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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

17th Bombardment Wing
456th Bombardment Wing
456th Strategic Aerospace Wing
4126th Strategic Wing

The 17th's heritage traces back to World War I, when the 95th Aero Squadron played a key role in the St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and other Allied campaigns. These battles are symbolized by the seven pattee crosses on the 17th's shield, and it was from the 95th, together with the 34th and 73d Pursuit Squadrons, that the 17th first was formed. Authorized originally as the 17th Observation Group on 18 October 1927, the unit was redesignated the 17th Pursuit Group and finally activated at March Field, California, on 15 July 1931. At March, it operated Boeing P-12 and P-26 fighter aircraft until, in 1935, it was redesignated the 17th Attack Group and acquired the Northrup A-17 attack bomber. In 1939 the unit was redesignated again, becoming the 17th Bombardment Group (Medium) and converting to the Douglas B-18 bomber.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the 17th Bombardment Group flew anti-submarine patrols off the west coast of the United States with the new North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber. As the first unit to operate the B-25, the 17th achieved another "first" on 24 December 1941 when one of its Mitchells dropped four 300-pound bombs on a Japanese submarine near the mouth of the Columbia River.

In February 1942 the group transferred to Lexington County Airport in South Carolina, where it practiced short take-offs and landings for yet another "first." On the morning of 18 April 1942, some 600 miles east of Japan, the aircraft carrier Hornet launched 16 Mitchells on the highly successful Doolittle raid on Tokyo and other Japanese cities. A boost to American morale, the raid marked the first combat launch of bombers from an aircraft carrier and the first American aerial attack on the Japanese mainland. Piloting the 16th Mitchell was 1Lt William Farrow, a Goodfellow graduate captured and subsequently executed by the Japanese after completing his mission. Following the Doolittle raid, the group transferred to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, and began training on the Martin B-26 Marauder medium bomber. In December the group transferred once more, this time to Telergma, Algeria, where it participated in the North African campaign.

Upon the expulsion of Axis forces from North Africa in May 1943, the 17th transferred to Sedrata, Algeria, to begin air operations against Pantelleria. Five by eight miles in dimension, the Mediterranean island sheltered an important Axis airfield with hangars carved into solid rock. Its sheer cliffs would have proved a daunting obstacle to amphibious invasion but precision bombardment by the 17th secured the surrender of the island's defenders in less than a month. Through the rest of the war, from bases in Tunisia, Sardinia, Corsica, and France, the 17th conducted bombing missions against critical targets throughout the Mediterranean, Italy, southern France and Germany. It received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its support of the Anzio invasion and another for its outstanding performance over Schweinfurt. For operations in support of the invasion of southern France, it received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm. All told, the group conducted 624 missions and participated in 11 campaigns during the war, finally returning to the United States and inactivating in November 1945.

With war in Korea came the activation of the 17th Bombardment Wing (Light) at Pusan-East, Korea, in May 1952. There, the wing flew Douglas B-26 Invaders on night intruder strikes along enemy supply routes. In August, the wing switched to daylight formation raids, earning the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation by the end of the war in July 1953.

The Air Force, keen to preserve its hard-earned legacy, elected in 1954 to "bestow" the history of World War II combat groups upon active, similarly designated postwar wings. Redesignated the 17th Bombardment Wing (Tactical) after the war, the unit transitioned to the Martin B-57 Canberra and Douglas B-66 Destroyer medium bombers, operating briefly at Miho Air Base in Japan and Hurlburt Field in Florida before inactivating again in 1958.

In 1962 the unit was redesignated the 17th Bombardment Wing (Heavy) and activated at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Also designated the 4043rd Strategic Wing, it maintained a long-range refueling and strategic bombing capability with the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker and the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. In 1975 the wing moved to Beale AFB, California, inactivating in September 1976.

In May 1959, Colonel Paul K. Carlton assumed command of the recently activated 4126th Strategic Wing. The first two KC-135s arrived two months later on July 7, 1959.

On 17 September 1959, Col. Paul Calton, Commander of Beale's 4126th Strategic Wing, announced that the base would be the fifth Titan I missile installation. The Air Force activated the 851st Strategic Missile Squadron (Titan I) on 01 April 196l. With missiles in place, assigned crews participated in what was called the "activation exercise procedure" in which they worked with contractors to obtain hands-on experience in maintaining the Titan I. On May 24, 1962, during a contractor checkout, a terrific blast rocked launcher 1 at complex 4C at Chico, destroying a Titan I and causing heavy damage to the silo. After the investigation, the Air Force concluded that the two separate explosions occurred because of a blocked vent and blocked valve. On June 6, trouble again struck as a flash fire at another silo killed a worker. Subsequently, Peter Kiewit Sons' Company received a contract signed on July 30, 1962, for an initial amount of $1,250,000 to repair the silo damaged in the May blast.

In September 1962, the 851st SMS became the last Titan I Squadron to achieve alert status. After damages were repaired, the Chico complex became operational on March 9, 1963. Two months after the squadron became fully operational, SAC subjected the unit to an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI). The 851st SMS became the first Titan I unit to pass.

On May 16, 1964, Defense Secretary McNamara directed the accelerated phaseout of the Atlas and Titan I ICBMs. On January 4, 1965, the first Beale Titan I was taken off alert status. Within 3 months, the 851st Strategic Missile Squadron would be deactivated.

On Jan. 18, 1960, the 31st Bombardment Squadron with its B-52s arrived at Beale to become part of the wing. The 14th Air Division moved to Beale from Travis Air Force Base one week later. On Feb. 1, 1963, SAC redesignated the 4126th as the 456th Strategic Aerospace Wing. On Sept. 30, 1975, the 456th Bombardment Wing inactivated, and the 17th Bombardment Wing activated in its place. On Sept. 30, 1976, the 17th inactivated, and the 17th Wing's B-52s moved to other bases.

On Sept. 30, 1976 the 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., became the 100th Air Refueling Wing and moved to Beale. Many of the people and the tankers that had been part of the 17th now became members of the 100th. The 100th ARW stayed at Beale until March 15, 1983, when the Air Force inactivated the wing and consolidated its refueling mission and assets into the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.

Redesignated as the 17th Reconnaissance Wing, the unit activated at RAF Alconbury, United Kingdom, on 1 October 1982. Operating the TR-1 tactical reconnaissance aircraft, a larger, follow-on to Lockheed's U-2, the wing flew high-altitude tactical reconnaissance missions in support of US and NATO objectives in Europe. As the USAF's first and only all TR-1 wing, the 17th combined with the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing for a joint deployment in support of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. On 30 June 1991, following closely on the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the thawing of East-West relations, the 17th Reconnaissance Wing inactivated.

Assigned to the Second Air Force, the 17th Training Wing activated at Goodfellow Air Force Base on 1 July 1993. At the same time the unit's parent organization, Air Training Command, absorbed Air University to become Air Education and Training Command (AETC), while the Command's other training centers at Lackland, Keesler and Sheppard Air Force Bases inactivated in favor of the 37th, 81st and 82d Training Wings, respectively.

The unit's activation at Goodfellow two years later moved it fully into the training arena but preserved its association with intelligence. Indeed, at Goodfellow the 17th Training Wing focused on cryptologic and general intelligence training while providing special instruments and fire protection training for multiservice personnel.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 03:40:18 ZULU