97th Operations Group
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|97th Operations Group|
Emblem of the 97th Operations Group
|Active||1942–1946; 1946–1952; 1991–1992; 1992–present|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
During World War II, the group's predecessor unit, the 97th Bombardment Group was the first VIII Bomber Command B-17 Flying Fortress bombardment group to fly a heavy bomber mission from the United Kingdom against the Rouen-Sotteville marshalling yards in France. It launched the attack from RAF Polebrook on 17 August 1942. Inactivated on 29 October 1945.
In the postwar era, the 97th Bombardment Group was one of the USAAF bombardment groups assigned to Strategic Air Command on 4 August 1946, the group being activated as a redesignation of the 485th Bombardment Group due to the Air Force's policy of retaining only low-numbered groups on active duty after the war. The group was inactivated in 1952 when the parent wing adopted the Tri-Deputate organization and assigned all of the groups squadrons directly to the wing.
Reactivated as the 97th Operations Group in 1991 when the 97th Wing adopted the USAF Objective organization plan.
The 97th Operations Group is the flying component of the 97th Air Mobility Wing. It plans and executes C-17, KC-135 formal school initial and advanced specialty training programs for up to 3000 students annually. Sustains C-17, KC-135 airland, airdrop and air refueling mobility forces providing global reach for combat and contingency operations. Provides air traffic control and weather forecasting for flying operations.
The 97 OG (tail flash "Altus") consists of the following squadrons:
- 97th Operations Support Squadron
- Activated as the 1709th Training Squadron under the 1707th Air Transport Group in September 1952 at Palm Beach AFB, Florida. Today the squadron provides direct mission support to all operational units assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing. Provides air traffic services, weather, airfield management, intelligence, life support, tactics, flight records, scheduling, and current operations services. Manages and provides administrative support for active duty, reserves, and international students at the command's airlift and tanker training center.
- 97th Training Squadron
- Manages the 97th Air Mobility Wing's $1.01-billion contracted aircrew training program for more than 350-plus assigned instructors and as many as 2100 C-17 and KC-135 students.
- 54th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135R)
- Is one of two Air Education and Training Command KC-135R flying training squadron and provides KC-135R initial and advanced flight qualification
- 55th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135R)
- Provides KC-135R initial and advanced flight qualification.
- 56th Airlift Squadron (C-5)
- Air Force's formal school for C-5 initial and advanced airland and aerial refueling qualification training. Provides select aircrew instructors to train and produce officer and enlisted aircrew members annually for Air Mobility Command, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard. Provides airlift support for peacetime, contingency, and wartime mobility operations.
- 58th Airlift Squadron (C-17)
- The nation's only formal C-17 Combat Crew Training School, providing pilot and loadmaster initial qualification and advanced upgrades for all United States active duty, reserve, and guard units
- For additional history and lineage, see 97th Air Mobility Wing
World War II
The group was established early in 1942 and initially trained B-17 crews in Florida and flew antisubmarine patrols. It deployed to England as part of Operation Bolero and became the first operationally-ready Eighth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress group.
Combat operations by the group began on 17 August 1942, when the 97th BG flew the first Eighth Air Force heavy bomber mission of the war, attacking the Rouen-Sotteville marshalling yards in France. The mission including 18 bombers - 12 to attack the yards and 6 to fly a diversion along the coast. The lead aircraft of the group, Butcher Shop, was piloted by the Group Commander, Colonel Frank A. Armstrong, and squadron commander Major Paul W. Tibbets (who later flew the Enola Gay to Hiroshima Japan on the first atomic bomb mission). In the leading aircraft of the second attacking flight, Yankee Doodle, flew General Ira C. Eaker, the commanding general of the Eighth Air Force Bomber Command. The RAF supplied a heavy fighter escort: four squadrons of Spitfires escorted the 12 B-17s to the target and five more covered the withdrawal. About half of the bombs landed in the target area.
The 97th BG conducted a total of 14 missions from Polebrook, attacking airfields, marshalling yards, industries, naval installations, and other targets in France and the Low Countries. The group sortied 247 aircraft, dropped 395 tons of bombs on Nazi-controlled territory, and lost 14 aircraft.
On 21 October 1942, a month earlier than its previously scheduled movement as part of Operation Torch because of delays in the movement of medium bombardment forces, the 97th Bomb Group was transferred to the Mediterranean theater upon the availability of bases in North Africa, being assigned first to Twelfth Air Force and later (November 1943) to Fifteenth Air Force.
From 16 November 1942 through May 1943, B-17s struck shipping in the Mediterranean Sea and airfields, docks, harbors, and marshalling yards in North Africa, Southern France, Sardinia, Sicily, and the southern Italian mainland in a campaign to cut supply lines to German forces in North Africa. Helped force the capitulation of Pantelleria Island in June 1943. Bombed in preparation for and in support of the invasions of Sicily and southern Italy in the summer and fall of 1943. From November 1943 to April 1945, attacked targets in Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Greece, attacking oil refineries, marshalling yards, aircraft factories, and other strategic objectives.
Earned a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for leading a raid against an aircraft factory at Steyr on 24 February 1944 during Big Week, the intensive air campaign against the German aircraft industry.
Participated in first shuttle-bombing mission to Russia (Operation Frantic) in June 1944. The group earned a second DUC for a devastating raid against one of the Ploesti oil refineries in Rumania on 18 August 1944. Supported Allied forces at Anzio and Cassino by pounding enemy communications, transportation targets, and airfields. Bombed coastal defenses in preparation for the invasion of southern France. Assisted the American Fifth and British Eighth Armies in their advance through the Po Valley of northern Italy until the German surrender in May 1945. Flew 467 combat missions; 110 aircraft lost.
The unit was redesignated as the 97th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) and was reactivated at Smoky Hill AAFld (later, Smoky Hill AFB), Kansas on 4 August 1946. Assigned to Strategic Air Command and was equipped with B-29 Superfortresses. Operational squadrons of the 97th BG were the 340th, 341st and 342d Bomb Squadrons
The group participated in numerous exercises, operational readiness inspections, and overseas deployments. Deployed to northern Alaska in 1947–1948 to provide a strategic bombing force east of the Bering Straits. Deployed twice to the United Kingdom as part of SAC's forward rotation of B-29 groups to Europe. The group was left unmanned after its second forward deployment to England from 10 February 1951 to 16 June 1952 when the group was inactivated when the Air Force reorganized its wings into the tri-deputate system.
On 29 August 1991, the 97th Bombardment Wing was redesignated as the 97d Wing under the "Objective Wing" concept adapted by the Air Force as the lines between tactical and strategic forces blurred. The flying components of the former 97th Bombardment Wing were reassigned to the newly established 97th Operations Group. Upon activation, the 97 OG was bestowed the history, lineage and honors of the 97d Bombardment Group from the 97 Wing.
Between September 1991 and April 1992 the 97 OG flew aerial refueling missions for the Strategic Air Command. Reassigned to Air Mobility Command, between October 1992 and July 1993, the group flew strategic airlift and aerial refueling training missions
After 1 July 1993, supported Air Education and Training Command by training flying crews with strategic airlift and air refueling aircraft.
- Established as 97 Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 28 January 1942
- Activated on 3 February 1942
- Redesignated 97 Bombardment Group, Heavy, on 30 September 1944
- Inactivated on 29 October 1945
- Redesignated 97 Bombardment Group, Very Heavy, on 15 July 1946
- Organized and activated, on 4 August 1946 from the personnel and equipment of the 485th Bombardment Group (Inactivated)
- Redesignated 97 Bombardment Group, Medium, on 12 July 1948
- Inactivated on 16 June 1952
- Redesignated 97 Operations Group on 29 August 1991
- Activated on 1 September 1991
- Inactivated on 1 April 1992
- Activated on 1 October 1992.
- 401st Bombardment Group: attached 27 June 1949 – 10 February 1951
- 11th Air Refueling Squadron: 1 October 1992 – 1 July 1993
- 54th Air Refueling Squadron: 16 January 1998–present
- 55th Air Refueling Squadron: 28 October 1994–present
- 97th Air Refueling Squadron: 1 March 1949 – 16 June 1952 (not operational 1 March 1949 – 23 January 1950; detached 12 July 1950 – 16 June 1952); 1 September 1991 – 1 April 1992
- 306th Air Refueling Squadron: 1 October 1992 – 1 July 1993
- 56th Airlift Squadron: 1 October 1992–present
- 57th Airlift Squadron: 1 October 1992 – 30 September 2001
- 58th Airlift Squadron: 30 January 1996–present
- 24th Reconnaissance later, 414th Bombardment Squadron: 3 February 1942 – 29 October 1945
- 340th Bombardment Squadron (later, 340 Bomb): 3 February 1942 – 29 October 1945; 4 August 1946 – 16 June 1952 (detached, 10 February 1951 – 16 June 1952); 1 September 1991 – 7 January 1992
- 341st Bombardment Squadron: 3 February 1942 – 29 October 1945; 4 August 1946 – 16 June 1952 (detached 10 February 1951 – 16 June 1952)
- 342d Bombardment Squadron: 3 February 1942 – 29 October 1945; 4 August 1946 – 16 June 1952 (detached 10 February 1951 – 16 June 1952).
- The Army Air Forces in WWII Chapter 18 p661-664
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.