The 91st Air Refueling Squadron is part of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. It operates the Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft conducting air refueling missions.
The squadron was first activated in January 1941 as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Langley Field, Virginia. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the squadron performed antisubmarine patrols. In the spring of 1942 it was renamed the 391st Bombardment Squadron and became part of the 34th Bombardment Group, to which it had been attached since activation. The squadron moved to the western United States and trained until April 1944 when it moved to the European Theater of Operations, where it participated in combat until VE Day. It returned to the United States in the summer of 1945 and was inactivated.
The squadron provides air refueling and airlift for combatant commanders. It operates the Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker, a long-range tanker aircraft capable of refueling a variety of aircraft in mid-air, anywhere in the world and under any weather condition. The 91st's KC-135s have supported US military operations all over the world.
The squadron was first activated at Langley Field, Virginia in January 1941 as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, a long-range reconnaissance squadron, equipped with a mixture of B-17C and B-17D Flying Fortresses and Douglas B-18 Bolos. It was initially assigned to General Headquarters Air Force, but was attached to the 34th Bombardment Group. Along with the 34th Group, the squadron moved to Westover Field, Massachusetts four months after they were activated.
After the Pearl Harbor attack the squadron began antisubmarine patrols off the Northeast coast of the United States, but soon became part of Western Defense Command and moved to Pendleton Field, Oregon. By the summer of 1942, Second Air Force had become primarily a heavy bomber training force and the squadron, called the 391st Bombardment Squadron since May, became a B-17 Replacement Training Unit (RTU) at Geiger Field. RTUs were oversized units which trained aircrews prior to their deployment to combat theaters.
On 15 December 1942 the squadron moved to Blythe Army Air Base, California a base of the Desert Training Center. The unit provided cadres for a number of heavy bomber units that served with Eighth Air Force during this period.
The 391st began training with Consolidated B-24 Liberators for overseas combat operations on 5 January 1944. Its ground echelon moved to the port of embarkation on 1 April 1944, while the air echelon began its overseas movement on 31 May 1944, taking the southern ferry route, from Florida to Trinidad, Brazil, West Africa and Marrakesh, arriving at RAF Valley, Wales. The 34th Group arrived at its permanent station, RAF Mendlesham, England, in April 1944 and entered combat on 23 May 1944.
The squadron helped to prepare for Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, by bombing airfields in France and Germany, and supported the June landings by attacking coastal defenses and communications. It supported ground forces at Saint-Lô in late July and struck V-1 flying bomb launch sites, gun emplacements, and supply lines throughout the summer of 1944.
The mixture of B-24s and B-17s in the 3d Bombardment Division presented a number of operational problems, and in early 1944 plans had begun at VIII Bomber Command headquarters to standardize the division with the Flying Fortress. The 34th group flew its last B-24 mission on 24 August 1944. It transferred its Liberators for overhaul and eventual transfer to units of the 2d Bombardment Division, and began converting to B-17s and flew its first mission with the new planes on 17 September 1944. The squadron engaged primarily in bombardment of strategic objectives from October 1944 to February 1945. Targets included marshaling yards in Ludwigshafen, Hamm, Osnabrück, and Darmstadt; oil centers in Bielefeld, Merseburg, Hamburg, and Misburg; factories in Berlin, Dalteln, and Hanover; and airfields in Münster, Neumünster, and Frankfurt.
During this period the squadron also supported ground forces during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945. In March 1945, with few enemy industrial targets remaining and with Allied armies advancing across Germany, the 391st turned almost solely to interdicting enemy communications and supporting Allied ground forces. The 391st flew its last combat mission on 20 April 1945.
After V-E Day the squadron flew missions carrying food to flooded areas of the Netherlands and transported prisoners of war from German camps to Allied centers. The squadron redeployed to the United States in June and July 1945. The first elements of the air echelon departed 19 June 1945. The ground echelon sailed aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth from Southampton on 6 August 1945. Upon arrival in the states, unit personnel were given 30 days leave. The squadron reassembled at Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota, where it was inactivated on 28 August 1945.
The 91st Air Refueling Squadron was activated at Barksdale Air Force Base as a Boeing KB-29 Superfortress air refueling squadron in April 1950. The squadron's parent 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Group was equipped with North American RB-45 Tornados. In the fall of 1950, the first air refueling of a jet bomber took place when a squadron Boeing KB-29P Superfortress refueled one of the group's Tornados. Over the next eighteen months, the 9lst developed equipment, techniques, and procedures for refueling jet bombers. The squadron performed the first night refueling and the first refueling performed in instrument weather conditions. However, Strategic Air Command (SAC) activated KB-29 squadrons faster than it acquired tankers, and the unit remained understrength through most of 1950 and 1951.
After additional training with tankers, it moved to Lockbourne Air Force Base along with its parent 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. It remained at Lockbourne until 1971 and began to fly worldwide air refueling operations. In 1953, the wing began to equip with Boeing RB-47 Stratojets and the squadron with Boeing KC-97 Stratotankers. SAC had begun to include refueling in its war plans, and the squadron made frequent deployments with its KC-97s to forward locations, placing it ahead of the faster Boeing B-47 Stratojets it would refuel, and on their programmed route. During Operation Reflex deployments with the wing, the squadron's aircraft also served as transports, carrying extra air crew, support personnel, and spare parts.
In 1957 the 91st wing was inactivated and the squadron was transferred to the 376th Bombardment Wing, which moved to Lockbourne from Barksdale in November. In 1963, the squadron began to transition to the all jet Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker. Once the transition to the new aircraft was complete, the squadron was attached to the 301st Bombardment Wing in May 1964, and was assigned when the wing became the 301st Air Refueling Wing, the first KC-135 wing in SAC.
Crews and aircraft from the 91st deployed to Southeast Asia to refuel tactical aircraft and Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses involved in combat in Vietnam from January 1965 through December 1975. In July 1971, as regular Air Force operations at Lockbourne were substantially reduced, the squadron moved to McConnell Air Force Base. It refueled aircraft participating in the Operation Urgent Fury, the Grenada rescue mission, between October and November 1983. The squadron was stationed at McConnell until it was inactivated in 1987.
In January 1988, SAC reactivated the 301st Air Refueling Wing and the 91st at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana with re-engined KC-135Rs. While at Malmstrom, it was reassigned several times as a result of the implementation of the Objective Wing organization in 1991 and the transfer of the refueling mission from SAC to Air Mobility Command in 1992. The squadron also supported U.S. operations during the 1991 Gulf War. It performed refuelings for bombers, airlift, and fighter aircraft as part of Tanker Task Forces around the world between 1992 and 1995. On 1 October 1996 the 91st relocated from Malmstrom to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, where it became the air refueling component of the 6th Air Mobility Wing. Since 2002 the squadron has refueled fighter aircraft providing security for the southeastern United States.
391st Bombardment SquadronConstituted as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) on 20 November 1940
Activated on 15 January 1941
Redesignated 391st Bombardment Squadron
(Heavy) on 22 April 1942
Redesignated 391st Bombardment Squadron
, Heavy on 20 August 1943
Inactivated on 28 August 1945
Consolidated with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron as the 91st Air Refueling Squadron on 19 September 1985
91st Air Refueling SquadronConstituted as the 91st Air Refueling Squadron, Medium on 1 March 1950
Activated on 16 April 1950
Redesignated 91st Air Refueling Squadron
, Heavy on 1 January 1963
Consolidated with the 391st Bombardment Squadron on 19 September 1985
Inactivated on 1 October 1987
Activated on 5 January 1988
Redesignated 91st Air Refueling Squadron
on 1 September 1991