LORING A.F.B. MAINE 1953-1994
Loring Air Force Base History
The 42nd Bomb Wing began its history as the 42nd Bombardment Group (Medium) at Fort Douglas, Utah, on January 15, 1942. The group was transferred to Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, in June of the same year with B-18 and B-26 bombers assigned. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, one tactical squadron moved to Alaska for coastal patrol while the rest of the group moved to McChord Field, Washington, in preparations for overseas duty. Following final training at Hammar Field, California, in February of 1943, the group moved to the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific. In June of ’43, with the newly added 69 th and 70 th Bomb Squadrons strengthening the group, the 42nd attacked Japanese targets in the central Solomon Islands. From January through July of 1944 42nd aircraft bombed enemy harbors and airfields on New Britain and attacked shipping around the Morthern Solomons and Bismarck Island. In March 1945, the Group moved to the Philippines and supported ground operations on Mindanao. The 42nd earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for support of an Australian invasion of a Japanses oil refinery at Balikpapen, Borneo, June 23-30, 1945. Following a transfer to Japan as part of U.S. occupation forces in January 1946, the 42nd Bombardment Group(Medium) was inactivated on May 10 of the same year.
On February 25, 1953, the 42nd Bombardment Wing (Heavy) was reactivated at Limestone(later Loring) Air Force Base, Maine with B-36 Peacemaker bombers assigned. The 42nd Air Refueling Squadron joined the wing in early 1955 with propeller-driven KC-97 tankers. On June 16, 1956, the first B-52 C assigned to the 42nd arrived at Loring. The aircraft is christened “The State Of Maine.” The final B-36 bomber left Loring in September 1956. In November of 1956, three Loring B-52Cs made a record non-stop flight over the North Pole and around the perimeter of the North American continent. In January 1957, the wing converted to the B-52D and in March, the 42nd ARS received Loring’s first KC-135 Stratotanker. Wing aircrews and aircraft were placed on alert in July of 1958 due to tensions in Lebanon. The more versatile B-52Gs replaced the “D” models and increased the range and payload capabilities of the wing in May of 1959.
The wing was on alert in August and December of 1961 and supported Hard Head VI airborne alert operations in the spring of 1964. Also in 1964, the 42nd ARS received the General Saunders Trophy as the best tanker squadron in SAC. In 1965, the 42nd ARS began support for Young Tiger operations in Southeast. In July of 1968, the 407 th ARS arrived from Homestead AFB, Florida, doubling the wing’s refueling capability.
The 1970s began with Loring becoming the first SRAM equipped operational B-52 unit in SAC on August 4, 1972. Many Loring crews participated in the December 1972 Linebacker II bombing campaign in Southeast Asia. One Loring crew’s aircraft was hit by a SAM over North Vietnam. All crew members were safely recovered following bailout over Thailand. On March 2, 1978, the wing learned it had won the SAC “ Omaha” Trophy for 1977.
The wing received its first HARPOON modified aircraft on September 15, 1983. In 1984, the wing became the Air Force’s only primary conventional bomber force. IN October 1988, after 30 years, the wing ended its B-52 24-hour nuclear alert. The first “R” model KC-135 arrived at Loring in May of 1989.
On August 7, 1990, the wing began deploying aircraft, personnel, and equipment to Southwest Asia in support of Operation DESERT SHIELD. During DESERT SHIELD/STORM wing bombers deployed to Diego Garcia flew 960 missions (465 combat ) in 44 days, dropping 12,588,766 pounds of bombs. Loring and other tankers deployed to the same locations off-loaded 31,802,500 pounds of fuel to 648 receivers. In March 1991, resources deployed to the Gulf began their return to Loring. Organizational changes to the wing in 1991 resulted in renaming three existing organizations and activating two new groups and two support squadrons. The wing designation changed to the 42nd Wind under this SAC plan. In 1991, Loring was designated for closure. On October 1, 1991 the 407 ARS was inactivated and on October 3, of the same year, President Bush ordered alert crews to stand down for the first time in Loring’s history. December 1991 saw SAC and Loring stand down all Alert forces and Loring KC-135s ended theier 24-hour alert. One year later, the Air Force redesignated the wing as the 42nd Bomb Wing. In 1993, the wing began to draw down the base in anticipation of it’s scheduled closure in September, 1994. On November 16, 1993, the final B-52G assigned to Loring made its final flight from the base, ending a 40 year bombing mission for the wing. On March 2, 1994, the final KC-135R departed Loring.
Towering above the runway is one of the most prominent structures on base and for miles around – the Arch Hangar. This huge structure of reinforced concrete was designed by Roberts and Schaefer Company of Chicago as a maintenance facility capable of holding two B-36 bombers. This type of concrete facility was new to the New England states although a second, identical structure was being built at the same time in Rapid City, South Dakota, at Ellsworth Air Force Base. At the time of completion these two hangars were the largest monolithic arch roof structures ever erected in the country.
The design of the Arch Hangar met the military’s requirements for an unobstructed space of 340 by 300 feet and provided maximum fire resistance and minimum cost. Using reinforced concrete in the construction of this structure was the most economical method because the formwork could be effectively reused in pouring the arches. Designers also hoped that the same equipment could be used in building other arch hangars on base. For these reasons, the design was approved despite what was then considered minor penalties in increased costs for heating and lighting; now the hangar’s main disadvantage.
Activation of the 42nd Bomb Wing
On February 25, 1958, SAC Headquarters activated the 42nd Bombardment Wing, Heavy, located at Limestone AFB, Maine, and assigned the wing to 8 th AF Headquarters. Colonel Ramputi assumed command of the 42's Bomb Wing, becoming its first wing commander. Lt Colonel William W. Pannis became the 42nd Air Base Group Commander. Interestingly, this important change in status at Limestone went almost unnoticed by its assigned personnel for two reasons. First, the change has little immediate effect on their daily routines. Second, the unit had its hands full with the largest B-36 maneuver ever conducted at Limestone up to that time. On February 18, a task force of 26 B-36's had arrived from Carswell AFB, Texas. Assigned to the 7th Bomb Wing, the bombers flew several training missions during their 10 day stay. It seems most appropriate that such a large contingency of B-36's was present during the activation of a new B-36 wing.
LAST AIRMAN ON LORING
Loring’s last Airman was AIC Hattie Douglas. She stepped off the plane in Presque Isle Maine on November 1, 1993, at 11pm. Upon arrival to Presque Isle, A1C Douglas was greeted with the first northern Maine blizzard of the year and 27 degrees. Douglas was a relocation technician with the personnel flight. She had assisted in closing down Bergstrom AFB in Texas. She was the final participant of the Right Start Program on Loring. This program acclimated Loring people to the base and the surrounding area.