Bruning Army Airfield was a flight training installation of the United States Army Air Forces used during the Second World War and located in northeast Thayer County, Nebraska, at latitude 40°21'25" North, 97°25'42" West, approximately six miles east of Bruning.
Bruning AAF was one of eleven United States Army Air Force training bases in Nebraska during World War II. The base was under the command of Second Air Force Headquarters, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and provided final training for Consolidated B-24 Liberator Heavy Bombers and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt Fighter-Bombers.
Land for Bruning was purchased by the USAAF on September 12, 1942, from local farmers for $73,400. Approximately 1,000 construction workers were used to build the field on 1,720 acres (7 km²) of land, with an additional 2,122 acres (9 km²) south of the base leased for a gunnery range. At its peak of activity Bruning had 3,077 military and 500 civilian personnel assigned.
The base consisted of three runways of 6,800 feet (2,070 m) in length, formed in a triangle, with the main parking apron (600 by 2,135 ft) located on the north-south (17/35) runway. Three hangars and 231 support buildings were constructed. The base was activated on March 18, 1943, and dedicated on August 28, 1943. The first unit arrived for training on August 2, 1943.
The following units trained at Bruning AAF:
The host unit at the airfield was the 510th Headquarters and Air Base Squadron (Later 510th Army Air Force Base Unit). The 510th was assigned to the 16th Bombardment Operational Training Wing (July - Dec 1943), then was transferred to the 72nd Fighter Wing in December 1943.
Local historians record that 23 airmen died in training accidents at the base, and an additional 28 were killed on August 4, 1944, when a C-47 Skytrain carrying a graduating class of fighter pilots ran into a thunder storm and crashed near Naper, NE killing all 28 men.
The base was declared surplus by the USAAF on November 21, 1945 and turned over to the State of Nebraska. It served as a civil airport (Bruning State Airport) until 1969, although gradually all but a small portion of one runway were closed.
Bruning Army Airfield is now abandoned and only the large Sub-Depot hangar is still standing. The North-South and SW-NE runways are used as the home of Mid-America Feed Yard, a large commercial cattle feed lot, and the NW-SE runway is still visible.
On July 19, 1998 the Thayer County Historical Society dedicated a Nebraska State Historical Monument on Highway 4 about 6 miles (10 km) east of the town of Bruning NE near the site of the Bruning Army Air Field.