Known as the Thunderbirds, the 34th Bomb Squadron's mission is to defeat America's enemies across the globe at a moment's notice.
The history of the 34th Bomb Squadron dates back to World War I, when the U.S. Army organized the 34th Aero Squadron in June 11, 1917. During assignment with the 17th Pursuit Group, the squadron became equipped with the P-12 biplane fighter. In 1935 and 1936, the squadron gradually transitioned from the P-12 and P-26 Peashooter to the A-17 and YA-19, which it kept until 1940 when it began flying the B-18 and the B-23 bombers. On April 18, 1942, 34th crews famously flew the B-25 Mitchell from the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet with crews from the 37th Bomb Squadron during the Doolittle Raid against Japan.
Throughout the war, the 34th flew bombing missions in the B-26 Invader overseas and then returned to the United States in November 1945. The day after its arrival, the squadron was inactivated. The 34th BS went through numerous activations and deactivations over its history. However, it was able to fly interdiction and close air support missions in Korea, transitioning to the B-57, the B-66, and then finally the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft.
When the unit moved to Ellsworth on April 1, 1994, it began flying the B-1B Lancer. On April 1, 1997, the squadron moved again, transferring to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the 34th BS was one of the first units to deploy overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. On Sept. 19, 2002, the 34th BS moved back to Ellsworth from Mountain Home. As tensions rose in Iraq, the 34th BS deployed from Jan. 5 to May 15, 2003 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Since 2003, the Thunderbirds have completed numerous deployments in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Starting in 2007, the 34th entered a regular deployment schedule with other B-1 units with one year at home station followed by six months deployed. On average, these deployments result in over 6,000 combat hours and more than 500 combat sorties flown supporting overseas contingency operations. On March 27, 2011 the 34th BS flew the first ever B-1 combat mission launched from the United States to strike overseas targets when it participated in Operation Odyssey Dawn, flying non-stop from Ellsworth to strike targets in Libya.