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385th Strategic Aerospace Wing: Wikis


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385th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
World War II 385th Bomb Group Emblem
Active 1943–1945, 1962–1964
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Role Bombardment
Part of Strategic Air Command
Garrison/HQ Offut AFB, Nebraska
Nickname Van's Valiants
Motto Ales Victoria
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon.svg
  • World War II
European Campaign (1943–1945)

The 385th Strategic Aerospace Wing is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the 818th Strategic Aerospace Division, being stationed at Offut Air Force Base, Nebraska. It was inactivated on 15 December 1964.

During World War II, its predecessor unit, the 385th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was a Eighth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress unit in England, stationed at RAF Great Ashfield, the group led the famous attack on the Focke-Wulf Assembly Plant [1] at Marienburg in East Prussia on 9 October 1943.

In 1962 the 385th Strategic Aerospace Wing was activated by Strategic Air Command to perpetuate the lineage of inactive bombardment units with illustrious World War II records. It conducted strategic air refueling operations and maintain ICBM readiness to meet SAC commitments. The wing served as a deterrent force and also supported SAC's global air refueling mission until inactivated in 1964 as part of the phaseout of the SM-65 Atlas ICBM from the USAF inventory.





  • Constituted as the 385th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 25 Nov 1942
  • Activated on 1 Dec 1942.
  • Inactivated on 28 Aug 1945
  • Established as 385th Strategic Aerospace Wing, Hevy on 15 Nov 1962
Activated on 15 Nov 1962. Scheduled to replace the 4321st Strategic Wing on 1 Jan 1963
Organized on 1 Jan 1963 assuming the resources (Manpower, Aircraft, Equipment, Weapons, & Facilities) of the 44321st Strategic Wing
Discontinued, and inactivated, on 15 Dec 1964.


Attached to: 401st Provisional Combat Bombardment Wing, Jun-13 Sep 1943



  • 34th Air Refueling Squadron, 1 January – 15 December 1964 (detached December 10–15, 1964)
  • 548th Bombardment Squadron (GX), 1 Dec 1942–19 Jun 1945
  • 549th Bombardment (later Strategic Missile) Squadron (XA), 1 Dec 1942–19 Jun 1945; 1 January 1963 – 15 December 1964 (not operational, December 1–15, 1964)
  • 550th Bombardment Squadron (SG), 1 Dec 1942–19 Jun 1945
  • 551st Bombardment Squadron (HR), 1 Dec 1942–19 Jun 1945


Aircraft and Missiles

Operational History

World War II

B-17s of the 385th Bomb Group on a parachute drop over France, October 1944. Boeing B-17G-40-BO Fortress Serial 42-97079 "Dozy Doats" visible in foreground.

Activated 1 December 1942 at Davis-Monthan Field in Arizona. Unit formed in February 1943 at Geiger Field in Washington. Trained for two months and then moved to Great Falls AAD, on 11 April 1943. the unit completed training at the end of May 1943 with the aircraft moving to Kearney Field Nebraska prior to moving to England by the northern ferry route. Two aircraft were lost en route. The ground unit left Great Falls on 8 June 1943. The 548th BS sailed on the Queen Mary on 23 June 1943 and the other squadrons on the Queen Elizabeth on 1 July 1943.

Under Eighth Air Force based in England, the 385th BG operated primarily as a strategic bombardment organization until the war ended, striking such targets as industrial areas, air bases, oil refineries, and communications centers in Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, Holland, and Norway. The group received two Distinguished Unit Citations for bombing an aircraft factory at Regensburg on 17 August 1943 after a long hazardous flight over enemy territory and leading the 4th Bomb Wing a great distance through heavy and damaging opposition for the successful bombardment of an aircraft repair plant at Zwickau on 12 May 1944, being awarded another DUC for this performance. Other strategic targets included aircraft factories in Oschersleben and Marienburg, battery works in Stuttgart, airfields in Beauvais and Chartres, oil refineries in Ludwigshafen and Merseburg, and marshalling yards in Munich and Oranienburg.

Sometimes supported ground forces and struck interdictory targets. Attacked coastline defenses in June 1944 in preparation for the Normandy invasion and hit marshalling yards and choke points during the landing on D-Day. Bombed enemy positions in support of ground forces at Saint-Lô in July 1944. Attacked German communications and fortifications during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945. Bombed troop concentrations and communications centers in Germany and France, March–April 1945, to assist the final thrust into Germany.

On 6 March 1944 raid to Berlin (the most costly mission the Eighth ever carried out) the 3rd Division commander, Brigadier General Russell Wilson, took off from Great Ashfield in a radar-equipped B-17 in a leading group of the 385th. All of the 385th aircraft returned safely ... all. that is. except the one carrying General Wilson. which was seen to take several hits from flak. setting one engine on fire. Although four of the crew managed to parachute to safety (including Medal of Honor hero First Lieutenant John C. Morgan), eight of the others were killed when the bomber exploded.

In May 1945 dropped food to the starving Dutch population in the Netherlands as part of Operation Chowhound. The 385th suffered the last enemy action in the European part of the war. On 2 May 1945, a B-17 of the 385th BG was struck by enemy ground fire while on Operation Chowhound but returned safely to base. This was the last credited combat mission of the war.

After V-E Day, the 385th Bomb Group hauled displaced French slave laborers from Austria to France. Redeployed to the United States in June, and August 1945. the aircraft left between 19 June, and 29 June 1945. the ground unit left on 4 August 1945, and sailed on the Queen Elizabeth from Greenock on 5 August 1945. They arrived in New York on 11 August 1945. Group was then established at Sioux Falls, Army Air Field, South Dakota and inactivated on 28 August 1945.

Cold War

Emblem of the 4321st Strategic Wing

The origins of the 416th Bombardment Wing come from the establishment of the 4321st Strategic Wing at Offut AFB, Nebraska, on 1 October 1959. A Strategic Air Command, Second Air Force unit, it was equipped with B-52 Stratofortresses. Strategic Wings wings were established by SAC to disburse it's B-52 bombers over a larger number of bases, thus making it more difficult for the Soviet Union to knock out the entire fleet with a surprise first strike. A 4-Digit MAJCOM wing, it was considered a temporary, provisional unit.

In 1962, in order to retain the lineage of its MAJCOM 4-digit combat units and to perpetuate the lineage of many currently inactive bombardment units with illustrious World War II records, Headquarters SAC received authority from Headquarters USAF to discontinue its MAJCOM strategic wings that were equipped with combat aircraft and to activate AFCON units, most of which were inactive at the time which could carry a lineage and history.

The 4321st SW was redesignated as the 385th Strategic Aerospace Wing (385th SAW) on 1 January 1963. It was designated as a Strategic Aerospace Wing as the new organization controlled a combination of KC-135 Stratotanker and SM-65 Atlas-D ICBM squadrons. Its component units were also redesignated to historically-linked units of the newly-established wing. As under the Tri-Deputate organization, all flying components were directly assigned to the wing, no operational group element was activated. Therefore the history, lineage and honors of the 385th Bombardment Group were bestowed upon the newly established wing upon activation.

The 385th SAW continued to conduct strategic air refueling operations and maintain ICBM readiness to meet SAC commitments. The wing served as a deterrent force and also supported SAC's global air refueling mission. Inactivated on 15 December 1964


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.



  • Leonard, Lt Col. Marston S. History of the 385th Bombardment Group (Heavy) and its affiliated units 424th Air Service Group, 877th Chemical Company (AO), Detachment 155, 18th Weather Squadron, 1 February 1943 – 14 August 1945. San Angelo, Texas: Newsfoto Publishing Company, 1974.
  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1983. ISBN 0-892010-92-4.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings, 1947–1977. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • Varnedoe, W.W. (Ed.). A New History of the 385th Bomb Group (H). St. Petersburg, Florida: Southern Heritage Press/385th Bombardment Group Memorial Association, 1995. ISBN 0-94107-217-7.
  • Varnedoe, W. W. The Story of Van's Valiants, A History of the 385th Bomb Group Colonial Graphics, 2005, 6th Edition 2009.

External links


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