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VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE -- Seventy six years ago, our unit’s heritage of warfighters began in Gowen Field, Idaho, when the 381st Bombardment Group was activated on Nov. 3, 1942.

Assigned under the 8th Air Force to fight in World War II’s European–African–Middle Eastern (EAME) Theater, the airmen of the 381st flew to battle in the legendary B-17 “Flying Fortresses,” a hulking 15-ton war-bird operated by a crew of 10 airmen, bedecked with thirteen .50 caliber machine guns and able to carry 20,000 pounds of high explosives.

These long-range heavy bombers were iconic technological marvels that defined strategic airpower during the World War II era. From June 22, 1943 to April 25, 1945, this band of 381st airmen pushed their Flying Fortresses through skies swarming with enemy flak and fighters, dropping 22,160 tons of bombs to destroy vital enemy targets across the European campaign. They flew a total of 9,035 sorties and persevered through the loss of 131 aircraft to complete 296 missions.

The 381st Bombardment Group was twice decorated with Distinguished Unit Citations and were awarded seven campaign streamers: Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe; Air Combat.

During the cold war, the 381st Strategic Missile Wing was activated on Nov. 29, 1961 under Strategic Air Command at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, and was again asked to operate a new weapon that would define their era – the intercontinental ballistic missile.

The 381st’s Missile Combat Crews operated the Titan II, a 103 foot long, 10 foot diameter, 154 ton instrument of destruction equipped with a 9 megaton warhead. These missiles were among the most destructive weapons in the history of modern warfare, and the 381st was entrusted with 18 Titan II missiles. The warfighters of the 381st stood watch over our nation from March 1, 1962 until Titan II’s inactivation on Aug. 8, 1986; during this time, the unit was awarded four Outstanding Unit Awards and won Strategic Air Command’s annual missile combat competition four times to be named as the nation’s best ICBM wing.

On April 1, 1994, the 381st Training Group was activated under the 2nd Air Force at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and we continue to build upon our proud heritage by training lethal space and nuclear warfighters. The 381st will celebrate our unit’s 76th birthday this November through three themes; heritage, warrior ethos, and Esprit de Corps.

On Nov. 2, 2018, the 381st held an all-call assembly at the Vandenberg Air Force Base Theater, where our Group Commander, Col. Merna Hsu, and our Squadron Commanders, Lt. Col. William Weiford, Lt. Col. Michael Yamzon, and Lt. Col. Joseph Clemmer, spoke to our heritage of warfighters. Afterwards, our members participated in a 3.81 kilometer formation run to honor our warfighting profession.

On Nov. 7, our unit invited Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, the 2nd Air Force Commander, to give a key note address, followed by a group retreat with a B-52 flyover from the 5th Bomb Wing. Our celebration concluded with a reception at the 381st Training Group main building.

We of the 381st inherited a legacy of airmen who risked their lives to operate game-changing weapon systems that defined their era of warfare. While technical advances gave us weapons that changed the character of war, it was the warriors wielding them who persevered through grit and sacrifice to fly, fight, and win the wars of their generation – these heroes have passed their torch onto us.

We of the 381st are thankful for the heritage of airmen before us – their storied victories embolden us as we enter our era confident that we will fly, fight, and win, and carry on the legacy captured by the 381st Bombardment Group’s emblem, “Triumphant We Fly.”

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