The "Minute Men" were the Air National Guard's official demonstration team.
The team's story began in 1947, when three pilots of the 120th Fighter Squadron from Colorado Air National Guard, flying on the P-51 Mustang, formed an unofficial display team to participate at aerobatic shows at local fairs and rodeos. The team was led by WWII veteran, Lt. Col. Walter "Walt" Williams. As their reputation grew, so did the number of performance requests they received. By 1950, the team was widely known in Colorado, and nearby states were also beginning to call on their services. The pilots of this team were, however, then diverted for combat missions over Korea.
After the pilots returned to home, the 120th Fighter Squadron received new F-80C Shooting Star jet fighters. Lt. Col. Walter Williams decided to re-form a demonstration team, so this new team was formed in the fall of 1953.
This demonstration team flew with four F-80C Shooting Stars. The first pilots were: Colonel Williams as leader, Maj. Warren "Satch" Harvey as left wing, Maj. Arthur "Arch" Curran as right wing and 1st Lt. Richard Hueholt as the slot. Maj. Curran had previously flown with the Alaskan Air Command aerobatic team, the "Arctic Gladiators".
Colonel Williams began looking for a name of the team and Lt. Hueholt suggested the name "Minute Men". This name was chosen to represent the citizen-soldier of colonial days and to honor the National Guard's proud heritage. Soon after team's baptism, all "Minute Men F-80C's" were re-painted in silver and red colors with team's name on the side of the each fuselage. The aircraft were also equipped with white smoke generators.
In January 1956, Major Harvey submitted his resignation and Capt. Robert "Bob" Cherry was offered a position on the team. Lieutenant Hueholt moved to the position of left wing and Capt. Cherry moved into the slot. Lieutenant Hueholt left the team in June 1956 to become a test pilot with a major aircraft company. Capt. Cherry moved to left wing and Capt. John Ferrier became the new slot man. Maj. Winett "Wynn" Coomer became the solo performer and Capt. Ronald "Ron" Jankovsky became the back-up solo. The team also added Maj. Ed "Mack" Miller as the narrator and advance man. Then the team began to perform with five aircraft.
In 1957, the "Minute Men" team started performed the "corkscrew roll" maneuver, where the two wingmen did slow rolls at low altitude around the lead and slot aircraft, now a well know maneuver performed by many current aerobatic teams. It is however unknown if the "Minute Men" actually originated the "corkscrew roll". In this same year, the team's pilots also performed at Hawaii using Hawaiian Air National Guard F80C aircraft.
A performance in Spokane, Washington in October 1957 was seen by Secretary of the Air Force Donald Quarles. A few days later, the "Minute Men" were designated as the official Jet Precision Demonstration Team for the Air National Guard of the United States. The team then received a C-47 support cargo plane and permanent mechanics as the official aerobatic display team. After 38 aerial displays, the team ended the 1957 season by changing pilots, with Lt. Robert W. "Bo" Odle coming to the team as right wing, replacing Major Curran whose tour of duty had come to an end.
In 1958, the team received seven F-86F-2 Sabre fighters painted in same color scheme as the F-80. Only five aircraft actually performed during airshows. The F-86F-2 was a version of Sabre used for tests in Korea of project GUNVAL (20mm cannon armament replacing the 0.50 cal machine guns). The team' s first airshow with Sabres was in Jacksonville, Florida.
On June 7, 1958 during the roll out from a bomb burst maneuver at the Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio airshow, the slot pilot suffered in a fatal crash when his Sabre's ailerons jammed. Trying to avoid impact onto the small city of Fairborn, the pilot did not eject and was killed. A woman and several children were knocked to the ground but no one was injured. Capt. Ferrier received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his unselfish act, but sadly he died on his 33rd birthday.
Captain Gobel James then joined the team as the slot, replacing Captain Ferrier, and he flew his first show on June 19, 1958.
In January 1959, 1st Lt. John France replaced Captain Jankovsky as the solo. In February, Lt.Col. Williams left the team to become Wing Commander of the Colorado ANG. He was replaced as team leader by the left wing pilot, Capt. Cherry, while Lt. John France, moved to the left wing.
In 1959, the team took a ten-day Central American tour of 5,000 miles, flying aerial displays in Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico and Jamaica.
On July 10, 1959, the "Minute Men" performed for the last time at Grand Junction, Colorado. For budgetary reasons, the team was then disbanded.
During the "Minute Men" air displays, the team were often joined by famous aerobatic pilot, Bob Hoover, who performed a solo routine using one of the team's F-86F Sabres.
During its existence, the team had performed before more than three million people in 47 states, as well as five foreign countries.
In 2006, to mark the 50th anniversary of the first and only Air National Guard precision flying team, one F-16 was re-painted in "Minute Men" colors.