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Lt. General James Edmundson on: The Mission of the Strategic Air Command
James Edmundson Q: In the late forties and maybe early fifties, what was the mission of the Strategic Air Command?

JE: SAC was the bombing arm of the new Air Force. All of the bombardment airplanes were put in there, and it had a bombardment mission. It wasn't directly pointed at Russia, but it turned out to be that way. And it was certainly that way by the time I got in...

The Air Force, as it was organized initially, had put its fighting units into three different organizations: SAC (Strategic Air Command) with the bombardment capability; the ground support capability was TAC (the Tactical Air Command); and the air defense capability was ADC (Air Defense Command). And their job was to defend the United States, and of course they were pointed towards Russia, too. Their job would have been to try and get up and shoot down Russian bombers coming in.

But as SAC was being formed and through the early days of SAC, it was to have been a bombardment force. My old 22nd was cut in half, and half of it became a new-- I've forgotten even the number now, but it [be]-came another bombardment group, and was moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana. So SAC was expanding, growing, training, developing. The 22nd, when I first went to it, was a-- was a hodgepodge of people and airplanes. We could hardly keep the airplanes in commission. A lot of my people were untrained. They had been assigned to the outfit, but they'd never been in a B-29 before. And by the time I left it three years later, it was a-- it was a going Jesse.

Q: How did Strategic Air Command crews train for their missions?

A: We constantly flew what were called profile missions, where a guy and his airplane would take off, and the crew in his airplane, and would fly as nearly identical a mission as you could make it to what his war plan called for him to do. Distances were the same. Takeoff weights were the same. The type of target that he was given to hit at night was similar to the type of target that he was going after in Russia. You would hit refueling tankers at the same time. Everything would be the same as a wartime mission, except the geography that he flew over-- He'd be up over Canada or up someplace else. He would not be flying over Russia. But these war plan profile missions were--were excellent training for a crew.

Q: So each crew basically was assigned a very specific target?

A: Each crew was assigned a very specific target. This got a little looser when the B-52s went to airborne alert, because at different points as they were flying this 24-hour mission, they would be over different real estate, and they would have different amounts of fuel in their tanks. And so the target that they would have assigned to them during a certain part of their flight might change. In other words, it might be of quite a shallow target, and then after it hit tankers over--over, uh, Goose Bay or over Thule, and add a full load of fuel, then he would immediately pick up responsibility for a deeper target...But other than the airborne alert, the crews-- each crew slept with his target.

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