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373d Strategic Missile Squadron

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373d Strategic Missile Squadron

373d Strategic Missile Squadron

LGM-25C Titan II Test Launch at Vandenburg AFB, California
Active 1942–1987
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Type Squadron
Role Intercontinental ballistic missile
Engagements World War II (Asia-Pacific Theater)
Decorations Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Insignia
373d Strategic Missile Squadron emblem

The 373d Strategic Missile Squadron (373 SMS) is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the 308th Strategic Missile Wing, stationed at Little Rock AFB, South Dakota.

The 373 SMS was equipped with the LGM-25C Titan II Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), with a mission of nuclear deterrence. The squadron was inactivated as part of the phaseout of the Titan II ICBM on 18 August 1987.

History

World War II

Activated in early 1942 in Idaho as a long-range B-24 Liberator bombardment squadron under Second Air Force. For the next three months little training occurred while the unit worked through its growing pains, resolving administrative and personnel acquisition difficulties. Then a totally new problem arose....all but four personnel were transferred to the 330th Bombardment Group! While active on paper, it was not until September that personnel were taken from the 39th Bombardment Group to form a headquarters cadre for the 308th Group, again making it a viable unit. On 29 September the squadron was designated an Operational Training Unit (OTU) with Wendover Field, Utah as its home station. The unit was fully manned by November, after receiving personnel from the 18th Replacement Wing.

During this time of trials and tribulations in forming a recognizable force, the flying echelon had transferred to Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona, on 20 June for incidental training. The flight crews had been chosen and assigned, having completed their respective training schools; i.e., pilot, navigator, bombardier, engineer, radio and gunnery.

Members of the squadron had to complete three phases of training prior to moving overseas and entering combat. The flying personnel spent most of October in transition training with the B-24, training combat crews as well. Meanwhile, the ground echelon was acquiring, organizing and processing personnel and supplies at Wendover Field.

With the training complete and the personnel and supplies processed, the 308th Bomb Group and the 375th BS officially transferred to Fourteenth Air Force in China early in 1943. The air echelon began flying its 'brand new' B-24D Liberators from Morrison Field, Florida on 15 February 1943. Traveling by way of the South Atlantic Transport Route though Central and South America, the Azores, Central Africa, Arabia and finally India; while the ground echelon traveled by ship across the Pacific Ocean.

The squadron arrived in India and made many trips over the 'Hump' between India and China to obtain gasoline, bombs, spare parts, and other items they needed to prepare for and sustain their combat operations. The 375th supported Chinese ground forces; attacked airfields, coal yards, docks, oil refineries and fuel dumps in French Indochina; mined rivers and ports; bombed maintenance shops and docks at Rangoon, Burma; attacked Japanese shipping in the East China Sea, Formosa Straits, South China Sea and Gulf of Tonkin.

The squadron moved to India in June 1945, ferrying gasoline and supplies from there back into China. The unit sailed for the United States, where it was inactivated on 6 January 1946.

Strategic Air Command

Reactivated in Alaska in 1947 as a Strategic Air Command weather reconnaissance squadron. Gathering weather information for combat readiness was an integrated part of strategic aerial reconnaissance. Weather recon, though, was a particularly loose term. There was a constant need for weather information, but weather flights were also a convenient cover for the more covert missions with RB-29 Superfortress photo-reconnaissance aircraft over the eastern frontier of the Soviet Union. Inactivated in February 1951.

Reactivated a few months later in October with new B-47E Stratojet swept-wing medium bombers, capable of flying at high subsonic speeds and primarily designed for penetrating the airspace of the Soviet Union. In the early late 1950s, the B-47 was considered to be reaching obsolescence, and was being phased out of SAC's strategic arsenal. B-47s began being sent to AMARC at Davis-Monthan in July 1959 and the squadron went non-operational. Was inactivated on 25 June 1961.

Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Squadron

Reactivated and re-designated as a Strategic Air Command LGM-25C Titan II ICBM Strategic Missile Squadron in 1962. Operated nine Titan II underground silos constructed beginning in 1960; the first site (373-5) going operationally ready on 15 June 1963. The 9 missile silos controlled by the 570th Strategic Missile Squadron remained on alert for over 20 years during the Cold War. On August 8, 1965, at launch site 373-4, 53 contractor workers died in a flash fire while installing modifications to the launch silo. The cause of the accident was believed to be a rupture in a high-pressure line, which spewed hydraulic fluid on the floor. Ignited by sparks from a nearby welder, the resulting fire consumed most of the oxygen in the space, suffocating the workers.

In October 1981, President Ronald Reagan announced that as part of the strategic modernization program, Titan II systems were to be retired by October 1, 1987. Inactivation of the sites began when site 373-6 was inactivated on 20 Jun 1985; the last site (373-2) inactivated on 4 May 1987. The squadron was inactivated on 18 August.

After removal from service, the silos had reusable equipment removed by Air Force personnel, and contractors retrieved salvageable metals before destroying the silos with explosives and filling them in. Access to the vacated control centers was blocked off. 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.

Lineage

  • Constituted 373d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on January 28, 1942
Activated on April 15, 1942
Inactivated on January 7, 1946.
  • Re-designated: 373d Reconnaissance Squadron (Very Long Range, Weather) on September 16, 1947.
Activated on October 15, 1947
Inactivated on February 21, 1951
  • Re-designated 373d Bombardment Squadron (Medium) on October 4, 1951
Activated on October 10, 1951
Discontinued, and inactivated, on June 25, 1961
  • Re-designated 373d Strategic Missile Squadron, and activated, on November 29, 1961
Organized on April 1, 1962
Inactivated on August 18, 1987

Assignments

Attached to 21st Air Division, October 10, 1951 – April 17, 1952

Stations

Aircraft and missiles

Operated nine missile sites:
373-1 (15 Nov 1963-5 Jan 1987), 1.2 mi S of Mount Vernon, AR 35°12′34″N 092°07′27″W / 35.20944°N 92.12417°W / 35.20944; -92.12417 (373-1)

373-2 (29 Nov 1963-4 May 1987), 3.7 mi E of Rose Bud, AR 35°18′54″N 092°01′09″W / 35.31500°N 92.01917°W / 35.31500; -92.01917 (373-2)

373-3 (19 Oct 1963-18 Mar 1987), 4.4 mi SE of Heber Springs, AR 35°26′31″N 091°58′57″W / 35.44194°N 91.98250°W / 35.44194; -91.98250 (373-3)

373-4 (16 May 1963-18 Feb 1987)*, 2.1 mi ENE of Letona, AR 35°22′14″N 091°47′39″W / 35.37056°N 91.79417°W / 35.37056; -91.79417 (373-4)

373-5 (15 Jun 1963-20 Oct 1986), 1.5 mi E of Center Hill, AR 35°15′38″N 091°51′25″W / 35.26056°N 91.85694°W / 35.26056; -91.85694 (373-5)

373-6 (23 Nov 1963-20 Jun 1985), 4.9 mi WNW of McRae, AR 35°08′33″N 091°54′03″W / 35.14250°N 91.90083°W / 35.14250; -91.90083 (373-6)

373-7 (26 Jun 1963-3 Apr 1986), 6.1 mi W of Russell, AR 35°26′08″N 091°34′05″W / 35.43556°N 91.56806°W / 35.43556; -91.56806 (373-7)

373-8 (18 Dec 1963-20 Oct 1986), 2.5 mi NNW of Judsonia, AR 35°18′15″N 091°39′08″W / 35.30417°N 91.65222°W / 35.30417; -91.65222 (373-8)

373-9 (28 Oct 1963-3 Oct 1985), 2.1 mi SSE of Holland, AR 35°08′41″N 092°15′17″W / 35.14472°N 92.25472°W / 35.14472; -92.25472 (373-9)

.* On August 8, 1965, at launch site 373-4, 53 contractor workers died in a flash fire while installing modifications to the launch silo. The cause of the accident was believed to be a rupture in a high-pressure line, which spewed hydraulic fluid on the floor. Ignited by sparks from a nearby welder, the resulting fire consumed most of the oxygen in the space, suffocating the workers.

See also

References


External links

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