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Joint Base Andrews Features

NEWS | Sept. 21, 2011

History of the Grey Geese

By Senior Airman Torey Griffith 11th Wing Public Affairs

Pioneering the world's most iconic bombing platforms such as the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-29 Superfortress and the B-52 Stratofortress, as the 11th Bombardment Group "Grey Geese," the 11th Wing's proud strategic bombing heritage has repeatedly been instrumental in establishing America's air superiority.

The story of the 11th Wing begins in 1940 at Hickam Field, Hawaii, where the 11th BG was established under the 18th Bombardment Wing. The Group was composed of the 14th, 26th and 42nd Bomb Squadrons and the 50th Reconnaissance Squadron.

Originally flying B-18 Bolos, the group transitioned to the brand new and soon-to-be legendary B-17 Flying Fortresses in 1941. Before Dec. 7, 1941, the group was assigned patrol duties, but after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the fury of the 11th was unleashed upon the enemies of the United States as America entered the second world war.

Of the 350 persons assigned to the 11th, 245 were killed or wounded in the Pearl Harbor attack. Hickam field was decimated, yet the Grey Geese, true to their motto, "Progressio Sine Timore Aut Praejudicio," or "Progress without fear or prejudice," pressed forward, training up crews on the B-17E in preparation to reign hell upon the opposition in the Pacific theater of battle.

In June of 1942, the 11th gathered every asset available in order to wage war at the battle of Midway, Wake Island, and then on to aid the 1st Marine Division at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

The Grey Geese continued to conquer the south Pacific as a part of the Allied offensive through the Marianas Islands, helping to secure Tinian, the small island from which the Col. Paul Tibbets and the 509th Composite Group would launch their B-29s to release the only nuclear weapons used in anger on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.

After World War II, the 11th BW was established, assigned under Strategic Air Command, flying nuclear-capable B-36 Peacemakers out of Carswell Air Force Base, Texas. The wing soon transitioned to B-52s and moved to Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, where it acquired an air refueling mission.

In 1962, at the height of the cold war, the 11th changed its designation to the 11th Strategic Aerospace Wing with its 577th Strategic Missile Squadron maintaining 12 nuclear-capable Atlas missile silos in the Oklahoma and Texas region.

The 577th SMS and the inactivated in 1968, and the B-52s transferred out soon after, leaving just an air refueling mission until the unit's deactivation in 1969.

The 11th Strategic Group was reborn in the late 1970s, operating KC-135 refuelers from Royal Air Force Fairford, England. The group supported NATO exercises until it was again inactivated in Aug. of 1990.

Four years later, the 11th Support Wing was stood up at Bolling AFB, Washington, as a direct reporting unit and support organization for Headquarters Air Force. Known as the "Chief's Own," the 11th Wing operated the United States Air Force Band and the United States Air Force Honor Guard.

Under the newly formed Air Force District of Washington, the 11th relinquished some of its support duties and gained the unique and honorable mission of the 1st Helicopter Squadron, moving here to Andrews in 2010.

As the host wing for Joint Base Andrews, the 11th providings security, personnel, contracting, finance and infrastructure support for 6 Wings, 2 Headquarters and more than 50 tenant organizations, as well as 60,000 Airmen and families in the National Capital Region and around the world.

Daily exercising the principals of Vigilance, Precision and Global Impact, the men and women of the 11th Wing continue the proud tradition of the Grey Geese, defending national leaders, fostering joint teamwork and providing combat-ready Airmen as they showcase the U.S. Air Force to the world.