The100th Bomb Wing (Med) is the successor of the famous 100th Bomb Group of World War II. The 100th Group, flying B-17s in the air war over Germany, acquired the title “Bloody Hundredth” because of the high losses it suffered in combat. At the end of the war, the 100th Group was reassigned to the United States and was inactivated on December 30, 1945.
On January 1, 1956, the 100th was reactivated as a Bomb Wing (BW) and assigned to the new but still uncompleted Portsmouth Air Force Base, NH. The 100th was the last of thirty bomb wings to be equipped with B-47s. These B-47 bomb wings served as America’s principal nuclear deterrent from 1953 to the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Three bomb squadrons, the 349th, 350th, and 351st, and the 100th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS), were initially assigned to the wing. Prior to the establishment of the wing, the 100th ARS was organized at Warner-Robins, GA, in December 1954 and was flying operational missions. In August 1957 it was assigned to Portsmouth and the 100th BW. In September of that year, in a formal dedication ceremony, the name of the base was changed to Pease Air Force Base. The first B-47 aircraft assigned to the 100th BW arrived on April 19, 1956. The last of the 2,041 B-47s built, Lockheed-Georgia’s #53-1972, was flown to Pease on February 18, 1957. Following the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt in November 1956, the Soviets threatened to intervene on Egypt’s side which led to the U.S. Strategic Air Command (SAC) deploying its KC-97 tankers, including those of the 100th ARS, to Greenland, Labrador, and Newfoundland. For two weeks in December, the 100th BW took part in operations Power House and Road Block. During these exercises, SAC’s KC-97s and B-47s flew over 1,000 missions over North America and the Artic. This was a clear signal to the Soviets of SAC’s striking power. In January 1957, the 100th ARS deployed to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, to refuel three B-52s which were making a non-stop flight around the world called Operation Power Flight. The wing became combat ready in March and in October the 100th became one of the first SAC wings to go on alert. Also in October, the 100th came in second in the SAC 1957 bombing competition, a notable achievement for a wing that was less than two years old. In January 1958 the 100th deployed for 90 days to Brize-Norton, England. This was the first 90-day deployment for the 100th and was, in fact, the last 90-day deployment for SAC. Overseas deployments in the future would be for three-week periods called “Reflex.” The change was instituted to insure the compatibility of the alert cycles within the U.S. and the overseas bases. When the bombers deployed to Brize-Norton, the 100th ARS deployed to Thule, Greenland and the 100 th’s 350th Bomb Squadron deployed to Torrejon AB, Spain, making it the first SAC unit to pull alert in Spain. In the summer of 1958, the bombers continued Reflex to Brize-Norton while the tankers deployed to Goose Bay, Labrador. In July, in response to a threatened Soviet intervention in Lebanon, President Eisenhower ordered all SAC aircraft to alert status. However, the crisis quickly defused and by August the command reverted back to its normal peacetime posture. (In August of 1958, the 509th Bomb Wing (Med), flying B-47s and KC-97s, joined the 100th at Pease AFB. This made two full wings on the base with three B-47 and one KC-97 squadron in each wing.) In 1959, the 100th’s bombers reflexed into Brize-Norton and Bruntingthorpe, England, while the tankers continued to Goose Bay. The short-lived 418th Bomb Squadron was assigned to the wing in March 1959 to enable the wing to put one-third of the force on alert. The 100th came in first in bombing and won the SAC bombing competition trophy. The wing came in second overall for the Fairchild Trophy which is awarded to the wing with the highest overall score. In 1961, 100th bomber Reflex operations were shifted from Brize-Norton, England, to Torrejon AB near Madrid, Spain. That spring, in the face of mounting Soviet threats, President Kennedy increased the SAC alert commitment to fifty percent. In June, at the Vienna summit, Khrushchev threatened to end the divided status of Berlin. An element of President Kennedy’s response to this threat was ordering an increase in the numbers of B-47s on alert in Europe and North Africa. The 100th’s Reflex commitment to Spain was increased and Moron, Spain was now also used as a 100th Reflex base. Targeting was radically changed from the Soviet Union to the satellite states. This reflected the Kennedy administration’s desire to localize the use of nuclear weapons, if possible, to avoid an all-out nuclear conflict. Khrushchev, however, did not invade Berlin but built the wall. Direct armed conflict had again been avoided and the cold war reverted back from crisis to “normalcy.” In January 1962, the 418th Bomb Squadron was deactivated and its crews divided among the three remaining squadrons. In October of that year the world was brought to the brink of nuclear war by the Soviet deployment of nuclear armed IRBMs to Cuba (the Cuban Missile Crisis). The nuclear striking power of the United States was so overwhelming that Khrushchev had no recourse but to withdraw his missiles from Cuba. Part of that nuclear deterrent was the 100th Bomb Wing. During the crisis, six additional bombers were assigned to the 100th from other bomb wings bringing the total number of bombers on alert to forty-eight. Thirty-eight were on alert at Pease and ten at Torrejon. The nuclear weapon load varied from aircraft to aircraft depending on targeting. Assuming that each aircraft was armed with two MK-28s, a standard weapon of the time, each with a yield of 1.1 megaton, the 100th Bomb Wing alone could have delivered ninety-six weapons with a destructive power of over 96 megatons. The World Politics Album credits the Soviet Union with having seventy-five ICBMs in 1962; therefore, the 100th Bomb Wing alone possessed a greater strike capability than the total Soviet ICBM force. During the crisis, the tankers pulled alert and were deployed to Goose Bay, Labrador; Harmon, Newfoundland; and Lages, Azores. Seven additional tankers from Lockbourne AFB were assigned to the 100th and 509th to pull alert at Pease during the crisis. Following the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a rapid retirement of the B-47 wings began, dictated by budgetary constraints and the increased deployment of both the Minuteman and Polaris missiles. In mid-1965, the 100th ended its Reflex operation to Torrejon and, for the remainder of the year, reflexed to Lockbourne AFB in Ohio. 1966 saw the end of the operational life of the B-47 bomber wings. On February 11, 1966, Colonel Jim Howard, the last commander of the 100th, flew the last operational B-47 bomber to the bone yard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The 100th was the last B-47 bomber wing to be deactivated. It had performed its assigned mission from 1956 to 1966 in an outstanding manner and, in keeping with its motto of “Peace Through Strength,” had never dropped a bomb in anger.
(This is a shortened version of a history presented by Col. Sigmund Alexander, USAF (Ret.) at the first San Antonio reunion. Col. Alexander is author of History of the 100th BW (M) and other books.)
History of the 100th Bomb Wing (Med)
1956 - 1966