850th Strategic Missile Squadron

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850th Strategic Missile Squadron
Titan 1 ICBM.jpg
First successful launch of an SM-68 Titan I ICBM at Cape Canaveral, Florida on 10 August 1960 at the Atlantic Missile Range
Active1943–1945; 1960–1965
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
RoleIntercontinental ballistic missile
EngagementsEuropean Theater of Operations
DecorationsFrench Croix de Guerre with Palm
850th Strategic Missile Squadron emblem (approved 11 September 1962)[1]850thsms-emblem.jpg
World War II fuselage code[2][note 1]7Q

The 850th Strategic Missile Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the 44th Strategic Missile Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, where it was inactivated on 25 March 1965. The squadron was first activated in 1943 as the 850th Bombardment Squadron. After training in the United States, it deployed to the European Theater of Operations and participated in the strategic bombing campaign against Germany. Following V-E Day, the squadron returned to the United States, where it was inactivated in November 1945. It was activated as an intercontinental ballistic missile squadron in 1960. The squadron was redesignated and activated in June 1960 and equipped with the SM-68 Titan I Intercontinental ballistic missile, with a mission of nuclear deterrence. The squadron was inactivated as part of the phaseout of the Titan I ICBM on 25 March 1965.


World War II[edit]

Media related to 490th Bombardment Group at Wikimedia Commons The squadron was first activated at Salt Lake City Army Air Base, Utah on 1 October 1943 as one of the four original squadrons of the 490th Bombardment Group. In December, it moved to Mountain Home Army Air Field, Idaho, where it began training with Consolidated B-24 Liberators. The 850th left its training base on 9 April 1944 for the European Theater of Operations.[1]</ref>[3] The ground echelon departed the Port of Embarkation at Camp Shanks, New York, sailing on the SS Nieuw Amsterdam on 11 April and arriving in the United Kingdom on 25 April. The air echelon flew its planes along the southern ferry route beginning on 12 April.[4]

Black B-24 Liberator assigned to Carpetbagger duties

The squadron arrived at RAF Eye, its combat station, on 28 April[1] Before it could begin combat with the 490th Group, the squadron moved to RAF Cheddington two weeks later and was attached to the 801st Bombardment Group (Provisional) to perform Operation Carpetbagger missions. It used its B-24s to drop personnel and supplies to the resistance forces in occupied France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway. The squadron was relieved from clandestine operations on 12 August 1944 and its personnel and equipment were transferred to the 857th Bombardment Squadron of the 492d Bombardment Group, which replaced the provisional 801st Group as Eighth Air Force's special operations unit.[1][5] The 850th was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for its support of French resistance forces. The squadron was reformed at RAF Eye in the 490th Group, which was in the process of converting from Liberators to the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress as the 93d Combat Bombardment Wing transitioned to make the 3d Bombardment Division an all B-17 unit.[3][4]

850th Bombardment Squadron crew with its B-17G[note 2]

Once transition to the B-17 was completed on 24 August, the squadron concentrated on strategic bombing, attacking oil refineries, airfields, marshalling yards, and factories manufacturing aircraft and armored vehicles. It participated in raids against Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Hanover, Kassel, Merseburg and Münster.[3] On occasion, the squadron was diverted from the strategic bombing campaign. It attacked enemy lines of communication during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 through January 1945. In the last month of the war in Europe, it carried out interdiction missions to support advancing ground forces.[3] The squadron's last combat mission was flown on 20 April 1945.[4]

Following V-E Day, the squadron carried food to flooded areas of the Netherlands and transported prisoners of war to Allied repatriation centers.[3] The air echelon began flying its planes back to the United States on 6 July 1945. The ground echelon sailed from Southampton on the RMS Queen Elizabeth on 26 August 1945.[4] The unit regrouped at Drew Field, Florida in September. It was inactivated there on 7 November 1945.[1]

Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Squadron[edit]

Media related to 44th Strategic Missile Wing at Wikimedia Commons

HGM-25A Titan I Missile Sites

The squadron was organized at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota in December 1960 as the 850th Strategic Missile Squadron, a SM-68 Titan I intercontinental ballistic missile launch squadron and assigned to the 28th Bombardment Wing.[6] The squadron was deployed in a 3x3 configuration, which meant a total of nine missiles were divided into three sites.[citation needed] Each missile base had three missiles ready to launch at any given time. The squadron was reassigned to the newly established 44th Strategic Missile Wing on 1 January 1962.[6] It operated three missile sites:

850-A, 4 miles NNW of Wicksville, South Dakota 44°08′10″N 102°37′02″W / 44.13611°N 102.61722°W / 44.13611; -102.61722 (850-A)
850-B, 5 miles SSE of Hermosa, South Dakota 43°46′34″N 103°08′46″W / 43.77611°N 103.14611°W / 43.77611; -103.14611 (850-B)
850-C, 10 miles SE of Sturgis, South Dakota 44°23′51″N 103°18′48″W / 44.39750°N 103.31333°W / 44.39750; -103.31333 (850-C)

On 19 November 1964, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara announced the phase-out of remaining first-generation SM-65 Atlas and Titan I missiles by the end of June 1965. Consequently, the Titan Is of the 850th were removed from alert status on 4 January 1965.[citation needed] The last missile was shipped out on 12 February,[citation needed] and the squadron was declared nonoperational on 15 February.[6] The Air Force subsequently inactivated the squadron on 25 March.[7]

Missile sites were later sold off to private ownership after demilitarization. Today the remains of the sites are still visible in aerial imagery, in various states of use or abandonment.[citation needed]


  • Constituted as the 850th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 14 September 1943
Activated on 1 October 1943
Redesignated 850th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy c. 1944
Inactivated on 7 November 1945
  • Redesignated 850th Strategic Missile Squadron (ICBM-Titan) and activated on 22 June 1960 (not organized)
  • Organized on 1 December 1960[note 3]
Inactivated on 25 March 1965[8][7]


  • 490th Bombardment Group, 1 October 1943
  • VIII Air Force Composite Command, 11 May 1944 (attached to 801st Bombardment Group (Provisional) after 22 May 1944)
  • 490th Bombardment Group, 10 August 1944 – 7 November 1945
  • Strategic Air Command, 22 June 1960 (not organized)
  • 28th Bombardment Wing, 1 December 1960
  • 44th Strategic Missile Wing, 1 January 1962 – 25 March 1965[8][6]


  • Salt Lake City Army Air Base, Utah, 1 October 1943
  • Mountain Home Army Air Field, Idaho, 4 December 1943 – 9 April 1944
  • RAF Eye (AAF-138),[9] England, 27 April 1944 – c. 26 August 1945
  • RAF Cheddington (AAF-113),[9] England, 11 May 1944
  • RAF Harrington (AAF-179),[9] England, 27 May 1944
  • RAF Eye, England (AAF-138),[9] 12 August 1944-c. 26 August 1945
  • Drew Field, Florida 3 September–7 November 1945
  • Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, 1 December 1960 – 25 March 1965[10][11]

Aircraft and missiles[edit]

  • Consolidated B-24 Liberator, 1944
  • Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, 1944–1945
  • SM-68 (later LGM-25A) Titan I, 1960-1965[8]

Awards and campaigns[edit]

Award streamer Award Dates Notes
Streamer FCDG WWII.png French Croix de Guerre with Palm May-August 1944 850th Bombardment Squadron[1]
Campaign Streamer Campaign Dates Notes
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal streamer.png Air Offensive, Europe 28 April 1944–5 June 1944 850th Bombardment Squadron[1]
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal streamer.png Air Combat, EAME Theater 28 April 1944–11 May 1945 850th Bombardment Squadron[1]
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal streamer.png Normandy 6 June 1944–24 July 1944 850th Bombardment Squadron[1]
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal streamer.png Northern France 25 July 1944–14 September 1944 850th Bombardment Squadron[1]
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal streamer.png Rhineland 15 September 1944–21 March 1945 850th Bombardment Squadron[1]
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal streamer.png Ardennes-Alsace 16 December 1944–25 January 1945 850th Bombardment Squadron[1]
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal streamer.png Central Europe 22 March 1944–21 May 1945 850th Bombardment Squadron[1]

See also[edit]

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX



Explanatory notes
  1. ^ Although assigned the fuselage code, the squadron did not display the code until after the war had ended. Watkins, pp. 116-117.
  2. ^ Aircraft is Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, serial 44-83254, nicknamed "Old Doc Stork".
  3. ^ Maurer omits the organization date in the lineage portion of the entry for the squadron, however he does give it as the start date for both assignment and station history. Cf. Mueller, p. 155 (dates stationed at Ellsworth).
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 780
  2. ^ Watkins, pp.116-117
  3. ^ a b c d e Maurer, Combat Units, pp. 359-360
  4. ^ a b c d Freeman, p. 261
  5. ^ Freeman, p. 263
  6. ^ a b c d Ravenstein, p. 74
  7. ^ a b See Ravenstein, p. 74 (end of assignment to 44th Wing); Mueller, p. 155 (end of stationing at Ellsworth).
  8. ^ a b c Lineage information, including assignments, aircraft and missiles, through May 1963 in Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 780
  9. ^ a b c d Station number in Anderson.
  10. ^ Station information through May 1963 in Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 780, except as noted.
  11. ^ Mueller, p. 155


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

  • Anderson, Capt. Barry (1985). Army Air Forces Stations: A Guide to the Stations Where U.S. Army Air Forces Personnel Served in the United Kingdom During World War II (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 January 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1970). The Mighty Eighth: Units, Men and Machines (A History of the US 8th Army Air Force). London, England, UK: Macdonald and Company. ISBN 978-0-87938-638-2.
  • Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) [1961]. Air Force Combat Units of World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. LCCN 61060979. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  • Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) [1969]. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556.
  • Mueller, Robert (1989). Air Force Bases, Vol. I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982 (PDF). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings, Lineage & Honors Histories 1947-1977 (PDF). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  • Watkins, Robert (2008). Battle Colors: Insignia and Markings of the Eighth Air Force In World War II. Vol I (VIII) Bomber Command. Atglen, PA: Shiffer Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7643-1987-6.
Further reading