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This month in Pope history

  • Published
  • By W. Keith Alexander
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Historian
Early Pope Field
Camp Bragg Flying Field was officially established by the government March 22, 1919.

World War II
In late March 1942, the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) completed its transfer to Australia, where it was assigned to Gen. George C. Kenney's Fifth Air Force command. A year later, the 43rd BG (H) served from 2 to 4 March in the Battle of Bismarck Sea. For their actions, the group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation and a campaign streamer.

Post World War II
After two years of honorable service at Pope Field the 812th Army Air Force Base Unit ended its service on March 31, 1946. For two years, this squadron was responsible for the operations of the base. Inside this unit, Squadron B was all women, and Squadron C consisted of all African-American males. Both squadrons faced adversity due to society's entrenched racism and gender beliefs, which limited women to specific roles.

Cold War
Between the end of the Korean War and the official start of the Vietnam Conflict, the 43rd AW's predecessor continued to set flight records. For example, Capt. Robert G. Sowers and his crew broke three speed records on March 5, 1962. Referred to as Operation Heatrise, Captain Sowers flew his B-58 Hustler from New York to Los Angeles and back to New York in four hours, 41 minutes, and 14.98 seconds. This crew actually beat the sun across the United States when it made the flight from New York to Los Angeles in two hours, 15 minutes, and 50.8 seconds. The return trip, however, took two hours and 58.71 seconds, which was an average speed of 1,214.65 mph. For their efforts, all three crew members received President John F. Kennedy's personal congratulations. In addition, they also garnered the MacKay Trophy, the Bendix Trophy, and a Distinguished Flying Cross for each crew member.

Nearly two years later, the 43rd AW's antecedent responded to an emergency on March 28, 1964. A major earthquake devastated Alaska. The Air Force's headquarters tasked the 43rd Bombardment Wing (Medium) to provide photographs of the region. Two B-58 Hustler aircraft departed Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, Texas. They flew 5,571 miles to Alaska and back to Texas. After returning, the command processed the film before flying it to Washington D.C. They accomplished all these tasks in 14.5 hours.