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History

From Jennies to Stealth Bombers, the 131st Bomb Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, has had a long and illustrious record of service to the State of Missouri and the United States of America.

From natural disasters to service in World War II, the Korean War, Desert Storm, and Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn, the Citizen Airmen of the 131st Bomb Wing have responded to changing world events and tasking requirements with dignity, honor and courage.


tabAir National Guard: A Short Story 
The Air National Guard as we know it today -- a separate reserve component of the United States Air Force -- was a product of the politics of postwar planning and interservice rivalry during World War II. The men who planned and maneuvered for an independent postwar Air Force during World War II didn't place much faith in the reserves, especially the state-dominated National Guard.

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tabFrom Jennies to Jets to Stealth Bombers 
From Jennies to jets to stealth bombers, the 131st Bomb Wing's history really began with its co-located flying squadron, now the 110th Bomb Squadron, which traces its roots back to the 110th Observation Squadron.

The 110th OS was organized by Maj. Bill Robertson and his brothers, Lieutenants Frank and Dan Robertson, owners of Robertson Aircraft Company. The Robertsons were aviation pioneers, noted for being the first two pilots from Missouri to enlist in World War I (Dan was too young). Among their associates were a number of former Army Air Corps veterans and visionary young men who shared an interest in organizing a National Guard unit in St. Louis.

They strove to make this vision a reality; they worked with local newspapers to get the word out.

These outlets informed the public that "along with aviators, a number of young men who wanted to learn to fly or maintain flying equipment would also be taken as enlistments."

Members would be paid for a maximum of 60 "drills" a year, which were described as periods of instruction in ground work, machine-shop practice and flying. They would receive instruction in war maneuvers, and conduct bombing and machine-gun firing practice with targets on the nearby Missouri River. Personnel assigned to the photo section would learn to "make pictures for use in war" and intelligence personnel would be "trained as Scouts of the Air (observers) and probably will have radio equipment.""

A five-day "recruiting drive" enlisted a total of 110 men, most of whom were World War I veterans. On June 23, 1923, the 110th OS, 110th Photo Section and 110th Intelligence Section (35th Division Aviation Section) of the Missouri National Guard were federally recognized and Maj. Robertson became the first commanding officer.

The first headquarters for the unit was located in a gas station on Manchester Avenue in St. Louis. From there, it moved to a small room over a grocery store on Olive Street Road in St. Louis County. Members participated in training at the airport, which at that time was little more than a pasture.

At first there were no uniforms for the enlisted men. Their first flying equipment was a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny," which was purchased through officer donations and used for flight training until early 1924, when they received three additional World War I surplus JN-4Hs. The pilots were eager to train; they would often fly three men to an aircraft, with one man strapped to a wing so they could switch off in midflight without having to take time to land.

The planes were housed in corrugated sheet-metal hangars erected on the field that had been built for the International Air Races of 1923. The 110th received additional aircraft and equipment throughout 1924, and by year's end, they had established a well-planned training program.

The chief pilot on the St. Louis-to-Chicago mail run for the Robertson Aircraft Company was a young aviator named Charles "Slim" Lindbergh, who soon joined his employers at the 110th. He was a captain in the National Guard in 1927 and had to seek permission from his commanders to make his historic transatlantic 33 hour solo flight from New York to Paris in the "Spirit of St. Louis." He was rewarded for his efforts by a special act of the Missouri legislature that promoted him to the rank of colonel.

The squadron flew 10 different aircraft from 1925 to 1940, including the De Havilland D-4, the Consolidated PT-1 "Trusty" and TW-3. Aircraft such as the Curtiss Falcon O-11, Douglas 0-2H and O-38B were employed for observation and reconnaissance missions. Squadron photographers honed their skills using the K-17 observation camera.

On Dec. 23, 1940, the unit was called to serve in World War II as a fighter and medium bombardment unit, and commenced training in Little Rock, Ark., and Salinas, Calif. Members flew the Douglas A-10 "Havoc" bomber, Bell P-39 "Air Cobra" and Curtiss P-40 "Warhawk" fighters. The unit was based in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines, and was credited with destroying approximately 123 Japanese aircraft and approximately 12 ships, earning the squadron a Presidential Unit Citation in 1944.

Upon returning home, the unit was demobilized and in the early summer of 1946, plans were formulated to organize the Air National Guard. Unlike the pre-war unit, which consisted of some 24 officers and 120 enlisted men, Missouri was to receive a fighter wing, utilizing nearly 10 times as many personnel. An extensive recruiting drive was undertaken, facilities at Lambert Field in St. Louis were reoccupied and the unit was designated as the 57th Fighter Wing and 110th Fighter Squadron. Federal recognition was granted in September. The unit was equipped with the North American P-51 "Mustang," then recognized as the fastest fighter aircraft of World War II.

In 1947, the wing was re-designated the 71st Fighter Wing. During this period, Maj. Charles DuBois, World War II ace and former member of the famed Flying Tigers, took command of the 110th Fighter Squadron and soon gained recognition as one of the unit's most aggressive commanders.

Three years later, on Nov. 1, 1950, the wing was re-designated the 131st Composite Wing, and began pursuing intensive training to raise the wing's readiness to the highest possible degree.

On March 1, 1951, as a result of the Korean emergency, the wing was recalled to active federal service for a period of 21 months, with moves to Strategic Air Command at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas, and then later in the year to George Air Force Base, Calif., with the new designation as the 131st Fighter-Bomber Wing.

The medium bomber North American B-25 "Mitchell," the North American T-6 "Texan" trainer, the Douglas B-26 "Invader" and military transports Douglas C-47 "Skytrain" and Beechcraft C-45 "Expeditor" joined the 131st fleet throughout the 1950s.

During the Korean conflict, the wing took on an increased role of flying bombers, but the mission would change quickly to that of a fighter role. Fighters would be the 131st mission for 40 more years, but bombers would ultimately become the future.

During assignment to George AFB, a large number of personnel were sent to overseas assignments. Tactical units were rotated in support of NATO operations in Iceland and many individuals saw action in the Korean arena. By November 1952, demobilization was completed and the wing was returned to Lambert Field.

After the Korean call-up, the wing was re-designated as the 131st Light Bombardment Wing. The wing entered the "jet age" in the late '50s with the arrival of the Lockheed F-80 "Shooting Star" and the Republic F-84F "Thunderstreak." The Lockheed T-33 "T-bird" entered service as the wing's training aircraft.

During the Berlin Crisis, the wing was again recalled to active service, this time deploying to Toul-Rosieres Air Base, France, to augment NATO forces. They stayed in France from October 1961 to August 1962, helping to airlift food and medical supplies into Germany. Returning home in 1962, the unit received the North American F-100 "Super Sabre," which remained an integral part of the now 131st Tactical Fighter Wing and 110th Tactical Fighter Squadron for more than 17 years.

In 1977, Ann Morrow Lindbergh, Charles Lindbergh's widow, gave the governor of Missouri permission to designate the 110th TFS as "Lindbergh's Own." Today, the words remain a unit slogan of the 110th BS.

In the summer of 1978, the F-100 was replaced by the F-4C "Phantom," which was built across the runway from the wing's hangars by McDonnell-Douglas. In 1985, the C-model Phantoms were replaced by the newer E-model Phantom II. Additionally, the F-4E (tail number 68-338) was
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