99th Reconnaissance Squadron [99th RS]
The 99th Reconnaissance Squadron is responsible for providing critical intelligence for use by the highest levels of our government. Squadron pilots fly the U-2S aircraft as they continuously train to upgrade from normal aircraft commander status to that of instructor pilot status. Pilots from 99 RS frequently rotate overseas to support the 9 RW's various operating locations. The squadron has one of the highest TDY rates in the Air Force, second only to that of the aircrews supporting the E-3 Sentry AWACS. This high operations tempo could not be effectively maintained without the crew chiefs assigned to the 99 RS who perform routine maintenance to keep the aircraft flying on a daily basis. In addition to the military reconnaissance mission, U-2 pilots fly many humanitarian, search and rescue, and environmental missions.
Organized at Kelly Field, Texas on 21 August 1917, the 99th Aero Squadron moved to Garden City, New Jersey in early November and sailed for France on the fourteenth. After training in the Sopwith and the Salmson, the squadron began flying combat missions in June 1918. The squadron, assigned to the 33rd French Corps, flew reconnaissance missions and directed artillery fire in support of U.S. Army, 5th Division during the St. Mihiel offensive from 12 through 16 September. The 99th Aero Squadron then aided the Allies in the Argonne-Meusse offensive. The four black crosses on the 9th Reconnaissance Wing's emblem represent 1st and 99th Squadrons' participation at St. Mihiel, Argonne-Muesse, Champagne-Marne and Aisne-Marne. The 99th Aero Squadron remained in France until 8 May 1919, then moved to Mitchel Field, New York.
The redesignated 99th Observation Squadron joined the 9th Observation Group on 9 November 1928. In 1940 as hostilities increased in Europe and German U-boats threatened worldwide shipping, the Army transferred the 9th Group, first to the Panama Canal Zone, then to Surinam to protect U.S. interests. The squadron moved to Florida in October 1942 and trained other bombardment units on formation flying and high altitude precision bombing in B-17s. In 1944 the 99th moved to Dalhart Army Air Field (AAF), Texas and then on to McCook AAF, Nebraska, where it trained in earnest for its own combat deployment. After six months in the new B-29, the 99th transferred to North Field, Tinian, in the Marianas, just east of the Philippines. Arriving at Tinian on 28 December 1944, the 99th Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy) flew its first bombing raids on 27, 29 and 31 January 1945, against Japanese installations in the northern Marianas. On 25 February the 99th joined an all-out Allied effort against Tokyo's port and industrial areas.
For the remaining months of the war, squadron B-29s repeatedly struck Japanese aircraft factories, chemical plants, naval bases and airdromes. During these months the 99th won two Distinguished Unit Citations. The first came for 15-16 April 1945 bombing raids on Kawasaki, Japan's industrial center, which furnished components for Tokyo and Yokohama's heavy industry. The squadron won the second award in mine-laying operations a month later in the Shimonoseki Straits, which controlled access to the Inland Seas. This operation crippled Japan's efforts to ship food, raw materials, war supplies, troops, and combat equipment to and from the homeland. Between January and August 1945, 99th squadron B-29s repeatedly attacked Japan.
Following World War II, the National Security Act of 1947 created the Air Force as a sister service to the Army and Navy. The Air Force established the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Fairfield-Suisun (later Travis) AFB, California on 25 April 1949 and activated it on 1 May as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) unit. The Air Force also reactivated and redesignated the 9th Group to the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Group, which included the 1st, 5th and 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadrons. The squadrons flew RB-29s and a few RB-36s. On 1 April 1950, the Air Force redesignated the wing as the 9th Bombardment Wing and the 99th as a bombardment squadron. The 99th continued to fly B-29s at Fairfield-Suisun AFB until 1 May 1953, when SAC transferred the wing and its squadrons to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. By June 1955, the 99th Bombardment Squadron had replaced its B-29s with new B-47s. In November 1955 the 99th and other wing squadrons demonstrated the Strategic Air Command's ability to strike anywhere in the world.
Squadron B-47s flew nonstop from the 8,300 miles from Mountain Home AFB to New Zealand. The 99th flew nuclear deterrent missions for ten years. In November 1965, SAC agreed to transfer Mountain Home AFB to the Tactical Air Command. The 99th's B-47s transferred to other units and by 1 February 1966 all squadron aircraft were gone. But the squadron was not destined to disappear. As the squadron phased-out at Mountain Home AFB, plans were already afoot for a rebirth and a new mission. In January 1966 the first SR-71 had landed at Beale AFB, California. This new aircraft gave SAC a reconnaissance capability that far exceeded any then available in terms of speed, altitude, and coverage.
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