The 509th Bomb Wing's History - From Flying Disks To Flying Wings

By Jim Hickman
Director-Aerial Phenomena Research Group

The 509th has lots of things in its long history to be proud of; as many of you know, they dropped the only Atomic bombs ever used in anger. They also participated in many secret nuclear tests, in the US and the Pacific, in the 1940's and 1950's, and they were the first to "capture a flying disk according to radio reports from July of 1947.

On July 8, 1947, a press release stating that the wreckage of a crashed disk had been recovered was issued by the Commander of the 509th Bomb Group at Roswell, New Mexico, Col. William Blanchard.

No Details of Flying Disk are Revealed

The many rumors regarding the flying disk became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disk through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff's office of Chaves County.

The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff's office, who in turn notified Major Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office.

Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher's home. It was inspected at Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.

~Press release from Roswell Army Air Force Base, issued on July 8, 1947

As most of you know Roswell was the home of the 509th Bomb Group, and the Roswell UFO crash debris was initially taken to Roswell Army Air Field, and then flown to Ft. Worth, then on to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio.

The 509th was an elite nuclear air wing, and at the time was the only nuclear air group in the world. On the morning of July 8, 1947, Colonel William Blanchard, commander of the 509th Bomb Group, issued the infamous press release stating that the wreckage of mankind's first captured "flying disk" (UFO) had been recovered.

Hours later the first press release was rescinded and the second press release stated that the 509th Bomb Group had mistakenly identified a weather balloon as wreckage of a flying saucer

Gen. Ramey Empties Roswell Saucer Ramey - Says Excitement is Not Justified - General Ramey Says Disk is Weather Balloon

Fort Worth, Texas, July 9 (AP) An examination by the army revealed last night that mysterious objects found on a lonely New Mexico ranch was a harmless high-altitude weather balloon - not a grounded flying disk. Excitement was high until Brig. Gen. Roger M. Ramey, commander of the Eighth air forces with headquarters here cleared up the mystery.

“The bundle of tinfoil, broken wood beams and rubber remnants of a balloon were sent here yesterday by army air transport in the wake of reports that it was a flying disk. But the general said the objects were the crushed remains of a ray wind target used to determine the direction and velocity of winds at high altitudes.

Warrant Officer Irving Newton, forecaster at the army air forces weather station here said, "we use them because they go much higher than the eye can see."

The weather balloon was found several days ago near the center of New Mexico by Rancher W. W. Brazel. He said he didn't think much about it until he went into Corona, N. M., last Saturday and heard the flying disk reports.

He returned to his ranch, 85 miles northwest of Roswell, and recovered the wreckage of the balloon, which he had placed under some brush.

Then Brazel hurried back to Roswell, where he reported his find to the sheriff's office. The sheriff called the Roswell air field and Maj. Jesse A. Marcel, 509th bomb group intelligence officer was assigned to the case.

Col. William H. Blanchard, commanding officer of the bomb group, reported the find to General Ramey and the object was flown immediately to the army airfield here. Ramey went on the air here last night to announce the New Mexico discovery was not a flying disk.

Newton said that when rigged up, the instrument "looks like a six-pointed star, is silvery in appearance and rises in the air like a kite."

In Roswell, the discovery set off a flurry of excitement.

Sheriff George Wicox's telephone lines were jammed. Three calls came from England, one of them from 'The London Daily Mail', he said.

A public relations officer here said the balloon was in his office "and it'll probably stay right there."

Newton, who made the examination, said some 80 weather stations in the U. S. were using that type of balloon and that it could have come from any of them. He said he had sent up identical balloons during the invasion of Okinawa to determine ballistics information for heavy guns.

~from Roswell Daily Record for July 9, 1947]

And today the 509th literally owns the skies, with the 509th being the only active B-2 Bomber group in the U.S. Air Force. One has to wonder, is it just coincidence that the 509th. Is still so active? Or is the 509th still getting "paid back for keeping quiet about the Roswell Incident?

The July 1947 history for the 509th Bomb Group and RAAF stated that the RAAF public information office "was kept quite busy . . . answering inquiries on the 'flying disc,' which was reported to be in [the] possession of the 509th Bomb Group. The object turned out to be a radar tracking balloon."

By his signature, the RAAF's commanding officer certified that the report represented a complete and accurate account of RAAF activities in July 1947.

The GAO report on the Roswell incident states "our search for government records concerning the Roswell crash yielded two records originating in 1947--a July 1947 history report by the combined 509th Bomb Group and RAAF and an FBI teletype message dated July 8, 1947. The 509th- RAAF report noted the recovery of a "flying disc" that was later determined by military officials to be a radar- tracking balloon. The FBI message stated that the military had reported that an object resembling a high-altitude weather balloon with a radar reflector had been recovered near Roswell

The 509th's Strange History

The 509th Bomb Wing, one of the most famous wings in the Air Force, traces its historical roots back to its World War II ancestor, the 509th Composite Group. During the hectic days of that bygone era, the Army Air Forces formed the group with only one mission in mind: to drop the atomic bomb. Led by Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., the group trained hard for its unique task.

On Aug. 6, 1945, the 509th fulfilled its destiny when the B-29 "Enola Gay" piloted by Colonel Tibbets dropped the first atomic bomb and destroyed Hiroshima, Japan. On Aug. 9, 1945, the group once again visited the Japanese mainland and unleashed the atomic inferno on another city, Nagasaki. Within days, the Japanese sued for peace and World War II ended.

After the bomb was dropped, Tibbets said:

Would I do it again? Give me conditions and circumstances similar to those that prevailed in 1945, and I would not hesitate. I feel that, at that point in time, it was the only thing to do. I am convinced that the use of the two weapons prevented an invasion that would have cost more Japanese lives than did the bombs, not to mention the American lives or the added billions of dollars that would have been expended.

Upon returning to the United States in late 1945, the group settled into Roswell Army Air Base, N.M. Shortly afterward, it became the core of the newly created Strategic Air Command. In August 1946, the now-called 509th Bombardment Group again traveled to the Pacific where it participated in Operation Crossroads. During this special maneuver, the group dropped an atomic bomb on an armada of obsolete and captured naval vessels moored off the Bikini Atoll.

On Nov. 17, 1947, SAC activated the 509th Bombardment Wing at Roswell and assigned the group to the wing. Within five years, however, the Air Force inactivated the 509 BG while turning over the lineage and honors of the group to the wing.

The wing pioneered a new concept in July 1948 when it received the 509th Air Refueling Squadron, one of the first two such units ever created, and its air refueling KB-29Ms. With the addition of tankers, the 509th's bombers could reach virtually any point on earth.

The dawning of a new decade brought more changes to the wing. In June 1950, it began receiving B-50s. In January 1954, the KC-97 aerial tanker replaced the aging KB-29Ms. The wing entered the jet age in June 1955 when it received the first all-jet bomber: the B-47.

The wing also received a new home toward the end of the 1950s when it moved its people and equipment to Pease AFB, N.H., in August 1958. There, the wing continued to function as an integral part of SAC. By 1965, SAC scheduled the B-47s for retirement. Unfortunately, this retirement also included the 509th. Fate intervened, however, as SAC decided to keep the 509th alive and equipped it with B-52s and KC-135s. Thus, the wing received its first B-52 and KC-135 in March 1966.

The wing's association with the B-52 included two major deployments to Andersen AFB, Guam, as part of the now famous Vietnam War Arc Light missions. In April 1968 and again in April 1969, the wing began six-month ventures in the Western Pacific. During the last deployment, SAC informed the 509th that the wing would swap its B-52s for FB-111As. Accordingly; the wing began receiving the formidable fighter-bomber in December 1970.

Over the next two decades, little changed for the 509th BW as it became SAC's fighter-bomber experts. However, a decision by the Department of Defense in 1988 to close Pease created major changes for the famous 509th.

Headquarters SAC decreed that the 509th would not inactivate but transfer to Whiteman AFB to become the first B-2 Stealth bomber unit. As such, the wing moved to Whiteman on Sept. 30, 1990, without people and equipment. That same day also saw most of the wing's squadrons inactivated.

This took place since the wing was expected to remain non-operational until the arrival of the first B-2 drew nearer. While the wing waited for that date, several more changes occurred. On Sept. 1, 1991, SAC changed the wing's name to 509th Bomb Wing. A second change occurred on June 1, 1992, when the Air Force disestablished SAC. Concurrently, the 509th became part of the newly created Air Combat Command.

The wing's hibernation at Whiteman lasted more than two years. However, on April 1, 1993, the Air Force returned the 509th to operational status as people were again assigned to the wing. The wing grew larger on July 1, 1993, when it accepted host responsibilities for Whiteman from the 351st Missile Wing.

On July 20, 1993, the 509th took another important step when it received its first fixed-wing aircraft in almost three years: a T-38 complete with a B-2-style paint job. After this, the wing's attentions turned to the arrival of the first B-2.

For the next several months, this passion consumed all 509ers. Finally, on Dec. 17, 1993, the first operational bomber, named "The Spirit of Missouri," touched down on the Whiteman runway. Not only did the date mark the 90th anniversary of the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers, it also fell on the 49th anniversary of the original activation of the 509th Composite Group. As more B-2s arrive at Whiteman, the 509th continues to pioneer the operation of this unique aircraft.

Throughout the wing's history, its people, ever conscious of their proud history, realize their 509th ancestors established tough standards to follow. Still, 509ers have every intention of equaling, if not surpassing, the past accomplishments of the 509th Bomb Wing.

The 509th of Today - The Whiteman Era

Today, Whiteman Air Force base in Missouri is the home of the 509th Bomb Wing, which operates and maintains the Air Force's premier weapon system, the B-2 bomber. Located just sixty miles southeast of Kansas City, nestled among the wooded, rolling hills of West-Central Missouri, and two miles south of Knob Noster, is the bustling community of Whiteman Air Force Base and its more than 10,000 military members, Department of Defense civilians and Air Force family members.

Whiteman's proud heritage dates back to 1942. U.S. Army Air Force officials selected the site of the present-day base to be the home of Sedalia Army Air Field (Sedalia is one of Whiteman's neighboring communities, some 20 miles east of base), and a training base for Waco glider pilots, who saw action in World War II. In fact, the pilots of one former unit assigned to the base -- the 314th Troop Carrier Group -- participated in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, and the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Following the end of the war, the airfield remained in service as an operational location for Army Air Force C-46 and C-47 transports. In December 1947, the base was inactivated, but Sedalia Army Air Field was not forgotten.

With the birth of the U.S. Air Force as a separate, independent service in 1947, and the subsequent formation of Strategic Air Command, the site of the former airfield was considered for other Air Force missions. There was even a time in the late '40s that it was looked at as a possible site for the "West Point of the Air," the U.S. Air Force Academy.

In August 1951, SAC selected the base to be a site of one of its new bombardment wings, with both bombers and tankers assigned to the unit. Construction of facilities to support SAC's first all-jet bomber, the B-47, and the KC-97 aerial refueling tanker (the forerunner of SAC's all-jet tankers, the KC-135 and the KC-10) began in early 1952. In October 1952, SAC activated the 340th Bombardment Wing at the redesignated Sedalia AFB.

In October 1955, wing members saw their base's name change to Whiteman AFB, in honor of 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman, a Sedalia native. Whiteman was one of the first American airmen killed in combat during World War II, when his P-40 fighter, the "Lucky Me," was shot down as he attempted to take off during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

From 1955 to 1960, the 340th BMW played a key role in SAC's mission of strategic deterrence. Its men and women were on the front line of the nation's strategic defense -- a force for peace that helped preserve America's freedom and safeguarded the world from another world war.

However, as Whiteman entered the '60s, its mission shifted from aircraft to SAC's newest weapon system, the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile. In June 1961, Air Force officials selected the base to be the location of SAC's fourth Minuteman missile wing -- the 351st Strategic Missile Wing.

The new missile wing was activated in February 1962, and continued its deterrent mission until July 31, 1995, when the wing and its missiles were inactivated under provisions of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Whiteman's current mission -- the B-2 -- is a dramatic leap forward in technology and represents a major milestone in the U.S. bomber modernization program. The B-2 brings massive firepower to bear, in a short time, anywhere on the globe through previously impenetrable defenses.

The 509th's Emblem's History

The significance of the 509th Bomb Wing's emblem is rich in tradition. The shield is like a family coat of arms and uses symbols to tell its story. Each symbol on the shield represents some part of the past.

First, the Air Force wings represent the branch of service but the wings are not in the familiar out-stretched position. When the ancient Greeks approached a stranger, they raised their arms with the palms outward to show they were carrying no weapons"a sign of peace.

The 509th obtained special permission to display the wings in this configuration to show that it, too, comes in peace. Next, the words "Defensor-Vindex," (Translated: Defender-Avenger) means that its mission was, and still is, to protect and retaliate for any infringement on that peace.

The atomic cloud burst represents two things: the fact that the 509th dropped the only two atomic bombs ever in wartime, and that it still uses atomic power as a deterrent to war and defender of peace. Finally, the eldest son symbol shows that the wing is the oldest atomic-trained military unit in the world.

While researching this article, I came across a curious thing, a Classified Flight Test shoulder patch from the 509th Bomb Group, with an alien pictured on it, along with the strange phrase in Latin, "Gustatus Similis Pullus" which translates into "Tastes like Chicken”



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All warfare is based on deception

~General Sun Tzu -The Art of War - 500 BC