6th SRW  

K. Hawes
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~ Air Force Heritage ~


The 6th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (6th SRW), the third oldest in the Air Force, was originally designated as the 3rd Observation Group when it was organized at France Field, Panama Canal Zone, in September 1919. The group was reorganized and redesignated the 6th Observation Group in 1921 and as the 6th Composite Group in 1922. The group's mission was primarily concerned with the defense of the canal; including training, participating in maneuvers, flying patrol missions, photographing the canal area, and making goodwill flights. The 6th Group disbanded in the fall of 1943 when it became apparent that an enemy attack on the Panama Canal was unlikely.

The unit was reconstituted as the 6th Bombardment Group (6th BG) in 1944. Equipped with B-17s and later B-29s, the group moved to the Pacific in 1944 to support Allied war efforts in that area. After the war, the group dropped food and supplies to Allied prisoners and took part in show-of-force flights over Japan. The group was inactivated on Okinawa in October 1948. As a result of the hostilities in Korea, the 6th Bombardment Wing was activated at Walker AFB, New Mexico, in early 1951 and was assigned B-29 and KB-29 aircraft. In 1952, the wing took possession of the new B-36 bomber and completed conversion to the B-52 bomber and the KC-135 tanker by 1958. From the late 1950's through the mid-1960's, the wing performed a training mission, including the training of B-52 and KC-135 crews. To counter the growing Soviet missile threat, an Atlas missile squadron was assigned to the wing's resources from 1962 until 1965.

On 25 Mar. 1967, the wing moved without personnel or equipment to Eielson AFB, Alaska, where it replaced the 4157th Strategic Wing and was renamed the 6th Strategic Wing (6th SW). The 6th SW also took over a detachment (Det-1) located on the western tip of the Aleutian Island chain at Shemya AFB. With this relocation to Alaska, the wing returned to the first mission it was assigned: reconnaissance. On 1 Apr. 1988, the 6th SW was renamed the 6th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (6th SRW). The 6th SRW won the P.T. Cullen Award for greatest contributions to the photo and signal intelligence efforts of Strategic Air Command in 1973, 1978 and 1983. It also received numerous AF Outstanding Unit Awards.

The 6th SRW was inactivated on 1 Sep. 1992. The mission of the 6th SRW and assigned aircraft transferred to the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.

On 22 Dec. 1993 the 6th was redesignated the 6th Air Base Wing and activated on 4 Jan. 1994 at MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida with a primary mission of supporting two unified commands, U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command. On 1 Oct. 1996 the wing returned to its flying mission and was renamed the 6th Air Refueling Wing. On 1 Jan. 2001 the 6th ARW reorganized and became the 6th Air Mobility Wing (6th AMW).

Click Here for the Air Force Heritage pamphlet.
Click Here for 50th Anniversary of the 6th.
Click Here for a chronological list of past and present Commanders.
Click Here for a historical video done by Mr. William "Bill" Polson (6th AMW Historian) when the 6th was based at France Field in the Panama Canal Zone.

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~ Description ~

Blue and yellow are the colors of the Air Force. Blue alludes to the sky, the primary theater for Air Force operations. Yellow refers to the sun and the excellence required of Air Force personnel. The biplane symbolizes the 6th's first aircraft, the R-4, as well as past reconnaissance missions. The sailing ship represents the 6th's service in the Caribbean. The water and shore reflect the past mission of protecting the Panama Canal and World War II operations in the Pacific. The falling star indicates the 6th's past bombardment mission. The yellow and red sun rays symbolize peace maintained through vigilance and military strength. The Wing's motto is "Parati Defendere" (Ready to Defend) and was approved on 22 Jan. 1924.

~ Parati Defendere Pins ~

K. Hawes
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K. Hawes
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~ Pirate's Head Crest ~

The pirate's head crest was first used by the 6th composite group in the Panama Canal Zone and represents Jean Lafitte who helped Major General Andrew Jackson defeat the British in "The Battle of New Orleans" during "The War of 1812". Jean Lafitte was a legendary smuggler, privateer and patriot that preyed on Spanish ships in the Gulf of Mexico. The "Parati Defendere" pin shown above was the most sought after of all military pins in the early 1930s by Canal Zone (CZ) "Brats". The pirate insignia also appeared on virtually all B-29s assigned to the 6th Bombardment Group based on the island of Tinian during WWII.

Click Here if you want to learn more about the fascinating life and escapades of Jean Lafitte.
Click Here for an excellent website dedicated to the history of the 6th Bomb Group of WWII.

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Kingdon R. Hawes (Webmaster)

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