UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

341st Bombardment Wing
341st Missile Wing
341st Space Wing [341st SW]

341st Space Wing was established as 341st Bombardment Group (Medium) on 14 Aug 1942. Activated on 15 Sep 1942. Redesignated 341st Bombardment Group, Medium, on 1 Aug 1943. Inactivated on 2 Nov 1945. Redesignated 341st Bombardment Group, Light, and activated in the Reserve, on 27 Dec 1946. Inactivated on 27 Jun 1949. Consolidated (31 Jan 1984) with the 341st Bombardment Wing, Medium, which was established on 23 Mar 1953. Activated on 1 Sep 1955. Discontinued, and inactivated, on 25 Jun 1961. Redesignated 341st Strategic Missile Wing (ICBM-Minuteman), and activated, on 1 Jul 1961. Organized on 15 Jul 1961. Redesignated 341st Missile Wing on 1 Sep 1991.

Activated in India on 15 Sep 1942. Equipped with B-25s. Entered combat early in 1943 and operated chiefly against enemy transportation in central Burma until 1944. Bombed bridges, locomotives, rail yards, and other targets to delay movement of supplies to the Japanese troops fighting in northern Burma. Moved to China in Jan 1944. Engaged primarily in sea sweeps and attacks against inland shipping. Also bombed and strafed such targets as trains, harbors, and railroads in French Indochina and the Canton-Hong Kong area of China. Received a DUC for developing and using a special (glip) bombing technique against enemy bridges in French Indochina. Moved to the US in Oct 1945. Inactivated on 2 Nov 1945.

On 01 September 1955 the the 341st Bombardment Wing was activated at Abilene AFB, Texas, as a part of 15th Air Force, Strategic Air Command (SAC). Equipped with the new B-47 Stratojet, the unit began flight training in the following year. For more than a year it engaged in routine training operations with primary emphasis on qualifying all crews as "combat ready." Late in 1957 the Wing participated in a simulated combat mission to Royal AFS, Chelveston, England. They flew in three waves, 24 hours apart, from their base in Texas (renamed Dyess). While overseas, the unit made several simulated attacks on targets in Great Britain. In early 1958 the squadron deployed to Anderson AB, Guam, for more training. Flights were made from there to Okinawa and to Japan. In July 1959, the 341st began participation in the operation of an alert force on station in the United Kingdom. The wing deployed six B-47s to Greenham Common RAF Station with three more rotating every week thereafter until April 1961. The unit performed strategic bombardment training operations on a global scale, Jan 1956-May 1961, and air refueling, Feb 1956-May 1960. It was phased down for inactivation at Dyess AFB, TX, Apr-Jun 1961. Replaced 4061st Air Refueling Wing in Jul 1961.

On July 15, 1961, the former B-47 Bomber Group, the 341st, came back to life as a Strategic Missile Wing. A year later, in late July 1962, the first Minuteman I arrived at Malmstrom and was placed at Alpha-9 launch facility.

The timely arrival of additional missiles no doubt played a critical role in the nation's defense, as the Soviets attempted to establish Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) bases on the island of Cuba during the fall of 1962. On October 15, 1962, U-2 photos revealed the presence of these sites. One week later President Kennedy addressed the nation and announced the establishment of a naval quarantine around Cuba. On October 24, SAC accepted control of the first flight of silos and placed them on alert status 2 days later. On October 28, Premier Khrushchev agreed to halt construction activity and return the IRBMs to the Soviet Union. Later, when asked if he had felt that nuclear war may have been imminent, the President responded, "I had confidence in the final outcome of our diplomacy. . . . Of course, Mr. Khrushchev knew we had an ace in the hole in our improved strategic forces." (It should be noted that the strategic imbalance of the two sides would have still been lopsided favoring the United States had the Minuteman flight not come on line.)

The 10th SMS accepted its final flight on February 28, 1963. Two months later, the 12th SMS became 100 percent combat ready. In July, the 490th SMS became fully operational, giving the 341st SMW responsibility for 150 silos.

While new Minuteman IIs deployed with the 564th, upgrading of the Minuteman I models had been ongoing with the wing starting a transition from "A" to "B" models in August 1964. By June 1969, all Minuteman Is, both "A" and "B" models, were replaced by Minuteman II models. In 1975, the 564th SMS switched from the Minuteman II to the Minuteman III model.

In addition to improving the missiles, many improvements were undertaken over the years to upgrade reliability and survivability. In the early 197Os, flood control dike projects alleviated drainage problems within the silos that were caused by the spring thaw. In November 1975, the wing began an integrated improvement program that included a command data buffer and an improved launch control system. In 1985, the 341st SMW became the lead unit in the Minuteman Integrated Life Extension program (Rivet Mile).

While serving as a deterrent force, the 341st SMW won numerous honors. The unit won its first Blanchard Trophy in SAC's annual Olympic Arena missile competition in 1976 and again captured this most coveted prize in 1986, 1990, and 1991. The unit has won additional accolades over the years. Received the SAC Commander's Missile Wing of the Year Award for 1969. Won the Lee R. Williams Trophy as SAC's outstanding missile wing for 1963, 1975, 1976, 1986, 1987, and 1991.

On September 28, 1991, President Bush ordered all Minuteman 11s off alert status. This order affected three-quarters of the 200 ICBMs stationed at Malmstrom. In accordance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the 341st Missile Wing began taking its Minuteman II's off alert and began deactivation of the missiles. From 1992 to 1994, the Air Force removed 150 Minuteman II missiles from their silos to comply with the pending START I Treaty. Fifty of the vacated silos received Minuteman III missiles, joining the 50 Minuteman III missiles already on alert status.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 24-07-2011 03:40:27 ZULU