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A Lens Into the Past, Preserved Today: A Look at the Award-Winning 307th Bombardment Group

By: Miss Taylor E. Watson
Order of Daedalians Operations Officer

     While much of the work done by our organization supports our members and helps inspire tomorrow’s military aviators, we also maintain an extensive collection of archival materials. We are custodians of our organizational history, records on our Founder Members and their contributions, and generous additions made from our Named Members over the years. Earlier this year, our staff rediscovered a pristine photo collection reflecting the history of the 307th Bombardment Group in Korea. 

     The 307th deployed to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, in August 1950 flying Boeing B-29s as part of the Korean Campaign while attached to Far East Air Forces (FEAF) Bomber Command. By the end of hostilities, the wing had flown 6,052 sorties against enemy targets, had 55,473 combat hours and dropped 51,757 tons of bombs. The set chronicling this period contains 76 photographs in total, including crew portraits, snapshots of on-station life, a series of strike photos and several images of unit members receiving decorations. 

     Originally activated in 1942 by the Army Air Corps Combat Command after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 307th Bombardment Group (Heavy) began flying B-17s in the war against Japan. In the years that followed, the 307th would participate in World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam Conflict, becoming one of the most renowned bombing units in American military history. The unit is known as the “Long Rangers” in honor of their first combat mission on Dec. 27, 1942, when 27 B-24s staged an attack that destroyed 90% of Japanese holdings on a Wake Island stronghold. At the time, it was considered the longest mass raid that had ever been conducted.

     They served with distinction in the Pacific throughout the remainder of the war and shot down an average of 25% of Japanese fighter interceptors. They conducted most of their missions without their own fighter escorts and played a key role in debilitating Japanese units. The 307th received two distinguished unit citations for their actions. 

     The first was “for action in the bombing of the Island of Truk, the most heavily defended and strongly fortified Japanese base in the Pacific. During withdrawal, gunners of the Group destroyed 31 of the 75 attacking aircraft, probably destroyed 12 more and damaged 10 in an air battle that lasted 43 minutes. This daring raid, made on 29 March 1944, neutralized the Islands airfields, making possible long-range flights without fighter protection.” 

     The second was “awarded for the successful strike at the Balikpapan Oil Refineries in Borneo on Oct. 3, 1944. The 307th had to fly their B-24 Liberator bombers 17 1/2 hours for a round trip of 2,610 miles, the longest mass daylight mission ever flown by this type aircraft.” This action helped assure allied victory in the South Pacific.

     The unit also carried out bombing strikes against Japanese shipping centers in the Philippines as part of the Philippine campaign, inhibiting the Japanese from gaining a further strong hold in the area. The group was awarded the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation for these activities. Following V-J Day in 1945, the 307th aircraft ferried former American prisoners of war from Okinawa to Manila. 

     The unit was deactivated in November 1945 shortly after the war. However, with the Air Force’s policy of preserving the names of the top fighting units of World War II, the 307th Bomb Group was reactivated as the 307th Bombardment Wing on Aug. 4, 1946, and began flying B-29s at MacDill Air Force Base, FL, under the auspices of Strategic Air Command. Until the Korean campaign, the unit played a leading role in developing new anti-submarine tactics and procedures and was frequently called upon to demonstrate the effectiveness of aerial bombing.

     In August 1950, the 307th deployed to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan and had a successful campaign staging attacks against advancing communist forces in South Korea until the enemy was contained in 1953. They received another Distinguished Unit Citation for “their extraordinary heroism in action against an enemy of the United Nations during the period of 11 to 27 July, 1953. At this time, they flew 93 sorties and dropped 860 tons of bombs on targets at the Simanju Air Field, where despite severe icing, intense enemy anti-craft fire and coordinated search light fighter opposition they rendered the airfield unserviceable.” The 307th was also awarded the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation for its air strikes against enemy forces in Korea and several campaign streamers.

     Following the conflict, the 307th was assigned to Lincoln Air Force Base, NE, in 1954. A year later, the wing was equipped with B-47 Stratojets to replace the B-29s, becoming the first jet-propelled aircraft it had been assigned in its history. The unit was then designated as the 307th Bombardment Wing (Medium) and trained for strategic bombardment missions and air refueling operations until deactivated in 1965. Reactivated during the Vietnam conflict, the unit flew KC-135s and conducted air refueling operations in support of tactical units from 1970-1975 while operating at U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, Thailand.

     On Jan. 8, 2011, the 307th Bomb Wing was reactivated at Barksdale Air Force Base as a new Air Force Reserve Wing and reports to the Tenth Air Force, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth, TX, and is a component of Air Force Global Strike Command. When reactivated, dozens of alumni of the 307th Bomb Wing from the Korean, Vietnam and Cold War eras attended and were able to tour the displays and artifacts featured in the current headquarters, providing testimony to the unit’s heritage and great accomplishments.

     The 307th’s current mission focuses on B-52 aircrew training and nuclear deterrence and global strike. The current flying components of the wing consist of the 93rd and 343rd Bomb Squadrons, which fly the B-52H Stratofortress aircraft, and the 489th Bomb Group, which flies the B-1 Lancer from Dyess Air Force Base, TX. Since its reactivation, it has been awarded the General Curtis LeMay Trophy for best bomber operations wing in the Air Force in 2011. The 307th has deployed multiple times in intervening years and remains the only bomber wing in the Air Force Reserve. 

     This storied bomber wing’s effort to preserve their heritage across generations reflects our own Daedalian mission. Just as the current Long Rangers of the 307th carry forward the tradition of excellence set by their predecessors in executing the mission today, the Daedalian fellowship charges its members with carrying the legacy of aviators past into the present. We work to inspire the future by reflecting our Founders’ values of patriotism, personal integrity and character in word and action and sharing and learning from each other’s stories. It is our honor to be stewards of a valuable piece of this history.