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Originally organized at Camp Kelly, Texas on 16 June 1917 as the 18th Aero Squadron but redesignated the 23rd Aero Squadron six days later. Arriving in late July, 1918, in Britain, it started training before going to France, where it arrived on Armistice day. It was stationed at the Air Service Replacement Concentration Barracks St. Maixent Replacement Barracks until c. 29 January, 1919, then moved to Saint-Nazaire, from where it sailed back to US on 20 February. The squadron arrived at the port of embarkation in March and was demobilized there.
The 23rd Bombardment Squadron was born in 1921 and in April 1924 was consolidated with the World War I 23rd Aero Squadron. It spent the decades of the 1920s and 1930s stationed in Hawaii. There, the squadron flew a number of bomber types, most notably the Keystone bomber series and later the Douglas B-18 Bolo. It was during the squadron's stay in Hawaii that the event signified by the squadron emblem took place. On 27 December 1935, the Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawaii erupted, threatening the city of Hilo. Six Keystones of the 23rd used precision bombing tactics to drop twenty 600-pound bombs in the path of the volcano's lava flow, thus saving the city of Hilo by diverting the lava away from the city.
World War II
Part of the 5th Bombardment Group, the 23rd fought its way across the Southwest Pacific during World War II. The 23rd initially flew Boeing B-17E Flying Fortresses into combat, replacing those with Consolidated B-24 Liberators by early 1943. Long-range over-water missions were the squadron's forte, and in April 1944 the squadron won its first of two Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC)s for flying the longest over-water bombing mission ever flown to date, some 1,300 miles each way, to bomb the Japanese base at Woleai Island. After winning a second DUC for another long range strike against oil refineries on Borneo on 30 September 1944, the 23rd found itself in the Philippines at the close of the war.
A Martin B-10 of the 23d Bombardment Squadron taken in 1941 over Oahu, Hawaii.
After a brief period in the Far East after the war, the 23rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron relocated to Travis Air Force Base, Calif ornia, in 1949. There, the squadron flew global strategic reconnaissance missions with Boeing RB-29 Superfortresses from 1949-51, Convair RB-36F Peacemakers from 1951-53, and RB-36Hs from 1953-55. On 1 October 1955, the squadron was again redesignated the 23rd Bombardment Squadron and reverted to training for long range nuclear strike missions with the same RB-36Hs. On 13 February 1959, the 23rd entered the jet age when it received its first Boeing B-52G Stratofortress and also entered the missile age, as the B-52Gs were equipped with the AGM-28 Hound Dogstandoff missile and the ADM-20 Quail decoy missile. The squadron flew the B-52G from Travis until July 1968.
A B-52H with a Navy EA-6B Prowler and Japanese F-2-fighters during exercise Cope North 09-1 in February 2009 over Andersen Air Force Base
On 25 July 1968, the 23rd moved, without personnel or equipment, to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, where it absorbed the personnel, equipment, and B-52H bombers of the inactivating 720th Bombardment Squadron. The 23rd has been combat ready in B-52Hs since that time, continuously adding improvements in avionics, weapons, and tactics to its arsenal. In 1973, the squadron was the first unit to receive the AGM-69 SRAM (Short Range Attack Missile). In 1980, the 23rd gained the offensive avionics system, and led Strategic Air Command's venture into modern conventional war fighting as the lead unit for the Strategic Projection Force, in support of the U.S. Rapid Deployment Force. During the 1980s, the squadron pioneered night vision goggle tactics. The 23rd added the AGM-86BAir Launched Cruise Missile in 1989 and the AGM-129Advanced Cruise Missile in 1994.
The squadron, along with other bomber units provide aircraft and personnel for regular rotational deployments to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam part of the U.S. Pacific Command's continuous bomber presence since 2004.
July 2012 see the 23rd Bomb Squadron deploy aircraft and personnel to Nellis AFB for Exercise Red Flag 12-4.
June 2016 three of the unit's B-52H bombers deployed to RAF Fairford for NATO Maritime exercise "BALTOPS" and for JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) exercise "Saber Strike".
March 26 2019 the 23rd BS assigned to the 23rd Expeditionary Bomber Squadron deployed two B-52 Stratofortresses from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin, Australia to participate in the biennial exercise Diamond Shield 2019.
23rd Aero Squadron
Organized as the 18th Aero Squadron on 16 June 1917[note 2]
Redesignated 23rd Aero Squadron (Repair) on 22 June 1917
Demobilized on 22 March 1919
Reconstituted and consolidated with the 23rd Bombardment Squadron on 8 April 1924
23rd Bomb Squadron
Authorized as the 23rd Squadron on 30 August 1921
Organized on 1 October 1921
Redesignated 23rd Bombardment Squadron on 25 January 1923
Consolidated with the 23rd Aero Squadronon 8 April 1924
Redesignated 23rd Bombardment Squadron (Medium) on 6 December 1939
Redesignated 23rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 20 November 1940
Redesignated 23rd Bombardment Squadron, Heavy on 6 March 1944
Redesignated 23rd Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy on 30 April 1946
Inactivated on 10 March 1947
Redesignated 23rd Reconnaissance Squadron, Very Long Range, Photographic on 16 September 1947
Activated on 20 October 1947
Redesignated 23rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Photographic on 16 June 1949
Redesignated 23rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Heavy on 14 November 1950
Redesignated 23rd Bombardment Squadron, Heavy on 1 October 1955
Redesignated 23rd Bomb Squadron on 1 September 1991
Unknown, 16 June 1917 - 22 March 1919
Ninth Corps Area, 1 October 1921
5th Group (Observation) (later 5th Group (Pursuit and Bombardment); 5th Group (Composite), 5th Composite Group), 29 March 1922
^The unit emblem is a blue disk with a black volcano with red lava flowing from the crater, extending upward as red and yellow rays intermingling with clouds. On the front are five black bombs signifying the 23 BS with three on the dexter (right) side, and two on the sinister (left) side. On 27 December 1935 the unit was tasked to drop twenty 600-pound bombs in the path of the flow of lava from Mauna Loa volcano, thus saving the city of Hilo, Hawaii, from destruction. In May 1952, this emblem was replaced when the squadron was a reconnaissance unit. Although the original emblem was used after the squadron returned to the bombardment mission, it was not officially restored until 1994.
Gorrell, Col. Edgar S. (1974). History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919. Series B: Air Service Activities with the French, British, and Italians. Vol. 2 History of the Air Service in Great Britain. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration. OCLC215070705.
Gorrell, Col. Edgar S. (1974). History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919. Series E: Squadron Histories. Vol. 4 History of the 22d-24th Aero Squadron. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration. OCLC215070705.