- 99th Air Base Wing
Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=99th Air Base Wing
caption=Emblem of the 99th Air Base Wing
1 June 1942
Air Combat Command
Nellis Air Force Base
* World War II: European Campaign (1942-1945)
* Vietnam Service (1967-1973)
The 99th Air Base Wing is the host unit at
Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. It oversees the daily operations of the base such as personnel, finance, civil engineering and supply. Three groups are assigned to the 99th: 99th Medical Group, 99th Mission Support Group and 99th Security Forces Group.
* Established as 99th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 28 Jan 1942. : Activated on 1 Jun 1942. : Inactivated on 8 Nov 1945.
* Redesignated 99th Bombardment Group, Very Heavy, on 13 May 1947. : Activated in the Reserve on 29 May 1947. : Inactivated on 27 Jun 1949.
* Established as the 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Heavy: Activated 1 January 1953: Redesignated 99th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, on 1 Oct 1955. : Inactivated on 31 Mar 1974.
* Redesignated 99th Strategic Weapons Wing on 22 Jun 1989. : Activated on 10 Aug 1989: Redesignated: 99th Tactics and Training Wing on 1 Sep 1991: Redesignated: 99th Wing on 15 Jun 1993: Redesignated: 99th Air Base Wing on 1 Oct 1995.
Third Air Force, 1 Jun 1942
Second Air Force, c. 29 Jun 1942
Twelfth Air Force, : 5th Bombardment Wing (later, 5 Bombardment Wing, Heavy): c. 22 Feb 1943 - 11 Dec 1943: 11 Dec 1943 - Nov 1945 (After group's transfer to 15th Air Force)
Fifteenth Air Force, 11 Dec 1943 : Army Air Forces Service Command, 2-8 Nov 1945.
Air Force Reserve: 19 Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy (later, 19 Air Division, Bombardment), 29 May 1947-27 Jun 1949.
Strategic Air Command: Fifteenth Air Force:: 57th Air Division, 1 Jan 1953 :: Attached to 3d Air Division, 29 Jan-25 Apr 1956: Eighth Air Force:: 817th Air Division, 2 Jul 1969: Second Air Force:: 45th Air Division, 30 Jun 1971-31 Mar 1974: Eighth Air Force:: 12th Air Division, 10 Aug 1988:: Strategic Warfare Center, 31 Jul 1990: Strategic Air Command, 1 Sep 1991
Air Combat Command: USAF Fighter Weapons Center:: Redesignated: USAF Weapons and Tactics Center:: Redesignated: United States Air Force Warfare Center, 1 Jun 1992 - Present
* Orlando AAB, FL,
1 June 1942
* MacDill Field, FL,
1 June 1942
* Pendleton Field, OR,
29 June 1942
* Gowen Field, ID,
28 August 1942
* Walla Walla AAFld, WA,
30 September 1942
* Sioux City AAB, IA,
18 November 1942- 3 January 1943
22 February 1943- 25 March 1943
* Oudna, Tunisia,
4 August 1943
* Tortorella Airfield, Italy,
11 December 1943
* Marcianise, Italy, c.
27 October- 8 November 1945
Fairchild AFB, WA, 1 January 1953
Westover AFB, MA, 4 September 1956- 31 March 1974
Ellsworth AFB, SD, 10 August 1989- 15 June 1993
Nellis AFB, NV, 1 October 1995-.
* 99 Operations and Maintenance (later, 99 Operations): 1 Sep 1991-21 Sep 1995.
* 25 Strategic Training: 10 Aug 1989-1 Sep 1991.
* 99 Air Refueling: 1 Jan 1966-30 Sep 1973.
* 346 Bombardment (later, 346 Strategic Reconnaissance; 346 Bombardment): 1 Jun 1942-8 Nov 1945: 29 May 1947-27 Jun 1949: 1 Jan 1953-31 Mar 1974
* 347 Bombardment (later, 346 Strategic Reconnaissance; 346 Bombardment): 1 Jun 1942-8 Nov 1945: 29 May 1947-27 Jun 1949: 1 Jan 1953-1 Sep 1961 (detached 1 Jan-12 Sep 1953 and 15-31 Aug 1961).
* 348 Bombardment (later, 346 Strategic Reconnaissance; 346 Bombardment): 1 Jun 1942-8 Nov 1945: 17 Jul 1947-27 Jun 1949: 1 Jan 1953-30 Sep 1973
* 416 Bombardment: 1 Jun 1942-8 Nov 1945: 17 Jul 1947-27 Jun 1949.
World War II
On September 25, 1942, the 99th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated at Gowan Field AAF near
Boise, Idaho. The 99th consisted of the 346th, 347th, 348th, and 416th Bomb squadrons. Due to congestion at Gowan Field, the 99th was relocated to Walla Walla AAF, in Washington.
During October the 99th received twelve flight leaders with crews, and four
B-17 Flying Fortressbombers. During the first phase of training, the 99th received six more B-17s. The winter weather in Washington was not favorable for flying, so the 99th relocated to Sioux City AAB, Iowafor the second phase of training. By the middle of November, the 99th had acquired about seventy five percent of its ground and support personnel. The third phase of training took place at Smokey Hill AAF, Salina, Kansasin January 1943.
After completion of training, the 99th departed the
United Statesat Morrison Field, Floridain February. The 99th B-17s flew the southern route via Boriniquen, Puerto Rico; Georgetown, British Guiana; Belém, Brazil; Bathhurst, Gambia; to their destination at Marrakech, Morocco. The ground and support personnel and equipment made the journey by ship.
Upon arrival in North Africa, the 99th was assigned to was attached to the 5th Bombardment Wing of
Twelfth Air Force, and was stationed at Navarin, located near Constantine, Algeria. The group came to be referred to as the Diamondbacks, due to a diamond insignia painted on the vertical stabilizer of their B-17s.
The 99th flew its first combat mission on
31 Marchagainst an enemy airdrome at Villacidro, Sardinia, As Allied ground forces forced the German Afrika Korpsto retreat into Tunisia, the 99th flew missions to cut off German supplies coming from Italyand Sicily. For the rest of 1943, the 99th flew missions primarily across the Mediterranean Seato bomb targets in Sicily and Italy. In June, news of a possible Arab uprising had the men of the 99th nervous and wearing side arms at all times. Although a major uprising never occurred, there were acts of sabotage; including a small night time German paratrooper drop over Oudna Field, Tunisia that resulted in the capture of three Germans.
Summer dust storms made life miserable. On July 5th the group bombed an airfield at Gerbini, Sicily. An estimated one hundred enemy fighters made repetitive and fierce attacks, trying to turn the 99th back. The group however penetrated enemy defenses, and destroyed the airfield. For this mission, the 99th received its first
Distinguished Unit Citation. On July 9th, the group flew missions in support of the Allied invasion of Sicily. The first Allied air attack on Rometook place on July 14th. Great care was taken by the 99th to avoid dropping any bombs on the Vatican City.
On 1 November 1943, the four B-17 groups of the 5th Wing and two B-24 groups of the
Ninth Air Forcewere combined with two fighter groups to form the new Fifteenth Air Force. On its first day of existence, the 15th flew a 1,600 mile round trip to bomb the Messerschmidtaircraft factory at Wiener Neustadt, Austria. With the Allied advancement up the boot of Italy, it was decided to relocate the 5th Wing there in order to bring more Axis targets within reach of the bombers. Each group was assigned a base on the Foggiaplains, the 99th being stationed at Tortorella. The planes arrived at their new base in December 1943. Living conditions at Tortorella were very harsh. The summers were hot and dusty, the winters cold and wet. Buildings were few, and airplane maintenance crews worked out in the open. The men lived in tents using homemade gasoline stoves for heat. The men constantly had to struggle through mud and water, snow and ice, or choking dust, depending on the season.
Throughout 1944, the 99th bombed targets in German occupied Italy,
Germany, Austria, Greece, Bulgaria, France, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. Two more B-17 groups, the 463rd and 483rd, would be added to the 5th Wing in March 1944. On April 23rd the group bombed an aircraft factory at Weiner Neustadt, Austria. The 99th was the lead group on this mission. The flak was intense, and aggressive fighter opposition was encountered but no planes were lost. Despite the heavy opposition, the 99th made a highly successful bomb run. Thirty-one of the groups airplanes returned to base, riddled with flak and bullet holes. For this mission, the 99th received its second Distinguished Unit Citation.
During the last half of May, rumors were going around that "Something Big" was in the works. The rumors became fact at 2:00 AM on the morning of June 2nd. the group was informed that the 99th was going to bomb a railroad yard at
Debrecen, Hungary, and fly on to land at Poltava, Russiain the Ukraine. At the briefing, the aircrews were told that "One hundred thirty-million Americans will look upon you today and you are their representatives in a land where you will be the first American combat men." The bombing that day was excellent, and no flak or enemy fighters were encountered. The 99th became the first task force of the USAAF to land on Russian soil. The first three days in Russia were non-operational. The men of the 99th spent their time sightseeing and making friends with the Russians. The Russian civilians cheered and saluted the "Americanyetts." On June 6th, the 99th flew a mission from Poltava, to bomb the German airfield at Galati, Romania. After landing back at Poltava, the men of the 99th learned that the Allies had invaded Europe on the beaches of France. On June 11th, the 99th took off to bomb a German airfield at Focsani, Romania. They continued on to land back at Tortorella. The first shuttle mission to Russia was deemed to be a success.
The invasion of Southern France occurred on August 15th. The 99th flew missions on the 13th and 14th, destroying German gun emplacements and lines of communication near
Toulon, France. The mission of the 15th, was in direct support of Allied invasion forces. The invasion of Southern France got little media attention because it had been overshadowed by the Normandy invasion on June 6th.
In April 1945, the 99th supported the Allied offensive in the
Po Valley. It flew its 395th, and last, combat mission on April 26, 1945. Heavy clouds prevented the target from being sighted so no bombs were dropped.
The group flew a total of 10,855 combat sorties in eighteen months of operation. The group was inactivated in Italy on
8 November 1945.
The unit was reactivated as the 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (99th SRW) in Jan 1953, replacing the
Pennsylvania Air National Guard111th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Fairchild AFB, Washington, which was activated during the Korean War. [Mixer, Ronald E., Genealogy of the STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND, Battermix Publishing Company, 1999 and Mixer, Ronald E., STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND, An Organizational History, Battermix Publishing Company, 2006.] The 99th SRW was assigned to the Strategic Air Command's Fifteenth Air Force, 57th Air Division. It's operational squadrons were the 346th, 347th and 348th Reconnaissance squadrons, assuming the RB–29 aircraft of the departing 111th.
Beginning in 1954, the wing began receiving the RB-36 reconnaissance version of the
B-36 Peacemakerintercontinental bomber. The wing performed worldwide photographic, electronic, and visual day and night strategic reconnaissance as its primary mission until late 1954, and until Sep 1956 as a secondary mission.
One of the weaknesses of early jet fighters was their limited range and endurance. From Jan 1955 to Feb 1956, the wing participated in the FICON (FIghter CONveyor) project, which was an early 1950s attempt to extend the range of fighter and reconnaissance jets by having them operate as parasites from B-36 bombers.
RB-36F bomber (serial number 49-2707) was selected to carry and recover a modified F-84E Thunderjet. The modified RB-36F was redesignated GRB-36F. The bomb bay of the GRB-36F was extensively modified, and the usual bomb racks were replaced by a retractable H-shaped cradle. F-84E serial number 49-2115 was modified to carry a hook on the upper nose ahead of its cockpit. During the recovery operation, the F-84E was to fly up underneath the B-36 and use its hook to engage a slot in the cradle. The cradle would then rotate down over the fuselage of the F-84E and engage hardpoints on the rear fuselage. Once attached, the F-84E would be pulled upward and nestle underneath the belly of the GRB-36F. Launch was carried out by reversing this process.
The success of the tests with the F-84E and the GRF-84F led to a USAF order in the fall of 1953 that 25 RF-84F reconnaissance aircraft be modified to operate as parasite aircraft. These aircraft were redesignated RF-84K. Serials were 52-7254/7278. Ten B-36D bombers were ordered modified to act as motherships, these aircraft being redesignated GRB-36D
With the conclusion of the FICON testing, Strategic bombing became the Wing's primary mission in late 1954. The wing deployed its B-36s to
Andersen AFB, Guam, Jan-Apr 1956. The wing was reassigned to the Eighth Air Force's 57th Air Division on 4 September 1956.
September 4 1956, the wing moved to Westover AFB, Massachusetts, and was redesignated the 99th Bombardment Wing, Heavy on October 1. Its B-36s were being phased out of the inventory, and the 99th soon began receiving the new B-52C Stratofortress. The wing flew the B-52Cs until the latter half of the 1960s when their B-52Cs were redistributed among a number of different B-52D units and operated primarily as crew trainers. The 99th was upgraded to the B-52D in 1966. During the Vietnam War, the B-52Ds of the 99th were routinely deployed in rotations to combat duty in Southeast Asia, finally returning to Westover in 1973. In 1956, the 99th also received the new KC-135 Stratotankerand began it's refueling mission. In Jan 1966, it added air refueling capability to its mission. The KC-135 tanker squadron also operated EC-135s in a Post-Attack Command Control System role until 1970. Beginning in 1967, all wing tactical and maintenance assets, and some support resources, were rotated for various periods to USAF units engaged in Southeast Asian combat operations; these deployments continued until the Wing inactivated on March 31 1974.
The 99th was redesignated the 99th Strategic Weapons Wing and activated at
Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, in Aug 1989 as a non-flying unit. At Ellsworth, the wing conducted tactics and development evaluation and trained combat crews in strategic bombing and electronic warfare. Redesignated the 99th Tactics and Training Wing on September 1 1991at Ellsworth AFB, the Tactics and Training Wing were assigned to Strategic Air Commandand later reassigned to the U.S.A.F. Fighter Weapons Center on 31 May 1992at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
Major reorganizations and name changes occurred until Sept. 1995, when the 99th Wing inactivated and was reactivated at Nellis as the 99th Air Base Wing on
1 October 1995.
*Moved to: Westover AFB, MA, on
4 September 1956
*Changed equipment in: 1965 to B-52s, KC-135s.
*Changed equipment in: 1966 to B-52s, EC-135s, KC-135s.
*Reassigned to: Eighth Air Force, 817th Air Division on
2 July 1969.
*Reassigned to: Second Air Force, 817th Air Division on
31 March 1970.
*Changed equipment in: 1970 to B-52s, KC-135s.
*Reassigned to: Second Air Force, 45th Air Division on
30 June 1971.
*Changed equipment in: 1973 to KC-135s.
* Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
* Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell
* Jacobsen, Meyers K. (1997). Convair B-36: A Comprehensive History of America's "Big Stick". Schiffer Military History, ISBN 0764305301.
* 99th Bomb Group Historical Society (1998). The Diamondbacks: The History of the 99th Bomb Group (H). Turner Publishing Company, ISBN 1563112671
* [http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/rso/rso_index.html] Air Force Historical Research Agency
* [http://www.nellis.af.mil/ Nellis AFB Home Page]
* [http://www.angelfire.com/pa5/mollpa/hwmoll.html Lt. Col. Harold W. Moll]
* [http://www.bobpenoyer.com/raid_on_gerbini.htm The Raid on Gerbini]
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