However, the task of developing a comprehensive listing of AEW units present in Southwest Asia and other combat areas is particularly difficult as the events of 11 September 2001 and the Global War on Terrorism has made such an effort significantly difficult. The USAF seeks to improve operational security (OPSEC) and to deceive potential enemies as to the extent of American operations, therefore a listing of which units deploying where and when is unavailable.
Constituted as 321st Bombardment Group (Medium) on 19 June 1942 and activated on 26 June at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. The group's operational squadrons were the 445th, 446th, 447th and 448th Bombardment Squadrons.
The group trained for overseas duty with North American B-25 Mitchell medium bombers at several Third Air Force training bases in the southeast. Was assigned and deployed to the Mediterranean theater in January 1943, arriving in Algeria in March. The 321st was assigned to Twelfth Air Force.
In North Africa, the 321st engaged primarily in support and interdictory operations, bombing marshalling yards, rail lines, highways, bridges, viaducts, troop concentrations, gun emplacements, shipping, harbors, and other objectives in North Africa. Later targets shifted to Southern France, Sicily, Italy, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Greece.
The 321st also engaged in psychological warfare missions, dropping propaganda leaflets behind enemy lines. Took part in the Allied operations against Axis forces in North Africa during Mar-May 1943, the reduction of Pantelleria and Lampedusain June, the invasion of Sicily in July, the landing at Salerno in September, the Allied advance toward Rome during Jan-June 1944, the invasion of Southern France in August 1944, and the Allied operations in northern Italy from September 1944 to April 1945.
The group received twc DUC's: for completing a raid on an air drome near Athens, 8 October 1943, in spite of intense flak and attacks by numerous enemy interceptors; and for bombing a battleship, a cruiser, and a submarine in Toulon harbor on 18 August 1944 to assist the Allied invasion of Southern France.
The 321st Bobmardment Group was inactivated near Pomigliano d'Arco, Italy on 12 September 1945. It was later briefly activated as part of the Air Force Reserve at Mansfield Airport, Ohio as the 321st Bombardment group (Light) (June 1947-June 1949) and equipped with A-26/B-26 Invaders, then inactivated.
On December 15 1953, the 321st Bombardment Wing (Medium) was activated at Pinecastle Air Force Base, Florida, absorbing the B-47 Stratojets and KC-97 tankers of the deactivated 4042nd Flying Training Wing. Two weeks later, on 1 January 1954, the wing was assigned to Strategic Air Command a B-47 combat crew training mission was transferred to SAC. Colonel Michael N.W. McCoy was appointed commander of the 321st Bombardment Wing on 24 May 1954. He earned the distinction of being the dean of Strategic Air Command’s B-47 "Stratojet" commanders.
Known squadrons of the 321st Bomb Wing were:
In November 1957 the base was host to the medium bombers participating in the annual Strategic Air Command Bombing Navigation and Reconnaissance Competition. During the competition, a B-47 aircraft mishap north of downtown Orlando took the lives of Colonel McCoy, Group Captain John Woodroffe of the Royal Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Joyce and Major Vernon Stuff during preparations for the event. Despite this tragedy, the 321st Bomb Wing, under the direction of its new commander, Colonel Robert W. Strong, Jr., won the top honors of the meet, including the coveted Fairchild and McCoy trophies, distinguishing the 321st as the top B-47 Wing in SAC.
On 7 May 1958 Pinecastle AFB was renamed McCoy Air Force Base in memory of the late Colonel Michael N. W. McCoy. Formal dedication ceremonies were held on 21 May 1958 in conjunction with a mammoth open house, during which an estimated 30,000 Floridians attended.
In the summer of 1961, a complete reogranization of the base began. A program got under way to convert the base from the B-47 Stratojet to heavy B-52 "Stratofortress" bombers. The 321st Bomb Wing began phasing out its operations in June 1961 and was deactivated in October 1961.
During 1965, the wing’s three missile squadrons were activated and crew training and certification began at Vandenberg AFB, California. In August 1965, the base received its first Minuteman II missile, shipped by train from Assembly Plant 77 at Hill AFB, Utah. During the following March, the base received the first Minuteman II to be shipped via aircraft, an Air Force first.
On 25 April 1966, the 447th Strategic Missile Squadron and its 50 Minuteman II missiles were declared operational. Additional flights came on line throughout 1966. On 7 December 1966, the wing, with its component 446th, 447th, and 448th Strategic Missile Squadrons, became fully operational with a compliment of 150 Minuteman missiles.
As the first base to deploy Minuteman II missiles, Grand Forks AFB hosted “Project Long Life II,” a unique reliability test in which modified Minuteman missiles were fueled to travel a few hundred yards. The first launch from a Grand Forks silo occurred on October 19 1966 and was declared unsuccessful. Nine days later, a second attempt also failed. A third attempt under “Project Giant Boost” occurred in August 1968 and again proved unsuccessful.
Crews from the 321 SMW competed in SAC’s first Missile Combat Competition held at Vandenberg AFB from 2 April through 7 April 1967. Later that month, members from the wing launched its first Minuteman II from Vandenberg. Despite the wing’s relative youth, it quickly established a reputation for excellence by winning numerous honors during its first few years. For example, in 1969, the unit received numerous significant honors, including the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and SAC Outstanding Missile Wing Award. Throughout the next two decades, the unit would score additional triumphs at Olympic Arena missile competitions and receive numerous “best” accolades.
From December 1971 to March 1973, the wing converted to Minuteman III missiles. These missiles represented a significant technological advancement, having multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs). Coordinating the missile changeover required complex planning and execution. In 1972 alone, 250 separate nuclear weapon convoys motored over the roads of North Dakota.
Modifications continued that enhanced readiness and improved survivability. For instance, about mid-August 1975, “Wing Six Integrated Program” (WSIP) was imple- mented. WSIP included a silo upgrade that improved the missile suspension system to withstand greater blast-shock and provided the 321st with a remote targeting capability.
The wing underwent continual readiness inspections and participated in numerous training exercises on base and at Vandenberg. Training improved with the expansion of on-base simulator facilities. For example, in 1970, wing crews conducted tests using “Modified Operational Missiles” which enabled them to exercise all aspects of a missile launch except igniting the engine.
Mother Nature often threatened wing readiness. The organizational history referred to “the Great Blizzard of ‘66,” “ the storm of ‘75 that caused $10,000 in damages,” and “one of the harshest winters 119771 which ‘hampered maintenance efforts’ and had ‘ice storms snapping power lines’.” When the heavy snows melted, floods occasionally resulted. A quick thaw in April 1979 created one of the most devastating floods within the Red River valley basin during this century. In addition to protecting the silos from flood waters, wing personnel volunteered to join the mostly successful 2-week struggle to keep Grand Forks and East Grand Forks dry. This effort was repeated in April 1989.
The 321st Missile Group was inactivated in 1995.