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Year of the B-52: Happy 60th Birthday B-52, 48 years of history at Andersen AFB

  • Published
  • By Jeffrey N. Meyer
  • 36th Wing Historian
April 15, 1952 marked the very first flight of a B-52 Stratofortress, almost twelve years later, on March 29, 1964, the first B-52 landed at Andersen AFB starting the legacy of the BUFFs (Big Ugly Fat/Flying Fellow) at Andersen AFB.

The first B-52B that arrived at Andersen AFB, named the "City of El Paso," was the first of many B-52 models to call Andersen home over the years.

The following are the different models that visited AAFB over the years: From 1964-1965: B-52B and RB-52 models replaced B-47s on reflex alert duty during the Cold War.
  • From 1965-1967: B-52Fs with South Bay and Sun Bath modifications arrived at Andersen. These modifications were designed to increase their standard bomb capacity from 27 to 51 bombs specifically for use during the Vietnam War.
  • From 1966-1983: B-52Ds with Big Belly modifications arrived. This modification increased the conventional payload capacity to a maximum of 84,500 lb. of bombs loaded internally with an additional 24,750 lb. of bombs loaded externally on the wing pods. These B-52s became the workhorses of ARC LIGHT missions during the Vietnam War.
  • In 1970: A B-52E arrived on Andersen. This one lonely E model became the ground trainer airframe. At the time, Es were outdated and sent to the boneyard or became ground trainers at B-52 bases.
  • From 1972-1973 and 1983-1990: B-52Gs first arrived as part of USAF's OPERATION BULLET SHOT and LINEBACKER's I and II. With 153 B-52s on the ramp Andersen AFB became the single largest source of combat airpower the world has ever seen. These B-52s did not all stay and it wasn't until 1983 that these aircraft became permanently stationed here until 1990.
  • From February 22, 2004 -present: B-52Hs arrive as part of the Continuous Bomber Presence. Of note the first combat mission for the "H" model was OPERATION DESERT STRIKE in 1996 which also flew from Andersen AFB against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.
Andersen AFB is also home to several legacies and stories about the B-52s and their crews over the last 48 years.

In recent memory, on Liberation Day, July 21, 2008, the base suffered a tragic loss when six crewmembers of a B-52H, call sign Raider 21, was lost about 30 miles northwest of Guam. Many may not know this, but Raider 21 is one of five B-52s lost from accidents in the waters around Guam over the aircraft's history here. Additionally, during the Vietnam War a total of 12 B-52s left Andersen AFB for ARC LIGHT missions and never came back.

There is one B-52 heritage item that still intrigues both Airmen and visitors alike on Andersen AFB. That is the mystery of the "Old 100 Relic," the large remnant of a B-52 tail section in the boonies on Perimeter Road near Tarague Beach. There were seven B-52s scrapped on the base from 1974-1991; of those was the famous "Old 100," the original Arc Light Memorial display aircraft. When its tail section was rediscovered in 1997 many people had a natural proclivity to call it "Old 100". Unfortunately it isn't the B-52D #55-0100 that was the "Old 100" Arc Light Memorial aircraft.

The last untold B-52 legacy on Andersen is that of the "Grey Ghost". Of the seven B-52s that were scrapped here, three were called "Grey Ghosts" because of their old weathered faded paint scheme. All three were used as ground training airframes. The "RB" started the cycle in 1965, the lone "E" in 1970 and the "F" in 1976 all took turns as the ground training aircraft.

So, which "Grey Ghost" left its remnants in the boonies? The lone B-52E, in 1975 had its tail cut off so the fuselage could be used for firefighting and rescue training. On May 21, 1976, Typhoon Pamela and its 150 mph winds flipped the "Grey Ghost" over on its top. The tail section located near the fire training center tumbled or slid across the street into the boonies where it rests today.

These stories make up part of the enduring legacy of B-52s at Andersen AFB, of which there will be many more if the BUFF remains in the USAF inventory until 2040 as it is currently scheduled.