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23d Bomb Squadron

23d Bomb Squadron
Instructor Radar Navigator Capt. Zac "Chaos" Proano (left) and Weapons Officer Capt. Andrew "Mayhem" Paulsen conduct a live CBU-87 and CBU-103 training mission on a B-52H Stratofortress Feb. 11, 2014, over the Nevada Test and Training Range.
Active 1917-present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Role Strategic bombing
Air interdiction
Part of 5th Bomb Wing
Eighth Air Force
Air Force Global Strike Command
Garrison/HQ Minot Air Force Base
Nickname(s) Bomber Barons
Colors Red/yellow
Engagements World War I
World War II
23d Bomb Squadron emblem

The 23d Bomb Squadron (23 BS) is a United States Air Force unit, assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing. It is stationed at Minot AFB, North Dakota. The mission of the 23BS is to fly the Boeing B-52H Stratofortress long-range 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, its origins dating to 16 June 1917, being 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.


  • Unit patch 1
  • History 2
    • World War I 2.1
    • Inter-war years 2.2
    • World War II 2.3
    • Cold War 2.4
    • Lineage 2.5
    • Assignments 2.6

Unit patch

The insignia 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. The patch was approved on 30 September 1931.

On 27 December 1935 fate stepped in, and the unit was actually 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. It is worn proudly by all members and is a constant reminder of their heritage.


World War I

Originally organized on 16 June 1917 as the 18th Aero Squadron but redesignated 23d six days later, the 23d supported World War I air combat operations serving as an aircraft and engine repair depot organization. Demobilized shortly after the Armistice with Germany (Compiègne).

Inter-war years

The 23d was reborn in 1921 and 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 patch 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

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 Citations 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

A B-52H with a Navy EA-6B Prowler and Japanese F-2-fighters during the military 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 AFB, Calif., 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 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 then-new Stand-off AGM-28 Hound Dog and ADM-20 Quail decoy missiles. The squadron flew the B-52G from Travis until July 1968.

On 25 July 1968, the 23d moved, without personnel or equipment, to Minot AFB, 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 ALCM (Air Launched Cruise Missile) in 1989 and the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM) in 1994.


Cold War Emblem of the 23d Bombardment Squadron
  • Organized as 18th Aero Squadron (I)* on
Redesignated 23d Aero Squadron (Repair) on 22 June 1917
Demobilized on 22 March 1919
  • Reconstituted, and consolidated (1924) with 23d Squadron, which was authorized on 30 August 1921, organized on 1 October 1921, redesignated 23d Bombardment Squadron on 25 January 1923
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.

* Another 18th Aero Squadron was activated at Rockwell Field, California on 20 August 1917. It was later re-designated as the 18th Observation Squadron on 25 January 1923. It was last inactivated as the 408th Bombardment Squadron on 1 January 1962.


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