The 68th Missile Squadron (68 MS) is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the 44th Operations Group, stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.
The 68 MS was equipped with the LGM-30F Minuteman II Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), with a mission of nuclear deterrence. With the end of the Cold War, the 68th was inactivated on 5 July 1994.
Established in early 1941 as a B-24 Liberator heavy bombardment squadron, it trained under the Third Air Force in the southeastern United States. After the Pearl Harbor Attack, it engaged in anti-submarine patrols over the Gulf of Mexico.
It deployed to the European Theater of Operations (ETO), where it was assigned to VIII Bomber Command in England during the summer of 1942. One of the first B-24 Liberator units assigned to the ETO, it was soon engaged in very long range strategic bombardment missions over Occupied Europe and Nazi Germany, attacking strategic targets in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Among the targets attacked were submarine installations, industrial establishments, airfields, harbors and shipyards.
A detachment deployed to the Twelfth Air Force in Algeria in June 1943 to help facilitate the Allied invasion of Sicily by bombing airfields and marshalling yards in Italy. The detachment also participated in the low-level raid on the Ploiești oil fields in Romania on 1 August 1943. Most of the detachment returned to England at the end of August, however some crews and aircraft remained in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) and flew very long range attacks over Italy, Romania, Austria and Sicily and supported Allied ground forces in Sicily as well as attacking Axis forces in Italy opposing the Salerno landing. All aircraft and personnel returned to England in October.
The squadron returned to VIII Bomber Command operations, and supported the Allied Invasion of France in June 1944 by attacking strongpoints in the beachhead area and transportation targets behind the front line. The group aided the Caen offensive and the Saint-Lô breakthrough in July. It also dropped food, ammunition and other supplies to troops engaged in the airborne attack on the Netherlands in September. The unit attacked enemy targets during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944-January 1945, by striking bridges, tunnels, rail and road junctions and communications in the battle area. The squadron attacked airfields and transportation in support of the Western Allied Invasion of Germany, and flew a resupply mission during the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945. Combat operations ceased with the German surrender in May 1945.
The squadron returned to the United States in June 1945, being reassigned to the Second Air Force and re-designated as a B-29 Superfortress 'Very Heavy' bombardment unit. It trained with B-29s and planned to deploy to the Western Pacific, however the Japanese capitulation in August canceled these plans. It was assigned to Kansas as part of the Continental Air Forces (later Strategic Air Command or SAC), but it was inactivated in July 1946 as part of the general demobilization of the AAF.
The squadron was re-activated in 1947 under SAC as a paper unit; it was not manned or equipped and inactivated in 1949 due to budget constraints.
Reactivated once more in 1950, it was used as an Operational Training Unit for B-29 aircrews and maintenance personnel. It was deployed to the Far East Air Forces during the Korean War. The unit replaced its propeller-driven B-29s with new B-47E Stratojet swept-wing medium bombers in 1953. These machines were capable of flying at high subsonic speeds and primarily designed for penetrating the airspace of the Soviet Union.
In the late 1950s, the B-47 was considered to be reaching obsolescence, and was being phased out of SAC's strategic arsenal. The squadron began sending aircraft to other B-47 wings as replacements in late 1959, while being phased down for inactivation in 1960.
The unit was re-activated in 1962 as a SAC ICBM missile squadron. It trained with the 850th SMS in HGM-25A Titan I operations in 1962 and was made operational with LGM-30B Minuteman I missiles in 1963.
During March 1965 the squadron was responsible for the missile that was launched from a November Flight LF, 10 miles north of Newell, South Dakota. The program was called "Project Longlife" and was the only successful launch of a LGM-30 Minuteman missile from an operational site. The "Project Longlife" purpose was to test the launch capabilities from an operational site and to see how much damage the missile caused to the launch silo. The missile contained only enough fuel to burn for 7 seconds with a total flight time of 43 seconds. Many Minuteman missiles have been launched successfully from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The squadron was upgraded to the LGM-30F Minuteman II in 1972. It was located just north of the Black Hills, South Dakota, as part of the 44th SMW.
The squadron was responsible for 50 missile silos, also called Launch Facilities (LF), broken down into groups of 10. Each ten missile silos had a control center, or Launch Control Facility (LCF), where two missile officers were on duty 24 hours a day. These LCFs were named after the phonetic alphabet, starting with Kilo. Lima, Mike, November, and Oscar were the other LCFs. The LCFs were designated as "one", hence Kilo 1 was the LCF, and Kilo 2 through 11 represented the actual missile silos controlled from Kilo 1. In addition to being a normal LCF, Kilo 1 was also the Alternate Command Post, or ACP. All of the other missile sites within the 44th Missile Wing (including the 66th and 67th SMS) reported to Kilo 1.
The squadron remained on Cold War nuclear alert until President Bush's directive to stand the Minuteman II down. It dissipated launch codes and pin safety control switches at 15 launch control facilities. Deactivation of the entire missile complex ended in the spring of 1994; the squadron was inactivated on 5 July.Constituted as the 68th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 20 Nov 1940
Activated on 15 Jan 1941
Re-designated the 68th Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy)
on 5 Aug 1945
Inactivated on 12 Jul 1946
Activated on 1 Jul 1947
Inactivated on 6 Sep 1948
Re-designated the 68th Bombardment Squadron (Medium) on 20 Dec 1950
Activated on 2 Jan 1951
Discontinued on 15 Jun 1960
Re-designated the 68th Strategic Missile Squadron on 19 Mar 1962
Organized on 1 Sep 1962
Re-designated the 68th Missile Squadron
on 1 Sep 1991
Inactivated on 5 Jul 1994.
44th Bombardment Group, 15 Jan 1941 – 12 Jul 1946; 1 Jul 1947-6 Sep 1948; 2 Jan 1951
44th Bombardment Wing, 16 Jun 1952
Department of the Air Force, 15 Jun 1960
Strategic Air Command, 19 Mar 1962
44th Strategic Missile Wing, 1 Sep 1962
44th Operations Group, 1 Sep 1991 – 5 Jul 1994
B-24 Liberator, 1941–1945
TB-29 Superfortress, 1951; B-29 Superfortress, 1945–1946; 1947–1948; 1951–1952
B-47 Stratojet, 1953–1960
LGM-30B Minuteman I, 1963–1973
LGM-30F Minuteman II, 1972–1994
68th Missile Squadron Launch Facilities
Missile Alert Facilities (K-O flights, each controlling 10 missiles) are located as follows: