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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

384th Bomb Wing

The 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was "activated" (brought into existence by the assignment of personnel) on 1 December 1942 at Gowen Field, Idaho. Comprised of the 544th, 545th, 546th, and 547th Bombardment Squadrons, the 384th was assigned to Wendover Field, Utah, on 2 January 1943 to begin training in B-17s for combat in the European Theatre of Operations.

The thirty-six aircraft of the 384th Bomb Group were assigned to USAAF Station 106 near the village of Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire, England, and arrived there in the summer of 1943. The tail of each of the unit's B-17 aircraft was emblazoned with the "triangle-P" insignia, that letter chosen to honor the first 384th commander, Colonel Budd J. Peaslee. The unit's primary function was the strategic bombardment of airfields and industries in France, Germany, and surrounding Nazi-occupied areas. They flew their first combat mission as a group on 22 June 1943, bombing automobile parts warehouses in Antwerp. This first mission claimed two of the unit's B-17s and their aircrews.

By the time their sixth mission was completed the 384th had lost thirty-five of its original thirty-six aircraft. Replacement crews and aircraft constantly arrived to take the vacancies, but the losses kept mounting. On a mission to bomb the port at Hamburg the 384th first experienced the terrible reality of a "ghost squadron" -- all seven ships and crews of the 544th Squadron failed to return from the mission. The entire squadron was lost.

During their tenure in England the B-17s of the 384th Bombardment Group undertook bombing missions to the airdromes at Orleans, Bricy, and Nancy, the motor works at Cologne, an aircraft component factory in Halberstadt, the steel works at Magdeburg, oil storage facilities at Leipzig and Berlin, railroad marshalling yards at Duren and Mannheim, the ports of Hamburg and Emden, and ball bearing plants in Schweinfurt. They received a Distinguished Unit Citation for their raid on aircraft factories in central Germany on 11 January 1944 and took part in the heavy bombing campaign against the German aircraft industry during "Big Week" the following month. On 24 April 1944 the unit received its second Distinguished Unit Citation when, although crippled by heavy losses of aircraft and men due to almost overwhelming enemy opposition, the group led the attack on an aircraft factory and airfield at Oberpfaffenhofen.

In June 1944 the 384th supported the Normandy invasion with attacks along the French coast, then bombed airfields and communications lines beyond the Allied beachhead. The unit supported ground troops during the breakthrough at St. Lo in July 1944 and assisted the airborne assault on Holland in September of that year. During that winter it struck enemy communications lines and fortifications during the Battle of the Bulge. The following spring the 384th aided the Allied assault across the Rhine by cutting enemy supply lines.

The 384th Bombardment Group flew 9,348 combat sorties in 316 missions, dropping 22,416 tons of bombs on enemy targets. The unit lost 159 aircraft and 1,625 men in combat, while destroying 165 enemy airplanes (with 34 more "probables") and seriously damaging 116 others. Through it all, the members of the 384th lived up to their motto "Keep the Show on the Road." Today, surviving members of the unit proudly recall that they "always flew the missions as briefed."

Following the surrender of the Axis powers the 384th Bombardment Group remained in Europe as part of the United States Air Forces in Europe, ferrying Allied troops into Germany, Greek soldiers back to their homeland, and American troops to Casablanca for their return to the United States. The unit was inactivated in France on 28 February 1946.

The 384th Bombardment Wing of the Strategic Air Command was based at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., between 1955 and 1963, flying B-47 aircraft.

Between July 1989 and June 1990 the 384th Bombardment Wing was based at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.

In 1993, the Air Force turned its support toward the humanitarian assistance effort in Somalia in Operation Restore Hope. To support this tasking, the 22 ARW used its KC-10s to deploy 12,000 Marines and provide air refueling to Allied aircraft. Also in that year, the Congressional Base Realignment and Closure Commission and Department of Defense announced their recommendations for further base realignment and force restructuring. The plans called for transferring March AFB to the Air Force Reserve and moving the 6th and 9th ARS's and their KC-10s to move to Travis AFB, Calif. At the same time, USAF ordered the 22 ARW to replace the 384th Bomb Wing at McConnell AFB, Kan. On January 3, 1994, the 22nd succeeded the 384th BW as McConnell's host unit.

In January 1995 the B-1 bomber completed a congressionally mandated six-month operational readiness assessment. Congress mandated the test to see whether or not the B-1B -- given its full set of equipment -- could sustain the standard mission-capable rate of 75 percent that other bombers such as the B-52 and B-2 are doing. During the test, involving 24 B-1 "Lancers" of the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth AFB, S.D., the planes tallied a mission-capable rate of 84.3 percent, meaning that at any given time 84.3 percent of the fleet was ready to fly. Parameters of the test allowed ACC to equip the 28th BW with a full set of spare parts, and full sets of air and ground crews with appropriate skill levels. To do this the 28th BW borrowed people and parts from the other two B-1B wings: the 384th Bomb Group at McConnell AFB, Kan., and the 7th Wing at Dyess AFB, Texas. The Air Force Operational and Test Evaluation Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M., conducted the tests.

The bomber unit served as an associate unit until it transferred its B-1 Lancer fleet to the 184th Bomb Group, Kansas Air National Guard before inactivating in September 1994. The 384th Air Refueling Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 19th Air Refueling Wing (Robins AFB, Geo.) and a previous McConnell tenant unit, joined the 22 ARW as the first of four KC-135 squadrons to comprise the wing's new tanker force. Within eight months, the 344th, 349th and the 350th joined the 384th to fly the wing's 48 KC-135s to provide global reach for America.

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