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509th Bomb Wing shield
Motto: Defensor Vindex (Defender Avenger), approved July 10, 1952
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History of the 509th Bomb Wing

Posted 7/26/2007   Updated 1/27/2010 Email story   Print story


7/26/2007 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- 

509th Bomb Wing

The 509th Bomb Wing traces its historical roots to its World War II ancestor, the 509th Composite Group, a unit formed with one mission in mind: to drop the atomic bomb. 

The group made history Aug. 6, 1945, when the B-29 "Enola Gay," piloted by Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The "Bockscar," piloted by Maj. Charles Sweeney visited the Japanese mainland Aug. 9, 1945, and dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

In late 1945, the group settled into Roswell Army Air Base, N.M., where it became the core of the newly formed Strategic Air Command. In August 1946, the renamed 509th Bombardment Group returned to the Pacific to participate in Operation Crossroads. During this operation, the B-29 Dave's Dream dropped an atomic bomb on an armada of obsolete and captured ships moored off the Bikini Atoll.

The 509th BG was assigned to the newly activated 509th Bombardment Wing at Roswell on Nov. 17, 1947. The wing's mission expanded in July 1948 when it received the 509th Air Refueling Squadron and its KB-29M, a modified B-29 that provided air-to-air refueling for bombers thus giving the wing the ability to reach nearly any point on earth. 

In June 1950, the wing received the B-50 and four years later, the KC-97 aerial tanker replaced the aging KB-29M. The 509th BW entered the jet age in June 1955 when it received the B-47 Stratojet, the first all-jet bomber. However, by this time the 509th BG had been inactivated and its lineage and honors transferred to the 509th BW.

The 509th BW moved its personnel and equipment to Pease AFB, N.H. in August 1958. By 1965, the B-47s and the 509th BW were slated for retirement. SAC, however, decided to keep the bomb wing alive and equip it with B-52s and KC-135s. 

The wing's association with the B-52 included two major deployments to Andersen AFB, Guam, as part of the now famous Vietnam War Arc Light missions. The wing began receiving the FB-111 bomber in December 1970 and would operate the aircraft for two decades.

In 1988, Pease was one of several Air Force installations closed as part of the base realignment and closure commission recommendation. That same year, Congressman Ike Skelton announced the B-2 Advanced Technology Bomber would be based at Whiteman. The Air Force disestablished SAC and the 509th became part of the newly created Air Combat Command June 1, 1992.

The 509th BW was transferred to Whiteman Sept. 30, 1990 and in July 1993, accepted host responsibilities for the base. During this same month the wing received its first fixed-wing aircraft, a T-38 complete with a B-2 style paint job.

On the 90th anniversary of Orville Wright's historic first successful, controlled, heavier-than-air powered flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., the first of 21 B-2 bombers, named the Spirit of Missouri, arrived at Whiteman. 

The 509th BW once again made history Sept. 17, 1996, when three B-2s dropped three inert GBU-36 weapons, a new, highly accurate global positioning system-aided munition, which used the GPS-aided targeting system. The following month, three B-2s visited the Nellis AFB, Nev. target range and released 16 2,000-pound GBU-36 bombs from an altitude of 40,000 feet. Range personnel discovered all 16 projectiles hit close enough to their targets to be confirmed as 16 kills. This unprecedented display of airpower was quickly briefed to a gathering of senior Air Force operational planners who realized the key question was no longer, "how many planes are needed to destroy a target?" but rather "how many targets can one plane destroy?" 

On Feb. 1, 2010, the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base became part of the newly created Air Force Global Strike Command.

Operation Allied Force
The B-2 first saw combat March 23, 1999, during NATO operations in Serbia and Kosovo, the first sustained offensive combat air offensive conducted solely from U.S. soil. 

Over a period of two months, the 509th BW generated 49 B-2 sorties flown roundtrip from Missouri to Europe. 

Although the B-2s accounted for only 1 percent of all NATO sorties, the aircraft's all-weather, precision capability allowed it to deliver 11 percent of the munitions used in the air campaign. The missions lasted an average of 29 hours, demonstrating the global reach of the B-2. 

Operation Enduring Freedom
Following the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. Sept. 11, 2001, the 509th BW quickly transitioned to a wartime mode by joining forces with the 314th Airlift Wing, Little Rock AFB, Ark., and the Missouri Air National Guard's 139th Airlift Wing, St. Joseph, Mo., to send Missouri Task Force-1 to assist rescue efforts at the World Trade Center. 

In October 2001, the B-2 led America's strike force in Afghanistan, hitting the first targets in the country to "kick down the door" for the air campaign which followed. The bombers again flew from Missouri to their targets before landing at a forward location in the Indian Ocean to exchange crews while the engines continued to run. The combat missions lasted more than 40 hours, with the aircraft operating continuously for more than 70 hours without incident before returning to Whiteman. 

After twice proving its ability to fly combat missions from Missouri, the wing stepped up efforts to deploy the B-2 from forward locations. By late 2002, the Air Force had completed special shelters for the aircraft at an overseas operating location. The shelters provided a controlled climate similar to the facilities at Whiteman for specialized work on the aircraft skin in order to maintain its stealth characteristics. This ability to sustain operations from a forward location added a new dimension of flexibility to potential air campaigns. 

Operation Iraqi Freedom
The new shelters were put to use when the B-2 bombers again led a coalition air strike against the regime of Saddam Hussein, March 21, 2003. The famous "shock and awe" campaign saw unprecedented use of precision-guided munitions by the B-2 in an effort to minimize collateral damage and destroy key targets. The campaign also marked another milestone for the 509th BW, as B-2s flew combat missions from both Whiteman and a forward deployed location simultaneously. 

Only a decade after delivery, the B-2 was now a proven weapons system, a veteran of three campaigns and first-ever forward deployment. In recognition of the maturity of the system and the unit, the Air Force declared the B-2 fully operational capable. 

Since 2003, the B-2's forward presence has become a reality and proved the aircraft can deliver combat airpower, any time and any place. The deployment to Guam, which began in February 2005, provided a continuous bomber presence in the Asia Pacific region and augmented Pacific Command's establishment of a deterrent force. The 80-day tour, the longest in the bomber's 13-year history, also marked the first B-2 deployment since the aircraft was declared fully operational.


509th Composite Group/Bombardment Group

Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. / Dec. 17, 1944
Col. William H. Blanchard /  Jan. 22, 1946

(Renamed: 509th Bombardment Group, (July 10, 1946) 

Col. John D. Ryan / Sept. 15, 1948
Col. William H. Blanchard / July 21, 1951 to June 16, 1952

509th Bombardment Wing
Col. William H. Blanchard / Nov. 17, 1947
Col. John D. Ryan / Aug. 1, 1948
Brig. Gen. Clarence S. Irvine / Sept. 15, 1948
Brig. Gen. Hunter Harris, Jr. / Jan. 15, 1950
Col. John D. Ryan / Feb. 1, 1951
Col. Berton H. Burns / July 19, 1951
Col. William H. Blanchard / April 7, 1952
Col. Wilson R. Wood / Feb. 11, 1953
Col. Clifford F. Macomber / May 16, 1955
Col. Brooks A. Lawhon / Feb. 11, 1959
Col. Donald G. McPherson / June 1, 1960
Col. Edward D. Edwards / March 10, 1962
Col. James O. Frankosky / Oct. 21, 1963
Col. Madison S. McBrayer / Jan. 23, 1967
Col. Joseph V. Adams, Jr. / March 28, 1968
Col. Robert E. Blauw / Oct. 1, 1968
Col. Winston E. Moore / Feb. 11, 1969
Col. John M. Parker / Feb. 22, 1972
Col. Alan L. Hichew / June 14, 1972
Col. Isaac M. Glass / March 26, 1973
Col. Paul W. Maul / Aug. 21, 1973
Col. Richard A. Burpee / Feb. 26, 1974
Col. Frederic E. Roth / April 1, 1975
Col. Guy L. Hecker Jr. / May 3, 1976
Col. James M. Greer / Jan. 11, 1978
Col. Samuel H. Swart, Jr. / May 4, 1979
Col. John A. Dramesi / June 22, 1981
Col. Trevor A. Hammond / Dec. 21, 1981
Col. Denis L. Walsh / May 10, 1983
Col. Frederick A. Fiedler / June 13, 1984
Col. Robert J. McCracken / May 14, 1985
Col. Thad A. Wolfe / Feb. 27, 1987
Col. Orin L. Godsey / Feb. 25, 1988
Col. William C. Brooks / Feb. 28 - Sept. 30, 1990

(Unit placed in non-operational status Sept. 30, 1990 and
redesignated as 509th Bomb Wing on Sept. 1, 1991)

509th Bomb Wing
Brig. Gen. Ronald C. Marcotte / April 1, 1993
Brig. Gen. Thomas B. Goslin, Jr. / March 26, 1996
Brig. Gen. Leroy Barnidge, Jr. / June 8, 1998
Col. Anthony F. Przybyslawski / June 7, 2000
Brig. Gen. Douglas L. Raaberg / April 22, 2002
Col. Christopher D. Miller / April 24, 2004
Col. Gregory A. Biscone / May 1, 2006
Col Garrett Harencak / Sept. 1, 2007
Col. Robert E. Wheeler / March 1, 2009

Detachment 509th, 100 AD
Col. John J. Donnelly / June 29, 1990

(Unit Inactivated July 26, 1991)

Detachment 509th, 351 MW
Col. John J. Donnelly / July 26, 1991
Lt. Col. Thomas R. McCleary / Aug. 18, 1992

(Unit Inactivated April 1, 1993)


Bestowed Honors: Authorized to display honors earned by the 509th Operations Group prior to Nov. 17, 1947. Service Streamers: None. Campaign Streamers, World War II Asiatic Pacific Theater: Air Offensive, Japan, April 17, 1942 - Sept. 2, 1945; Eastern Mandates, Dec. 7, 1943 - April 16, 1944; Western Pacific, April 17, 1942 - Sept. 2, 1945. Decorations: None.

Service Streamers

Campaign Streamers

Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamers

Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
June 1, 2003 - May 31, 2005
June 1, 1999 - May 31, 2001
June 1, 1997 - May 31, 1999
June 1, 1995 - May  31, 1997
July 1, 1982 - June 30, 1984
July 1, 1981 - June 30, 1982
April 1 - Oct. 1, 1968 


Blazon: Or, in base a label Gules of three, surmounted by an atomic cloud Proper, between a pair of wings Azure; all with a diminished bordure of the first. Attached below the shield a White scroll edged with a narrow Yellow border and inscribed "DEFENSOR VINDEX" in Blue letters. 

Significance: The 509th Bombardment Wing's emblem is rich in tradition. Each symbol on the shield represents some part of the past. The Air Force wings represent the branch of service but are not in the familiar outstretched position. When the ancient Greeks approached a stranger, they raised their arms with palms outward to show they were carrying no weapons - a sign of peace. The 509th obtained special permission to display the wings in this configuration to show that it, too, comes in peace. The atomic cloud burst represents two things: that the 509th is the only unit to ever drop atomic bombs in wartime and that it still uses atomic power as a deterrent to war and defender of peace. Finally, the eldest son symbol (the red tripod) shows that the wing is the oldest atomic trained military unit in the world. 

Motto: Defensor Vindex (Defender Avenger), approved July 10, 1952. 

(Information compiled by Margaret DePalma, 509th BW historian)

12/4/2011 7:42:31 PM ET
It was very gratifying to read such a well written article about my old unit at Pease AFB NH. Thank you for the Memories USAF 1966-70
Don, Maine
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