1st Reconnaissance Squadron

1st Reconnaissance Squadron

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= 1st Reconnaissance Squadron

caption= Emblem of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron
dates= March 5, 1913-
country= United States of America
allegiance= United States of America
branch= United States Air Force
type= Aerial reconnaissance
role= Training Squadron
command_structure= 9th Reconnaissance Wing Air Combat Command
garrison= Beale Air Force Base
battles=Mexico 1916-1917; World War I World War II Vietnam War
notable_commanders= Benjamin Delahauf Foulois

The 1st Reconnaissance Squadron (1 RS) is a United States Air Force reconnaissance training unit based at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville, California. It is the oldest squadron in the Air Force, cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/rso/birth.html| title = The Birth of the United States Air Force| format = | work = | publisher = U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency| accessdate = 7 Aug| accessyear = 2007] and the first organization to be established as a U.S. military flying unit. Since 1922 the 1st Squadron has been associated with the USAAF 9th Bomb Group and the USAF 9th Reconnaissance Wing, where it continues to be an active component operating the Lockheed U-2 surveillance aircraft. cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/rso/squadrons_flights_pages/0001rs.asp| title = 1 Reconnaissance Squadron| format = | work = | publisher = U.S. Air Force Historical research Agency| accessdate = 7 Aug| accessyear = 2007]

Observation unit 1913-1935

1st Aero Squadron 1913-1921

The squadron was created as the "1st Provisional Aero Squadron" of the U.S. Army Signal Corps on March 5, 1913, when eight Curtiss JN2 and JN3 airplanes were brought together for the first time as a unit. Under the command of Captain Charles DeForest Chandler (Chief of the Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps) and led in the field by 1st Lt. Thomas D. Milling, the provisional unit was based in Texas City, Texas to support the United States Army ground forces gathering as a response to a possible war with the revolutionary forces of General Victoriano Huerta in Mexico. The 1st Aero Squadron was officially designated a unit of the U.S. Army on December 8, 1913.

The 1st Aero Squadron relocated to North Island, San Diego, California, as a flying training unit on November 28, 1913. Its primary training aircraft were the Wright C (1913–1914) and Burgess H (1913–1915), but according to the U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency, during this period also included at least one example of the Wright B, Burgess F, Burgess I-Scout, Burgess J-Scout, Curtiss D, Curtiss E, Curtiss H, Martin TT, and Wright D-Scout.

Detachments of the 1st Aero Squadron returned to Fort Crockett, Texas in April 1914 when the Tampico Affair threatened war again, and to Brownsville in March 1915 when civil war broke out between Pancho Villa and the government of Venustiano Carranza. The entire squadron transferred by rail on July 29, 1915, to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to learn artillery spotting, and flew to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, on November 15, 1915.

Punitive Expedition

On March 9, 1916, Villista forces raided Columbus, New Mexico, attacking units of the U.S. 13th Cavalry. Commanded by Captain Benjamin Foulois, the 1st Aero Squadron, consisting of 11 officers, 84 enlisted men, and a civilian mechanic, moved to Columbus and made its first reconnaissance sortie on March 16. On March 19, 1916, assigned to the Punitive Expedition commanded by Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing, the squadron entered Mexico, where it operated until February 1917. A forward base was established at Colonia Dublan, the field headquarters of the Expedition near Casas Grandes in northern Chihuahua. Detachments continued to serve in Mexico after the squadron returned to Columbus on April 22, 1916, including San Geronimo, San Antonio, Satevo, Namiquipa, and El Valle.

The squadron's 90-horsepower Curtiss JN2 and JN3 airplanes were unable to climb over the 10,000 to 12,000 foot mountains of the region or overcome the high winds of the passes through them. Dust storms frequently grounded the aircraft and wooden propellers de-laminated in the heat. The squadron carried mail and dispatches, flew limited reconnaissance, and acted as liaison between Pershing and forward units. By April 20, only two airplanes remained in service, four having crashed and three others condemned to provide replacement parts. Four new Curtiss N8 airplanes were delivered on April 22, but they were little better than the JN3's which they closely resembled and were soon transferred to North Island as trainers. Another Curtiss airplane, the R2, was sent to the 1st Aero Squadron with 12 delivered by late May. The R2 was the latest type available but it too proved unsatisfactory for use on the border. Between March 15 and August 15, 1916, the 1st Aero Squadron flew 540 missions in Mexico.

The USAF Historical Research Agency notes that in addition to its Curtiss aircraft, the 1st Aero Squadron also field tested "H–2, H–3, Curtiss Twin JN, R–Land, Sturtevant Advanced Trainer, V–1, D–5, and Curtiss JN–4 during period 1916–1917."

World War I

When the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, the 1st Aero Squadron was still based at Columbus, New Mexico. The Army ordered the 1st Aero Squadron to Fort Jay, New York City to accompany the 1st Division to France. The squadron arrived in August 1917, too late to join the 1st Division, but sailed for France on its own under the command of Major Ralph Royce. It arrived at Le Havre on September 3, 1917, the first U.S. squadron in France.

Untested U.S. squadrons were initially sent to a fairly inactive sector of the Front north of Toul to acquire combat experience at minimum risk. The 1st Aero Squadron trained at Avord, Issoudun and Amanty, France, during the winter of 1917-18. While at Amanty a member of the squadron, Lt. Stephen W. Thompson, achieved the first aerial victory by the U.S. military. The aircraft used by the squadron were the Curtiss AR-1, Spad XIII pursuit plane, and Salmson 2 observation plane.

On April 8, 1918, the 1st Aero Squadron was assigned to an aerodrome at Ourches, and was joined shortly after by the 12th and 88th Aero Squadrons to form the 1st Corps Observation Group, the first U.S. air group. The group served as an observation unit for both the French XXXVIII Corps and the U.S. I Corps, moving its location nine times between April and November.

Early in July, when a German buildup was noted, the 1st Corps Observation Group moved westward to Saints to reinforce the French on the Marne River. Flying new Salmsons over the Champagne-Marne region, the 1st Aero Squadron supported U.S. Marines at Chateau-Thierry to prevent the German Army from crossing the Marne. The squadron then supported operations along the Aisne and Marne Rivers between (July 18 to August 6, 1918).

In early September the I Corps Observation Group reorganized and operated from Toul and Bicqueley in preparation for the St. Mihiel offensive, beginning September 12, the first large scale coordinated air effort by the United States. The 1st Aero Squadron relocated with the group to Remicourt as the largest and bloodiest battle involving American troops began, the Meuse-Argonne offensive from September 26 to November 11, 1918. The four Maltese crosses on the 9th Reconnaissance Wing's emblem represent these battles.

The squadron's primary duties were infantry contact patrols, photo reconnaissance, and artillery surveillance, but flying "protection" (escort) missions for other reconnaissance craft, 1st Aero Squadron pilots recorded 13 aerial victories during the war, commemorated by 13 Maltese crosses encircling the 1st's squadron emblem. The 1st Aero squadron lost 16 pilots killed in action and 3 missing-in-action.

After the Armistice the 1st Corps Observation Group was disbanded. The 1st Aero Squadron accompanied the U.S. III Corps as part of the occupation of Germany, stationed at Trier beginning December 6, 1918, and Weissenthurm from January 21 to July 1919, after which it returned to the United States, based first at Park Field, Tennessee on August 4, 1919, and then at Mitchel Field, New York, on October 10, 1919, where it remained until 1940.

1st Observation Squadron 1921-1935

Assigned as a component of the Air Service's 1st Army Observation Group (briefly the 7th Observation Group in 1921) from October 1, 1919, to August 30, 1921, the 1st Aero Squadron was redesignated the 1st Squadron (Observation) on March 14, 1921. It was attached to the "1st Provisional Air Brigade" from May 1 to October 3, 1921. This temporary unit, organized by Gen. William L. Mitchell, sank the German battleship "Ostfriesland" on July 21 in bombardment tests. The squadron functioned briefly as part of the 2nd Wing before being assigned to the Second Corps Area on September 30, 1921. The 1st Aero Squadron used the de Havilland DH-4 observation airplane as its primary equipment from 1919 to 1928.

The 1st Squadron was assigned as a component squadron of the new 9th Observation Group on August 1, 1922. It was assigned directly to the II Corps on March 23, 1923, as the 1st Observation Squadron, but remained attached to the 9th Observation Group. This command arrangement continued until February 15, 1929, when it the 1st Observation Squadron was permanently assigned to the 9th Group.

Its aircraft from 1928 to 1935 was primarily the Curtiss O-1B Falcon observation plane, but it also field tested and employed other Falcon variants (O-13, O-39, and Y1O-40 Raven) and several Douglas observation types, the Y1O-31, Y1O-35, and O-35. The 1st Observation Squadron's O-35's all participated in delivering the U.S. Mail in 1934 without loss.

Bombardment unit

1st Bombardment Squadron 1935-1944

The Air Service became the U.S. Army Air Corps on July 2, 1926. In early 1935 the Air Corps was re-organized, with all combat groups being centrally controlled for the first time, under a new command organization called General Headquarters, Air Force. The role of observation as the primary function of the air arm had been de-emphasized in the creation of eight new Air Corps groups between 1927 and 1932. With the creation of GHQAF it was further de-emphasized when the 9th and its component squadrons were converted into a bombardment group and made a part of the 2nd Wing, responsible for the air defense of the East Coast of the United States. cite web | last =Maurer| first =Maurer | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://libraryautomation.com/nymas/usaaf2.html| title = Air Force Combat Units of World War II: 9th Bombardment Group (Heavy)| format = | work = | publisher = NYMAS| accessdate = 7 Aug| accessyear = 2007]

The 1st Observation Squadron became the 1st Bombardment Squadron on March 1, 1935, and was equipped with Keystone B-6 bombers. It converted to Martin B-10 bombers in 1936 and operated these until 1938, when it again re-equipped, with Douglas B-18 bombers. The designations of the squadron changed in the late 1930s as the role of bombardment became pre-eminent in the Air Corps, becoming the 1st Bomb Squadron (Medium) on December 6, 1939, and the 1st Bomb Squadron (Heavy) on November 20, 1940. During the period 1935-1940 the 1st Bomb Squadron trained aircrews, took part in maneuvers, and participated in air shows.

The 1st deployed with its parent group on November 12, 1940, to Rio Hato, an airfield on the Gulf of Panama, to serve as part of the defense force for the Panama Canal. The 9th Bomb Group was then relocated in a series of moves to Caribbean bases to conduct antisubmarine patrols, with the 1st Bomb Squadron sent to Piarco Airport, Trinidad, on April 24, 1941; followed on October 30 by a second move to join the group headquarters squadron at Trinidad's Waller Field. The group's Headquarters Squadron was disbanded on July 22, 1942, and the 1st Bomb Squadron switched stations to Edinburg Field, Trinidad, on August 23, where as part of the Antilles Air Task Force it continued antisubmarine patrols and conducted reconnaissance of the Vichy French fleet at Martinique. cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://www.9thbombgrouphistory.org/Chapters/Chapter_00_Prologue_Vers%20I.pdf| title = 9th Bomb Group (VH) History: Prologue| format = | work = | publisher = 9th Bomb Group Association| accessdate = 7 Aug| accessyear = 2007 pdf file] The 9th Bomb Group and its squadrons were returned without personnel or equipment to the US in October 1942, where all were reconstituted as part of the Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics (AAFSAT) at Orlando Army Air Base, Florida. The 1st Bomb Squadron was assigned to AAFSAT's satellite airfield at Brooksville, Florida, where it used Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft to train cadres for heavy bomb groups in organization and operations, performed bombing pattern tests, experimented with tactical formations to attack moving ships, and performed equipment tests.

On March 1, 1944, the 1st Bomb Squadron was moved without aircraft or personnel to Dalhart Army Airfield, Texas. There, on March 28, it was re-designated the 1st Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy) and began to organization process for training as a B-29 Superfortress squadron.

B-29 operations 1944-1947

During April the key personnel of the new squadron assembled at Dalhart, forming the command cadre, and were transferred with the group to McCook Army Airfield, Nebraska. After a brief period establishing the unit at McCook, the cadre of group and squadron operations staffs went by train to AAFSAT in May for the 4-week training course in organizing and operating very heavy bombardment units in the field. While the cadre was at AAFSAT, the influx of new personnel continued at McCook. cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://www.9thbombgrouphistory.org/Chapters/Chapter_03.pdf| title = 9th Bomb Group (VH) History: Chapter 3| format = | work = | publisher = 9th Bomb Group Association| accessdate = 7 Aug| accessyear = 2007 pdf file]

After the return of the squadron staff in June, 1944, the squadron organized new crews and conducted an intensive program of ground and flying training using B-17 aircraft to practice takeoffs, landings, instrument and night flying, cross-country navigation, high altitutde formation flying, and bombing and gunnery practice.

The development of the B-29 as an operational weapon had been plagued since an early flight test on December 28, 1942, resulted in an engine fire, culminating in a massive emergency modification program in the winter of 1943-44 ordered by General Henry H. Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Forces, and nicknamed the "Battle of Kansas". In particular the program sought to resolve a spate of problems with serious engine fires and faulty gunnery central fire control systems. All B-29s modified in this program were diverted to the 58th Bomb Wing to meet President Franklin D. Roosevelt's commitment to China to have B-29's deployed to the China-Burma-India Theater in the spring of 1944, leaving none available to equip the 12 new groups being formed in the 73rd, 313th, and 314th Wings.

The 9th Group received its first training B-29 on July 13, 1944. After four further months of training the group commander declared the unit ready for movement overseas, and its ground echelon left McCook for Seattle, Washington, Port of Embarkation on November 18, 1944, traveling by troopship to the Mariana Islands on a voyage that required thirty days. The ground echelon of the group debarked at Tinian on December 28 and was assigned a camp on the west side of the island between the two airfields.

The air echelon of the 1st Bomb Squadron began its overseas movement on January 15, 1945, from its staging base at Mather Army Airfield, California, after accepting the first of its 14 new B-29's at Herington Field, Kansas. The squadron's bombers proceeded individually by way of Hickam Field, Hawaii, and Kwajalein to North Field, Tinian, with the first three arriving on January 18, 1945. The final two of the original 14 airplanes arrived on Tinian on February 3 by which time the squadron had already flown three practice missions to the Maug Islands in the Northern Marianas.

The 1st Bomb Squadron conducted its first combat mission on February 9, 1945, against a Japanese naval airfield located on the island of Moen at Truk atoll (now known as the Chuuk Islands). Flown by day at an altitude of 25,000 feet, it was in actuality a further training mission, encountering no opposition. Its second mission was to Iwo Jima on February 12, one week prior to D-Day for Operation Detachment. The capture of Iwo Jima had as its objective an emergency landing field for Twentieth Air Force bombers attacking Japan and a base for escorting P-51 and P-47 fighters. cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://www.9thbombgrouphistory.org/Chapters/Chapter_07.pdf| title = 9th Bomb Group (VH) History: Chapter 7| format = | work = | publisher = 9th Bomb Group Association| accessdate = 7 Aug| accessyear = 2007 pdf file]

The first mission to the Japanese home islands was the 1st Bomb Squadron's fifth, flown February 25, 1945. Again a day mission flown at high altitude, the target was the port facilities of Tokyo. On the squadron's seventh mission, March 9 - 10, 1945, Tokyo was attacked with incendiaries by night and at low altitudes of 6,400 to 7,800 feet. This mission also resulted in the first loss of a 1st Squadron B-29 when the crew of "L'il Iodine" was forced to crash-land at sea when it ran out of fuel returning to Tinian, although the crew was rescued.

The Tokyo fire raid was the first of five flown between March 9 and March 18, resulting in devastation of four urban areas (Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe) and extensive civilian loss of life. The squadron had a bomber shot down and crew lost on March 24, 1945, attacking the Mitsubishi Aircraft factory at Nagoya, ironically the same crew that had ditched on March 10.

On March 27 the 1st Squadron began a week of night missions sowing aerial anti-shipping mines of Japanese harbor approaches and Inland Sea ship passages, a mission they would again conduct during the entire second half of May. Attacks in April were a combination of night and medium altitude day missions against the Japanese aircraft industry, and beginning April 18, three weeks of daytime attacks against Japanese airfields on Kyūshū launching "Kamikaze" attacks against U.S. naval forces at Okinawa.

On June 1 the 1st Bomb Squadron began a grim campaign of night fire raids against the remaining urban areas of Japan not previously attacked that continued to its final mission, August 14, 1945. In all the 1st Bomb Squadron flew 71 combat missions, 3 post-hostilities flyover missions, and one mission to drop medical and food supplies to liberated prisoners-of-war.

Of the 71 combat missions, 27 were fire raids, 14 mining, 13 against airfields, 9 against aircraft production, and 9 against other industry or targets other than the home islands. 39 of the missions were flown at night, and 32 by day. Only 6 of the 71 combat missions were flown above 20,000 feet altitude.

The 1st Bomb Squadron had 28 B-29's assigned to it on Tinian. Two were reassigned to other units, one was declared "war-weary" and used for local flights only, two were written off for salvage, one crashed on takeoff May 20, destroying two parked bombers of another group and itself, and six were lost on missions—an aircraft attrition rate of 34.6% over six months. The squadron had 33 combat crews of 11 airmen each on its rosters during its combat operations. Four crews were missing in action or killed (12%), and three crews completed a full operational tour of 35 missions before the Japanese surrender. cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://www.9thbombgrouphistory.org/Chapters/Chapter_12.pdf| title = 9th Bomb Group (VH) History: Chapter 12| format = | work = | publisher = 9th Bomb Group Association| accessdate = 7 Aug| accessyear = 2007 pdf file]

After the end of the war, the squadron received two Presidential Unit Citations as part of the 9th Bomb Group, for a mission against Kawasaki On April 15-16, 1945, and for mine-laying operations May 13-28, 1945.

The 1st Bomb Squadron remained on Tinian until March 7, 1946, although most of its crews and aircraft were returned to the United States in the interim to be de-mobilized. On March 14, 1946, the group and squadron set up limited operations at Clark Field, Luzon, where they remained until June 9, 1947. By that date, although still an active unit, the squadron was unmanned, and was transferred "on paper" to Harmon Field, Guam, where it remained in a paper status until October 10, 1948.

United States Air Force

AC operations 1948-1966

The United States Air Force became a separate military service on September 18, 1947, during the period of time when the 1st Squadron was without personnel or equipment. On October 10, 1948, the 1st Squadron was removed from the 9th Bomb Group (which was inactivated), re-designated the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Photographic, and assigned to the 311th Air Division of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Forbes Air Force Base, Kansas. Equipped with RB-29 and RB-17 aircraft, the 1st SRS was attached for operations to the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Group on October 20, 1948, where it remained until May 31, 1949.

On June 1, 1949, the 1st SRS was transferred to Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base, California, and re-assigned to the newly activated 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Group, now the combat component of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. The 1st SRS was re-designated the 1st Bombardment Squadron, Heavy on April 1, 1950, and began training with both B-29 and B-36 bombers. On October 2, 1950, the 1st Squadron became the 1st Bombardment Squadron, Medium, equipped now with only B-29's.

The 1st Bomb Squadron remained at Fairfield-Suisun AFB, which was re-named Travis Air Force Base in April 1951, and was attached to the 9th Bomb Wing in February 1951 as SAC began a phase-out of groups as operational units. On June 16, 1952, the 9th Group was inactivated and the squadron was assigned directly to Wing control.

On May 1, 1953, the 1st Bomb Squadron was transferred with the 9th Bomb Wing to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. In 1954 the squadron converted to the B-47 all-jet bomber. It remained at Mountain Home until 1966, with one overseas deployment in 1955 to RAF Fairford from May 22 to July 8. The 1st Bomb Squadron was awarded an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period January 1, 1957 to January 31, 1958.

trategic Reconnaissance 1966-present

During January to June 1966 the 1st Bomb Squadron phased out its operations at Mountain Home AFB. On June 25, 1966, as the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, it took over the personnel and equipment of the 4201st SRS at Beale Air Force Base, California, and began training with the SR-71 strategic reconnaissance aircraft.

The squadron began flying operational sorties with the SR-71 in March 1968 with missions to North Vietnam and North Korea, and conducted high-altitude mach 2 photo reconnaissance missions world-wide until 1990, winning a Presidential Unit Citation for the period March 31-December 31, 1968, and an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award With Combat "V" Device for the period July 1, 1972June 30, 1973. The 1st SRS also received ten Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards for the periods July 1-June 30 of the years 19671968, 19701971, 19711972, 1975-1977, 19811982, 1983-1984, 19851986, 19861987, 19891990, and 19911993.

On July 1, 1990, with the phase-out of SR-71 operations, the role of the 1st SRS changed when it became the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (Training), responsible for the selection and training of U2 pilots using the U-2ST trainer. Since July 1, 1994, the squadron has been designated as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron.

Campaign streamers

*Mexico 1916–1917

World War I:
*St Mihiel

World War II:
*Antisubmarine, American Theater
*Air Offensive, Japan
*Eastern Mandates
*Western Pacific


External links

* [http://www.beale.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=3971 1st Reconnaissance Squadron fact sheet]
* [http://www.9thbombgrouphistory.org/ 9th Bomb Group/1st Bomb Squadron History]
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/usaf/1rs.htm Unit history from "www.globalsecurity.org"]
* [http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/rso/squadrons_flights_pages/0001rs.asp 1st Reconnaissance Squadron (Air Force Historical Research Agency reference)]
* [http://texashistory.unt.edu/search.tkl?type=subject&q=United%20States.%20Army.%20Aero%20Squadron,%201st.&q2=LCSH Photos of the 1st Aero Squadron, 1913-1915] hosted by the [http://texashistory.unt.edu/ Portal to Texas History]
* [http://www.usaww1.com July 14, 2008 - 90th anniversary Commemoration of 1st aero squadron and 12th aero squadron in France during World War I]

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