November is Aviation History Month

 

aviationhistory

{photo courtesy of www.eglin.af.mil}

There is so much history at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport and we are so proud to be a part of it!

Here are a few highlights from our website. For more information and details, please visit https://flyvps.com/history-eglin-air-force-base/.

The 1930s

What became Eglin Air Force Base had its beginnings with the creation in 1933 of the Valparaiso Airport, when an arrowhead-shaped parcel of 137 acres was cleared for use as an airdrome. Two unpaved runways, with a supply house at their intersection, were in use by 1935. “On 1 March 1935, application was made for an FERA grant to pave the runways and to build an office, a barracks 30 by 120, a mess hall and kitchen, and an oil storage building…”

Eglin Air Force Base was initially established as the U.S. Army Air Corps’ Valparaiso Bombing and Gunnery Base on 14 June 1935. On 4 August 1937, the installation was renamed Eglin Field in honor of Lt Col Frederick Irving Eglin (1891-1937). First rated as a military aviator in 1917, Lt Col Eglin helped train other Army flyers during World War I. On 1 Jan 1937, while assigned to General Headquarters, Air Force at Langley Field, VA, Colonel Eglin was killed in the crash of his Northrop A-17 pursuit aircraft on a flight from Langley to Maxwell Field, Alabama.

More Information about the 1930s at https://flyvps.com/history-eglin-air-force-base/

The 1940s

On Friday, 16 August 1940, the Okaloosa News-Journal, Crestview, Florida, reported that the Southern Bell Telephone Company was cutting a right-of-way for a line directly across the military reservation to connect the Eglin Field Army headquarters to the company line at Holt, Florida. The newspaper also stated that President Franklin Roosevelt had approved a plan on 14 August for a Works Projects Administration (WPA) expenditure of approximately $64,842 to make additional improvements at Eglin, including grading and surfacing a road to the machine gun range, clearing and grubbing 500 additional acres of landing field, and other work. A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was erected at Valparaiso, Florida from November 1940 to house 1,000-plus CCC workers engaged in base construction.

Appropriations of $202,536 were announced by Congressman Bob Sikes of Crestview in mid-April 1941 for construction and installation of water, sewage, electrical facilities, sidewalks, roads, fences, parking areas, landscaping and for the construction of a sewage disposal plant. Submitted to the WPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. in late March, the request received presidential approval in April. Work continued apace on some projects on a 24 hour a day basis.

A severe housing shortage in the region for the burgeoning base-oriented expansion was partially alleviated by the construction of 100 units of the Plew Heights Defense Housing Project near Valparaiso for civil service employees and enlisted personnel. The Federal Works Agency, Division of Defense Housing, awarded the contract for the task to the Paul A. Miller Construction Company of Leesburg, Florida on 5 May 1941, with construction beginning on 8 May. The 11 November 1941 deadline for completion was beaten by almost a month.

In June 1941, the Army Air Corps became the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) in order to provide the air arm a greater autonomy in which to expand more efficiently, and to provide a structure for the additional command echelons required by a vastly increased force. Although other nations already had separate air forces independent of the army or navy (such as the British Royal Air Force and the German Luftwaffe), the USAAF remained a part of the United States Army. Following the 7 Dec 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into World War II, Eglin became a major stateside installation in support of the war effort.

On 28 Dec 1944, Eglin reverted to its original name of Eglin Field as part of a new standardization practice by the USAAF. With the creation of a separate United States Air Force in 1947, Eglin Field continued to retain its name until 24 Jun 1948, when it was renamed to its current designation as Eglin Air Force Base.

More Information about the 1940s at https://flyvps.com/history-eglin-air-force-base/

The 1950s

A U.S. Air Force F-100C jet takes off from Eglin Air Force Base.

The Main Base public address system, known as the “giant voice”, first conceived in 1946 and installed by the communications maintenance division of the Mobile, Alabama Air Material Area, went into operation in February 1950 with preliminary testing completed by February 15. “The new PA system, situated in the Johnson Hall information booth, resembles an instrument panel from some Buck Roger’s space ship. Two record turn tables are available for the transmission of transcribed bugle calls, and appropriate music. A telephone extension running to the commanding general’s office will enable him to make special addresses to Eglin personnal. The third method of transmitting announcements and emergency bulletins is the microphone connection to the control console. Four amplifier speakers are located in clusters at each of the seven sites. Designed to saturate the area, the speakers are installed at the radio base maintenance shop, guided missiles headquarters, headquarters air proving ground, the motor pool area, the maintenance and supply area, the boat squadron area, in the Plew Heights housing area, and a direct connection to the station hospital’s public address system.”

The first B-36D Peacemakers accepted by the Air Force, in August 1950, were sent to Eglin AFB for testing.

In 1951–1952, some of the non-combat-capable B-47A Stratojets (delivered without operational equipment) were assigned to the Air Proving Ground Command, two of which were utilized to test the A-2 and A-5 fire-control systems.

The first operational Strategic Air Command GAM-77 Hound Dog A missile, 59-2794, arrived at Eglin AFB in December 1959 to equip the 4135th Strategic Wing, operating B-52G Stratofortresses out of the base.

More Information about the 1950s at https://flyvps.com/history-eglin-air-force-base/

Base Railroad

One of the U.S. Army ALCO RSD-1 locomotives originally assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, now preserved at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

The Eglin Air Force Base railroad was first constructed from an interchange with the Louisville & Nashville Railroad at Mossy Head, Florida down to the main base complex, with spurs to Auxiliary Fields 1 and 2, the ammunition dump, and other parts of the military reservation, with a total of 45 miles (72 km) of track. It was constructed with materials salvaged from the Claiborne and Polk Railroad, a 43-mile line between the two camps, abandoned in 1945. The line, nicknamed the “B & F” (for back and forth), began operation in late 1951 as part of the transportation division, Air Proving Ground Command, and utilised three ALCO RSD-1 military diesel-electric locomotives. Its first yard manager was Shelby White.

More Information about the Base Railroad at https://flyvps.com/history-eglin-air-force-base/

The 1960s

The first GAM-77 Hound Dog missile assigned to the Strategic Air Command was carried aloft for the first time on Friday, 29 January 1960,[49] aboard a B-52G-75-BW Stratofortress, 57-6472, c/n 464177, of 4135th Strategic Wing, commanded by Capt. Jay L. McDonald. The strategic missile was carried on the port underwing pylon during the flight that lasted more than four hours. An operational test of the GAM-77 Hound Dog first took place over the Eglin water range on 31 March 1960 when a B-52G of the 4135th SW launched the missile from a point near Tampa, Florida, which then flew several hundred miles NW to hit a target in the Gulf of Mexico off the northwest Florida coast. This test followed a series of successful flights over the Atlantic Missile Range at Cape Canaveral as well as on the test ranges of Eglin.

The USAF Special Air Warfare Center was activated 27 April 1962.[52] Minnesota Honeywell Corporation conducted flight tests on an inertia guidance sub-system for the later-cancelled X-20 Dyna-Soar project at the base utilizing an NF-101B Voodoo, completed in 1963. QB-47E Stratojets and QF-104A Starfighters were operated by the 3205th Drone Director Group through the late 1960s (QB-47s) in support of such programs as the testing of the IM-99 Bomarc interceptor missile, and into the 1970s (QF-104s). Three SC-54 Rescuemasters and an HU-16 Albatross of the 48th Rescue Squadron deployed from Eglin to Grand Turk Island with a contingent of some 40 squadron personnel supporting four pararescuemen who jumped from SC-54s to recover four camera cassettes, and sight and mark a fifth, from the launch of Apollo mission SA-5 with launch vehicle AS-105 at 1625 hrs. GMT, 29 January 1964, the first launch of a live second stage. Two other Eglin-based HU-16s were flown to Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, for alert missions during this launch.

More Information about the 1960s at https://flyvps.com/history-eglin-air-force-base/

The 1970s & 1980s

Specially-selected raiders for Operation Ivory Coast, the attempted POW rescue from Son Tay prison in North Vietnam, were extensively trained and rehearsed at Eglin Air Force Base, while planning and intelligence gathering continued from 25 May to 20 November 1970. The mission failed when it was found during the raid that all the prisoners had been previously moved to another camp.

The Air Force Armament Museum was founded on base in 1975.

Flight-testing of modified C-130 Hercules for Operation Credible Sport were conducted at Eglin and Auxiliary Field 3 (Duke Field) in 1980.

More Information about the 1970s and 80s at https://flyvps.com/history-eglin-air-force-base/

The 1990s

The USAF test facilities at Eglin were heavily involved in the F-15 AUP (Avionics Upgrade Program) for the Israeli Air Force that integrated the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) in the mid-1990s.

More Information about the 1990s at https://flyvps.com/history-eglin-air-force-base/

The 2000s – present day

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb prototype is shown an instant before impact on Range 70, 11 March 2003. The detonation created a mushroom cloud that could be seen 20 miles away.

The ‘Massive Ordnance Air Blast’ or ‘Mother of All Bombs’ (MOAB) was first tested at Eglin AFB on March 11, 2003 (2003-03-11). The X-43A-LS low-speed demonstrator underwent testing out of Auxiliary Field 6 in November 2003.

As of 2009, the original World War II–era base theatre still exists, and is used for a briefing space.

With the departure of the 33rd Fighter Wing F-15 Eagles and the transfer of mission to AETC in the fall of 2009, Air Combat Command Gate (formerly Tactical Air Command Gate) on State 85 has been renamed Northwest Gate.

 

More Information about the 2000s and present day at https://flyvps.com/history-eglin-air-force-base/