ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
On January 28, 1942, the U.S. Army Air Force established the 97th Bombardment Group. Its original mission: conduct antisubmarine patrols using the largest bomber aircraft of the time, the B-17 Flying Fortress. As time passed, the unit became one of the few heavy bombing groups to bomb Nazi territory during World War II.
Today, the 97th BG is known as the 97th Air Mobility Wing and honors its heritage by displaying the symbolic “Triangle Y” upon three aircraft assigned to Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
“During WWII aircraft from each unit had specific tail markers or colors to identify themselves in order for them to be recognized in the air by fellow allied aircrews without using their radios and giving their positions to the enemy,” said Richard Guinan, the 97th AMW Historian. “In the case of the Mighty 97th, they were identified by the ‘Triangle Y.’ After WWII, the color schemes were replaced with tail codes and colored tail caps.”
The black and white symbol was proudly displayed on the tail and wings of more than 240 aircraft, which became a symbol of hope for some when they saw groups of B-17’s flying overhead during WWII. Today, the 97th AMW continues to honor its heritage by displaying the symbol upon the back of mobility aircraft.
The unit served a vital role during WWII and throughout history and its mission has changed over time. The 97th AMW is responsible for the training of all C-17 Globemaster III, KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-46 Pegasus aircrews.
“Adding the ‘Triangle Y’ back to the aircraft’s tails was not only to honor all of the men and women who have gone on before us, but it gives us the opportunity to educate our current Airmen on their heritage,” said Guinan. “The 97th AMW was the premier bombing unit during the war and is now the premier heavy airlift and refueling unit in the Air Force.”
Although the current mission is different from the past, the Mighty 97th continues to remember its warriors and heritage through the presentation of the “Triangle Y” on the back of its aircraft.
“The ‘Triangle Y’ reminds us of our operational heritage as the first bombers to fly raids into mainland Europe during WWII,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Matthew Leard, the 97th AMW commander. “The pioneering spirit that drove Airmen before us remains alive in the Mighty 97th as we prepare for tomorrow’s challenges, today. We are proud to display the historic ‘Y’ on our aircraft, paying homage to the great legacy we have inherited.”