397th Bombardment Squadron

The 7th Reconnaissance Squadron is a squadron of the United States Air Force. It is assigned to the 69th Reconnaissance Group and is stationed at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, Italy.

The squadron was first established in the Panama Canal Zone as the 7th Aero Squadron in 1917 and served as a reconnaissance unit until 1942, when it was redesignated as the 397th Bombardment Squadron. It served as a bomber unit through World War II and was inactivated at Rio Hato Army Air Base, Panama on 1 November 1946. The squadron was reactivated in 2015, returning to its earlier reconnaissance mission.

397th Bombardment Squadron
7th Reconnaissance Squadron
LB-30 Liberator with RAF Serial under Air Transport Command
LB-30 Liberator
Active1917-1946; 2015–present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Part ofAir Force Combat Command
Garrison/HQNaval Air Station Sigonella
WW II American Campaign (Antisubmarine) Streamer

American Antisubmarine Theater
397th Bombardment Squadron emblem (approved 5 May 1924)[1][note 1]
7 Observation Sq-emblem


The squadron's mission from its inception in 1917 to its inactivation in 1946 was the defense of the Panama Canal. During the 1920s and 1930s it participated in a number of goodwill missions to nations in Central and South America. From its origins in 1917 until 1942, the unit was designated a variation of the 7th Reconnaissance Squadron.

World War I

Curtiss R-4L 1918.jpeg
Curtiss R-4L

With the entry of the United States into World War I, the War Department believed it was necessary to establish an air presence along the Atlantic terminus of the Panama Canal as a defensive measure against an enemy seaborne attack.

In advancing its plans for the defense of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, the joint Army-Navy board recommended the establishment of eight aeronautic stations which, with a strength of two dirigibles and six or eight seaplanes each, could immediately conduct patrol work. Significantly, the only site definitely advanced as vital in the overall plan was that at the Coco Solo United States Navy submarine base near Colón in the Canal Zone.

The Army selected Captain Henry H. Arnold, then in training at the Army Aviation School at Rockwell Field, near San Diego, to proceed immediately to the Canal Zone and form and command an aviation squadron there. This unit was designated the 7th Aero Squadron and was organized on 29 March 1917. Captain Arnold did not remain long with the 7th Aero Squadron, however, as he returned to the United States in April 1917. The squadron personnel arrived for duty in the Canal Zone with 51 officers and enlisted men. Initially garrisoned at Ancón, Canal Zone at the end of March 1917, the unit moved to Corozal by 16 April. They then moved to the large temporary camp at Empire, Canal Zone in May, all on the Pacific side of the isthmus – not making the move to Fort Sherman's parade field until around 29 August 1917, on the Atlantic side. The unit did not receive its first aircraft until about 10 December 1917, when two Curtiss R-4's were tested at Fort Sherman. These were followed by Curtiss R-6's on 12 February 1918 which were supplied by the Navy. Besides its Curtiss R-4's and R-6's, the unit also had two Curtiss R-3's which, oddly, had arrived after the R-4's, in late December 1917.

With the end of World War I most of the 7th Aero Squadron's personnel were transferred back to the United States for demobilization.

Between the wars

7th Observation Squadron DH-4s Rio Hato Airfield 1920s
de Havilland DH-4s at Rio Hato Airfield, Panama, 1920s
Douglas B-18 sits on airfield in Panama (00910460 139)
Douglas B-18 Bolo at Aguadulce Field, Panama.
B-17B Flying Fortress USAF Museum Photo
B-17B Flying Fortress

After the war, the squadron evolved into the 7th Squadron (14 March 1921), 7th Observation Squadron (25 January 1925), 7th Reconnaissance Squadron (1 September 1937), 7th Reconnaissance Squadron (Medium Range) (6 December 1939) and 7th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) (20 November 1940) before being finally redesignated as the 397th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 22 April 1942. The squadron was assigned to the 6th Composite Group.

After World War I, the squadron is credited with having operated numerous aircraft types between 1919 and 1931. These included, the venerable U.S.-built Dayton-Wright DH-4 series of light bomber/general purpose aircraft; the Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" family of trainers; the Loening OA-1 amphibians, these being uniquely suited to conditions in Panama, Douglas O-2 observation aircraft and, surprisingly, Curtiss HS-1 and HS-2L flying boats. Of the DH-4's, the first six postwar examples, all virtually stock DH-4B's, arrived for duty with the 7th in February 1920, replacing the well-worn Curtiss R-6's and other earlier DH-4's. By 16 February 1922, the squadron had seven "war-built" DH-4's, four DH-4B's, the solitary Curtiss JN-4H, three Curtiss JN-6's. By August, all but one of the "war-built" DH-4's had been scrapped and one of the DH-4B's had been converted to DH-4BP-1 (photographic) configuration.

By June 1927, the squadron, now in a very lean peacetime stance, had but eight aircraft. These consisted of four DH-4M's, a solitary DH-4B, a Loening OA-l and two Loening OA-1As.

In 1937, the 6th Group, which had been a composite unit since its establishment in 1919, became the 6th Bombardment Group.[2] The squadron was equipped with Douglas B-18 Bolos, although a single Northrop A-17 Nomad was also assigned for a period, together with a Sikorsky OA-8.

By 1 February 1940, the assignment to the 6th Bombardment Group was changed to an attachment, as the unit was reassigned to the 19th Composite Wing and placed under the control of the Caribbean Air Force staff as one of the dedicated reconnaissance elements reporting to that headquarters. On 4 June 1941, it was assigned one Boeing B-17B Flying Fortress, the first production version of the Flying Fortress, which had been transferred to the command. Obsolete as a bomber, the mission of the B-17B was long-range reconnaissance in the Canal Zone, although the aircraft retained its defensive machine guns for defense against any enemy aircraft it may encounter On 8 October 1941, it was once again assigned to the 6th Bombardment Group and, on 27 November, the unit moved from France Field to the newly constructed Howard Field on the Pacific side, where it received four additional B-17Bs.

World War II

Northrup A-17A 36-162 USAF Museum
Northrop A-17A

After the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor the Squadron was almost immediately deployed to David Field, Panama. The Squadron's B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft deployed elsewhere (mainly to Guatemala City Airport) to begin the Pacific patrols in early January 1942. The squadron was redesignated as the 397th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) effective 22 April 1942.

The return to David Field came just in time for deployment of the unit as a whole from David to Talara Airfield, Peru, where it arrived on 18 August. From there the squadron undertook the Pacific patrol arc out to Seymour Airport in the Galápagos Islands and, sometimes, on to Guatemala City Airport. These flights continued, almost non-stop, through May 1943, when the unit was relieved and returned to Río Hato Field in Panama. The LB-30's retained their original British serial numbers throughout their service with the squadron. Upon its return to Rio Hato on 4 May 1943, the 397th was transformed, as an entirely new cadre of personnel replaced the veterans of the Galapagos and earlier tours there. Three days later, the Squadron moved to Howard Field in the Canal Zone, although this was apparently a mere paper move of its headquarters, as the unit's aircraft and personnel actually remained at Rio Hato.

On 1 January 1944, the squadron received orders to deploy four of its LB-30's to France Field to participate in the search for several marauding German U-Boats which were causing considerable alarm in the Caribbean. While at France Field, the aircraft also flew navigational and bombing exercises.

All of this was preparatory to the unit's deployment to the Galapagos Islands and, starting 7 April 1944, the ground echelon started movement to Balboa, Canal Zone, via truck for the transfer. The air element got four more B-24J's on 8 April and, with these, flew with the earlier two B-24J's and two B-24D's to Seymour Field in the Galapagos. Other missions, besides the normal long-distance patrols, saw 397th aircraft operating to Salinas Airport, Ecuador; Havana Airport, Cuba; Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico; Managua Airport, Nicaragua; Cartagena airport, Colombia and elsewhere throughout Central and South America.

In February 1945, the unit was relieved from duty in the Galapagos and returned to Rio Hato, where the unit ended the war, on 1 November 1946 when it was inactivated.

Reactivation in 2015

On 1 May 2015, the unit was redesignated 7th Reconnaissance Squadron. It was reactivated at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, Italy on 15 May, where it replaced Detachment 1, 69th Reconnaissance Group. It is assigned to the 69th Group at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota.[3][4][5]


  • Organized as 7th Aero Squadron on 29 March 1917[6]
Redesignated: 7th Squadron on 14 March 1921
Redesignated: 7th Observation Squadron on 25 January 1925
Redesignated: 7th Reconnaissance Squadron on 1 September 1937
Redesignated: 7th Reconnaissance Squadron (Medium Range) on 6 December 1939
Redesignated: 7th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) on 20 November 1940[6]
Redesignated: 397th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 11 May 1942[6]
Redesignated: 397th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy c. 1944
Inactivated on 1 November 1946[1]
  • Redesignated 7th Reconnaissance Squadron on 1 May 2015
Activated on 15 May 2015[5]


  • Panama Canal Department, 29 March 1917
  • 3rd Observation Group (later 6th Observation Group, 6th Composite Group, 6th Bombardment Group), 30 September 1919
  • 19 Composite Wing, 1 February 1940 (attached to 6 Bombardment Group)
  • 6 Bombardment Group, 25 February 1942
  • VI Bomber Command, 1 November 1943 – 1 November 1946
  • 69th Reconnaissance Group, 15 May 2015 – present[5]


  • Ancon, Panama Canal Zone, 29 March 1917
  • Corozal, Panama Canal Zone, 16 April 1917
  • Empire, Panama Canal Zone, May 1917
  • Fort Sherman, Panama Canal Zone, c. 29 August 1917
  • Cristobal, Panama Canal Zone, March 1918
  • Coco Walk (later France Field), Panama Canal Zone, May 1918
  • Howard Field, Panama Canal Zone, 26 November 1941
  • David Field, Panama, 11 December 1941
  • Talara Airfield, Peru, 18 August 1942
  • Rio Hato Army Air Base, Panama, c. 4 May 1943
  • Seymour Island Army Airfield, Baltra, Galapagos Islands, c. 7 April 1944
  • Rio Hato Army Air Base, Panama, c. 6 February 1945 – 1 November 1946
  • Naval Air Station Sigonella, 15 May 2015 – present[5]


  • Curtiss R-4, 1917-1919
  • Curtiss R-3, 1917-1919
  • Curtiss R-6, 1918-1919
  • Curtiss R-9, 1918-1919
  • Curtiss JN-4, 1918-1919, 1919-1920
  • Curtiss JN-6, 1919-1920
  • Dayton-Wright DH-4, 1919-1931
  • Curtiss HS-2L, 1919-1931
  • Loening 0A-1, 1927-1931
  • Douglas 0-2, 1919-1931
  • Thomas Morse 0-19, 1930–1937
  • Douglas OA-4 Dolphin, 1930–1936
  • Martin B-10, 1936–1939
  • Douglas B-18 Bolo, 1938–1942
  • Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, 1941–1942
  • Consolidated LB-30 Liberator, 1942–1944
  • Northrop A-17A Nomad, 1943
  • Consolidated B-24 Liberator, 1943-1946

See also


  1. ^ On a blue diamond piped with red with its long axis horizontal a white sword pointing to the dexter [sic] behind a white shield displaying a black portcullis.
  1. ^ a b Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 486-487
  2. ^ Maurer, Combat Units, pp. 41-43
  3. ^ Miller, Kevin (August 18, 2015). "Air Force Report: 7th Reconnaissance Squadron". Defense Video Imagery Distribution System. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  4. ^ Robertson, Patsy (April 9, 2012). "Factsheet 69 Reconnaissance Group (ACC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Archived from the original on 27 September 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Haulman, Daniel L. (29 May 2015). "7 Reconnaissance Squadron (ACC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Conaway, William. "397th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45.


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

Further reading

External links

1st Photographic Group

The 1st Photographic Group is an inactive United States Army Air Forces unit. It was last assigned to the 311th Photographic Wing, stationed at Buckley Field, Colorado. It was disbanded on 5 October 1944, but reconstituted in 1985 as the 358th Special Operations Group.

303rd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron

The 303d Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing and stationed at Laon-Couvron Air Base, France. The squadron was first activated in January 1953 at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, moving to Europe in July. The squadron performed reconnaissance missions for North Atlantic Treaty Organization from bases in Germany and France until it was inactivated in 1959 and replaced by a squadron flying more advanced aircraft.

In 1985, the squadron was consolidated with the 3d Composite Squadron. a World War II unit that trained ground forces on air ground tactics until it was inactivated after the end of the war. The consolidated unit was designated the 303d Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron, but it has not been active since the consolidation.


397th may refer to:

397th Bombardment Squadron, inactive United States Air Force unit

397th Bombardment Wing, inactive United States Air Force unit, last assigned to the 45th Air Division of Strategic Air Command

397th Engineer Battalion (United States), construction battalion of the United States Army based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

397th Fighter Squadron, inactive United States Air Force unit

3d Bombardment Squadron

The 3d Bombardment Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with the 111th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, based at Travis Air Force Base, California. It was inactivated on 1 January 1953.

6th Operations Group

The 6th Operations Group (6 OG) is the operational flying component of the 6th Air Mobility Wing, stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

The mission of the 6th OG is the planning and executing global aerial refueling, combatant commander airlift, and specialized missions for US and allied combat and support aircraft. The group extends US global power and global reach through employment of a mix of KC-135R and C-37 aircraft.

The 6th Operations Group is a successor organization of the 6th Group (Composite), one of the 15 original combat air groups formed by the Army before World War II. During World War II, the 6th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy), was a B-29 Superfortress group assigned to Twentieth Air Force flying bombardment operations against Japan. Its aircraft were identified by a "R" inside a Circle painted on the tail.

7 Squadron

7 Squadron or 7th Squadron may refer to:

No. 7 Squadron RAAF, a unit of the Royal Australian Air Force

No. 7 Squadron, Indian Air Force

No. 7 Squadron RNZAF, a unit of the Royal New Zealand Air Force

No. 7 Squadron (Pakistan Air Force)

7 Squadron SAAF, a unit of the South African Air Force

No. 7 Squadron RAF, a unit of the United Kingdom Royal Air Force

7th Squadron (JASDF), a unit of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force

7th Tactical Squadron, Polish Air Force

7th Cruiser Squadron (United Kingdom), a blockading force of the Royal Navy during the World War I

7th Squadron, Rhode Island Cavalry, a unit of the Union Army during the American Civil War

7th Observation Squadron, later 7th Reconnaissance Squadron, United States Army Air Force; see 303d Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron

7th Aero Squadron, later 7th Observation Squadron, later 7th Reconnaissance Squadron, United States Army Air Force; see 397th Bombardment Squadron

7th Reconnaissance Squadron

7th Reconnaissance Squadron may refer to:

The 397th Bombardment Squadron, designated the 7th Reconnaissance Squadron from September 1937 to December 1939, 7th Reconnaissance Squadron (Medium Range) from December 1939 to November 1940, and 7th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) from November 1940 to April 1943

The 3d Composite Squadron, designated the 7th Reconnaissance Squadron from June 1943 to September 1943

B-24 Liberator units of the United States Army Air Forces

This is a list of United States Army Air Forces B-24 Liberator combat units during World War II including variants and other historical information. Heavy bomber training organizations primarily under II Bomber Command in the United States and non-combat units are not included.

The USAAF took delivery of its first B-24As in June 1941, although the B-24D was the first production model delivered in quantity in July 1942. B-24s were assigned to every combat Air Force; at peak inventory, the USAAF had 6,043 B-24 Liberators operating worldwide in September 1944.

Following the end of World War II, the Liberator was rapidly withdrawn from USAAF service, being replaced by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Literally thousands of Liberators were flown to various disposal units where they were cut up for scrap. Some brand-new late-production B-24Ms from Convair/San Diego and Ford/Willow Run were flown directly from the factory to various reclamation sites such as the scrapyard at RFC Kingman, Arizona in 1945, as the war in Europe had ended and B-29s were doing most of the long-range bombing work in the Pacific.

Only a few Liberators were still around when the United States Air Force was formed in 1947, most of them being used for various research purposes. The last USAF Liberator, a Ford EZB-24M-20-FO serial number 44-51228 used by the Aeronautical Icing Research Laboratory for ice research, was struck off the rolls in 1953. For a time, it was on display at Lackland AFB, Texas, with the armament and gunner positions restored. It is currently at the American Museum at Duxford Aerodrome, England painted as 44-50492, a B-24M that was assigned to the 392d Bombardment Group, 578th Bombardment Squadron.

Capitán FAP Víctor Montes Arias International Airport

Cap. FAP Víctor Montes Arias International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Capitán FAP Víctor Montes Arias, IATA: TYL, ICAO: SPYL) is an airport serving Talara, Peru. It is run by AdP S.A. (Aeropuertos del Perú S.A.). It is an important airport in the Piura Region. It is used both as a relief airport for Cap. FAP Guillermo Concha Iberico International Airport and for faster access to the famous Los Órganos, Máncora and Punta Sal beaches.

The Talara VOR-DME (Ident: TAL) and the Talara non-directional beacon (Ident: TYL) are located on the field.

Enrique Malek International Airport

Enrique Malek International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional Enrique Malek) (IATA: DAV, ICAO: MPDA) is an international airport serving David, a city in the Chiriquí Province of Panama.

During heavy travel times, the airport registers 900 operations monthly, serving approximately 20,000 passengers from Mexico, the United States, Canada and Central America.

Howard Air Force Base

Howard Air Force Base, (IATA: BLB, ICAO: MPPA), is a former United States Air Force base located in Panama. It discontinued military operations on 1 November 1999 as a result of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, which specified that US military facilities in the former Panama Canal Zone be closed and the facilities be turned over to the Panamanian government.

After demilitarization, the facility reopened as Panamá Pacífico International Airport in 2014.

List of American aero squadrons

This is a partial list of original Air Service, United States Army "Aero Squadrons" before and during World War I. Units formed after 1 January 1919 are not listed.

Aero Squadrons were the designation of the first United States Army aviation units until the end of World War I. These units consisted of combat flying, training, ground support, construction and other components of the Air Service. After World War I ended, the majority of these squadrons were demobilized. Some however were retained during the interwar period of the 1920s and 1930s, and served in all theaters of operation during World War II. Today, the oldest squadrons in the United States Air Force and Air National Guard can trace their lineage back to the original Aero Squadrons of World War I.

List of United States Air Force bomb squadrons

This is a list of United States Air Force Bomb Squadrons. It covers all squadrons that were constituted or redesignated as bombardment squadron sometime during their active service. Today Bomb Squadrons are considered to be part of the Combat Air Force (CAF) along with fighter squadrons. Units in this list are assigned to nearly every Major Command in the United States Air Force. All the active Bomb Squadrons are in Bold.

Scarlett Martínez International Airport

Scarlett Martínez International Airport (IATA: RIH, ICAO: MPSM), also known as Río Hato Airport, is an international airport serving Río Hato, a town in the Coclé Province of Panama. The airport is 3 kilometres (2 mi) east of Río Hato.

Seymour Airport

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VI Bomber Command

The VI Bomber Command was a military formation of the United States Army Air Forces. Its last assignment was with Sixth Air Force. It was based throughout its service at Albrook Field, in the Panama Canal Zone. It was inactivated on 1 November 1946.

It engaged in antisubmarine operations from the Canal Zone. It was credited with two submarines sunk and shared two others.


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