First Class or Not at All

               FIRST CLASS OR NOT AT ALL--Idaho Air National Guard 1946-1975  
An exciting book written and published in 2009 by retired Idaho Air National Guard pilot
Colonel William C. Miller is still available.
This full-color 204-page 8 X 10 'trade paperback' will delight aviation and military history readers.  The Idaho Air National Guard was formed right after World War II and quickly became renowned for its excellence, and its sustained top-rated status with national defense officials.  Written by a 38-year part-time Air Guardsman, this factual and entertaining book describes unit activities, major personnel, and exciting stories from the 29-year early period.  Interviews, over 300 pictures, and personal reflections make this a superb read.  See slideshow below for more memories.
You must read this account of Air Guardsmen--citizen soldiers and your neighbors--who served the 190th Fighter Squadron, later the 124th Fighter Group.   Learn how these dedicated individuals balanced the demands of the Guard, their employers, and their families to help the unit fulfill its motto's promise:  First Class or Not at All.
My first edition came out in May, 2009 and sold out quickly, but more are available from sources in red in the next paragraph..
Direct from 
Do I get my  Autographed copy?  Contact the AUTHOR or MILITARY MUSEUM above for updates on book availability, pricing, and ordering.  Book prices are listed above slideshow, down the page.  For questions, comments, or suggestions, contact author at and you will be taken care of in a first class manner!

*      How two different Idaho ANG pilots shot themselves down!

*  About an Idaho ANG pilot’s F-102 combat sorties during the Cuban Missile Crisis!

*  Which 190th pilots intercepted a Northwest Airlines 727 hijacked by D.B. Cooper!    

*  Why the Hanford Nuclear Site's defenses nearly shot down a flight of ANG F-89s!    

*  How the Idaho ANG lived up to its motto:  First Class or Not at All!

*  All this and much more, about that Guardsman next door!

Brief Description of Book--After World War II, Air National Guard squadrons were established in the states, and the 190th Fighter Squadron cranked up in October 1946 at Gowen Field. The 190th quickly became combat-ready, growing substantially in just a few years. After being activated for the Korean War, the 190th soon expanded to Group dimensions, becoming the 124th Fighter Group.  During its early years the unit flew the P-51D, F-86A, F-94B, F-89B, F-86L, and F-102A, performing air defense under USAF's Air Defense Command until 1975.  Idaho's Air Guardsmen adapted and continued to make good the unit motto: First Class or Not at all.   
    First Class or Not at All tells the story of the part-timer, or 'traditional guardsman', who maintained two careers, balancing the demands of employer, family, the Guard, and conscience.  In First Class you will meet the people and re-live the events of a 37-year period of excellence in air defense service.  Through first-person interviews, hundreds of photos, extensive file research, and an entertaining style, this history brings the Idaho Air Guard's early-period history back to life.  First Class is a must-have for past and present Guardsmen, Idaho citizens, and all military history buffs.


The J. A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation recently awarded the Idaho Military History museum a grant to purchase a historic F-86 Sabre Jet.  Since receipt of the 'Sabre' in July 2012, Wm Miller and volunteers have brought new life to this '50s era fighter.   This aircraft was an F-86E serial number #51-2826 that saw service in Korea, one of a few that were modified with 20mm canons to provide greater firepower in their battle with Russian-built MiG-15s.  Photos below show Before-After progress of the Sabre, now available for public inspection (Nov.2012).  

                                      BEFORE                                                                 AFTER                                            
This Sabre was restored as a replica of the F-86A Sabres flown by Idaho Air Guard in the '50s.  Volunteers removed all old paint, shined the aluminum fuselage and tail surfaces, and applied paint and stencil markings like those of the Idaho Air Guard 190th Fighter Squadron.  It is now marked as F-86A #49-1050 flown by then-Squadron Commander Bill Coburn.

The North American F-86 'Sabre' was the primary U.S. combat aircraft during the Korean War, and was flown by the Idaho Air National Guard from 1954 to 1956.  The text in the next article is from p. 57 of "First Class or Not at All..." describing the 190th Fighter Squadron's first jet fighter.  See book details at


THE JET AGE 1954-1956

          “… what I remember most about the F-86, it was an excellent plane to fly.” 


 The 190th got their first jets, T-33A trainers, followed very soon by F-86A Sabre Jets, which replaced their P-51s.  The F-86 replaced the P-51s and was famous for its Korean War combat ratio, achieving a ten-to-one shoot-down advantage over the Russian-made MiG-15s.  Credit is often given to the aircraft; however, each Sabre had as standard equipment a qualified pilot, whose skills, training, and tactics also helped achieve this one-sided ratio.


The 190th’s role as a Fighter Squadron remained unchanged, but its title had changed just as the unit returned from its 21-month Korean War activation, see p. 47.  Along with the new fighter interceptor designation, many fighter units were assigned under the USAF's Air Defense Command (ADC), which was a part of NORAD, the North American Air Defense Command, see APPENDIX D, NORAD.  Beginning in the early post-war period, our U. S. national defense strategy anticipated a possible nuclear attack by the Soviet Union’s long-range bombers.  Due to the limited range of its existing interceptor aircraft, the Air Force couldn't fully protect our west coast.  To fill this defense gap, the Idaho Air Guard and other ANG units began a fourteen-hour daylight alert commitment, supplementing the regular Air Force defense of the Pacific Northwest.  Runway alert required the 190th to launch two armed interceptors within 5 minutes of the ‘scramble’ call, and to intercept and  identify any unknowns, and if necessary, shoot down any enemy invaders. "I left Idaho in 1951 to serve a tour in the Pentagon as a member of the Reserve Forces Policy Board.  When I returned to the 190th in 1955, F-86A day fighters had replaced our Mustangs.  We were supervised by the 4th Air Force, who needed the Air Guard's help to fulfill their jet fighter mission."'Armed interceptors' for the NORAD alert commitment meant F-86As, each equipped with six .50 caliber machine guns.  The F-86As were considered ‘day fighters’ because they lacked an all-weather and night intercept capability.  This problem was being addressed by the Air Force through the development of the F-94 and F-89, and a radar-equipped version of the F-86, the F-86L.  The 190th eventually flew all these interceptors (see Chapters 6, 7, and 8).  The changeover to the 'interceptor' role motivated the squadron to redesign its squadron insignia and aircrew patch--to a new swept-wing, high-altitude look--appropriately depicting their new mission. ("First Class or Not at All..."; p. 57)














Scenes from "First Class..."    The slide show below has 24  of the 300-plus images from First Class or Not at All--Idaho Air National Guard 1946-1975Enjoy these scenes of our Boise-based Air Guard unit's early history.   


Pictures from "First Class..."


Connect to the links (in red) above.  BUY NOW direct from Idaho Military Museum for $30. If you catch me in/around Boise, I'll even Autograph the darned thing for you!  Contact me at