97th Bomb Wing


    What was to become the 97th Bomb Wing began life in the post war era as the 97th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) on August 4, 1946 at Smoky Hill AFB, Kansas.  From December 1, 1947 until 12 March, 1948 the 97th was stationed at Mile 26 Air Field, Alaska.  On January 13, 1948 Mile 26 was renamed Eilson AFB and in March, 1948 the unit moved back to Smoky Hill.  The stay there was very short as the 97th moved to Biggs AFB on July 12, 1948.  On that same day the designation became the 97th Bombardment Wing (Medium).

    It is often difficult to track down exact dates for unit histories and even official sources are not always reliable.  Therefore the exact dates for activations, conversions and even reassignments are given as general dates.  So, in that vein, the 97th was first equipped with B-29 Superfortress bombers when activated.  In March, 1949 KB-29s were added when the 97th Aerial Refueling Squadron was activated.  In early 1950 the B-29s were replaced by B-50 and RB-50 Superfortress aircraft.   In 1954 KC-97 tankers replaced the KB-29s.  Another big change also came that year when the B-50s were replaced with B-47 Stratojets.

    While stationed at Biggs the 97th made several deployments to Europe in support of NATO allies, the most common ones being to the United Kingdom.  In 1959 the 97th left Biggs for Blytheville AFB, Arkansas where on July 1 it was redesignated the 97th Bombardment Wing (Heavy) and re-equipped with B-52G Stratofortress.  The 97th went thru another name change on September 1, 1991, becoming simply the 97th Wing.  In 1988 Blytheville was renamed Eaker AFB only to close on April Fool's Day 1992 when the 97th Wing  was deactivated.    The 97th did not remain inactivated long when on October 1, 1992 it was re-activated as the 97th Air Mobility Wing at Altus AFB, Oklahoma, where it remains to this day.
  
Known serial numbers
B-50A 48-026 (City of El Paso);  B-50D 48-067 (City of San Fernando), 48-087 (City of Chattanooga),48-095 (City of Milwaukee), 48-101 (City of Detroit), 48-110 (City of Independence), 48-119 (City of Ridgeway),   49-325
 RB-50G 47-157
KC-97G 52-2679, 52-2680

B-50D 48-095 of the 97th Bomb Wing

    The B-29s were replaced by B-50s in the early 1950s.  48-095 (left)"City of Milwaukee" carries the "Flaming Spear" emblem, but the Triangle "O" has been removed from the tail.  Most of the 97th's B-50s carried the name of a city on the nose.   The photo also appears to have been taken at an open house.  (NMUSAF)

   The City of San Fernando (48-067) parked on the ramp at Biggs.

    Aircraft 48-110, the City of Independence.   The number four engine is running which would indicate that the conversation must have been operations related.




    48-101 also is on display at an open house, facing an RB-45.  (NMUSAF)

    48-101, possibly at the same airshow as above.  The craft is named City of Detroit. The fuselage of B-50A Lucky Lady II  is in the right background, second picture.  I have no idea where the two photos were taken, but the building in the background is fairly distinctive.

   



    48-087 was the City of Chattanooga.

    49-325 is undergoing maintenance in mobile docks at Biggs.

    The bombs in the left of the last photo would probably indicate an exercise, or practice for a bombing competition.  The cowling is removed from the number four engine on the  B-50 on the left.  The one on the right looks to be taxiing.


    One very frustrating thing in looking at photos is a partial shot of an airplane.  The RB-50G (47-157) parked behind the 97th PMS shack is a case in point.  The airplane has a black belly and tail, but the question I have is:  "Is the 97th BW patch carried on the nose?  Does it have the standard lettering on the fuselage and wings?"  (USAF)


    This panel is taken from a yearbook on the 810th Air Division published in 1954 and shows various maintenance functions performed on B-50s.  (USAF)

KC-97 and crew

    The KC-97 was an integral part of B-50 and B-47 operations.  SAC's long range mission would have been severally hampered without that resource.  Here a KC-97 crew stands formation in front of their mission aircraft.  (I have lost track of who sent me this photos.  Please accept my apologies as I wish to give credit to the individual who provided it.)


KC-97G 52-2680 KC-97G 52-2680 KC-97 refueling a B-50D

    With the arrival of the B-50 and the invention of the "Flying Boom" aerial refueling became viable.  KB-29 and KC-97 aircraft were assigned to the 97th during the tenure of the B-50 and the KC-97 stayed through the B-47's career.  KC-97G 52-2680 was the 500th C-97 built and was delivered to the 97th during the early 50s.  She is shown in all three photos.  In the last photo a censor has tried to obliterate the serial and  the "500th Boeing C-97" markings on the nose.  In that last photo she is refueling B-50D 49-0325.   (USAF)



    Two pages taken from the 810th Air Division book (USAF)


First B-47E to arrive at Biggs AFB

     A ceremony to dedicate the arrival of the 97th's first B-47Es;  The City of El Paso and the The State of Texas.  In the background can be seen C-124s of the 1st SSS.  (Tom Duncan)


     The State of Texas at that ceremony.  Unfortunately it is next to impossible to read the serial number on the tail  (John Paul Jones)




    The 97th Bomb Wing deployed to the UK on a regular basis throughout their stay at Biggs AFB.  B-47E 51-5214 is shown on display at an air base in England during the late 1950s.  In the background of the photo to the right is a 47th BW B-45.  The 47th had been stationed at Biggs prior to receiving  B-45s.   (Courtesy of Leo Barish)



    "Shirley", a 1938 V-16 Cadillac owned by the 342nd Bombardment Squadron.  The name for the vehicle was chosen as this car had once been owned by Shirley Temple.  She (the Automobile not the star) was used to provide transportation for aircrews to and from the flight line.  Shirley was retired in the late 1950s when she was auctioned off and the proceeds donated to a charity.  It would be interesting to know if Shirley is still around somewhere.  (Tom Duncan)


Borber Airman January, 1957


    An January, 1957 article from Biggs AFB's newspaper The Border Airman relating the story of Shirley.  (Tom Duncan)

 


    The following photos were from Robert E. Hinnant's career in the USAF and were kindly provided by his son Rob.


    Robert Hinnant and crew pose in front of their B-29 at  "Mile 26 Satellite Field" (Later Eilson AFB) Alaska during the winter of 1947-48.  At this time the 97th BG was still at Smoky Hill AFB, Kansas and had yet to be re-designated as a Bomb Wing.



    Perpetual Motion, B-29 44-87734 at Waddington, England in 1948.  Over the next few years the 97th BG (and later the 97th BW) would deploy to the UK quite often.




    Robert Hinnant's crew helped to win the SAC Bombing Award and the Fairchild Trophy during the 1951 SAC Bombing and Navigation Competition held at MacDill AFB.  During the heyday of SAC it took a major effort to bring home a trophy and was an event that all personnel in a unit were proud of.






    Maj. Robert E. Hinnant looking up at his aircraft, the City of Ridgeway a B-50D, 48-119.  She was named after Ridgeway, South Carolina by Maj. Hinnant.  Rob Hinnant provided this background to his father's airplane. "As you may know, there were certain requirements dealing with the city's actual size.  Well, Dad was able to "embellish" the virtues of Ridgeway.  After the plane was painted, some "knucklehead" went and looked it up.  He proceeded to add the city's population next to the name, "Pop. 408."  ("Salute!!") 

    The bottom photo is of the crew during the 1952 SAC Bombing and Navigation Competition at MacDill AFB.

  




    It was quite common for US military personnel to contribute to the local communities when deployed overseas and the 342nd Bomb Squadron donated a television set to what is described as an "Old Persons Home" while deployed to the UK in 1956.  At this time Lieutenant Colonel Hinnant was CO of the 342nd.  Standing next to Col. Hinnant is an unidentified Catholic Sister and to her left are  Lt Col John Madsen and Major John Spiesman.





    Lt. Col. Hinnant at his desk while Commanding Officer of the 342nd Bomb Squadron.  Note the rotary dial phones in the right side of the photo.



    Robert Hinnant in the cockpit of a transient 97th BW B-47E in Greenland.  At this time he had left the 97th, but as happens his old unit caught up with him elsewhere.

 

97th Designations

97th Bombardment Group, Very Heavy  1946 - 1948

97th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy 1947 -  1948
97th Bombardment Wing, Medium 1948 - 1959
97th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy 1959 - 1992
97th Air Mobility Wing 1992- Current

 
Component Units

97th Bombardment Group 1947 - 1952 1
97th Operations Group 1991 - Current


97
Air Refueling Squadron 1950 - 1957

March 1, 1949 - July 10, 1955
July 10, 1955 - October 23, 1964
October 23, 1964 - April 1, 1992

KB-29  1950-1954

KC-97G 1954 - 1959
KC-97G 1959 - 1964
KC-135A 1964 - 2004




340 Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy   July 15, 1946 - May 27, 1948
340 Bombardment Squadron, Medium   May 28, 1948 - September 30, 1959
340 Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy  October 1, 1959 - August 30, 1991
340th Bomb Squadron  September 1, 1991 - January 7, 1992
340th Weapons Squadron  January 24, 2003 - Current

B-29 1946 - 1955 2
B-50 1950 - 1955
B-47E 1955 - 1959
B-52G 1959 - 1991





341st Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy   July 15, 1946 - May 27, 1948
341st Bombardment Squadron, Medium   May 28, 1948 - September 30, 1959
341st Bombardment Squadron, Heavy October 1, 1959 -  February 1, 1963 3

B-29 1946 - 1950
B-50 1950 - 1950
B-47E 1955 - 1959
B-52G 1959 - 1963


342d Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy   July 15, 1946 - May 27, 1948
342d Bombardment Squadron, Medium   May 28, 1948 - September 30, 1959
342d Bombardment Squadron, Heavy
October 1, 1959 -  February 1, 1963 4

B-29 1946 - 1950
B-50 1950 - 1950
B-47E 1955 - 1959
B-52G 1959 - 1963

914th Air Refueling Squadron October 1, 1961 - October 23, 1964

KC-135A 1961 - 1964

4024th Bombardment Squadron April 1, 1955 - May 1956

B-47E?



1: Records show the 97th Bomb Group as  a subsidiary unit to the 97th Bomb Wing during this period.
2: During this period the 340th operated specialized versions of the B-29 (ERB-29, KB-29, etc) as well as B-50s and RB-50s.
3: Attached to the 4038th Strategic Wing February 15th, 1960 till February 1, 1963.
4: Attached to the 4137th Strategic Wing Nay 15, 1960 until February 1, 1963.



Photo courtesy of Denny Lucas

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Clifford Bossie

Page Created 03-19-02

Updated 12-12-12