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25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing
25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing Douglas RB-66B-DL Destroyer Serial 54-0419, converted to EB-66E on the runway at at Chambley-Bussieres Air Base, France.
Active 1940–45, 1965–1966
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Motto(s) Guard With Power
25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing emblem USAF - 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing.png

The 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing (TRW) is an inactive United States Air Force wing. Its last duty assignment was at Chambley-Bussieres Air Base, France.


The wing's lineage and honors can be traced not just through its own history, but through the history of two World War II organizations, the 25th Bombardment Group (Heavy) and the 25th Bombardment Group, Reconnaissance.

World War II[]

25th Bombardment Group (Medium)[]

Constituted as 25th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 22 December 1939, but not activated (at Langley Field, Virginia) until 1 February 1940, this new Group was destined to spend virtually its entire existence in the Antilles Islands. Following training at Langley Field on early Boeing B-17B Flying Fortresses, these were flown to the West Coast and exchanged for older Douglas B-18s and early model Northrop A-17s, and the group was reassigned to Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico on 26 October 1940, the surface echelon arriving at San Juan aboard the USAT Hunter Liggett on 31 October. The air echelon arrived at Borinquen Field on 3 November 1940, two days after the ground troops.

The air echelon consisted of:

The Group was assigned to the 13th Composite Wing from 31 December 1940. The Destroyers for Bases Agreement with Great Britain of 1940 had provided virtually the entire reason for being of the 25th and 40th Bombardment Groups, it being visualized by USAAC planners that these two Groups would take up positions at the newly acquired bases as soon as practical to aid the Navy in extending the so-called Neutrality Patrol of the immediate period preceding the U.S. entry into World War II.

B-18 Bolos of the 12th Bombardment Squadron flying over British Guiana, 1943

Although elements of the Group operated up and down the Antilles chain as the new bases were being developed, it wasn't until 27 October 1941 that the 35th Bombardment Squadron finally departed for Coolidge Field, Antigua, British West Indies. The 12th Bombardment Squadron departed the same day for Benedict Field on St. Croix. leaving the Group headquarters and the 10th Bombardment Squadron at Borinquen.

In late November 1941, all effective 25th Bomb Group aircraft were marshalled at Coolidge Field with the 35th Bomb Squadron where they were to serve as the strike force to be used against the Vichy French island of Martinique. After the Pearl Harbor Attack, the group's missions was anti-submarine duties in the Caribbean. In this, the Group was aided by 53 Squadron, RAF, to a certain extent. The Group was, by war's end, officially credited with two submarine kills.

The 27th Reconnaissance Squadron was assigned to the Group (although it had been Attached to the group as early as 25 September 1941, this unit being redesignated as the 417th Bombardment Squadron on 7 May 1942 . The Group was formally re-designated as the 25th Bombardment Group (Medium) on 7 May also. As Borinquen Field became more crowded as the war progressed, and as the bulk of the units squadrons were in fact operating by then far to the south, Group Headquarters was moved to Edinburgh Field, Trinidad on 1 November 1942, together with the 10th Bomb Squadron.

By late 1943, the group's mission was taken over by the United States navy and was for all intents and purposes defunct. It was returned to the United States in April 1944, and was reassigned to Second Air Force. Re-equipped with B-17s and programmed for overseas deployment to Europe. This deployment was cancelled in June 1944 and the group was disbanded, with planes and personnel being sent to Europe as replacements.

25th Bombardment Group, Reconnaissance[]

Emblem of the 25th Reconnaissance Wing postwar

Consolidated B-24J-401-CF Liberator Serial 42-50578 of an unknown Bomb Squadron.

Martin B-26G-1-MA Marauder Serial 43-34195 painted black for night recon missions of the 654th Bomb Squadron.

A British de Havilland Mosquito XVI of the 654th Bomb Squadron.

The 25th Bombardment Group (Reconnaissance) was formed at RAF Cheddington, England as the 8 Reconnaissance Group (Special)(Provisional) on 22 March, then changed to 802d Reconnaissance Group (Special)(Provisional) on 30 March 1944, and transferred to Watton on 12 April 1944. On 9 August 1944, the 802 RG(P) was redesignated as the 25th BG(R). Assigned squadrons were:

The 652d Bombardment Squadron originated as a provisional weather recon unit that was formed on 31 August 1943, and transferred to RAF St Eval in Cornwall with B-17 Flying Fortresss on 8 September 1943 for conducting meteorological fights over the Atlantic Ocean. On 25 October 1943 it was formalized at St. Mawgan as Detachment "A" of a newly formed Combat Weather Detachment, 1st CCRC Bovingdon. On 23 November 1943 the unit moved to RAF Bovingdon after flying 231 weather sorties. At Bovington, the squadron was reorganized as the 8th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron on 28 March 1944, then transferred to Watton on 12 April 1944.

With the 25th, the 652d flew mainly B-17Gs. It also had B-24 Ds and B-24 Hs. Its missions were long-range weather flights over the Atlantic labeled 'Epicure' which flew a box pattern 700 miles out over the Atlantic. Weather readings were taken every 50 miles at heights varying from 50 to 30,000 feet. The average flight time for these flights was over 12 hours. For thirteen months the 652d Bomb Squadron maintained an average of 1.5 aircraft in the air over the Atlantic at all hours of the day and night, and for the last nine months of the war the average exceeded two aircraft in the air for all hours of the day and night.

The 653d Bombardment Squadron (Light) used the British de Havilland Mosquito. Pilots for the Mosquitos came from former P-38 Lightning pilots of the 50th Fighter Squadron transferred from the 342d Composite Group based in Iceland. They flew completely unarmed, relying on their speed and altitude to keep out of trouble. Their missions were not flown in groups but as lone aircraft with a pilot, and a navigator trained in meteorology. The 653d flew 1,131 meteorological flights over occupied Europe which were labeled 'Bluestocking'. They would penetrate the far reaches of Eastern Germany, Austria and points south. They also flew scouting missions ahead of the bomber force labeled 'Scout'. They would arrive over the target some 20 minutes ahead of the bombers reporting weather conditions, cloud level and enemy fighter activity. If the primary target was abandoned because of weather conditions they would move to the second or third target and begin again. As the bombers came in they would move out of the target area returning later to photograph the results. They also flew several shuttle runs as part of Operation Frantic to Soviet Air Bases in Ukraine. These performed the same functions as the scout missions, only this time they flew from England to Ukraine bombing targets in Eastern Germany on the way. At the Russian air bases the aircraft were refuelled and the bombers re-armed. From there, they took off for Fifteenth Air Force bases in Southern Italy, again bombing targets in Eastern Europe en route. In Italy the tanks and bomb bays were filled and they left Italy for England, flying over Occupied France once more bombing targets en route.

They flew LORAN calibration flights labeled 'Skywave' over Europe,the Balkans to middle of the Black Sea. The Mosquito provided a platform labeled 'Redtail' for Comba Wing leaders to fly along the bomber stream to the target, inspecting and directing bomber formation integrity.

Also, the 653d Bomb Squadron used its Mosquito aircraft in electronic-countermeasure missions in which chaff was spread to confuse enemy defences during Allied attacks. This duty was transferred to 654th Bomb Squadron, labeled 'Graypea'.

The 654th Bombardment Squadron (Special) flew aerial photographic reconnaissance missions. The greatest number of these were night photography flights labeled 'Joker'. These flights were, to say the least, difficult. Unless there was a moon, the target had to be found in the dark using special navigation equipment and the navigator's equations. For medium altitude photography, Mosquitos were flown at 12,000 feet and at 270 mph ground speed. For the light source they used M46 photo flash bombs, each giving off 700 million candle power. The 654th also flew daylight photography missions labeled 'PRU'.

Perhaps the most remarkable flights flown by the 654th were the Joan-Eleanor Project missions. 'Redstocking' was the label given to top secret missions flown for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services. The purpose of the JE missions was to pick up and record radio reports from agents who had been dropped into occupied Europe by the 492d Bombardment Group based at RAF Harrington.

A special radio system had been developed in the United States by Steve Simpson and De Witt Goddard. This system gave very little side-scatter of radio waves, thus making it difficult for the Germans to detect. The Mosquito flew to a designated arranged pinpoint at an altitude of 27,000 to 30,000 feet until the crew located the agent and they would then record his messages on wire before returning home.

After the German Capitulation in May 1945, the 25th Bombardment Group returned to the United States, being assigned to Third Air Force at Drew Army Airfield, Florida during July–August 1945. Under Third Air Force, the group began transition training to A-26 Invaders to be used against Japan. The end of the war in early September led to the units inactivation on 8 September 1945.

The group flew a total of 3,370 sorties for the loss of 26+ aircraft. 84+ men killed in action and 11 men became prisoners of war.

Cold War[]

The 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was activated on 1 July 1965 at Chambley-Bussieres Air Base, France as part of USAFE. Upon activation, the wing absorbed the 19th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron and 42d Electronic Countermeasures Squadron. The squadrons were transferred from Toul-Rosieres AB, where they operated as a detachment of the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, based at RAF Alconbury, UK.

The 25th flew variants of the B-66 "Destroyers" on photo reconnaissance and electronic warfare missions. The 42d flew RB-66Cs that had a seven-man crew. Its primary mission was electronic reconnaissance, commonly called "Ferret" operations; the ECM operators were known as "Ravens" The 19th flew RB-66Bs with a three-man crew and the mission of day and night photography. Both squadrons flew its aircraft with a natural aluminum finish, the differences being that the 19th carried a red band on the engine nacelle; the 42d carrying a blue band. The 19th operated 20 aircraft; the 42d operated 12.

Having been reassigned from other wings, both the 19th and 42d were familiar with their missions and aircraft. But the wing was kept busy training newly assigned support personnel to operate and maintain the base. One major drawback of the B-66 was pilot training. It was always a problem because the B-66 was a single pilot aircraft and dual checkout was impossible. A large B-66 analog electronic flight-crew simulator built by Curtis Wright was very useful for checkout of the flight deck crew: pilot, navigator/camera operator, and gunner. Training the RB-66C ECM operators was more difficult since the USAF had not purchased a comparable electronic warfare simulator for their ground training. Thorough training in the RB-66B camera system was critical to accomplish the mission. The system was complex, involving three cameras, camera compartment temperature and pressure controls, flash bomb and camera shutter intervalometers, a universal camera control unit, a stabilized camera mount, and flash bomb bay operation. Later electronic warfare jamming transmitters were added to the RB-66s, increasing the mission workload.

Day and night photographic training was hindered by the 1965 ruling made by the French government that prohibited aerial photography over their country. This forced photo missions to West Germany and Great Britain. Night photography was limited since suitable ranges for dropping the M-120, and M-122 photo flash bombs were not available after the close of the USAFE Moroccan air bases.

The escalation of the conflict in Southeast Asia prompted the establishment of Detachment 1 of the 42d Electronic Countermeasures Squadron at Takhli RTAFB during February 1966. 6 of its B-66's were deployed on Temporary Duty to Thailand from Chambley to this new theater of operations.

On 7 March 1966, French President Charles De Gaulle announced that France would withdraw from NATO's integrated military structure. The United States was informed that it must remove its military forces from France by 1 April 1967. As a result of this, on 22 August 1966 the 42d Electronic Countermeasures Squadron was inactivated at Chambley and the majority of the aircrews, including sixteen EWOs and ten RB-66Cs were sent to the 432d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing based at Takhli RTAFB, Thailand. A few of the EB-66 aircraft were flown to Douglas Aircraft's Tulsa, Oklahoma plant for additional ECM equipment and camouflage painting before going to Southeast Asia.

About 1 August 1966 the 19th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (Photo) was ordered to move its twenty RB-66Bs to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, and was assigned to the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. It flew its RB-66Bs from Chambley to Moron AB, Spain, then after refueling, it flew nonstop to Shaw with the aid of three air-to-air refuelings. Officially the 19th TRS was to became another of USAFE's dual-based units (units based in the U.S. but available for operations in Europe). Actually the squadron and its RB-66Bs were needed to train aircrews for the expanding combat operations over the skies of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

On 15 October 1966 USAFE inactivated the 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Chambley as part of the USAF pullout from France.


25th Bombardment Group (Medium)

  • Constituted as 25th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 22 December 1939[1]
Activated 1 February 1940[1]
Redesignated: 25th Bombardment Group (Medium) on 7 May 1942[1]
Disbanded on 20 June 1944[1]
Reconstituted on 19 April 1965 and consolidated with 25th Bombardment Group, Reconnaissance as 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Group

25th Tactical Reconnaissance Group

  • Constituted as 25th Bombardment Group, Reconnaissance on 17 July 1944.[2]
Activated on 9 August 1944[2]
Inactivated on 8 September 1945[2]
Consolidated with 25th Bombardment Group (Medium) on 19 April 1965 as 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Group and activated
Organized on 1 July 1965.
Discontinued and inactivated on 1 October 1965
Consolidated with the 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing on 31 January 1984[3]

25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing

  • Established and activated as 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing on 24 September 1965[4]
Organized on 1 October 1965[4]
Inactivated on 15 October 1966[4]
Consolidated with the 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Group on 31 January 1984[3]


Operational Squadrons[]

Attached: 26 April-1 August 1943
Assigned: 11 October 1943 – 20 June 1944[10]
Attached: 1 November 1940 – 25 February 1944
Assigned: 25 February – 20 June 1944[11]
Stationed at: Miami AAF, Florida; Deployed to: Carlsen Field, Trinidad
Stationed at: Miami AAF, Florida; Deployed to: Carlsen Field, Trinidad
Stationed at: Miami AAF, Florida; Deployed to: Carlsen Field, Trinidad


  • RAF Watton, England, 9 August 1944 – 23 July 1945
  • Drew Field, Florida, August – 8 September 1945

Major Aircraft Assigned[]

Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Maurer, Maurer, ed (1983) [1961]. Air Force Combat Units of World War II (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 75–76. ISBN 978-0-912799-02-5. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Mueller, Combat Units, pp. 76-77
  3. 3.0 3.1 Department of the Air Force/MPM Letter 539q, 31 January 1984, Subject: Consolidation of Units
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings, Lineage & Honors Histories 1947-1977. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 46–47. ISBN 0-912799-12-9. 
  5. Conaway, William. "VI Bombardment Command History". Planes and Pilots Of World War Two. 
  6. Until 1 October, the wing was a paper organization. On 1 October the mission, personnel, and equipment of the group were transferred to the wing and the group was inactivated
  7. Conaway, William. "10th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45. 
  8. Conaway, William. "12th Bombardment Squadron (Medium)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45. 
  9. Conaway, William. "35th Bombardment Squadron (Medium)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45. 
  10. Conaway, William. "59th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45. 
  11. Conaway, William. "417th Bombardment Squadron (Medium)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  • Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1978) Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now. After the Battle ISBN 0-900913-09-6
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1991) The Mighty Eighth The Colour Record. Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35708-1
  • Hagedorn, Dan (1995) Alae Supra a Canalem: Wings Over The Canal, The 6th Air Force and the Antilles Air Command. Paducah, KY: Turner Publ. Co. ISBN 1-56311-153-5
  • Malayney, Norman (2011) 25th Bomb Group (Rcn) in WWII. Atglen, PA; Schiffer Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7643-3950-9
  • McAuliffe, Jerome J. (2005). US Air Force in France 1950–1967. San Diego, California: Milspec Press, Chapter 7, Chambley-Bussieres Air Base. ISBN 0-9770371-1-8.
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers −1908 to present

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