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Learning about the past, celebrating the future

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jessica Weissman
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

Team Minot Airmen gathered to celebrate the 68th birthday anniversary of the 91st Missile Wing, Nov. 9, 2016.

The 91st MW has had many different missions around the world, including in the United States.

“The Army Air Corps activated the 91st Bombardment Group in April 1942,” said Justin Henderson, 91st Missile Wing Historian.

The 91st BG began bombing missions against German submarine facilities with the famed Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress “Memphis Belle.” The unit bombed railroads, aircraft factories, shipyards, communications and assisted allied forces during the Battle of the Bulge.

“As some people may know, the Memphis Belle was one of the first B-17s to complete 25 missions without losing a crew member,” said Henderson.

The 91st BG also assisted the Normandy invasion by bombing gun and troop emplacements near Omaha Beach.

“After various war efforts the 91st BG was inactivated Nov. 7, 1945,” said Henderson.

The Air Force activated the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey on Nov. 10, 1948. This unit consisted of various bomber and fighter aircraft, such as B-17s to Boeing B-29 Superfortresses.

On Oct. 1, 1949, the wing relocated to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, where it flew reconnaissance missions with the same aircraft, and an addition of North American B-45 Tornados and Boeing B-50 Superfortresses.

“The 91st SRW and subordinate units flew reconnaissance missions in Korea and during the Cold War,” said Henderson. “The unit made history when a 91st Air Refueling Squadron Boeing KB-29P Superfortress made the first air-to-air refueling of a bomber-type aircraft under combat conditions on July 14, 1951.”

After eight years of service the 91st SRW was inactivated on Nov. 8, 1957.

Five years later, the Air Force activated and re-designated the wing as the 91st Bombardment Wing at Glasgow AFB, Montana.

“The wing was first introduced to the Boeing B-52H Stratofortress at Glasgow, along with the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker,” said Henderson. “The unit trained in strategic bombardment and aerial refueling as a nuclear deterrent force.

The 91 BMW flew over 1,000 sorties against North Vietnam.

“After North Korea seized a U.S. Navy ship and its crew, the wing deployed to Okinawa in Feb. 1968 as a show of force,” said Henderson. “While deployed, the most notable mission included the 91st BMW dropping bombs on enemy troop positions near a besieged U.S. Marine Corps fire support base.”

Glasgow AFB faced closure in June 1968, so the wing was re-designated as the 91st Strategic Missile Wing here.

“The new mission was to maintain three squadrons of Minuteman I Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles in a constant state of readiness,” said Henderson. “The wing acquired personnel, equipment and operational units from the 455th SMW that once resided here.”

In 1971, the 91st SMW became the first wing to convert to the Minuteman III ICBM and moved to the forefront of the Air Force Strategic Air Command missile force.

“During a Strategic Air Command reconstruction, the 91st SMW became the 91st MW, then the 91st Space Wing then the 91MW again,” said Henderson.
After several events, the Air Force Space Command decided to rename all ICBM wings to missile wings.

The three ICBM wings realigned under Air Force Global Strike Command on Dec. 1, 2009.

With its history set in place and years of Airmen working under various missions, we celebrate the mission today.

At the most recent birthday celebration, Maj. Gen. Anthony Cotton, 20th Air Force commander, spoke to Airmen, commending them on their accomplishments.

“We represent the beginning and the future,” said Cotton. “We look back to the past for knowledge, wisdom and experience and lead forward on the path to the grand journey before us.”