The 851st Strategic Missile Squadron (851 SMS) is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the 456th Strategic Aerospace Wing, stationed at Beale Air Force Base, California.
The 851 SMS was equipped with the HGM-25A Titan I Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), with a mission of nuclear deterrence. It was the last Titan I ICBM Squadron to achieve alert status on 1 February 1961. The squadron was inactivated as part of the phaseout of the Titan I ICBM on 25 March 1965.
The squadron was organized in early 1941 as the 78th Bombardment Squadron assigned to First Air Force as a medium bombardment squadron equipped with A-20 Havocs, and later B-18 Bolos. The unit was assigned to the 45th Bombardment Group at Savannah AAB, Georgia, then moving to Grenier Field, New Hampshire.
After the United States entered World War II the group was ordered to search for German U-Boats and to fly aerial coverage of friendly convoys off the northeast coast, then being reassigned to Langley Field, Virginia, then to Jacksonville AAF, Florida flying missions along the mid-atlantic and southeast coastline. In May 1942, the squadron was redesignated as the 7th Antisubmarine Squadron and assigned to the 25th Antisubmarine Wing of the AAF Antisubmarine Command.
The squadron was deployed to the Caribbean and attached to the Sixth Air Force 25th Bombardment Group on Trinidad, flying antisubmarine patrols over the Caribbean as part of the Antilles Task Force during the spring and summer of 1943.
In September 1943 due to the pending turnover of aerial antisubmarine patrolling to the Navy, the squadron was redesignated as the 851st Bombardment Squadron and returned to the role of a heavy B-17 Flying Fortress squadron and deployed to RAF Eye, England as part of the VIII Bomber Command 490th Bombardment Group. From England, the squadron flew combat missions over Europe until the end of the war. The squadron returned to Drew Field, Florida on 3 September 1945, then was inactivated on 7 November 1945.
Reactivated in 1960 as a Strategic Air Command HGM-25A Titan I ICBM launch squadron. On April 1, 1961, SAC placed the 851st Strategic Missile Squadron on operational status. In September 1962, the 851st SMS became the last Titan I Squadron to achieve alert status. The squadron's missiles were deployed in a 3x3 configuration, which meant a total of nine missiles were divided into three bases. Each missile base had three ICBM missiles ready to launch at any given time. In November 1962, two months after the squadron became fully operational, SAC subjected the unit to an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI). The 851st SMS became the first Titan I unit to pass.
On May 24, 1962, during a contractor checkout, a terrific blast rocked launcher 1 at complex 4C at Chico (851-C), destroying a Titan I and causing heavy damage to the silo. After the investigation, the Air Force concluded that the two separate explosions occurred because of a blocked vent and blocked valve. After damages were repaired, the Chico complex became operational on March 9, 1963.
On November 19, 1964, Defense Secretary McNamara announced the phase-out of remaining first-generation SM-65 Atlas and Titan I missiles by the end of June 1965. Consequently, the Titan Is of the 851st SMS were removed from alert status on January 4, 1965. The last missile was shipped out on February 10. The Air Force subsequently inactivated the squadron on 25 March.
Missile sites were later sold off to private ownership after demilitarization. Today the remains of the sites are still visible in aerial imagery, in various states of use or abandonment.Constituted 78th Bombardment Squadron (Light) on 20 November 1940
Activated on 15 January 1941
Re-designated: 78th Bombardment Squadron (Medium)
on 30 December 1941
Re-designated: 7th Antisubmarine Squadron (Heavy)
on 29 November 1942
Re-designated: 851st Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)
on 27 September 1943
Inactivated on 7 November 1945
Re-designated 851st Strategic Missile Squadron, and activated, on 25 August 1960
Organized on February 1961
Inactivated 25 March 1965
45th Bombardment Group, 15 January 1941
26th Antisubmarine Wing, 8 December 1942
Attached to: 25th Antisubmarine Wing, c. 16 December 1942
Attached to: 25th Bombardment Group, 4 April-20 July 1943
490th Bombardment Group, October 1943-7 November 1945
Strategic Air Command, 25 August 1960
4126th Strategic Wing, 1 February 1961
456th Strategic Aerospace Wing, 1 February 1963 – 25 March 1965
Savannah AAB, Georgia, 15 January 1941
Grenier Field, New Hampshire, 20 June 1941
Langley Field, Virginia, 9 April 1942
Jacksonville AAF, Florida, 16 May 1942
Operated from Edinburgh Field, Trinidad, 20 April 1943-20 July 1943
Mountain Home AAF, Idaho, 27 September 1943 – 9 April 1944
RAF Eye, England, 28 April 1944-c. 26 August 1945
Drew Field, Florida, 3 September 1945 – 7 November 1945
Beale AFB, California, 1 February 1961 – 25 March 1965
A-20, DB-7 Havoc, 1941–1942
B-18 Bolo, 1942–1943
B-24 Liberator, 1944
B-17 Flying Fortress, 1944–1945
HGM-25A Titan I, 1962–1965
Operated three missile sites: (1 Feb 1961-25 Mar 1965)