Throughout the 1930s, they performed various services for the Territorial Forestry Division in Hawaii. Completing tasks like sowing seeds from the air or dropping supplies and equipment, one of the biggest accomplishments came in 1935, when they saved a city from a volcanic eruption. Using the B-12 bomber to bomb the lava flow, they diverted it to an unpopulated area, leaving the city of Hilo unharmed.
During the ’40s, the 5th BG became a more critical part of the nation’s security. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, the first aircrews to take flight were from the 5th BG. Presumably using the B-17, two volunteer crews searched for the Japanese task force who had destroyed so much of the Pacific Fleet and Hawaiian Air Force.
Throughout World War II, the 5th BG played a vital role. Raiding enemy bases, supporting ground forces and damaging several Japanese ships, the group received two Distinguished Unit Citations for its efforts. By March of 1945, the 5th BG had moved to Samar, Philippine Islands and in early 1947 was redesignated as the 5th Reconnaissance Group. Their mission was to engage in the Post Hostilities Mapping Program under the auspices of the 13th Air Force. Their aircraft now included B-17s, F-2s, F-9s, F-13s, RB-29s, L-5s and helicopters.
While flying reconnaissance missions over Korea and Puerto Rico during the summer of 1950, the group was informed it would be converting to the RB-36 Peacemaker, and was again redesignated as the 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing on November 14, 1950. They received their first RB-36 in January of 1951, and began probing Soviet Union borders to determine their air defense capability. The Air Force was able to draw up war plans based on its discoveries.
The 5th Bombardment Wing stood up in October of 1955 and received its first B-52 Stratofortress February 13, 1959. In an effort to make it more difficult for the Soviet Union to destroy an entire fleet with one attack, the B-52s were dispersed over a larger number of bases.
The ’60s marked a busy time for the 5th BW, as half of the wing’s aircraft were maintained on alert status, fully fueled and ready for combat. Minot’s very on 23rd Bombardment Squadron saw combat during the Vietnam War, attacking targets in Southeast Asia.
In 1965 then Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara directed a phaseout of a portion of the B-52 force, resulting in terminating the wing at Travis AFB. In order to preserve the unit, the wing moved to Minot Air Force Base, N.D. on July 25, 1968, and began flying the B-52H Stratofortress.
After 35 years, the wing pulled its aircrafts from constant alert status in the final days of the Cold War in 1991. Following the activation of Air Combat Command, the 5th Wing became the 5th Bomb Wing on June 1, 1992.
More recently, the 5th BW saw combat in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Fox in 1998, attacked targets in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 and flew more than 120 combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Today, the 5th BW is home to 26 B-52s and around 4,500 Airmen. Representing one leg of the nuclear triad, the wing embodies our nation’s ability to deter our adversaries and assure our allies. The Airmen of the 5th BW are capable of flying anywhere around the world and stand ready to deliver a wide range of munitions. After 95 years of faithful service, the 5th BW still remains the guardian of the upper realms.
(Courtesy Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs)