42nd Bomb Wing
HQ USAF ordered the establishment of a totally new organization, the 42d Bombardment Wing (Heavy) on 25 February 1953, assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Limestone (later Loring) AFB, Maine. Assigned to the wing were the same three squadrons that had belonged to the old World War II group: the 69th, 70th, and 75th Bombardment Squadrons. The new SAC wing came under the direction of Eighth Air Force.
At first the wing had no aircraft to fly. As a result, B-36 aircraft were rotated in and out of the base so pilots could keep their flying skills sharp. However, by August all operational squadrons were flying.
The 42d continued to expand over the next few years. On 18 January 1955, the 42d Air Refueling Squadron joined the wing. It flew propeller- driven KC-97G tankers. Further, the first Boeing B-52C Stratofortress assigned to the wing arrived at Loring on 16 June 1956. By the end of the year, the wing had completely replaced the older B-36 fleet. The wing was the first B-36 unit in SAC to convert to B-52s. When KC-135A tankers were assigned to the 42 Air Refueling Squadron in 1957, the wing became an all-jet force.
In the late 1950s, Strategic Air Command began a series of aircraft moves designed to disperse the fleet to enhance survivability in case of an attack. One result of this was the reassignment of the 75th Bombardment Squadron to the 4039th Strategic Wing at Griffiss AFB, New York, on 25 June 1956. In July 1958, wing aircrews were placed on alert because of tensions in Lebanon. Although tensions subsided, the wing continued to upgrade its capabilities. For example, the more versatile B-52Gs replaced the B-52Ds and increased the range and payload capabilities of the wing in May 1959.
In January 1962, the wing began to participate in the airborne alert operation nicknamed Chrome Dome. This realistic training mission was designed to deter enemy forces from a surprise attack on the United States because it demonstrated Strategic Air Command's nearly immediate retaliatory capability. The 42d flew fully combat-configured bombers along a route that covered parts of Western Europe and North Africa. Under the name Hard Head VI, the wing flew similar airborne alert operations which were designed to monitor the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System located at Thule, Greenland. The wing launched two combat-ready B-52s every 20-23 hours for the duration of the 30-60 day operation. To keep the B-52s airborne for long periods, the 42d Air Refueling Squadron also performed a number of air refueling missions. In support of these annual operations, which lasted for five years, the wing amassed thousands of hours in the air and covered several million miles.
While the wing was busy supporting airborne alert missions, Cold War tensions between the United States and Russia came to a head. In October 1962, President John F. Kennedy informed the American public of offensive nuclear-capable missile sites in Cuba. As a result, Strategic Air Command canceled normal flying activity and increased the size of its airborne alert forces. The 42d Bombardment Wing launched four B-52s on Chrome Dome and Hard Head VI missions, established the Loring Tanker Task Force, and placed all aircraft on full combat-alert status. To support this effort, the wing ended all military education courses, canceled leave for those not already off the base, delayed temporary duty assignments to other bases, and placed many on 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. Both the command and the wing maintained this posture until late November when tensions began to ease. During the 40-day crisis, wing bomber crews flew 132 airborne alert missions. Tanker crews from the 42d Air Refueling Squadron flew 214 air refueling missions, transferring almost 24 million pounds of fuel to the B-52s.
In February 1965, the 42d Air Refueling Squadron began support for Young Tiger operations in Southeast Asia. From then on, aircrews deployed for Young Tiger missions regularly.
The wing lost a second bombardment squadron in 1966 when the 70th was inactivated, and its aircraft were dispersed throughout the command. However, in July 1968, the wing was back up to three tactical squadrons when the 407th Air Refueling Squadron transferred to Loring from Homestead AFB, Florida. The 407th also supported Young Tiger missions. In the same year, the wing deployed periodically in support of Arc Light operations.
The 42nd Bomb Wing at Loring AFB deployed Detachment 1 to McGuire AFB from 01 January 1970 through early 1975 [possibly only with KC-135s].
In 1972 the demand for the wing's aircraft, crews, and support personnel increased significantly for Bullet Shot, Young Tiger, and Linebacker II operations. In December enemy fire brought down a B-52 and its crew. The aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile while over North Vietnam. Crew members managed to maneuver the crippled aircraft over Thailand before bailing out. All of the crew members were successfully recovered within a short period. This was the only time the wing suffered such a loss during the war. Wing personnel and equipment remained active in Southeast Asia operations until late 1973.
Following the Vietnam War, the wing participated in a number of strategic and tactical exercises worldwide. In addition, the 42d continued to provide tankers to support USAF air refueling needs. The 42d also continued its 24-hour nuclear alert status until October 1988 when, after 30 years, the requirement ended.
Effective 31 January 1984, the history of the 42d Bombardment Wing underwent a significant change. On this date, the Air Force combined the history and honors of the old 42d Bombardment Group (World War II-era) with that of the 42d Bombardment Wing. The newly consolidated organization retained the 42d Bombardment Wing designation, but the wing's history now went back to the early 1940s, when the War Department first established the 42d Bombardment Group.
Adding to its illustrious history, on 7 August 1990, the wing began to deploy aircraft, personnel, and equipment to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Desert Shield. During Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the wing sent bombers to Diego Garcia. The B-52 aircrews flew 960 missions (485 combat) in 44 days and dropped 12,588,766 pounds of bombs on enemy targets. In addition, tankers from the 42d and from other units deployed to Diego Garcia and off-loaded 31,802,500 pounds of fuel to 648 receivers. Seven months after the start of the deployment, the 42d began returning its people and equipment to Loring AFB. The allies had forced Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
Several organizational changes affected the wing during the early to mid-1990s. For example, on 1 October 1990, the 407th Air Refueling Squadron was inactivated, and two days later, President George Bush ordered alert crews to stand down for the first time in Loring's history. That December, Strategic Air Command stood down all of its alert forces. At the same time, the wing's home station, Loring AFB, prepared for closure.
On 1 September 1991, the 42d Bombardment Wing (Heavy) was redesignated as the 42d Wing. Two of its squadrons, the 69th Bombardment and 42d Air Refueling Squadrons, inactivated at the same time. Then, on 1 June 1992, HQ USAF inactivated Strategic Air Command and reassigned resources such as the 42d Wing to the newly activated Air Combat Command (ACC). On the same day, ACC redesignated the 42d Wing as the 42d Bomb Wing. The following year, the wing began to prepare for the closure of Loring AFB. The last B-52G assigned to the 42d departed the base on 16 November 1993. Likewise, the final KC-135R left on 2 March 1994. Loring closed on 30 September 1994, and the 42d Wing was inactivated the same day.
However, that inactivation was short-lived. A day later, on 1 October 1994, HQ AETC inactivated its 502d Air Base Wing at Maxwell and replaced it with the newly redesignated 42d Air Base Wing. AETC further assigned the wing to Air University. The 42d now serves as the host unit for Maxwell AFB and Gunter Annex. The wing's primary mission is to provide support for Air Force mission requirements, Air University, and the Maxwell-Gunter community.
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