By Tech. Sgt. Jeff Walston, 917th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 06, 2010
Barksdale AFB, La. -- Lt. Col. Jeffrey A. Stogsdill will take the reins of what can be described as a historical War Wagon when he assumes command of the 343rd Bomb Squadron during reactivation and assumption of command ceremonies in Hoban Hall at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Sunday, July 11, 2010.
The United States Air Force Reserve is reactivating the B-52 squadron by order of the Secretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Michael B. Donley, and putting the unit under the command of the 917th Wing at Barksdale.
Col. Keith D. Schultz, the 917th Operations Group commander, is scheduled to preside over the ceremony. The guest speaker will be Professor Thomas Watson, PhD., who was formerly a Radar Navigator for the 343d BS. Approximately 10 former members of the 343rd BS and 98th BG are scheduled to attend the ceremony.
The 343rd BS was chosen for reactivation mainly for its rich history in the bomber community. Originally activated on Feb. 3, 1942, at MacDill Field, Fla., as part of the 98th Bombardment Group, the squadron went on to serve in World War II, European Theater Operations/Campaigns, and flew sorties in every campaign of the Korean War. It also had a part in the Strategic Air Command during part of the Cold War period.
Various bomber aircraft have been employed by the 343rd BS over the years, including the B-24, B-29, B-47 and the B-52 Stratofortress being flown today.
The reactivation ceremony will breathe life back into a squadron with a history almost too exciting to be believed when compared to a combat sortie in a B-52 Stratofortress today, with all of its high tech equipment and electronic counter measures. Today, a B-52 is capable of taking off from Barksdale, traveling to a target overseas, completing its mission and returning without ever landing anywhere but home.
That was not the case in World War II or Korea. There is no doubt the 343rd BS landed its punches against the enemy during WW II. From August 1942, through April 15, 1945, the 343rd BS launched hundreds of combat missions against enemy forces in the European and Mediterranean Theatre of Operations: Egypt-Libya; Air Offensive, Europe; Tunisia; Sicily; Naples-Foggia; Anzio; Rome-Arno; Normandy; Northern France; North Apennines; Rhineland; Central Europe; Pro Valley and Air Combat, European-African-Middle-East (EAME) Theater.
For combat operations against the enemy, the 343rd BS earned the Distinguished Unit Citation for actions in North Africa and Sicily, August 1942 - August 1943, and was awarded another DUC for participation in the low-level assault on oil refineries at Ploesti, Rumania, Aug. 1, 1943, when the squadron lost half of its B-24s launched against the vital, strategic target.
During the Korean War, the 343rd BS took up the challenge and earned the Distinguished Unit Citation for actions in Korea, Dec. 1, 1952 - April 30, 1953, and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation: Aug. 7, 1950-July 27, 1953.
As part of the 98th Bombardment (later, 98 Strategic Aerospace) Wing, the 343rd BS returned to the U.S. in July of 1954, where it transitioned to the B-47 and trained for long-range bombardment missions until being inactivated on June 25 1966.
The new Airmen of the 343rd BS have a legacy they can't deny. Serving in a squadron with such a history has its challenges. Their journey, wherever it leads them, will be following in the footsteps of two Medal of Honor recipients who have crossed paths with the 343rd. Colonel John R "Killer" Kane, group commander, 98th Bomb Group received the Medal of Honor for actions during a raid on oil refineries at Ploesti on August 1, 1943, and 1st Lt Donald D Pucket, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions after a raid against the oil refineries at Ploesti on July 9, 1944, where he gave his life trying to save wounded crew members unable to bail out of his crippled aircraft.
"I'm excited about being a part of squadron with such a colorful past," said Colonel Stogsdill. "When I look at all the history in this squadron, I am in awe of what they have done for our country."
With the Air Force moving towards more Total Force Integration, the reactivation of the 343d BS will provide a nuclear combat capable element for the Air Force Reserve that will work side by side with 2nd Bomb Wing and Regular Air Force counterparts on a daily basis to carry out the needs of Air Force mission requirements.
Together, the 2 BW and 343 BS form a Classic Associate that will facilitate the training for and execution of assigned U.S. Air Force missions employing the B-52 Stratofortress and to provide a pipeline squadron for reserve members to season, upgrade and eventually fill B-52 formal training unit (FTU) flight instructor positions.
The reactivation of the unit is also significant in that it is the first Air Force Reserve unit to ever become nuclear certified, and will maintain a Personnel Reliability Program (PRP).
For now, 22 Airmen comprise the squadron. As a unit, the 343rd BS is required to maintain four five-man aircrews with a commander and support personnel. Those 22 are dedicated to forging a new history for the 343rd Bomb Squadron while preserving the dignity and honor of it's past.
"As the commander, I know I'm responsible for the Air Force mission of the (343rd Bomb Squadron) today and maintaining the standards for the future. But, I also realize the squadron is duty bound to uphold the history and the honor of those brave souls who gave it all so we could be here today," Colonel Stogsdill said. "The 343rd will do that, and it will be a great asset to the 917th Wing and the Air Force Reserve Command."