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Empowered Air Commandos holding the Steadfast Line

The Steadfast Line

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The Steadfast Line

In November 1941, the 27th Bombardment Group left the West Coast aboard the USS Coolidge, bound for the Philippines to deter Imperial Japanese military aggression in the Far East. These pilots, aircraft maintenance and support personnel arrived at Manilla Bay on Thanksgiving Day. As they began settling into their new Pacific home, they eagerly awaited the arrival of their remaining A-24 Dive Bomber fleet. 

None of them expected that only 18 days later, Pearl Harbor would be attacked, plunging the United States into war. In the days following Pearl Harbor, Imperial Japanese Forces assaulted U.S. positions across the Pacific, including the Philippines.  With the few U.S. aircraft on-island mostly destroyed, and the remaining A-24 Dive Bomber fleet diverted to Australia, the Airmen of the 27th Bomb Group found themselves without a primary mission.  

What do Airmen do when they have no aircraft to fly, fight, and win? They hold the line. 

For the first time in Army Air Corps history, Airmen were converted to infantry, transforming the 27th Bomb Group into the 1st Provisional Air Corps Regiment (Infantry). 

These men became legacy pathfinders -- the first generation of multi-capable Airmen, adapting and overcoming unprecedented battlefield challenges. They salvaged machine guns and cannons from crippled aircraft to fortify American fighting positions and vehicles with heavy weaponry.

Although they lacked formal infantry training, they quickly adapted, training alongside Army Infantry counterparts while under fire to become a staunch fighting force. Two battalions of maintenance, ordnance, intelligence, ground staff, and aircrew Airmen bravely held the left flank of the US Army’s II Corps throughout the defense of Bataan, even escaping encirclement in the final battles, earning them the moniker “The Steadfast Line.” 

Their contributions to the greater war effort are described by Adrian Martin and Larry Stephenson in “Operations Plum”:

“Despite their shortcomings, the tenacious defenders of Bataan and Corregidor were able to significantly disrupt the timetable the Japanese had set for their conquest of the island nations for the Western Pacific. The Philippines campaign, originally scheduled to be completed in 50 days, took 5 months. Approximately 192,000 Japanese army and navy personnel had to be deployed, a number far in excess of the original strength allotment. We know now, with hindsight, that these early defensive actions fought so fiercely by the United States and its Allies in the Philippines bought valuable time for America to “gear up” for war, thereby contributing to the Allied victory. If these early Japanese campaigns had gone unchecked, the Allied offensive phase likely would have begun in Hawaii or California instead of New Guinea and Guadalcanal.”  

Like the men of the 27th Bombardment Group, the service members who hold the line for the 27th Special Operations Wing are not only aircrew and maintainers…they are engineers, defenders, personnelists, logisticians, medical technicians, and financiers. They are range control, vehicle operations, intelligence, chaplains, linguists, communications, and munitions specialists.

The Airmen of the 27th Bombardment Group were not specially trained, assessed, or selected, they were simply service members who wanted to serve their country – and who were committed to their service and their Nation. When the time came to take the fight to the enemy, they did not back down.

There was no rite of passage to become a member of the 27th SOW -- but if you are lucky enough to get assigned to this wing and become part of its legacy, we expect you to do your part, and HOLD THE LINE. 

General Information

Cannon Air Force Base, home of the 27th Special Operations Wing, lies in the high plains of eastern New Mexico, near the Texas Panhandle. The base is eight miles west of Clovis, New Mexico, and is 4,295 feet above sea level. The base itself sits on 3,789 acres of land.

The Melrose Air Force Range training area, located approximately 25 miles west of the base, is approximately 70,000 acres. Operations on Melrose Range also cover an area of 2,500 square miles of airspace. Melrose is used for training such as air to ground, small arms, and electronic combat.

History of Cannon AFB

The history of the base began in the late 1920s, when a civilian passenger facility, Portair Field, was established on the site. Portair, a terminal for early commercial transcontinental flights, flew passengers in the Ford Trimotor "Tin Goose" by day, and used Pullman trains for night travel. In the 1930s, Portair was renamed Clovis Municipal Airport.

The war years saw the introduction of heavy bomber training to the Llano Estacado (Staked Plains). Clovis Municipal Airport quickly became Clovis Army Air Field in Sep., 1942. Post-war demobilization saw flying operations nearly cease with the exception of the rare refueling of transient aircraft. By May 28, 1947, Clovis Army Air Field 'closed its doors' as the base was placed on the inactive list. The base, even while closed, remained in the hands of Air Training Command until late July, 1951, when Tactical Air Command obtained it. At that time the 140th Fighter-Bomber Wing, an Air National Guard unit, was activated and stationed at Clovis Air Force Base.

Gen. John K. Cannon and the 27th SOW

Cannon is named in honor of the late Gen. John K. Cannon, former commander of the Tactical Air Command. The base was officially named Cannon on June 8, 1957.

On Feb. 18, 1959, the recently renamed Cannon Air Force Base entered into a relationship with the 27th Fighter Wing that continues to this day, albeit, with a new mission--that of special operations. As a result of Cannon's transition from Air Combat Command to Air Force Special Operations Command on Oct.1, 2007, the 27th Fighter Wing was re-designated the 27th Special Operations Wing.

Since 1940, the 27th designation has been assigned to a myriad of locations. The 27th was organized as a fighter wing in August 1947, at Kearney Airfield, Nebraska. Later, in February 1958, in a move to preserve the heritage of the 27th, Air Force leadership transferred the designation to Cannon replacing the 312th Wing, a unit without a significant lineage.

Steadfast Line History

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