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Ellington Air Force Base

Bergstrom Air Force Base

For the civil use of this airfield after 1993, see Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
Bergstrom Air Force Base (1942-1993) was a United States Air Force base located seven miles (11 km) southeast of downtown Austin, Texas. It was activated during World War II as a troop carrier training airfield, and was a front-line Strategic Air Command (SAC) base during the Cold War. In its later years, it was transferred to the Tactical Air Command (TAC) and became a major base for the U.S. Air Force's RF-4C reconnaissance fighter fleet. At the time of its closure, it was assigned to the Air Combat Command (ACC).

History

Del Valle Airfield (aka Del Valle Army Air Base) was activated on 19 September 1942 on 3,000 acres (12 km²) leased from the City of Austin. The lease agreement stipulated that the land would revert back to the city if the government abandoned it.

The name of the base was changed to Bergstrom Army Airfield (AAF) on 3 March, 1943, in honor of Captain John August Earl Bergstrom, a reservist in the 19th Bombardment Group, who was killed at Clark Field, Philippines on December 8, 1941. He was the first Austinite killed in World War II. The base was again renamed Bergstrom Field on November 11, 1943.

With the establishment of the United States Air Force in September 1947, the name of Bergstrom again changed to Bergstrom Air Force Base on 24 June 1948.

Major Commands which Bergstrom was assigned were:

  • Army Air Service Command, 23 May 1942 - 19 June 1942
  • Third Air Force 19 June 1942 - 4 October 1942
  • I Troop Carrier Command 4 October 1942 - 16 April 1945
  • Continental Air Forces 16 Apr 1945 - 23 March 1946
  • Tactical Air Command 23 March 1946 - 1 December 1948
  • Continental Air Command 1 Dec 1948 - 21 March 1949
  • Strategic Air Command 21 Mar 1949 - 1 July 1957
  • Tactical Air Command 1 July 1957 - 1 October 1958
  • Strategic Air Command 1 October 1958 - 1 July 1966
  • Tactical Air Command 1 July 1966 - 1 June 1992
  • Air Combat Command 1 June 1992 - Closing

Host units assigned to Bergstrom were:

World War II

The mission of Bergstrom during World War II and the early postwar years was the training of transport aircraft aircrews. Generally, aircrews were formed at other airfields and received their primary training there. Once that was completed, they received advanced training at Bergstrom before moving on to their operational units overseas.

The airfield support groups at Bergstrom (identified as AAF Base Units) provided all the support functions necessary for the administration and operation of the airfield. During the war these were designated as:

  • 442d AAF Base Unit, 26 Sep 1942 - 15 Apr 1944
  • 807th AAF Base Unit, 15 Apr 1944 - 6 Oct 1948

316th Troop Carrier Group

The 316th TCG arrived from Lawson AAF, Georgia and trained with C-47 and C-53 aircraft.

After leaving Bergstrom it transferred to the Mediterranean theater, being assigned to Ninth Air Force and began operations in Nov 1942. The group transported supplies and evacuated casualties in support of the Allied drive across North Africa.

89th Troop Carrier Group

  • At Bergstrom: 14 Dec 1942 - April 1944
  • Flew: DC-3, C-47
  • Squadrons: 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 30th, 31st Troop Carrier Squadrons

The 89th TCG was the main training unit at Bergstrom during the war. It provided transition training for pilots, using DC-3s and later C-47s. Began training replacement crews in Mar 1944.

The unit was disbanded on 14 Apr 1944.

349th Troop Carrier Group

  • At Bergstrom: 17 Sep 1945 - 7 Sep 1946
  • Flew: C-46
  • Squadrons: 23d, 312th, 313th, 314th Troop Carrier Squadrons

The 349th TCG arrived at Bergstrom from Roye/Amy Airfield, France after World War II ended. Its mission was to train Nationalist Chinese crews to operate the C-46 Commando transport aircraft.

It was deactivated on 7 September 1946.

62d Troop Carrier Group

The 8th TCG activated at Bergstrom and trained using pilots and aircrews in C-82 and C-54 aircraft. Once training was completed, it transferred to McChord Field (now McChord AFB), Washington in August 1947.

313th Troop Carrier Group

The 313th TCG trained at Bergstrom for participation in the Berlin airlift. Once training was completed, it transferred to the RAF base at Fassberg Germany, arriving on 9 Nov 1948 to take part in the airlift.

Strategic Air Command

With the end of World War II, and the creation of the U. S. Air Force in 1947, the mission of Bergstrom was changed from cargo transport and troop airlift to that of a Strategic Air Command base. With the departure of the 347th TCG in 1948, the runways were extended to accommodate the new generation of jet aircraft.

447th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy)

The first SAC unit to use Bergstrom was the 447th Bombardment Group equipped with the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Operational squadrons were:

  • 708th Bombardment Squadron
  • 709th Bombardment Squadron

The 447th was a former Eighth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress unit that was allocated to the Reserves in 1945. It was activated at Bergstrom on 12 August 1947 with two squadrons of B-29s and returned to operational status flying training missions.

On 26 June 1949, the unit was transferred to Castle AFB, California.

27th Fighter Wing

On 16 March 1949, the 27th Fighter Wing was transferred to Bergstom from Kearney AFB, Nebraska under the 8th Air Force. Operational squadrons were:

  • 522d Fighter Squadron
  • 523d Fighter Squadron
  • 524th Fighter Squadron

Initially flying the North American F-82E/F/G Twin Mustang the wing flew the F-82E as daylight escort fighters for SAC's Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. The F-82F/G models operated as night fighters equipped with RADAR. They were painted black and had flame-dampened exhausts.

The 27th SFW transitioned to jet aircraft with Republic Aviation F-84E Thunderjet in 1950, and was redesignated the 27th Fighter-Escort Wing on 1 February. The wing won the Mackay Trophy for successful deployment of 90 F-84s from Bergstrom AFB, to Furstenfeldbruck Air Base, West Germany, in September 1950, via Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, and England. This was the first long-range mass flight of jet aircraft in aviation history.

Korean War

During the Korean War, the 27th SFW deployed to Yokota AB, Japan on 19 November 1950, then split into two echelons. The advance echelon deployed at Taegu AB, South Korea on 1 December 1950, while the rear echelon deployed at Itazuke AB, Japan on 9 December.

From Tageu the wing flew combat missions in Korea until 1 February 1951 including armed reconnaissance, interdiction, fighter escort, and close air support missions then returned to Bergstrom. The two echelons then recombined at Itazuke and continued combat from that base. From Itazuke, the 27th provided close support for largest airborne operation of the Korean War and escorted B-29 bombers to the Yalu River in North Korea, coming into conflict with enemy Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighters.

The 27th returned to Bergstrom in July 1951, but deployed to Misawa AB, Japan during 6 October 1952 - 13 February 1953 to provide air defense.

Cold War

On 20 January 1953 the wing was redesignated as the 27th Strategic Fighter Wing.

Wing pilot Capt Forrest W. Wilson, in an F-84G, won the Allison Trophy jet aircraft race of the National Aircraft Show at Dayton, Ohio, on 6 September 1953, flying the course at an average speed of in 12:17.2 minutes.

From June 1953 - June 1957 the 27th had air refueling as an additional mission, with the 27th Air Refueling Squadron flying the KB-29P aerial tanker.

On 1 July 1957, the 27th was redesigned the 27th Fighter-Bomber Wing and was assigned to Tactical Air Command. It also received the new McDonnell F-101A Voodoo. Consisting of the 481st, 522d, and 523d Fighter-Bomber squadrons, the mission of the 27th FBW was to deliver a centerline nuclear bomb to a target. The F-101A was capable of little else and although designated as a fighter aircraft, it had poor aerial combat capabilities and would not have fared well in any air-to-air combat against enemy aircraft.

Maj Adrian E. Drew, wing F-101 project officer, broke the world speed record on 12 Dec 1957 when he flew an F-101A over a Mojave Desert course at in one direction and in the opposite direction.

HQ USAF redesignated the wing the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing on 1 July 1958 as part of a worldwide naming change. On 18 February 1959, the 27 Tactical Fighter Wing deactivated in place, being immediately reactivated at Cannon AFB, New Mexico as a North American F-100 "Super Sabre" Wing.

12th Fighter-Escort Wing

The SAC 12th Fighter-Escort Wing was transferred to Bergstrom on 1 December from Turner Air Force Base, Georgia to replace the 27th Fighter Escort Group that had just departed for service in the Korean War. As the 12th FEW expanded, the new personnel were obtained from the men of the 27th FEW and the 31st FEW who were not involved with their previous units deployments.

Operational squadrons were:

  • 559th Fighter Escort Squadron
  • 560th Fighter Escort Squadron
  • 561st Fighter Escort Squadron

On 12 December the 559th Fighter Escort Squadron received their first three Republic F-84E Thunderjets, and would have received a fourth, but it crashed en route from Turner AFB to its refueling stop at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. The 559th was forced to immediately reject these aircraft as mission capable, as they were fitted with the "solid lobe" J35-A-17B engines, as they were not deemed robust enough for SAC's extended length missions.

In January 1951 the 559th FES and the 560th FES began sending their pilots to the Matagorda Island Gunnery Range, off the southeastern coast of Texas, for gunnery training. The new 561st did not have any aircraft assigned as yet. The 12th FEG, although managing to keep 80% of their aircraft in commission, was experiencing a high rate of bearing and turbine failures with the J35 engines in their Thunderjets.

On 27 April, the 12th FEW made its first very long cross-country (X-C) mission in the F-84, to visit the 31st FEW at Turner. On the return leg the following day one F-84 was lost over Louisiana, but its pilot successfully bailed out.

On 7 June, the 12th FEW started a mission to Patterson AFB, Ohio that would result in one of the worst non-combat incidents in history. Eight F-84s were lost, three pilots were killed, two had major injuries, and the remaining three were "relatively unharmed".

On 3 and 4 July, the 12th FEW transferred forty of F-84ES 84Es to Alameda Naval Air Station, California for sea shipment to Korea, and they returned to Bergstrom on aircraft on the night of the 4th. Then, on 12 July all remaining aircraft were transferred across the flightllne to the 27th Fighter Escort Wing that was just returning from Korea.

On 9 July a Warning Order arrived to prepare for a transfer to England. The majority of the 12th FEW's personnel and equip were deployed to RAF Manston, England by 21 July. At Manston, they obtained the aircraft of the 31st Fighter Escort Wing that was now headed back to Turner AFB. In England the wing was assigned to SAC's 7th Air Division, the 12th FEW was tasked them with the defense of Norway in addition to their other missions. The squadrons began rotating to Wheelus AB, Libya, in September for gunnery practice.

In November all of the 12th FEW's assets were turned the 123rd Fighter Bomber Wing at RAF Manston when the activated Air National Guard wing arrived in England and the personnel of the 12th were returned to Bergstrom. Upon their return to Bergstrom the 12th FEW picked up a pair of the now antique F-84Ds, and started to reequip with F-84Gs as they became available from Republic.

In April 1953 a new program, Task Force 132.4, was started. By the end of the month the Task Force had thirty-nine officers and 123 airmen assigned. In June this detachment and the 561st FES was detached from the 12th FEW and sent to Brookley AFB, Alabama for modifications to their F-84Gs to prepare them for nuclear armament delivery. The Task Force also sent a detachment to Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field (now Creech AFB), Nevada for atomic tests where they remained for six weeks and then returned to the unit to be monitored for radiation contamination.

Between May and August 1953 the 12th FEW, now designated as the 12th Strategic Fighter Wing pulled a rotational stint at Misawa Air Base, Japan, relieving the 508th SFW, and being relieved in turn by the 506th S. They would return to Misawa for another tour in the air defense role between May and August 1954.

By 1957, the USAF B-52 bombers entering SAC's inventory flew so fast and so high that they were virtually immune from fighters. In addition, the World War II concept of groups of bombers attacking an individual target had been replaced by the use of an individual bomber carrying one nuclear weapon to a target, not a formation of them. In addition, the F-84s simply couldn't keep up with them.

The fighter wings at Bergstrom were deemed no longer necessary, so the wing was transferred to Tactical Air Command on 1 July 1957 and redesignated as the 12th Fighter-Day Wing. It was inactivated on 8 January 1958.

4130th Strategic Wing

With the inactivation of the 12th and the departure of the 27th fighter wing to New Mexico, Bergstrom returned back to Strategic Air Command with the arrival of the 4130th Strategic Wing on 1 October 1958, flying Boeing B-52D Stratofortresses of the 335th Bombardment Squadron and Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers of the 910th Air Refueling Squadron.

The 4130th SW was under SACs 19th Air Division of Eighth Air Force.

The 4130th SW was part of SAC developing a plan to disburse its bombers over a larger number of bases, thus making it more difficult for the Soviet Union to knock out the entire fleet with a surprise first strike. The 4130th consisted of 15 B-52Ds, dispersed from the 95th Bombardment Wing at Biggs AFB Texas. At Bergstrom, half of the 4130th was kept on fifteen minute alert, fully fueled, armed, and ready for combat. The remaining planes were used for training in bombardment missions and air refueling operations.

340th Bombardment Wing

The Strategic Wing designation was phased out at Bergstrom on 1 September 1963 when the 4130th was re-designated the 340th Bombardment Wing. The 340th Bomb Wing consisted of the following operational squadrons:

  • 486th Bombardment Squadron (B-52D)
  • 910th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135)

The 340th BW was under SAC's 19th Air Division of Eighth Air Force.

In the 1960s, Bergstrom Air Force Base became the airfield where Air Force One flew into and out of often when President Lyndon B. Johnson traveled between Washington, D.C. and his ranch near Austin, Texas. The base was almost closed in 1965 due to Department of Defense budget cuts.

In 1969, Bergstrom Air Force Base began an "open house" in conjunction with the Austin Aqua Festival and titled it Aero-Fest. In addition to the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds performing, the gathering showed off many military airplanes and other hardware. A crowd favorite was a Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, which visitors would walk through to get to the main display area. Aero-Fest was an instant success and in just two years, it was drawing 80,000 people to the base.

The 340th continued SAC global strategic bombardment training and air refueling operations until July 1966 when the 340th BW was inactivated and Bergstrom was again transferred to Tactical Air Command. With the inactivation of the 340th BW, Bergstrom's B-52s were sent to the 86th Bombardment Squadron / 22d Bomb Wing at March AFB, California.

Tactical Reconnaissance

After July 1966, Bergstom was again under the control of the TAC and housed the headquarters for the Twelfth Air Force, which was responsible for all Tactical Air Command reconnaissance, fighter, and tactical airlift operations west of the Mississippi River. The new 12th Air Force headquarters building was completed in August 1968. The unique circular structure became an icon of the base and was nicknamed "The Doughnut" and "The Roundagon."

75th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing

The 75th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was activated at Bergstrom on 1 July 1966. The 75th TRS's mission was to train RF-4C pilots for duty in Southeast Asia and to provide replacement aircraft to the 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Tan Son Nhut Air Base and the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Udon Royal Thai Air Force Base. Its operational squadrons were:

  • 4th Tactical Reconnaissance: 18 Nov 1966 - 15 Jul 1971 (BB)(blue tail stripe)
  • 9th Tactical Reconnaissance: 10 Oct 1968 - 15 Jul 1971 (yellow tail stripe) (BC)
  • 14th Tactical Reconnaissance: 3 April 1967 - 6 Nov 1967
  • 91st Tactical Reconnaissance: 1 Jul 1967 - 15 Jul 1971 (BA)

Notes:

  • 9th TRS transferred to 75th TRW from 363d TRW, Shaw AFB South Carolina.
  • 14th TRS deployed PCS to 432d TRW, Udon RTAFB, Thailand 6 Nov 1967.

With the drawdown at the close of the Vietnam War, the 75th TRW was inactivated in place its and resources passed to the 67th TRW, activated on 15 July 1971.

67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing

The 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was transferred to Bergstrom from Mountain Home Air Force Base Idaho on 15 July 1971 when the 366th TFW returned from Da Nang Air Base to Mountain Home and the base's mission was changed. When the 67th moved to Texas , it concentrated on maintaining tactical reconnaissance mission forces capable of meeting worldwide operational requirements.

The 67th TRW operational squadrons were:

  • 12th Tactical Reconnaissance: 31 Aug 1971 - 30 Sep 1993 (orange tail stripe) (BC/BA)
  • 45th Tactical Reconnaissance: 31 Aug 1971 - 31 Oct 1975 (BB/BA)
    Reactivated 1 Apr 1982 - 30 Sep 1989 (blue tail stripe)
  • 62d Tactical Reconnaissance Training: 1 July 1982 - 31 Dec 1989 (gold/yellow tail stripe)
  • 91st Tactical Reconnaissance: 15 Jul 1971 - 30 Aug 1993 (red tail stripe)

Tail codes of the 67th TRW aircraft after June 1972 was "BA".

Notes:

  • 75th TFW's 4th TFS and 9th TRS assigned to 67th TRW 15 July 71 through 31 Aug 1971.
    Squadrons redesignated 12th TRS and 45th TRS on 31 Aug 1971.
  • 62d TRTS transferred to 67th TRW from 363d TRW, Shaw AFB, South Carolina.
  • 45th TRS reactivated 1982 with aircraft transferred from 32d TRS, 363d TRW, Shaw AFB

The 67th TRW conducted reconnaissance training of USAF, US Marine Corps, and allied RF-4 reconnaissance aircrews between 1982 - 1989; acted as adviser to Air National Guard reconnaissance units until 1992; performed reconnaissance missions supporting the US Customs Service, 1983 - 1992; hosted the TAC-sponsored worldwide tactical reconnaissance competition at Bergstrom in 1986, 1988, and 1990.

In 1979 the Concorde visited Bergstrom, followed by the Space Shuttles Columbia and Discovery aboard their NASA Boeing 747 carrier aircraft in 1981 and 1985, respectively.

On 30 September 1989 the 45th TRS was deactivated in conjunction with other RF-4C squadrons and transferred some aircraft to the 189th TRS of the Idaho Air National Guard for reconnaissance training. On 31 December, the 62d TRTS was also deactivated with its aircraft going to AMARC.

During the Gulf War, the 67th TRW deployed personnel and aircraft in support of operations in Southwest Asia in 1991, photographing enemy targets, conducting searches for enemy missile sites, tracking movement of the Iraqi Republican Guard and oil slicks, and conducting overall battle damage assessment.

On 1 October 1991 the wing was redesignated as the 67th Reconnaissance Wing, and on 1 June 1992 assigned to Air Combat Command.

In 1992, Bergstrom was realigned as an Air Force Reserve base by BRAC.

The wing's RF-4C aircraft were sent to AMARC for disposal. The 67th Reconnaissance Wing and all subordinate units of the wing was formally deactivated on 30 September 1993.

Air Force Reserve

In March 1976, the Air Force Reserve 924th Tactical Airlift Group moved to Bergstrom from Ellington Air Force Base near Houston. The 704th Tactical Airlift Squadron (TAS) flew early model Lockheed C-130A/B Hercules.

F-4D/E

On 1 July 1981 the C-130s were transferred to the 757th TAS at Youngstown ARS, Ohio. The 704th was redesignated as the 924th Tactical Fighter Group, with the 704th Tactical Fighter Squadron being re-equipped with McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom IIs from 474th TFW at Nellis AFB Nevada.

In mid-1982, the F-4Ds were sent to the 89th TFS at Wright-Patterson AFB Ohio, with lower-hour F-4Ds arriving from Kusan AB South Korea and the 52d TFW at Spangdahlem Air Base West Germany. In 1989 converted to the F-4E arriving from the 4th TFW at Seymour Johnson AFB North Carolina.

In July 1991 Bergstrom ended up on a list of 75 military facilities under study for closure by the post-Cold War Base Realignment and Closure Commission. This was largely due to the retirement of RF-4C aircraft from the USAF inventory. The decision was made to retain the Air Force Reserve's 924th TFG in an enclosed area of Bergstrom when the base was converted to a civilian airport. All other active-duty USAF activities were to be inactivated or relocated.

F-16A/B/C/D

The F-4s were sent to AMARC in the summer of 1991 when the first General Dynamics Block 15 F-16A/B Fighting Falcons arrived from the 31st TFW at Homestead AFB, Florida. In 1994 the squadron upgraded to the Block 32 F-16C/D from Nellis AFB, Nevada and the 924th was upgraded from Fighter Group to Fighter Wing status.

On September 30, 1993, the active-duty 67th TRW was deactivated and on the installation was officially closed as an active Air Force Base.

The Air Force Reserve took additional actions resulting from the 1995 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission recommendations and force structure decisions. The AFRES 924th Fighter Wing started drawing down on 31 March 1996 and inactivated when Bergstrom was officially closed on 30 September 1996.

The 924th's F-16C/D fighter aircraft were transferred to the 93d FS at Homestead ARB Florida to replace older F-16A/B aircraft.

This temporarily ended all military presence at Bergstrom until the arrival of rotary-wing aircraft of the Texas Army National Guard, a presence which continues today.

Post-USAF use

During the 1970s, Austin's municipal airport became crowded and noise complaints increased from the housing subdivisions built in the flight path. The city approached the Air Force in 1978 to propose a shared civil-military airport at Bergstrom, but the original proposal and further ones in 1981 and 1984 were also rejected. The Air Force rejected the 1978 and 1984 proposals because of operational concerns. The 1981 proposal included a new runway on the west side of the base. Dubbed "Bergstrom West", the plan did not get approved because the city disliked the joint use control arrangement required by the Air Force.

With the closure of Bergstorm AFB in 1993, a bond was raised for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Much of the former air base, including most buildings, trees, and structures, were completely demolished, with a few exceptions, such as the Twelfth Air Force Headquarters (which was converted into a hotel) and the original runway, which was refurbished for commercial use.

See also

References

  • Handbook of Texas Online
  • Bergstrom AFB Memorial in the concourse of Austin Bergstrom International Airport
  • Donald, David (2004) Century Jets: USAF Frontline Fighters of the Cold War. AIRtime ISBN 1880588684
  • Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
  • Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation History. ISBN 0887405134.
  • Maurer Maurer (1983), Air Force Combat Units Of World War II, Office of Air Force History. ISBN 978-0405121944
  • Menard, David W. (1993) USAF Plus Fifteen: A Photo History, 1947-1962. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0887404839
  • Mueller, Robert (1989). Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982 USAF Reference Series, Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
  • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
  • Joe Baugher's Encyclopedia of American Aircraft
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to Present
  • Strategic-Air-Command.com

External links

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