305th Bomb Wing
In January 1951 the 305th Bombardment Wing was activated at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla. This unit became the second Strategic Air Command wing to receive the B-47 jet bomber.
The 305th Operations Group, originally known as the 305th Bombardment Group, was activated in March of 1942 and trained in Utah, Washington, and California for overseas duty with B-17 heavy bombers. The Group moved to England in September 1942 and entered combat over occupied Europe on 17 November.
General Curtis LeMay organized and trained the 305th Bombardment Group in 1942, and led that organization to combat in the European Theater. He developed formation procedures and bombing techniques that were used by B-17 bomber units throughout the European Theater of Operations. These fundamental procedures and techniques were later adapted to the B-29 Super Fortresses which fought the war to its conclusion in the Pacific.
On 27 January 1943, the group participated in the Eighth Air Force's first raid on Germany. On 14 October 1943, the Eighth Air Force's 1st and 3d Bombardment Divisions of the 305th Bombardment Group left Chelveston, England, for a second attack on the German ball- bearing plants at Schweinfurt, Germany. In an air battle lasting over three hours, Eighth Air Force lost the battle for air superiority over Germany. The 305th BG had raided Schweinfurt before, on 17 August 1943. The experience had been chilling, with much aerial opposition and flak, but the group held together and lost no aircraft. Rightly called "Black Thursday" by veterans, the 14 October 1943 mission to Schweinfurt was the most arduous of the war. Departing from the disciplined model of Col. Curtis LeMay, the group struggled with one problem after another in the bad weather that blanketed England. The group missed its assigned rendezvous with its element leader and every other subsequent navigational waypoint over England. Eventually, the 305th formed up on the wrong combat wing -- the 1st Combat Wing rather than the 40th -- becoming the "low group" in a very unconventional four-group alignment. Incredibly, of the 15 group aircraft able to participate in the mission, the Luftwaffe claimed 13, and 130 crewmembers. Of the downed airmen, 40 died and 20 were wounded, while another 79 became prisoners of war. As a result, the face of the bomber offensive changed almost immediately. Never again would the Eighth Air Force commit so many lives to deep penetrations of occupied Europe without adequate fighter protection. No group ever again suffered the horrendous 87-percent attrition rate the "Can Do" group did that October day.
The 305th attacked naval targets, factories, harbors, marshaling yards, and industrial targets in Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway in 1943 and 1944. It earned two Distinguished Unit Citations, one for a 4 April 1943 mission to Paris, France, and another for an 11 January 1944 raid on aircraft factories in central Germany. In February and April 1944, two pilots of the group each earned a Medal of Honor for flying, while wounded, crippled B-17s back to England.
In February 1944, the group participated in the "Big Week" raids against the German aircraft industry. Later in 1944, it flew interdiction and air support sorties in addition to strategic bombing missions. In preparation for the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, the 305th attacked V-weapon sites, airfields, and repair shops. On D-day, the group bombed enemy strongholds in the battle area. In July 1944, it struck enemy positions at St. Lo for an Allied offensive from Normandy into central France The 305th Bombardment Group bombed German antiaircraft batteries in September 1944 to cover the Allied airborne invasion of the Netherlands. In December 1944 and January 1945, it participated in the Battle of the Bulge by striking enemy positions in the Ardennes Forest. The group also supported the Allied airborne assault across the Rhine River in March 1945. On 25 April, the group flew its final combat mission of the war.
After the war, the 305th Bombardment Group participated in the initial American occupation of Europe. It also conducted photographic mapping missions over Europe and North Africa. On Christmas, 1946, the group inactivated. The 305th Bombardment Group was not operational during brief periods of activation as a B-29 unit between July 1947 and September 1948 and between January 1951 and June 1952.
New life was breathed into the group as it became part of the newly activated 305th Bombardment Wing on Jan. 2, 1951. Operating out of MacDill AFB, Fla., the group trained in the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, as part of the Strategic Air Command. Later that year the 305th received its first Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter. Following this, the group began training heavily in its new dual mission of strategic bombardment and aerial refueling. Then, in June 1952, the 305th Bombardment Group inactivated, and the wing took charge of its former flying squadrons. This lead to the conversion of all B-29s to the revolutionary all-jet Boeing B-47 Stratojet in June. The wing continued strategic bombardment and refueling operations from MacDill, while deploying once to England and twice to North Africa between 1953 and 1957.
In the meantime, the 305th entered a speed record-setting era as two B-47s set speed records July 28,1953, flying from Goose Bay, Labrador to RAF Fairford, England, in 4:14 hours and from Limestone AFB, Maine to RAF Fairford in 4:45 hours. In May 1959, the 305th Bomb Group with B-47's arrived at Bunker Hill Air Force Base, located approximately 65 miles north of Indianapolis, Indiana. A few months later, the wing began converting from the prop-driven KC-97 to the all-jet Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, extending the wing's global reach.
Two years later, the Convair B-58 Hustler began replacing the aging B-47s. The Wing converted from KC-97 to KC-135 tankers in 1959 and from B-47 to B/TB-58 bombers in 1961, continuing its global bombardment and refueling mission. The Hustler was the first supersonic bomber in Air Force history. For almost 10 years, the B-58s remained a strategic threat to the Soviet Union while establishing numerous world speed records. One such record was set on Oct. 16, 1963, as "Greased Lightning," dashed from Tokyo to London (via Alaska and Greenland) in 8:36 hours, averaging 938 miles per hour. The wing operated a B-58 combat crew training school, Aug 1965-Dec 1969.
The wing's global responsibility, set at strategic bombardment and aerial refueling, increased again in 1966 with the addition of the Boeing EC-135 Post Attack Command and Control System mission and aircraft. The base was renamed Grissom Air Force Base on 12 May 1968 after Lieutenant Colonel Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom. Colonel Grissom, one of the original seven astronauts and a native of Mitchell, Indiana, was killed in his Apollo capsule while it was still on the launch pad at Cape Kennedy, Florida. In 1969, the 305th's long history as a primary bombardment unit ended with the phase-out of the B-58. That change was reflected Jan. 1, 1970 when SAC redesignated the 305th an Air Refueling Wing, continuing the air refueling and PACCS support missions and its "Can Do" philosophy.
From the early 1970s until the close of flying operations in Southeast Asia in 1975, the 305th tankers supported air refueling operations under ARC Light, a bombing mission in the southeast. Later, the wing supported worldwide tanker task forces by deploying KC-135 aircraft to Europe, Alaska, Greenland, the Pacific and Southwest Asia.
While at Grissom, the group was the lead Air Force unit conducting tanker special operations. It developed procedures and tactics tested all over the globe in many classified operations. The group established and operated the Howard Tanker Task Force during the middle 1980s, deployed in support of tanker task forces worldwide. It also participated in numerous national and international exercises including, Operations Just Cause, Desert Shield/Storm, Southern Watch, Joint Endeavor, and Assured Response just to name a few.
In 1991 the Base Realignment and Closure Commission selected Grissom for realignment to the Reserves. Consequently, the 305th was inactivated along with its dual mission of air refueling and PACCS. With inactivation scheduled for October 1994, the PACCS mission and EC-135 aircraft were eliminated in May 1992, as the aircraft and crews were reassigned.
In July 1993, the air refueling mission and the KC-135s of the 70th and 305th Air Refueling Squadrons were transferred, leaving the 305th with no flying mission. The 305th Air Refueling Wing moved to McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., on Sept. 30, 1994, without personnel and equipment. At McGuire, the 438th Airlift Wing and 305th Air Refueling Wing were redesignated the 305th Air Mobility Wing. Along with the 514th Air Mobility Wing (Associate) and the 108th Air Refueling Wing (NJANG), Team McGuire's mission expanded to include worldwide movement of personnel, equipment, and supplies and aerial refueling to complete the wing's global reach capability. The 305th Air Mobility Wing extends America's global reach by generating, mobilizing and deploying 32 C-141 and 30 KC-10 aircraft to conduct strategic airlift, airdrop, and air refueling missions.
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