
Above - Tony Santos at the Main Gate
Above - David Kerr in Air Police truck 1
Below: The Original Air Policeman's Creed by Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Carroll
The Reserve Strike Team
Below: Left - Reserve Strike Team vehicles at S-119, Right - Otto Kosa and Tony Santos on Reserve Strike Team
Air Police - Danger on the Job
The first Air Police deaths of the Korean War occurred in November 1950. On November 1, twenty-two-year-old Corporal Joseph R. Morin of Taegu’s 6149th Air Police Squadron was returning from a search detail looking for a downed pilot when he and an ROKA soldier left their jeep not far from Heyp Chen to “prepare food and to relieve themselves.” One of the two stepped on a land mine and both were killed. Five days later, while defending the 5th Air Force advance headquarters at K-23 near Pyongang, North Korea, Sgt Ira F. Lord, Jr. of the headquarters security detachment was killed in an engagement with enemy guerillas. Lord was awarded a Presidential Accolade posthumously. Staff Sergeant Terrance Jensen was the first Air Policeman killed in action during the Vietnam Conflict on July 1, 1965, while supervising flight line security at Da Nang Air Base. Sergeant Jensen was conducting post checks on troops who were working isolated posts at night, when he and a sentry were surprised by a small force of saboteurs. He only had enough time to shout a few instructions at the frightened sentry and fire several rounds at the intruders before he was fatally engaged by superior firepower. Air Police leadership had been promoting the use of canine teams and felt the tragedy might have been avoided had they been authorized to utilize canines. Approximately two weeks later, 40 canine teams were shipped to Vietnam as part of a test program called Top Dog. Within two months, 149 additional canine teams were deployed. In 1966, the name of the career field was changed from Air Police to Security Police. This term was considered descriptive, concise, and uniformly applicable; it combined the two main mission elements: police and security functions. The demands of the Vietnam War led to the creation of Operation SAFE SIDE in 1967. This was an effort to bolster protection of air bases by training Security Police in light infantry tactics and special weapons. Many of the lessons learned during this time are the basis of today‘s Force Protection doctrine.
I was station at Moron from 1958 to 1961 and was assigned downtown Seville and later San Pablo. I really did like being in Spain made a lot of friends there, I was in the Air Police (Law Enforcement) 77150 and live in Seville on Calle Quintana in Oct,1958. I worked in the Expuertador area. don’t know about the spelling of it.
! was air policeman (77150) station at Torrejon from August 1957 to Sept 1959. The base was not open when i arrived, we worked in civilian business suits, and worked town law Enforcement. After the base open, i performed all types of base security duties until i was scheduled to be rotated back to the states for discharge.
I will always remember how polite and kind the Spanish people were to us, and enjoyed my time there. Performing my duties, over that period of time, I have seen many changes. Later in life I met up with another policeman who closed that same base that I helped to open. It’s a small world.
That’s very interesting, Richard. It seems that most airmen who were stationed in Spain really enjoyed that time in their lives and look back at those years with fond memories. Thank you for your comment!
My father was an AP there around the same time. He also spoke of town patrols and civilian clothes duty. I’ve enjoyed reading the items in this website and would like to put him in touch with anyone interested. He may have gone by “Waldo” Sinclair. Thanks.