Whiteman AFB

Whiteman AFB
Renamed from Sedalia AFB in 1951, it is ironic that a base named “Whiteman” used a Native American for its logo and the moniker “War Chiefs” for its personnel during most of its missile years! Of course “Whiteman” was not a reference to white Americans, but to an Army Air Corps pilot, 2d Lt. George A. Whiteman, who grew up near the base and was killed during the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor 10 years earlier. Less than a year after the attack, the 351st Bombardment Group, progenitor of the 351 SMW, was formed. The 351 BG received a lot of media attention after screen star Clark Gable (of “Gone with the Wind” fame) was assigned in 1943--especially after each combat mission he flew. Whiteman AFB, MO, had the distinction of being the southernmost Minuteman missile base of the six that were built, and some missileers only half-jokingly referred to it as SAC’s “Southern Tier” base. The 351st Strategic Missile Wing was activated there in early 1963, but the first missile did not arrive until 14 January 1964. The last group of the wing’s 150 Minuteman I missiles was accepted on 29 June 1964, making the 351 SMW fully operational. Later, between 7 May 1966 and 3 October 1967, the wing converted to the newer Minuteman II missiles. The missiles were divided equally among the wing’s three tactical units: 508th, 509th, and 510th Strategic Missile Squadrons. Whiteman was unique among the Minuteman bases for two reasons: First, it was the only one with one of its Launch Control Centers buried within the confines of the base gates (the other 99 LCCs were placed in rural areas surrounding the bases. Second, because of its more centralized location, Whiteman was chosen for the location of the 494L Emergency Rocket Communications System (ERCS), active from 1967 to 1991. This system used ten randomly selected Minuteman missiles in the 510 SMS which had their warheads replaced with audio recorders and UHF transmitters. In event of war, missile combat crews in this squadron would have recorded emergency action messages and stored them on the missiles which, once launched, would then have broadcast the messages, over and over again during the missiles’ flight, to SAC forces worldwide. The first ERCS-equipped Minuteman sorties were placed on alert at Whiteman on 10 October 1967 and FOC was achieved early the next year. During its SMW era, the 351st got media attention again, but for a different reason this time: On 25 March 1986, Whiteman AFB became the first missile base to field an all-female Minuteman missile crew, and not long thereafter, the first “mixed gender” Minuteman crew. Today, gender is no longer a consideration for crew pairings or alert assignments at the Minuteman wings. The 351st won the Colonel Lee R. Williams Memorial Missile Trophy for 1965, 1967 and 1973, as well as the SAC missile combat competition and its Blanchard Trophy in 1967, 1971, 1977, 1981,1989, and 1993--six wins was a feat unmatched by any of the other ICBM wings at that time. Two years earlier, on 1 September 1991, the word “Strategic” was removed from the names of the wing and its three missile squadrons due to an Air Force-wide policy change. Just a few weeks later, retirement of all 450 of SAC’s Minuteman II missiles was announced by President George H.W. Bush, and on 31 July 1995 the 351 MW, along with the last of its remaining squadrons, was inactivated. In this album, the wing patches are displayed first, followed by the ops group patches, then the missile squadrons, including their flight patches and unofficial morale patches. Following the tactical units are the patches of the support units, presented in numerical-alphabetical order rather than being grouped functionally, except for the hospital patches which are grouped together in chronological order. At the end is the Whiteman Minuteman II patch.
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