509th Bombardment Wing
|Based at: Roswell AAF,
Aircraft: B-29, B-50, B-47, B-52, FB-111, B-2
|World War II
The 509th Bomb Wing is one of the most famous units in the
United States Air Force. It began in World War II as the 509th
Composite Group. It was formed for only one mission - to drop the
atomic bomb on Japan. Led by Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., the group trained hard for its unique task. On Aug. 6, 1945,
the 509th fulfilled its destiny when the B-29 "Enola Gay"
piloted by Colonel Tibbets dropped the first atomic bomb and destroyed
Hiroshima, Japan. On Aug. 9, 1945, the group once again visited the
Japanese mainland and unleashed the atomic inferno on another city,
Nagasaki. Within days, the Japanese sued for peace and World War II ended.
|Initial SAC Bomb Group
The 509th Composite Group returned to the United
States in late 1945, as part of the 15th Air Force.
The 15th was the first combat wing
assigned to the newly formed Strategic Air Command. It had ten bomb
groups but only two - the 509th and the 93rd - continued operations into
the new command. (See
Original Bomb Groups).
The 509th Composite Group
settled into Roswell Army Air Base, N.M. The 509th was the only
organization in the entire world to have experience with nuclear weapons.
Many regard it as the core of the Strategic Air Command, the powerful
nuclear bomber force that evolved during the 1950's and 1960's.
In August 1946, the now-called 509th Bombardment
Group again traveled to the Pacific where it participated in Operation
Crossroads. During this special maneuver, the group dropped an atomic bomb
on an armada of obsolete and captured naval vessels moored off the Bikini
509th Bombardment Wing
The newly formed United States Air Force adopted the
wing-base plan and the 509th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy was established
on November 3, 1947. On Nov. 17, 1947, it was activated as the 509th
Bombardment Wing at Roswell. The 509th Bombardment Group was
assigned to the wing. Within five years, however, the Air Force
inactivated the group and turned over the lineage and honors of the group
to the wing.
During 1947-1948, the 509th Bombardment Wing flew
B-29s. It converted tot he new B-50 which it flew from 1949 to 1951.
When the huge B-36 Peacemaker joined the Air Force inventory, the "Very
Heavy" designation was dropped forever. The 509th - like all
other B-29 and B-50 wings - was redesignated "Medium."
The new B-36 wings were designated "heavy"
The wing pioneered a new concept in July 1948 when
it received the 509th Air Refueling Squadron, one of the first two such
units ever created, and its air refueling KB-29Ms. With the addition of
tankers, the 509th's bombers could reach virtually any point on earth. The
dawning of a new decade brought more changes to the wing. In June 1950, it
began receiving B-50s. In January 1954, the KC-97 aerial tanker replaced
the aging KB-29Ms.
|B-47 Stratojet & Pease AFB
The wing entered the jet age in June 1955 when it received the
first all-jet bomber: the B-47 Stratojet. The wing moved
its people and equipment to Pease AFB, N. H., in August 1958. There, it
continued to function as an integral part of SAC.
By virtually all of SAC's B-47s had been retired. The 509th was
also scheduled for retirement, but the SAC leaders did not want to
inactivate the famous unit, so it equipped it with B-52s and KC-135s. The
wing received its first B-52 and KC-135 in March 1966. The wing's
association with the B-52 included two major deployments to Andersen AFB,
Guam, as part of the now famous Vietnam War Arc Light missions. In April
1968 and again in April 1969, the wing began six-month ventures in the
Western Pacific. During the last deployment, SAC informed the 509th that
the wing would swap its B-52s for FB-111As.
The 509th Bombardment Wing's 393rd Bombardment
Squadron, began receiving the formidable fighter-bomber in December 1970.
After several years of service with two squadrons of the 99th Bombardment
Wing, in the latter half of the 1960s their B-52Cs were redistributed
among a number of different B-52D units and operated primarily as crew
trainers until 1971. Units known to have operated the B-52C in this
fashion included the 22nd BW, 28th BW, 70th BW, 91st BW, 92nd SAW, 96th
SAW, 99th BW, 306th BW, 454th BW, 461st BW and 509th BW. The 509th Bomb
Over the next two decades, little changed for the
509th BW as it became SAC's fighter-bomber experts. However, a decision by
the Department of Defense in 1988 to close Pease created major changes for
the famous 509th. In 1991, the base was closed and the 509th
personnel were assigned to other duties.
|B-2 Stealth Bombers and Whiteman AFB
After the closing of Pease, all that remained was the wing's name.
On September 30, 1990, the 509th Bombardment Wing was transferred to
Whiteman, without people and equipment. That same day also saw most
of the wing's squadrons inactivated. This took place since the wing was
expected to remain non-operational until the arrival of the first B-2 drew
While the wing waited for that date,
several more changes occurred. On Sept. 1, 1991, SAC changed the wing's
name to 509th Bomb Wing. A second change occurred on June 1, 1992, when
the Air Force disestablished SAC. Concurrently, the 509th became part of
the newly created Air Combat Command. The wing's hibernation at Whiteman
lasted more than two years. However, on April 1, 1993, the Air Force
returned the 509th to operational status as people were again assigned to
On July 20, 1993, the 509th received its first
fixed-wing aircraft in almost three years: a T-38 complete with a
B-2-style paint job. After this, the wing prepared for the arrival of it's
first Stealth Bomber. Finally, on December 17, 1993, the first
operational B-2, named "The Spirit of Missouri," touched down on the
Whiteman runway. The date marked the 90th anniversary of the first
powered flight by the Wright Brothers and the 49th anniversary of the
original activation of the 509th Composite Group.
The wing grew larger on July 1, 1993, when
it accepted host responsibilities for Whiteman from the 351st Missile
33d Fighter: attached 17 Nov 194715 Nov 1948.
33d Fighter: attached 17 Nov 194715 Nov 1948.
509th Bombardment (later, 509th Operations): 17 Nov 194716 Jun 1952; 15 Jul 1993
34 AR: Assigned Jun 25, 1966 Mar 31, 1976.
393BS: Attached Nov 17, 1947 Sep 14, 1948;
Attached Feb 1, 1951 Jun
15,1952, Assigned 16 Jun 16, 1952 Sep 30, 1990
(Detached c. Jun 18 - 18 Sep 18, 1953).
509 AR: Attached Jul 19 Sep 14, 1948; Attached Feb 1, 1951 Jun
Assigned Jun 16, 1952 Jan
5, 1958 (Detached Jul 10 Nov 5, 1954, Jun 14 Aug 5, 1955,
and Feb 27 May 1, 1957);
Assigned Jul 8, 1958 Jun 25, 1965; Assigned Oct 2, 1966 Jul 1,
661st: Assigned Mar 1, 1959 Jan 1, 1962.
715th: Attached Nov 17, 1947 Sep 14, 1948; Attached Feb 1, 1951 Jun
Assigned Jun 16, 1952 Jun 25, 1966; Assigned Jan 1, 197030 Sep 30, 1990.
830th: Attached Nov 17, 1947 Sep 14, 1948; Attached Feb 1,
1951 Jun 15, 1952
Assigned Jun 16, 1952 Jun
25, 1966 (Detached 15 Mar19 Jun 1953).
900 AR Assigned Apr 2, 1966 - Jun 25, 1966.