Whiteman AFB Community

History

U.S. Army Air Corps officials selected the current site of the base to be the home of Sedalia Army Air Field in 1942. The base was one of eight sites dedicated to training glider pilots (specifically, those flying the Waco CG-4A) for combat missions performed by Troop Carrier Command. For a brief time following the end of World War II, the airfield remained in service as an operational location for Army Air Force C-46 and C-47 transports. In December 1947, the base was placed on inactive status and the name changed in June 1948 to Sedalia Air Force Auxiliary Field.

After initially being considered as a possible site for the Air Force Academy, in August 1951, Strategic Air Command selected the base to be the site of one of its new bombardment wings. The base was redesignated Sedalia Air Force Base, and in October 1952, SAC activated the 340th Bombardment Wing with both B-47 Stratojet bombers and KC-97 Stratotanker air refueling aircraft assigned.

In December 1955, members of the wing saw the base name change to Whiteman AFB, in honor of 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman, a Sedalia native. Whiteman was one of the first American Airmen killed in combat during World War II, when his P-40 fighter was shot down during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

As B-47s were phased out of the U.S. Air Force in the early 1960s, Whiteman AFB’s mission shifted from aircraft to the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile. In June 1961, officials selected the base to become the command’s fourth Minuteman missile wing, the 351st Strategic Missile Wing. The 340th was inactivated in September 1963, and the missile wing went on full operational alert in June 1964.

In the late 1980s, the 351st fielded the first female Minuteman missile crew, the first male and female Minuteman crew, and the first squadron commander to pull alert in the Minuteman system.

On Jan. 5, 1987, Rep. Ike Skelton revealed that the first deployment of the B-2 advanced technology bomber would be at Whiteman. Beginning in 1988, a massive construction wave that created new buildings designed for B-2 operations, maintenance and support activities swept over the base. This buildup coincided in 1991 with the dismantling of the 351st’s missiles, as required by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

On Sept. 30, 1990, the 509th Bomb Wing moved its headquarters from Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire, to Whiteman, albeit in an unmanned and nonoperational status. With the end of the Cold War, two new organizations rose, one of which was Air Combat Command, the 509th’s new higher headquarters. On
April 1, 1993, the 509th officially began manning and equipping the wing at Whiteman.

Then, on Dec. 17, 1993, the event that Whiteman had long awaited finally came. On that day, at approximately 2 p.m., a jet swooped from the sky and landed on the Whiteman runway. Amid much fanfare, the first operational B-2, the “Spirit of Missouri,” had arrived. Less than a week later, on Dec. 22, 1993, Whiteman again made history as it generated the first B-2 sortie from the base.

On July 31, 1995, the 351st Missile Wing officially inactivated, ending its 33-year association with Whiteman AFB.

Throughout its history, the base has always been at the forefront of national defense. The B-2 made its highly successful combat debut in March 1999, during Operation Allied Force. The 509th subsequently flew combat sorties from Whiteman and forward deployed bases in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

On Feb. 1, 2010, the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB became part of the newly created Air Force Global Strike Command. The wing’s preeminent role in the projection of American military power was again demonstrated in March 2011, when B-2s from Whiteman struck targets in Libya as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

In 2013, the Air Force celebrated the “Year of the B-2,” marking 20 years since the first B-2, the “Spirit of Missouri,” arrived at Whiteman AFB, where it and 19 other B-2 Spirits continue to carry out the mission of global assurance and deterrence.

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