In The Heartland
Located two miles south of Knob Noster, Mo., just off U.S. Highway 50, Whiteman Air Force Base's name and roots stem from World War II.
During the U.S.' mobilization following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Whiteman AFB was activated on Aug. 6, 1942, as Sedalia Glider Base.
In November 1942, the installation became Sedalia Army Air Field and was assigned to the 12th Troop Carrier Command of the Army Air Force. The field served as a training site for glider tactics and paratroopers.
Assigned aircraft included the Douglas C-46s, C-47s and the Waco CG-4A glider. Following the end of the war in 1945, the base closed and most of the buildings were abandoned.
In August 1951, however, the base returned to life again and became a part of Strategic Air Command. SAC activated the 4224th Air Base Squadron to supervise the rehabilitation and construction of a new base, Sedalia AFB.
The 4224th continued its activities until Oct. 20, 1952, when it inactivated while turning over the base to the 340th Bombardment Wing. SAC scheduled the 340th to received the command's newest aircraft systems, the B-47 Stratojet and KC-97 tanker. Construction workers soon completed runway repairs and other projects in November 1953, paving the way for the arrival of the first B-47 in March 1954.
2nd Lieutenant George Whiteman
Whiteman Air Force Base is named in honor of 2nd Lt. George Whiteman, Air Corp, U. S. Army, who lost his life Dec. 7, 1941, while he was attempting to take off to defend Bellows Air Field, Oahu, Hawaii, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
George Allison Whiteman, the eldest of ten children of John and Earlie Whiteman, was born Oct. 12, 1919, at the Wilkerson farm near Longwood, Mo., in Pettis County. He graduated from Smith-Cotton High School in Sedalia and attended the Rolla School of Mines in Rolla, Mo., prior to enlisting in the service in 1939.
In the spring of 1940, Whiteman received orders to report to Randolph Field, Texas, for training as an aviator. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps Nov. 15, 1940, and volunteered for duty in Hawaii early the following year.
As the sun rose over Oahu on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began. Lieutenant Whiteman got to his P-40B aircraft at Bellows Field and had just lifted off the runway when a burst of enemy gunfire hit his cockpit, wounding him and throwing the plane out of control. The plane crashed and burned just off the end of the runway.
The news of Lieutenant Whiteman's death reached his family at 10:13 p.m. Dec. 7. In an interview with the Sedalia Democrat that evening, his mother, Earlie Whiteman, said: "It's hard to believe. It might have happened anytime, anywhere. We've got to sacrifice loved ones if we want to win this war." She gave the reporter a photograph of her son sitting in an aircraft with the inscription "Lucky, lucky me."
Lieutenant Whiteman is believed to be one of the first Airmen killed during the assault which marked the United States' entry into World War II. For his gallantry that day, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, the American Defense Medal with a Foreign Service clasp, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal with one bronze star, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Another honor was bestowed on Lieutenant Whiteman 14 years after his death. Gen. Nathan F. Twining, Air Force Chief of Staff, informed Mrs. Whiteman on Aug. 24, 1955, that the recently reopened Sedalia Air Force Base would be renamed Whiteman Air Force Base in tribute to her son. The dedication and renaming ceremony took place on Dec. 3, 1955.
Construction on Whiteman continued throughout the 1950s. During this period, the Air Force built military family housing units as well as a base pool and gymnasium. However, a project on a much grander scale soon overshadowed this flurry of construction.
In June 1961, the Department of Defense chose Whiteman to host the fourth Minuteman ICBM wing. On Jan. 17, 1962, the firm of Morrison, Hardeman, Perrini, and Level received the prime contract for construction of hardened, underground launch facilities and 15 launch control centers. The project called for the excavation of 867,000 cubic yards of earth and rock.
The contractors used 168,000 yards of concrete, 25,355 tons of reinforcing steel and 15,120 tons of structural steel. In addition, the project called for the installation of a vast underground intersite cable network. If laid end to end in a straight line, this cable would stretch from Whiteman AFB to 100 miles beyond Los Angeles. Construction of the complex was officially completed in June 1964.
Before completion of the construction, SAC activated the 351st Strategic Missile Wing at Whiteman on Feb. 1, 1963. The 340th BMW gradually phased out operations during the same year with its remnants transferring to Bergstrom AFB, Texas, on Sept. 1, 1963.
After the mission change in 1963, life on Whiteman remained relatively stable throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Still, there were programs to continually update and improve the base's weapons systems.
Whiteman initially employed the Minuteman I weapons system until the mid-1960s when a force modernization program converted the Minuteman I to the Minuteman II. Throughout the ICBM's tenure at Whiteman, it went through a variety of modifications to keep it at the forefront of America's defense.
Several new buildings emerged from time to time as the base matured. However, with the beginning of the 1980s, a new construction phase started. New missile operations, maintenance and security police facilities as well as several enlisted dormitories marked the start of a new era.
Meanwhile, the base continued to lead the way. In the late 1980s, the 351st fielded the first female Minuteman missile crew, the first male and female Minuteman crew, and the first squadron commander to pull alert in the Minuteman system. Under the provisions of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the Minuteman II system was being inactivated.
Then came an announcement that would change Whiteman forever. On Jan. 5, 1987, Congressman Ike Skelton revealed that the first deployment of the B-2 Advanced Technology Bomber would be at Whiteman. Beginning in 1988, a massive construction wave that created new buildings designed for B-2 operations, maintenance and support activities swept over the base.
On July 1, 1990, the 100th Air Division activated at Whiteman and assumed host responsibilities for the base. Accordingly, the 351st Combat Support Group and the 351st Security Police Group, along with their assigned units and the squadrons under the deputy commander for resource management, inactivated at Whiteman. Concurrently, the Air Force activated equivalent squadrons bearing the 800th designator to replace the inactivated 351st units.
Several months after the air division's activation, on Sept. 30, 1990, the 509th Bomb Wing moved its headquarters to Whiteman albeit in an unmanned and non-operational state.
However, the 100th AD's tenure at Whiteman did not last long as SAC inactivated the unit on July 26, 1991. Similarly, Whiteman's host unit responsibilities reverted to the 351st.
During the next two years, Whiteman's building infrastructure continued to grow as the arrival date of the first B-2 drew nearer. Meanwhile, another change developed in the Air Force.
With the end of the Cold War, the Air Force disestablished Strategic Air Command, Tactical Air Command and Military Air Command on June 1, 1992. In their place arose two new organizations, one of which was Air Combat Command, the 509th's newer, higher headquarters.
On April 1, 1993, the 509th returned to operational status when people from Detachment 509, the base's B-2 overseers for the past two years, were formally assigned to the wing. Then, on July 1, 1993, the 509th accepted the host responsibilities for Whiteman from the 351st and a new era dawned for the base. Several days later, on July 20, 1993, flying operations returned to the base after a 30-year hiatus when the first permanently assigned T-38 landed at Whiteman.
Then, on Dec. 17, 1993, the event that Whiteman had long awaited finally arrived. On that day, at approximately 2 p.m., a dark jet bomber swooped from the sky and landed on the Whiteman runway. Amid much fanfare, the first operational B-2, The Spirit of Missouri, had arrived. Less than a week later, on Dec. 22, 1993, Whiteman again made history as it generated the first B-2 sortie from the base.
On June 12, 1994, the base welcomed the 442nd Fighter Wing. The 442nd, an Air Force Reserve unit previously assigned to Richards-Gebaur AFB, Mo., transferred to Whiteman after the closure of that installation.
Yet, the 442nd was not really a newcomer to the base. On Sept. 1, 1943, the then-called 442nd Troop Carrier Group activated at Sedalia Army Air Field. It subsequently remained at the base until December 1943.
In 1995 the base also lost one of its long-time resident units. On July 31, 1995, the 351st Strategic Missile Wing officially inactivated, ending its 33-year association with Whiteman AFB.
In 2009, the 131st Fighter Wing, a Missouri Air National Guard Unit stationed at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, began transferring personnel to Whiteman to become the 131st Bomb Wing, the only Air Guard unit to fly the B-2 Spirit. The 131st BW brought its own ground and flight crews making Whiteman truly a Total Force Base.
Whiteman is also home to the Army National Guard 1-135th Attack Battalion and the Navy Reserve Maritime Expeditionary Security Division 13.
On February 1st, 2010, Whiteman was assigned to the Air Force's newest Major Command, Air Force Global Strike Command.
Throughout its history, the base has always been at the forefront of national defense. With the arrival of the first B-2 and the subsequent assignment of others, the future for the installation does, indeed, look bright for many years to come.
(Current as of August 2011)