|91st Network Warfare Squadron|
91st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron McDonnell Douglas RF-4C-37-MC Phantom 68-0561, 1992.
|Branch||United States Air Force|
World War I|
World War II
|Captain George C. Kenney|
|Emblem of 91st Network Warfare Squadron emblem (Subdued)|
The 91st NWS is the home of some uniquely trained airmen, who deliver a myriad of cyber warfare capabilities to combatant commanders. It provides the Air Force with expert crews on the leading edge of network warfare operations.
- see: 91st Aero Squadron for full squadron history
Established as 91st Aero Squadron in the summer of 1917 at Kelly Field, near San Antonio, Texas, the unit was sent to France during World War I as one of the initial American Expeditionary Force aero squadrons. The 91st served on the Western Front in France as an observation squadron with the with French Eighth Army and United States First Army, 3 June – 10 November 1918. The primary mission of the 91st Squadron was to gather information and immediately return to base to report it. After the November 1918 Armistice with Germany, the 91st Aero Squadron remained in Europe, as part of the occupation forces in Germany with the Third Army (United States) until April 1919.
- see also: United States Army Border Air Patrol
After returning to the United States, the squadron was reorganized and assigned to Rockwell Field, near San Diego in September 1919. In California, its duties consisted of patrolling the southwestern U.S./Mexican border between California and Arizona, performing forest fire patrols and flying training flights over forested areas along the coast of California while assigned to Crissy Field, near San Francisco. Between 1919 and 1922 the squadron frequently moved between bases in California and Oregon with detachments deployed locally to meet operational needs.
When Crissy Field closed in 1936 for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, the 91st moved to Gray Field, near Fort Lewis, Washington. At Fort Lewis, the squadron continued flying forest fire patrols over the forests of the Pacific Northwest until the late 1930s.
The 91st was reassigned to Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield in upstate New York in September 1941, where it became an observation squadron for the 4th Armored Division. It engaged in overvaluation duties during various maneuvers in New York and Tennessee during buildup of American forces prior to their engagement in World War II.
World War II
U.S. civilian and military leaders were concerned with Nazi Germany’s preoccupation with South and Central America. In order to prepare for possible hostilities in our own backyard, the military planners needed accurate charts and maps of all of these regions. Millions of square miles were virtually unexplored and uncharted. The 91st was given the tremendous task of getting this job done through aerial photography.
Elements of the 91st Photographic Mapping Squadron were deployed to the Antilles Air Command in April 1943 until June 1945. Flight "B" of the 91st flew throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean. Staging from Ramey Field, Puerto Rico, aircraft and crews were deployed throughout the area.
Aircraft of Flight "B" saw extensive flight activity over and around such places as Talara, Peru (between 1943 and 1944), Atkinson Field, British Guiana (1944–1945), Recife, Brazil (1944–1945), Howard Field and Albrook Field, Canal Zone (1944–1945) and Natal, Brazil (1945). These operations, mainly aerial mapping, also included intelligence work, providing the United States with a storehouse of cartographic data on these regions that is still in use today.
The 91st was formally attached to the 311th Photographic Wing (later known as the 311th Reconnaissance Wing), and Flight "B" was available to the Sixth Air Force's commander for other duties. The unit flew a variety of North American F-10 "Mitchells" (the photo recon variant of the B-25D) as well as several Boeing F-9s (photo version of the B-17).
Flight "B" was seemingly "everywhere" in the Caribbean region during the war. After the war ended, the squadron was based at MacDill Field, Florida, and later with the 24th Composite Wing at Howard Field, Panama, carrying out photo-mapping and charting missions in Central and South America. The squadron was assigned to the new Strategic Air Command in 1949 and moved to McGuire AFB, New Jersey where it engaged in long-distance photo mapping as part of SAC's global strategic reconnaissance mission.
With the invasion of South Korea by communist forces from the north in June 1950, the United Nations responded by sending military forces, primarily from the United States, to the aid of the South Koreans. A major deficiency in MacArthur's forces was a lack of accurate battlefield maps of the peninsula. As one of the best equipped photo reconnaissance units in the USAF, General MacArthur quickly called on the 91st to join the Far East Air Forces (FEAF) fighting on the Korean peninsula. The 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron moved from McGuire AFB, NJ to Johnson AB and Yokota AB, Japan to begin supporting United Nations (UN) troops in Korea. It was assigned directly to SAC's Fifteenth Air Force, attached to the FEAF Fifth Air Force.
The 91st eventually flew the largest number of different airframes in the Korean War and had more assigned personnel than any other flying unit in the Korean War. With over 800 assigned personnel, the squadron had six different types of aircraft assigned, to include: the RB-29 and RB-50 Superfortresses, RB-45 Tornado, WB-26 Invader, KB-29 tankers and RB-36 Peacemmaker. Throughout the conflict, the RB-29 and RB-50s were the workhorses of the unit. The RB-29 flew throughout the Korean peninsula in the early part of the war, but was soon in trouble with Soviet MiG-15 aircraft added to the air war by the communist forces. The propeller-driven aircraft of the 91st were attacked and suffered extreme damage and battle losses. In response, jet-enhanced RB-50J and jet-powered RB-45C reconnaissance aircraft were deployed from RAF Sculthorpe, England. Other aircraft working from England were detachments of RB-45s temporarily stationed at RAF Manston, Kent an RB-29 unit at RAF Lakenheath and an RB-36 detachment stationed at RAF Brize Norton.
While RB-45 reconnaissance aircraft managed to outrun and outmaneuver MiGs on numerous occasions, they too eventually became targets. Many of these early missions were escorted by F-80 Shooting Star and F-84 Thunderjet jet fighter escort aircraft, however, an eventual shift was made to night operations using flash-bombs to illuminate photographic targets. The squadron was also called upon to conduct psychological leaflet drops with its assigned RB-29 aircraft. Not only did the 91st drop Korean “Psyops” leaflets throughout the Korean peninsula and into Manchuria and China, but Russian language leaflets were also dropped as it was suspected that advisers from the Soviet Union were assisting the communist forces.
In addition to bomb damage assessment, targeting and aerial photography for the Bomber Command and FEAF, the 91st conducted Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) and “ferret” missions in theater mapping RADAR emissions of air defense sites. It conducted the first ferret missions ever by the USAF. Overflights of Soviet-controlled Far East islands began in 1951. An example of this type of work was reconnaissance missions which were conducted over Karafuto following reports that the Soviets had built extensive underground installations and missile-launching facilities on the island. In Project 51, 91st SRW RB-45s took off from Yokota AB, Japan to conduct reconnaissance over the southern portions of Sakhalin Island. Photographic and radar reconnaissance overflight missions were also flown over the Murmansk-Kola Peninsula and Siberia. In late 1952, six RB-36s were sent to Yakota AB, Japan to fly with the 91st and fly high altitude reconnaissance over Manchurian targets.
With the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953, the 91st was withdrawn from the Pacific and returned to the United States, being reassigned to Great Falls AFB, Montana on 20 December 1954. Elements of the squadron remained with the Fifth Air Force in Japan to provide FEAF with a strategic reconnaissance and intelligence gathering capability. Elements of the 91st were reassigned to the 6091st Reconnaissance Squadron, as part of the newly formed FEAF 6007th Reconnaissance Group that was organized to consolidate many Korean War combat units in Japan after the armistice. The 6007th was a composite group with RB-29, RB-50B, RB-50G, C-47 and C-119 aircraft assigned to it.
Returning to the United States in late 1954, the 91st was tasked with experimenting with parasite fighters to provide long-range escort for B-36 Peacemaker strategic bombers on intercontinental missions. A lesson learned from the Korean War was that American aircraft were often not able to outrun enemy fighters sent up to shoot or force them down. The U.S. needed a faster platform which also had the range of the larger, slower reconnaissance aircraft being used for reconnaissance work. The 91st conducted an operational procedure called the Fighter-Conveyance (FICON) system. FICON used two aircraft: a B-36 to function as the “mother” ship, providing the range needed, and a modified F-84 Thunderstreak jet aircraft to function as the high-speed reconnaissance aircraft. The specially designed RF-84K would be ferried close to the projected target location, launched in flight, make a high speed pass over the target, then be retrieved and ferried back to its home base of operations. The jet reconnaissance pilots would enter and exit their RF-84 through the B-36’s bomb bay to fly away on their reconnaissance missions.
Beginning in 1955, as the 91st SRS tested two F-84 FICON prototypes, the USAF ordered 25 RF-84Ks and began modifying 10 B-36s into GRB-36 FICON carriers. The RF-84K design was a modification of the RF-84F, the USAF's most numerous and advanced tactical reconnaissance aircraft at the time. The only major differences were the RF-84K's retractable hook in the upper part of the nose, rods on either side behind the cockpit, and downward angled horizontal stabilizers (to fit inside the GRB-36's bomb bay). The RF-84K entered service with the 91st SRS in 1955. For the next year, pilots of the 91st SRS successfully flew their RF-84Ks, but they experienced many near disasters while separating or hooking back up to the GRB-36 carrier aircraft. Technology soon made this mission obsolete, as the development of the Lockheed U-2 made the need for more vulnerable propeller-driven reconnaissance aircraft obsolete. No longer needed for a long-range, strategic reconnaissance mission, the 91st was inactivated on 1 July 1957.
Tactical Air Command
The squadron was reactivated as an RF-4C Phantom II Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, performing replacement pilot training in February 1967 and flying tactical reconnaissance missions beginning in July 1971. It conducted reconnaissance training of USAF, US Marine Corps, and allied RF-4 reconnaissance aircrews between 1982 and 1989; acted as adviser to Air National Guard reconnaissance units until 1992; performed reconnaissance missions supporting the US Customs Service beginning in 1983. As part of the closure of Bergstrom AFB and retirement of the RF-4C on 30 August 1991, the 91st was inactivated.
- Organized as: 91st Aero Squadron on 21 August 1917
- Redesignated: 91st Squadron on 14 March 1921
- Redesignated: 91st Observation Squadron on 25 January 1923
- Redesignated: 91st Observation Squadron (Medium) on 13 January 1942
- Redesignated: 91st Observation Squadron on 4 July 1942
- Redesignated: 91st Reconnaissance Squadron (Bomber) on 2 April 1943
- Redesignated: 91st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on ii August 1943
- Redesignated: 91st Photographic Mapping Squadron on 9 October 1943
- Redesignated: 91st Photographic Charting Squadron on 17 October 1944
- Redesignated: 91st Reconnaissance Squadron (Long Range, Photographic) on 15 June 1945
- Redesignated: 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (Photographic) on 25 March 1949
- Redesignated: 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (Medium, Photographic) on 6 July 1950
- Redesignated: 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (Fighter) on 20 December 1954
- Inactivated on 1 July 1957
- Reactivated and Redesignated: 91st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 1 July 1967
- Redesignated: 91st Intelligence Squadron on 1 October 1993
- Inactivated on 5 May 2005
- Reactivated and Redesignated: 91st Network Warfare Squadron on 26 July 2007
World War I
World War II
- Wheeler-Sack Field, New York, 26 September 1941
- Tullahoma, Tennessee, 9 September 1942
- Godman Field, Kentucky, 7 November 1942
- Reading AAF, Pennsylvania, 22 September 1943
- Flights at various points in South and Central America during period November 1943 – August 1946, especially at Talara, Peru, 1943–1944, Atkinson Field, British Guiana, 1944–1945, Recife, Brazil, 1944–1945, Howard Field, Canal Zone, 1944–1946, and Natal, Brazil, 1945–1946
United States Air Force
The DUI is a white Knight on horseback chasing a red Devil within a Blue circle, formerly a diamond.
- The U.S. Air Service in World War I, Volume 1: The Final Tactical Report, Maurer Maurer, The Albert F. Simpson Historical Research Center, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, 1978
- Aviation in the U.S. Army 1919–1939, Maurer Maurer, The Albert F. Simpson Historical Research Center, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, 1978
- Endicott, Judy G., USAF Active Flying, Space, and Missile Squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Office of Air Force History
- Maurer Maurer, Air Force Combat Units Of World War II, Office of Air Force History, 1983
- Ravenstein, Charles A., Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977, Office of Air Force History, 1984
- History of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron
- 91st Aero Squadron Returns Home to Kelly Field
- 91st Observation Squadron Photographs (WWI), Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University
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