100th Air Refueling Wing [100th ARW]
The 100th Air Refueling Wing is USAFE's only KC-135 air refueling wing comprised of 15 permanently assigned aircraft, and is responsible for U.S. air refueling operations conducted throughout the European theater. The unit supports some 16,000 personnel, including Third Air Force, four geographically separated units, and 15 associated units.
On 1 June 1942, the Army Air Forces activated the 100th Bombardment Group (Heavy) (100th BG) as an unmanned paper unit assigned to III Bomber Command. The group remained unmanned until 27 October 1942, when a small number of men transferred from the 29th Bombardment Group to Gowen Field, ID, to serve as the group's initial cadre. Within four days, on 1 November, the small cadre forming the 100th BG moved the unit to Walla Walla Army Air Base, WA, where it received its first four aircrews and four B-17Fs from the Boeing factory in Seattle. Following receipt of crews and aircraft, the 100th BG relocated to Wendover Field, Utah, on 30 November where it added additional personnel, aircraft, crews, and began operational training (bombing, gunnery, and navigation).
With the first day of 1943, members of the fledgling group again transferred operations to two separate bases, with the aircraft and aircrews moving to Sioux City AAB, IA, while the ground echelon went to Kearney Field, NE. In both instances, members of the 100th BG assisted in air and ground training for other groups bound for overseas. In mid-April, the aircrew element joined its ground echelon at Kearney Field, and received new B-17s. After additional training, the group's aircrews departed Kearney on 25 May 1943, flying the North Atlantic route to England and into the war in Europe. Prior to the departure of aircraft and aircrews from Kearney, the 100th BG's ground crews departed for the East Coast on 2 May. On 27 May 1943, the ground personnel set sail aboard the Queen Elizabeth bound for Poddington, England from New York. At Poddington the ground crews rendezvoused with the air element, and together moved to Thorpe Abbots, Norfolk, where they remained throughout World War II, operating as a strategic bombardment organization.
On 25 June 1943, the 100th BG flew its first combat mission for Eighth Air Force against the submarine yards at Bremen, Germany -- the beginning of the Bloody Hundredth's legacy. The group inherited the Bloody Hundredth nickname from other bomb groups due to the amount of losses it took. Although the 100th BG's losses were no more than any other units' at the war's end, the group experienced several instances where it lost 12 of 13 and 13 of 15 aircraft, whereas other units suffered losses in consistent small amounts. For the next six months, the group focused its bombing attacks against German airfields, industries, and naval facilities in France as well as Germany. Just two months after entering the war, the group received its first Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) after attacking the German aircraft factory at Regensburg on 17 August resulting in serious disruption to German fighter production.
During the next five months of the war (January-May 1944), the 100th BG routinely bombed airfields, industries, marshaling yards, and missile sites in Western Europe. During the course of its operational efforts during this time frame, the group participated in the Allied campaign against German aircraft factories during Big Week in March 1944. In addition, aircrews completed a succession of attacks on Berlin during the same month. For its March 1944 efforts, the 100th BG received its second DUC of the war.
As the summer of 1944 approached, enemy oil installations became major targets. While supporting these missions, the group also found itself engaged in support and interdictory missions. In June, the 100th BG supported the Normandy invasion by hitting bridges and gun positions. The next month aircrews bombed enemy positions at St Lo, followed by similar campaigns at Brest in August and September. In October 1944, the 100th BG turned its attacks against enemy and ground defenses in the allied drive on the Siegfried Line. After completing its Siegfried Line support, the group took on the task of attacking marshaling yards, German occupied villages, and communication targets in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945. For its extraordinary efforts in attacking heavily defended German installations in Germany and dropping supplies to the French Forces of the Interior from June through December 1944, the 100th BG received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
The 100th BG flew its last combat mission of World War II on 20 April 1945. The following month the unit's aircrews dropped food to the people of Holland, and in June transported French Allied former prisoners of war from Austria to France. In December 1945, the group returned to the U.S., where it inactivated at Camp Kilmer, NJ, on 21 December 1945.
On 29 May 1947, Headquarters Army Air Force reactivated the 100th BG at Miami Army Air Field. From the time of its activation the group trained and operated as a reserve unit until it was again inactivated on 27 June 1949.
After approximately five and one-half years of inactivation, the Air Force activated the 100th as a medium bombardment wing on 1 January 1956, at Portsmouth Air Force Base, NH, and assigned again to Eighth Air Force. For the next ten years the wing performed global strategic bombardment training, and global air refueling.
Following a brief nonoperational period (April-June 1966), the Air Force redesignated the wing as the 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, and moved it without personnel or equipment to Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ on 25 June 1966. After its move, the wing absorbed the resources of the 4080th Strategic Wing. From 1966 until 1976, it performed strategic reconnaissance with the U-2 and drone aircraft. In mid-1976 the wing changed missions again when it transferred its drone operations to Tactical Air Command, and its U-2s to the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (9 SRW) at Beale AFB, CA.
After completing the transfer of its aircraft in September 1976, while simultaneously phasing down operations at Davis-Monthan, the Air Force redesignated the wing as the 100th Air Refueling Wing, and relocated it to Beale AFB. While at Beale, the 100th ARW assumed responsibility for providing worldwide air refueling support to the 9th SRW with its KC-135Qs from 30 September 1976 until its inactivation on 15 March 1983.
After an inactive status for over seven years, the Air Force again reactivated the 100th, but this time as an Air Division at Whiteman AFB, MO, on 1 July 1990. However, as has been the wing's past fate, the Air Force inactivated it once again on 1 August 1991.
Six months after its inactivation as an Air Division, and over 46 years after departing England at the end of World War II, the Air Force activated the 100th ARW, stationed at RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, on 1 February 1992. From the time of its reactivation, the 100th ARW has served as the United States Air Forces Europe's lone air refueling wing.
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