This year, the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum celebrates 75 years! To honor the men and women of Strategic Air Command, our Curator, Brian York has compiled a “look back” at the people, places and moments that made Strategic Air Command a force for peace with “75 Days of SAC.” Beginning on June 1, 2020, a daily #SAC75 post has been featured on our Museum Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. We understand that not everyone imbibes on social media, so before our summer celebration of Strategic Air Command is a wrap, we wanted to feature some of these posts in our #CuriousCurator Blog.
SAC 75 #1
Established on March 21, 1946, Strategic Air Command (SAC) became one of three commands dedicated to the establishment of air superiority in the world. Tasked with long range strategic bombing, Strategic Air Command was built from the air superiority of World War II and the resources of Continental Air Forces (these resources were divided between Strategic Air Command, Tactical Air Command, and Air Defense Command). GEN George Kenney assumed command of 100,000 military personnel and 1,300 aircraft but through end of war cutbacks SAC would end the year with just over 37,000 military personnel and 279 tactical aircraft.
SAC 75 #2
Not long after it’s creation SAC embarked on Operation Nanook, mapping the vast Artic region for the best route from Alaska to Iceland. The 46th Reconnaissance Squadron began the process with F-13s; early un-armed B-29s converted for reconnaissance; frin 1946 to 1948. The majority of the crews for the 46th Reconnaissance Squadron were handpicked from the 449th Bombardment Group at AAF Grand Island, NE. Artic navigation was dangerous at flying that far north, mangnetic compasses were not always accurate and many crews would get lost of the frozen landscape and sea, run out of fuel and crash. Operation Nanook was important to establish the instrument base flight rout allowing bombers to shift deployment quickly from the eastern edge of Soviet Union to the western border.
SAC 75 #3
One of the first big operations for Strategic Air Command (SAC) was Operation Crossroads, July 1-25, 1946. The 509th Composite Group was the only unit capable of carrying and dropping atomic bombs. The mission was to test the results of dropping atomic bombs the size of Fat Man (the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, 1945). The first test was on July 1 by the B-29”Dave’s Dream” piloted by MAJ Woodrow Swancutt. The mission was to detonate the bomb (named Gilda after Rita Hayworth’s lead character int eh 1946 film of the same name) 520 feet above a 73 ship fleet. In this peacetime exercise, the ships ere unmanned and resulted in the sinking of five ships and severely damaging nine. Another bomb was dropped on July 25 and detonated underwater. A third test was planned to detonate a deep submerged bomb was cancelled.
SAC 75 #4
Activated out of Grand Island AAFB the 28th Bombardment Group would move to Elmdorf AAFB, Alaska for training in the harsh climate and geography of the artic. The 28th would ultimtaely comit some of their B-29s to a training exercise known as maximum effort; focused on hundreds of B-29s completing simulated bombing runs over major US cities.
One such execise known as Operation Big Town,15 May 1947, committed 130 B-29s to bomb New York City.
But due maintenance and supply issues within SAC, 44% of the bomber were left at their home bases.
SAC 75 #5
Due to failing bomb practice accuracy, SAC Commander-in-Chief (CINCSAC) GEN Kenney called for a bombing tournament, the first SAC Bombing Competition. From 20 to 27 June 1948 ten B-29 bomb groups competed at Castle AFB, CA. Eac crew completed three visual and three radar determined bomb drops. The top five places were won by rive entries from the 8th Air Force. Except in times of war the SAC Bomb Competition: later adding navigation, bomb loading and other vital aspects of operations, continued through 1991.