An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

13th Bomb Squadron: “Appropriating” planes once again

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tyler Alexander
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

On June 14th, 2017, the 13th Bomb Squadron (BS) “The Grim Reapers” turned 100. Yes, 100 years old. They have participated in every major conflict since World War I and are one of the more storied squadrons in the Air Force. That’s not to say they didn’t go through their rough and tough adolescent years. What better way to celebrate the big 1-0-0, and their headstrong adolescent years, than to reenact one of the greatest “appropriations” in military history.

            Nearly 75 years ago, the 13th BS was anxious to take the fight back to the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Their only issue? They were without any aircraft. Forward deployed at the time to Brisbane, Australia, the 13th BS pitched tents and questioned how they were to fight without their beloved A-20 Havoc medium bombers.

The commanding officer at the time, U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Bob Strickland, called the Far East Air Force (FEAF) headquarters in Melbourne, Australia, pleading with the higher headquarters to get his men planes. Their response to Strickland: The unit would be getting B-25 Mitchells and they were inbound. Unfortunately, two weeks later, those planes never made it to the 13th BS. In fact, the Dutch Air Force ended up receiving the planes.

So with no planes and a desire to get in the fight, the grim reapers did what they had to. They “appropriated” the planes from the Dutch. The 13th crafted some authorization paperwork stating the planes belonged to the U.S., then 24 members of the 13th BS “tactfully appropriated” the B-25s and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now the 13th BS comes full circle as they took advantage of a B-25 being present at the 2017 Scott Air Force Base (AFB), Illinois air show and had the B-25 fly to Whiteman AFB, Missouri. Working with the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), the Grim Reapers waltzed out to the flight line at Whiteman and placed their reaper logo over the “show me” logo of the CAF B-25 and claimed the aircraft as their own.

The B-25s the 13th BS took control of during World War II would go on to fly vital combat missions in the Pacific. The 13th BS continued to fly combat missions through the Korean War, logged their 1000th combat sortie during Vietnam, participated in the Global War on Terror while flying B-1 Lancers, and the Grim Reapers proudly led the fight against ISIS when the B-2 Spirit bomber launched from Whiteman in January of this year and struck targets in Libya.

Despite their old age, the Grim Reapers clearly still have what it takes to get the mission done and will always be ready to take the fight to the enemy.