The 7th Air Division (7 AD) served the United States Air Force with distinction from early 1944 through early 1992, earning an outstanding unit decoration and a service streamer along the way.
|7th Air Division|
|Active||1944-1948; 1951-1965; 1978–1992|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Role||Command of strike forces|
|Equipment||see #Aircraft section below|
|Gen John P. McConnell|
Brig Gen Wayne W. Lambert
|7th Air Division emblem (approved 16 September 1954)|
As the 7th Fighter Wing, the division provided air defense of the Hawaiian Islands from 21 April 1944, assigned to VII Fighter Command, and then Army Air Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas. 15th Fighter Group and 21st Fighter Group came under the command of the wing at different times in 1944.
On 15 December 1947 the wing was redesignated the 7 Air Division, but then inactivated on 1 May 1948. It was organized again on the same day, but then discontinued on 3 September 1948.
Strategic Air Command (SAC) formed two air divisions in early 1951. The 7th Air Division was formed for its bases in England, while the 5th Air Division was and activated at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, where Maj Gen Archie J. Old, Jr. formed its cadre before it moved overseas to control SAC units in Morocco. The 7th, led by Brig Gen Paul T. Cullen, was the first to deploy, leaving for England in March, but the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II aircraft carrying General Cullen and his staff ditched in the Atlantic, leaving no survivors. General Old hastily flew to England, where he took command of the 7th Division until Maj Gen John P. McConnell could arrive. Once a new commander was appointed in May, General Old and his staff left for Morocco.
The division controlled deployed bombardment and reconnaissance forces between 1951 and 1965. During the 1950s, SAC's presence in England grew, with nine bases being constructed for the use of SAC bombers, and another six throughout the United Kingdom for support of SAC activities. In 1953, shortly after the death of Stalin, the first Boeing B-47 Stratojets, from the 306th Bombardment Wing, arrived in England for 90 days duty, beginning what would be known as Reflex operations in the United Kingdom.
On 26 July 1956, a Boeing B-47 Stratojet under the division's operational control was practicing touch-and-go landings at RAF Lakenheath crashed into a nuclear weapons storage facility causing damage to several weapons stored at the site.
It participated in alerts, exercises, operational readiness inspections, evaluations, and intensive training programs to provide an advanced combat ready force. It also assumed responsibility for air base construction and improvement, which included building complexes to accommodate bombers, fighters, and special functions such as communications, weapons storage, aircraft parts, and navigational aids.
In September 1957, B-47s in Morocco were put on ground alert, armed, fueled and ready to take off upon notice. This posture was expanded to the bases under the 7th Air Division's command in early 1958. For the remainder of the division's existence, this status, known as Reflex Action (usually shortened to just Reflex), would be the normal status for the Stratojets rotating through England. The number of 7th Air Division bases used for Reflex reached a peak of nine in early 1959.
The development of Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles by the Soviet Union made forward bases for SAC medium range bombers increasingly vulnerable. After 1958, when the 100th Bombardment Wing departed RAF Brize Norton, SAC bombardment wings no longer rotated as entire units, although six bombers continued on alert at each of the division's bomber bases. The number of B-47 wings capable of sending aircraft to Reflex operations at the division's bases began to decline after 1958. The replacement of the medium bomber by the heavy bomber and the intercontinental ballistic missile in the SAC inventory continued into the early 1960s and this removed the need for SAC bases in England, leading to the inactivation of the division in June 1965.
From 1978, the division was activated in Europe to provide command and control for SAC units assigned to USAFE, primarily air refueling and reconnaissance organizations, but also ground support units such as the 3920th Strategic Wing. It assured that assigned units trained to conduct strategic warfare according to the Emergency War Order. It also assured that assigned units could conduct strategic reconnaissance and air refueling and function as the nucleus of a SAC advanced echelon in event of contingency operations.
Source: Gulf War Air Power Survey Vol V., 21–25.
|801st Air Refueling Squadron (P)||KC-135 Stratotanker||Deployed from 2d Bombardment Wing, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana (15 Aircraft) August 1990–March 1991|
|801st Bombardment Squadron (P)||B-52G Stratofortress||Deployed from 2d BW (7 Aircraft); 69th BS/42d BW (2 Aircraft); 668th BS/416th BW (8 Aircraft) January–March 1991|
|802d Bombardment Squadron (P)||B-52G Stratofortress||Deployed from 524th BS/379th BW (8 Aircraft); 340th BS/97th BW (1 Aircraft); 524th BS/379th BW (8 Aircraft) January–March 1991|
|802d Air Refueling Squadron (P)||KC-135 Stratotanker
|Composed of flights (August 1990-March 1991) from|
|804th Air Refueling Squadron (P)||KC-135 Stratotanker||August 1990-March 1991|
|806th Bombardment Squadron||B-52G Stratofortress||97th BW (6 Aircraft); 596th BS/2d BW (2 Aircraft); 668th BS/416th BW (2 Aircraft); 328th BS/93d BW (1 Aircraft) January–March 1991|
|807th Air Refueling Squadron (P)||KC-135 Stratotanker||August 1990–March 1991|
|810th Air Refueling Squadron (P)||KC-135 Stratotanker||August 1990-March 1991|
|4300th Bombardment Squadron (P)||B-52G Stratofortress||Composed of 69th BS/42d BW (16 Aircraft); 328th BS/93d BW (16 Aircraft)|