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28th BW adopts Toby Jug, accepts new mission

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Some may have noticed a solitary jug displayed on the Pride Hangar stage during the B-1 realignment ceremony Oct. 1, facing away from the crowd for the majority of the program.

They would have also observed a small motion at the end of the day's events, when Maj. Gen. Richard Clark, Eighth Air Force commander, silently turned the jug 180 degrees following his closing remarks. Few probably knew the significance of this single act, but those in the bomber community most likely understood; the 28th Bomb Wing had just been assigned, and accepted, a new mission.

Toby jugs are character jugs that hold great significance to several military units across the world.

When Clark turned Ellsworth's new Toby that day as the base transitioned from Twelfth Air Force and Air Combat Command to Eighth AF and Air Force Global Strike Command, he symbolically denoted the tremendous heritage and history of today's Air Force and the challenge of an upcoming mission - re-invigorate the Air Force's bomber community.

The "turning of the Toby" began with the British Royal Air Force during the initial stages of military aviation. A jug would be placed on display in a social area, facing away from the crowd, once the unit was given a new mission, the jug would be turned to the room and all aircrew members knew they were headed back to combat and had to be ready to fight.

It was first adopted by U.S. bombers in 1942 when Gen. Ira Eaker, Eighth AF commander, deployed to England and brought the tradition to his men.

At the time, the 306th Bomb Group was the only U.S. unit to use the original Toby Jug, and is the oldest operational bomb group in the Eighth. The unit flew a total of 9,614 sorties, with 342 combat missions, losing 171 bombers, and claiming around 332 aerial victories. Additionally, the group earned two Distinguished Unit Citations.

Afterward, the jug became popular with the American public from the film Twelve O'clock High, a movie based on the wartime activities of the 306th BG.

During the ceremony at the beginning of the month, the jug turned by Clark was an exact replica of the original Toby used in the movie. It was displayed at officers clubs, and was turned to alert patrons of future missions.

Since then, multiple replicas of the jug have been produced, one for each bomb wing under Eighth AF. Today, Ellsworth's resides facing out on the desk of the 28th Bomb Wing commander, symbolizing that Ellsworth is and will always be ready to deliver combat airpower anywhere in the world, at any time.