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From Jennies to jets to stealth bombers: 90 years of the 131st Bomb Wing and 110th Bomb Squadron
The filling station headquarters of the 110th Observation Squadron on Manchester Road, Saint Louis, circa 1923. (131st Bomb Wing file photo/RELEASED)
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From Jennies to jets to stealth bombers: 90 years of the 131st Bomb Wing and 110th Bomb Squadron

Posted 6/25/2013   Updated 6/25/2013 Email story   Print story


by Senior Master Sgt. Mary-Dale Amison
131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs

6/25/2013 - WHITEMAN AFB, Mo -- 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. 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 "enlistments would not be limited to aviators but a number of young men who wanted to learn to fly or maintain flying equipment would also be taken."

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) from 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.

(This is Part 1 of a 3 part series.  Additional content provided for this story by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boehlein, 131st Bomb Wing, and Mr. Charles Machon, Missouri National Guard Museum Curator)

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