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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

393rd Bomb Squadron

No other unit in the US Air Force has a more special and unique history than the 509th Operations Group. Its existence stretches back to the hectic days of World War II and its involvement in a very special mission. The formation of the 393rd BS began when the Army Air Forces constituted the squadron as the 393rd Bombardment Squadron on Feb. 28, 1944. The AAF then activated the 393rd BMS on March 11, 1944, and assigned it to the 504th Bombardment Group at Dalhart Army Air Field, Texas. Lt. Col. Thomas J. Classen became the first commander. Originally, the AAF equipped the 393rd BMS with B-17s. However, fate intervened as Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr. selected the newly formed unit to participate in a very special mission.

Throughout the late 1930s to the mid-1940s, America prepared for and eventually fought in World War II. During these times, the country's vast industrial complex began developing many weapons. One of these technological inventions, the atomic bomb, originated in 1939. At that time, Dr. Albert Einstein persuaded President Franklin Roosevelt to fund development of the bomb. Amid extreme secrecy, scientists from around the United States worked day and night to make the concept a reality. Finally, by late 1943, the scientists were confident enough to tell the Army Air Forces (AAF) to begin preparing for the bomb's use.

At that time, the AAF decided that the B-29 Superfortress aircraft would be the delivery vehicle. It also selected one of its most able aviators, Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., to form and train a group devoted solely to dropping the device. In short order, the colonel selected the 393d Bombardment Squadron (BMS) as the core of the new group. Then he selected the remote Wendover Army Air Field (AAFld), Utah, as the training site. In September 1944, Colonel Tibbets moved the squadron to Wendover.

Thus, on Sept. 14, 1944, the squadron moved to Wendover Field, Utah, and began training on the massive B-29. On Oct. 8, 1944, Colonel Tibbets took formal command of the unit and began preparing it for its unique mission. On Dec. 17, 1944, the Army Air Forces created the 509th Composite Group and assigned the squadron to this new unit. Colonel Tibbets became commander of the group after turning command of the squadron back to Colonel Classen.

Meanwhile, training on the B-29s had progressed enough that the squadron began moving to its new overseas home. Accordingly, the unit moved to North Field, Tinian, the Marianas, on April 26, 1945. The squadron officially arrived at the field on May 30, 1945. Soon, it began flying a series of missions consisting of two or three B-29s. Each bomber carried one large, orange colored bomb that they dropped on targets throughout Japan. These projectiles added realism to the missions as they emulated the flight characteristics of an atomic bomb.

By early August 1945, the group and the squadron were ready to perform their special mission. On 06 August 1945 the crew of the B-29 Enola Gay released an atomic bomb over Hiroshima. Major Charles W. Sweeney, commander of the 393rd Bomb Squadron, accompanied the Enola Gay on the mission, piloting the B-29 The Great Artiste as an observation aircraft. On 09 August, with Sweeney at the controls, B-29 Bockscar [aka Bock's Car] took off before dawn from the island of Tinian with a second atomic bomb aboard (only two bombs were available). To eliminate the need to remove and reinstall complex equipment from The Great Artiste, Sweeney and Capt. Frederick C. Bock had exchanged aircraft. Thus Sweeney and his crew flew Bockscar, while The Great Artiste repeated its role as the observation aircraft, but with Bock and his crew aboard. In error, The Great Artiste was named in some official reports as the superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb at Nagasaki.

The squadron remained at North Field until Oct. 17, 1945, when the 509th returned to the United States. They immediately proceeded to their new home, Roswell AAFld (later renamed Walker AFB), N.M. Because of its expertise with the atomic bombs, the unit became the core organization for the Strategic Air Command (SAC) when the command was created on March 21, 1946. The squadron remained at Roswell until the Army Air Force directed the 509th to Kwajalein, the Marshall Islands, for Operation Crossroads, an atomic explosion test. Although the squadron didn't drop the bomb, it waited in reserve as a back-up to its sister squadron, the 715th BMS. After the squadron returned to Walker AFB, it continued to fly and train in B-29s.

In 1952, two major events occurred. First, the 393rd welcomed a new aircraft, the B-50. Next, the 393rd BMS was reassigned directly to the 509th Bombardment Wing. In 1955, the unit pioneered a new chapter when it began receiving SAC's first all-jet bomber, the B-47. In the late 1950s, change was in the air for the personnel of the 393rd BMS. In 1958, the squadron, along with the 509th Bombardment Wing, moved with personnel and equipment to Pease AFB, N.H. For the next seven years, the squadron flew and trained from Pease.

In 1965, SAC announced the squadron would inactivate following phase-out of the B-47s from the Air Force. However, fate intervened as SAC decided to keep both the 393rd and the 509th active. The command began sending B-52s to the 393rd to replace the aging B-47s. Thus, the squadron officially received its first B-52 on March 23, 1966.

In November 1966, several crews and aircraft from the 393rd deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam. While there, the squadron's representatives participated in Vietnam Arc Light operations. However, an urgent need for the bombers in the war prompted SAC to deploy all 393rd BMS crews and aircraft to Andersen in April 1968. During the six-month stay, the squadron's personnel participated in many bombing missions. A year later, SAC issued the call and once again, the 393rd's aircraft and personnel went to Southeast Asia.

During this tour, SAC announced the 393rd had been selected as the command's first FB-111A squadron. In preparation for arrival of the medium bomber, the squadron released its last B-52 on Nov. 19, 1969. Even so, it was over a year before the first FB-111 landed at Pease. During flight line ceremonies on Dec. 16, 1970, the 393rd received its first FB-111.

For the next several years, 393rd BMS crews and aircraft pioneered tactics for the FB-111A deployment of the Short Range Attack Missile. In the mid-1980s, the squadron hit its stride as it helped the 509th BMW win virtually every major bomber award in 8th Air Force and SAC. These achievements included winning SAC's Bombing/Navigation Competition for three consecutive years (1981-1983). In the late 1980s SAC announced retirement of the FB-111s from its inventory. This raised a question mark about the future of the 509th and its squadrons.

On Nov. 30, 1988, SAC announced that the 509th BMW would move to Whiteman AFB, Mo., to become the Air Force's first B-2 Stealth Bomber unit. The command further directed that the 393rd BMS become the first operational B-2 squadron in the Air Force. In preparation for this distinction, SAC inactivated the 393rd BMS along with numerous other 509th squadrons from Sept. 30, 1990, until March 12, 1993. At that time, the Air Force renamed the squadron as the 393rd Bomb Squadron.

On Aug. 27, 1993, the squadron activated at Whiteman AFB and became a part of the 509th Operations Group. Over the next several months, the 393rd prepared for another rendezvous with history. On Dec. 17, 1993, that rendezvous became reality when the first B-2 Spirit bomber, nicknamed the "Spirit of Missouri," arrived at Whiteman.

Over the next several years, more and more B-2s arrived as the 393rd and the 509th strove to bring the bomber on line. That concept became a reality when, on Jan. 1, 1997, the Air Force declared the 509th (and the 393rd) as ready to assume a conventional bombing role. Four months later, on April 1, 1997, the squadron's efforts again paid dividends when the Air Force decreed Initial Operational Capability for the 509th and the B-2.

Within two short years, members of the 393rd would again prove their mettle as the unit tasted combat for the first time in almost 30 years. On March 24, 1999, the 393rd Tigers played a key role in taking the B-2 into its first combat engagement when two of the aircraft attacked targets in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. The 393rd Tigers would participate in and support the attacks until the end of hostilities.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 03:40:30 ZULU