23d Bomb Squadron

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23d Bomb Squadron
Air Force Global Strike Command.png
23d Bomb Squadron - B-52 interior.jpg
Squadron radar navigator and navigator conduct a B-52H Stratofortress training mission with CBU-87 and CBU-103 training mission over the Nevada Test and Training Range
Active1917–1919; 1921–1947; 1947–present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
RoleStrategic bombing
Part ofGlobal Strike Command
Garrison/HQMinot Air Force Base
Nickname(s)Barons[citation needed]
ColorsRed/yellow[citation needed]
EngagementsWorld War I
Southwest Pacific Theater[1]
DecorationsDistinguished Unit Citation
Navy Presidential Unit Citation
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Philippine Presidential Unit Citation[1]
23d Bomb Squadron emblem (approved 30 September 1931, reinstated 13 January 1994)[1][note 1]23d Bomb Squadron.png

The 23d Bomb Squadron is a United States Air Force unit, assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing. It is stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. The mission of the squadron is to fly the Boeing B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber. The squadron stands ready to deploy and fly its B-52Hs to enforce national security policy by being ready to deliver overwhelming nuclear or conventional firepower to destroy targets, worldwide, at any time.

The squadron is one of the oldest in the United States Air Force, dating to 16 June 1917, when it was organized at Kelly Field, Texas. It deployed to England as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, being engaged as an aircraft repair squadron during World War I. The squadron saw combat during World War II, and became part of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) during the Cold War.


World War I[edit]

Originally organized at Camp Kelly, Texas on 16 June 1917 as the 18th Aero Squadron but redesignated the 23d Aero Squadron six days later. Arriving in late July, 1918, in Britain, it started training before going to France, where it arrived on Armistice day. It was stationed at the Air Service Replacement Concentration Barracks St. Maixent Replacement Barracks until c. 29 January, 1919, then moved to Saint-Nazaire, from where it sailed back to US on 20 February. The squadron arrived at the port of embarkation in March and was demobilized there.

Inter-war years[edit]

The 23d Bombardment Squadron was born in 1921 and in April 1924 was consolidated with the World War I 23d Aero Squadron. It spent the decades of the 1920s and 1930s stationed in Hawaii. There, the squadron flew a number of bomber types, most notably the Keystone bomber series and later the Douglas B-18 Bolo. It was during the squadron’s stay in Hawaii that the event signified by the squadron emblem took place. On 27 December 1935, the Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawaii erupted, threatening the city of Hilo. Six Keystones of the 23d used precision bombing tactics to drop twenty 600-pound bombs in the path of the volcano’s lava flow, thus saving the city of Hilo by diverting the lava away from the city.

World War II[edit]

Part of the 5th Bombardment Group, the 23d fought its way across the Southwest Pacific during World War II. The 23d initially flew Boeing B-17E Flying Fortresses into combat, replacing those with Consolidated B-24 Liberators by early 1943. Long-range over-water missions were the squadron’s forte, and in April 1944 the squadron won its first of two Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC)s for flying the longest over-water bombing mission ever flown to date, some 1,300 miles each way, to bomb the Japanese base at Woleai Island. After winning a second DUC for another long range strike against oil refineries on Borneo on 30 September 1944, the 23d found itself in the Philippines at the close of the war.

Cold War[edit]

A B-52H with a Navy EA-6B Prowler and Japanese F-2-fighters during exercise Cope North 09-1 in February 2009 over Andersen Air Force Base

After a brief period in the Far East after the war, the 23d Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron relocated to Travis Air Force Base, Calif ornia, in 1949. There, the squadron flew global strategic reconnaissance missions with Boeing RB-29 Superfortresses from 1949–51, Convair RB-36F Peacemakers from 1951–53, and RB-36Hs from 1953-55. On 1 October 1955, the squadron was again redesignated the 23d Bombardment Squadron and reverted to training for long range nuclear strike missions with the same RB-36Hs. On 13 February 1959, the 23d entered the jet age when it received its first Boeing B-52G Stratofortress and also entered the missile age, as the B-52Gs were equipped with the AGM-28 Hound Dog standoff missile and the ADM-20 Quail decoy missile. The squadron flew the B-52G from Travis until July 1968.

On 25 July 1968, the 23d moved, without personnel or equipment, to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, where it absorbed the personnel, equipment, and B-52H bombers of the inactivating 720th Bombardment Squadron. The 23d has been combat ready in B-52Hs since that time, continuously adding improvements in avionics, weapons, and tactics to its arsenal. In 1973, the squadron was the first unit to receive the AGM-69 SRAM (Short Range Attack Missile). In 1980, the 23d gained the offensive avionics system, and led Strategic Air Command’s venture into modern conventional war fighting as the lead unit for the Strategic Projection Force, in support of the U.S. Rapid Deployment Force. During the 1980s, the squadron pioneered night vision goggle tactics. The 23d added the AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile in 1989 and the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile in 1994.


23d Aero Squadron
  • Organized as the 18th Aero Squadron on 16 June 1917[note 2]
Redesignated 23d Aero Squadron (Repair) on 22 June 1917
Demobilized on 22 March 1919
  • Reconstituted and consolidated with the 23d Bombardment Squadron on 8 April 1924[2][3]
23d Bomb Squadron
  • Authorized as the 23d Squadron on 30 August 1921
  • Organized on 1 October 1921
  • Redesignated 23d Bombardment Squadron on 25 January 1923
  • Consolidated with the 23d Aero Squadronon 8 April 1924[3]
Redesignated 23d Bombardment Squadron (Medium) on 6 December 1939
Redesignated 23d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 20 November 1940
Redesignated 23d Bombardment Squadron, Heavy on 6 March 1944
Redesignated 23d Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy on 30 April 1946
Inactivated on 10 March 1947
  • Redesignated 23d Reconnaissance Squadron, Very Long Range, Photographic on 16 September 1947
Activated on 20 October 1947
Redesignated 23d Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Photographic on 16 June 1949
Redesignated 23d Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Heavy on 14 November 1950
Redesignated 23d Bombardment Squadron, Heavy on 1 October 1955
Redesignated 23d Bomb Squadron on 1 September 1991[2]




See also[edit]


Explanatory notes
  1. ^ The unit emblem is a blue disk with a black volcano with red lava flowing from the crater, extending upward as red and yellow rays intermingling with clouds. On the front are five black bombs signifying the 23 BS with three on the dexter (right) side, and two on the sinister (left) side. On 27 December 1935 the unit was tasked to drop twenty 600-pound bombs in the path of the flow of lava from Mauna Loa volcano, thus saving the city of Hilo, Hawaii, from destruction. In May 1952, this emblem was replaced when the squadron was a reconnaissance unit. Although the original emblem was used after the squadron returned to the bombardment mission, it was not officially restored until 1994.
  2. ^ Another 18th Aero Squadron was activated at Rockwell Field, California on 20 August 1917. Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 499-500. It is not related to the first 18th Aero Squadron, and was last active as the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.
  1. ^ a b c d e f Robertson, Patsy (February 28, 2017). "Factsheet 23 Bomb Squadron (ACC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Lineage information in Robertson, except as otherwise noted.
  3. ^ a b Clay, p. 1390


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

Further reading
  • Gorrell, Col. Edgar S. (1974). History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919. Series B: Air Service Activities with the French, British, and Italians. Vol. 2 History of the Air Service in Great Britain. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration. OCLC 215070705.
  • Gorrell, Col. Edgar S. (1974). History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919. Series E: Squadron Histories. Vol. 4 History of the 22d-24th Aero Squadron. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration. OCLC 215070705.