Ladd Army Airfield is the military airfield located at Fort Jonathan Wainwright, located in Fairbanks, Alaska. It was originally called Ladd Field, in honor of Major Arthur K. Ladd, a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps who died in a South Carolina plane crash in 1935.
The U.S. government began, for the first time, serious infrastructure expenditures in Alaska during the 1930s. Most prominent was an increase in the military presence. For most of the early 20th century, the only Army post in Alaska was Chilkoot Barracks/Fort Seward, located just outside of Haines. With the threat of war looming as the 1930s ended, the need was established to develop multiple facilities as a means of defending Alaska against possible enemy attack.
The U.S. government acquired homesteads southeast of the town of Fairbanks beginning in 1938. From this land, totalling about 6 square miles, was created Ladd Field. Major construction of facilities began in 1941 and 1942, after the U.S. entered World War II. The initial construction occurred several miles from Fairbanks along a bend of the Chena River, consisting of an airfield, hangars, housing and support buildings. Many of these buildings still stand today.
Ladd Field's primary role during WWII was as a major stopping point for the Lend-Lease program, which ferried Allied planes to Russia across the Bering Strait.
For most of its early history Ladd was an Air Force installation. At the time it opened, the Air Force was still a part of the Army. When the Air Force was made a separate branch in the late 1940s, the name was changed to Ladd Air Force Base. For many years, it would be one of two Air Force bases in the Fairbanks area. 26 Mile Field, originally a satellite field to Ladd, was designated Eielson Air Force Base in 1947.
It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1985.