23rd Bomb Squadron
The 23rd Bomb Squadron flies the Boeing B-52H Stratofortress long range bomber. The squadron stands ready to deploy and fly its B-52Hs to enforce national security policy by being ready to deliver overwhelming nuclear or conventional firepower to destroy targets, worldwide, at any time.
Originally organized on June 16, 1917 as the 18th Aero Squadron but redesignated 23rd six days later, the 23rd supported World War I air combat operations serving as an aircraft and engine repair depot organization. Demobilized shortly after the Armistice, the 23rd was reborn in 1921 and spent the decades of the 1920s and 1930s stationed in Hawaii. There, the squadron flew a number of bomber types, most notably the Keystone bomber series and later the Douglas B-18 Bolo. It was during the squadron's stay in Hawaii that the event signified by the squadron patch took place. On Dec. 27, 1935, the Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawaii erupted, threatening the city of Hilo. Six Keystones of the 23rd used precision bombing tactics to drop twenty 600-pound bombs in the path of the volcano's lava flow, thus saving the city of Hilo by diverting the lava away from the city.
Part of the 5th Bombardment Group "Bomber Barons," the 23rd fought its way across the Southwest Pacific during World War II. The 23rd initially flew Boeing B-17E Flying Fortresses into combat, replacing those with Consolidated B-24 Liberators by early 1943. Long-range overwater missions were the squadron's forte, and in April 1944 the squadron won its first of two Distinguished Unit Citations for flying the longest overwater bombing mission ever flown to date, some 1,300 miles each way, to bomb the Japanese base at Woleai Island. After winning a second DUC for another long range strike against oil refineries on Borneo on Sept. 30, 1944, the 23rd found itself in the Philippines at the close of the war.
After a brief period in the Far East after the war, the 23rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron relocated to Travis AFB, Calif., in 1949. There, the squadron flew global strategic reconnaissance missions with Boeing RB-29 Superfortresses from 1949-51, Convair RB-36F Peacemakers from 1951-53, and RB-36Hs from 1953-55. On Oct. 1, 1955, the squadron was again redesignated 23rd Bombardment Squadron and reverted to training for long range nuclear strike missions with the same RB-36Hs. On Feb. 13, 1959, the 23rd entered the jet age when it received its first Boeing B-52G Stratofortress and also entered the missile age, as the B-52Gs were equipped with the then-new Hound Dog and Quail missiles. The squadron flew the B-52G from Travis until July 1968.
On July 25, 1968, the 23rd moved, without personnel or equipment, to Minot AFB, where it absorbed the personnel, equipment, and B-52H bombers of the inactivating 720th Bombardment Squadron. The 23rd has been combat ready in B-52Hs since that time, continuously adding improvements in avionics, weapons, and tactics to its arsenal. In 1973, the squadron was the first unit to receive the Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM). In 1980, the 23rd gained the Offensive Avionics System, and led Strategic Air Command's venture into modern conventional warfighting as the lead unit for the Strategic Projection Force, in support of the U.S. Rapid Deployment Force. During the 1980s, the squadron pioneered night vision goggle tactics. The 23rd added the AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) in 1989 and the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM) in 1994.
Today's 23rd "Bomber Barons" proudly wear the patch commemorating the 1935 lava-bombing mission. The insignia is a blue disk with a black volcano with red lava flowing from the crater, extending upward as red and yellow rays intermingling with clouds. On the front are five black bombs signifying the 23rd BS with two on the dexter (right) side, and three on the sinister (left) side. The patch is worn proudly by all members and is a constant reminder of our heritage.
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