"Defensor Vindex", the 509th BMW

Conceived for the sole purpose of delivering the atomic bomb, the 509th Composite Group was activated at Wendover AAF in Northwest Utah in the summer of 1944 with its first 2 major components, the 393rd Bombardment Squadron and the 1st Ordnance Squadron. After transitioning to the B-29 and having trained for this specific mission, the 393rd arrived at North Field, Tinian on 30 May 1945. On 6 August 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima by Col. Paul W.Tibbets Jr. aboard B-29 "Enola Gay". Three days later, on 9 August, Maj. Charles W.Sweeney, 393rd BS's Commander dropped the second atomic bomb with B-29 "Bock's Car" on Nagasaki, Japan. With the end of World War II, the 393rd moved to Roswell AAF, NM on 6 November 1945. The next year, the squadron participated in "Operation Cross Roads" while stationed at Kwajalein for atomic bomb tests on Bikin Atoll. A second squadron was assigned to the 509th CG on 23 June 1946, the 715th Bombardment Squadron. On 17 November 1947, SAC activated the 509th Bombardment Wing at Roswell AAF and assigned the Group to the Wing. Within the next five years, the 509th BG was inactivated and the lineage and honors transferred to the Wing.The 509th continued to fly and train in B-29s at Walker AFB, NM (ex-Roswell AAF) until 1952 when it began swapping its B-29s for B-50s. In 1955, the 509th BW received SAC's first all-jet bomber, the B-47.

In 1958, the 509th Bombardment Wing moved with equipment and personnel to Pease AFB, NH. In 1965, SAC announced that both squadrons would inactivate following the phase-out of the B-47s from the Air Force. Last minute changes saved the Wing's fate and B-52s began to replace the 393rd BS's aging B-47s. The squadron officially received its first B-52 on 23 March 1966. With no mission for the 715th to perform, the squadron was inactivated on 25 June 1966. In November 1966, aircrews and aircraft from the 393rd deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam to participate in "Arc Light" operations in Vietnam. In April 1968, an urgent need for bombers in the war prompted SAC to deploy all 393rd BS crews and aircraft to Andersen AFB for a six month tour. A year later, the 393rd was again in Southeast Asia for another tour of duty. During this tour, SAC announced that the 509th BW had been selected as the command's first FB-111A Wing. In preparation for the arrival of the "FB", the 393rd released its last B-52 on 19 November 1969.

The 509th BMW needed another squadron and on 1 January 1970, SAC formally activated the 715th BMS and assigned it to the 509th. Initial FB-111A training began at Carswell AFB, TX and on 16 December, the first FB-111A for the 509th BMW (68-0265) was flown to Pease AFB by Col. Winston E.Moore and his navigator, Maj. Billie Seals. The second FB-111A (68-0272) arrived on 18 December, flown by Col. John M.Parker 509th BMW/CV. On 1 July 1971, the 509th BW and its squadrons were declared operationally ready. At the same time, the 509th undertook the arduous task of performing Category III tests with the FB-111A. On 17 April 1971, a FB-111A with a 715th BMS's crew flew to RAF Markham for the Royal Air Force Bombing Competition. In December, the 509th BW participated in SAC Bombing and Navigation Competition at McCoy AFB, FL.

Live versions of the AGM-69 SRAM joined the FB-111A force in 1973 when the 715th BMS embarked on Project "Bullet Blitz", a serie of captive test flights which culminated in 17 launches at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The 715th performed the first live SRAM launch from a FB-111A on 2 April 1974 using an inert missile. In October 1976, a 509th BMW's crew achieved one of the wing's best finishes in Giant Voice 76 and won the John C.Meyer Trophy for best FB-111 low level bombing unit. In January 1978, following a reduction in the SAC FB-111 force the wing's AUE dropped from 30 to 26. Training and maintaining an alert force kept the 509th very busy over the years with the usual exercises and deployments to sharpen the skills.

In the summer of 1985, FB-111A of the 509th deployed for Operation "Giant Sponge" to Westover AFB, MA due to Pease's runway closure. The mid-eighties saw the 509th BMW "FBs" going trough the AMP program and Project Warrior which brought back art work from WWII. The first AMP aircraft, 68-0287, was delivered to Pease AFB on 18 December 1986 by General Earl T.O'Loughlin AFLC/CC and former Plattsburgh Wing commander.

During August 1986, the 509th BMW participated in UK AIR Tactical fighter Meet in England to demonstrate SAC's conventional capability in the European theater. On Valentine's Day 1988, the 509th BMW made the gift of life when a FB-111A crewed by Capt. David Lefforge and Capt. Steven Bruger from the 715th BMS transported a human heart from Oklahoma to Hartford, CT for transplant into a 46-year-old man.

In the late 80s, SAC announced the retirement of the FB-111As from its inventory and while this raised a question mark about the future of the 509th BMW, SAC announced in November 1988 that the 509th would move to Whiteman AFB, MO to become the Air Force's first B-2 Stealth Bomber unit. Nearly 20 years after the arrival of the FB-111A at Pease AFB and after having amassed more 31 bombing and navigation trophies, the first two FB-111A departed the base on 1 June 1990, piloted by Gen. C. Searock, SAC deputy chief of logistics and Col. William Brooks, commander of the 509th BMW. On 8 September 1990, the 509th BMW said farewell to the FB when the last 2 aircraft left for Cannon AFB, NM. Col. William C.Brooks and Capt. Curt L.Wheeler flew in formation with LtCol. Robert Osterholtz 715th BMS/CC and LtCol. Jim Henderson, chief bomber scheduling branch.

On 30 September 1990, the squadrons were inactivated and the 509th BW moved to Whiteman AFB without people and equipment, ending its long and distinguished history with the GD FB-111A.

 

509th BMW 393rd BMS 715th BMS