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History

Travis Air Force Base 2018 History

Although current-day Travis Air Force Base is home of the largest airlift organization in the Air Force, it began as an isolated airstrip with a few tar paper shacks set in the middle of a wind-swept prairie during World War II. The field was named Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base, after the two closest, mostly agricultural towns. The base was first planned shortly after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. The base homed medium bombers and fighters assigned to defend the West Coast. The first runway and temporary buildings were constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the summer of 1942. They were used initially by Army and Navy fighter planes for takeoff and landing practice. For a few months, the outline of an aircraft carrier’s deck was painted on the runway to help newly commissioned Navy pilots practice maneuvers. The strong local prevailing winds nearly duplicated those at sea.

Shortly after construction began, however, the base’s potential as a major aerial port and supply transfer point for the Pacific theater led the Army Air Corps to assign it to the newly designated Air Transport Command. The base officially opened June 1, 1943, with a primary mission of preparing various military aircraft, mainly bombers and transports, for the Pacific war zone and ferrying them to that region. Consairway, a division of the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corp., airlifted some of the cargo and personnel to the Pacific. The first host unit for the base was the 23rd Ferrying Group. At the end of WWII, the primary mission became the airlift of troops and supplies to occupied Japan and Korea and the processing of war-weary returning GIs. On June 1, 1948, the Military Air Transport Service assumed jurisdiction. In July, two of the base’s air transport squadrons left for Europe to assist in the Berlin Airlift.

On May 1, 1949, the Strategic Air Command became the parent major command for the base, turning it into a major long-range reconnaissance and intercontinental bombing installation. For the next nine years, airlift operations became secondary while the base served as home for SAC bombers such as the B-29 Super Fortress, the B-36 Peacemaker, and eventually, the B-52 Stratofortress. During this period, new hangars appeared, runways were added and widened, and permanent barracks and family living quarters were built.

The base was renamed Travis Air Force Base in honor of Brig. Gen. Robert F. Travis in April 1951. Travis was killed when his B-29 crashed on the installation Aug. 5, 1950. At the time of his death, Travis was the commander of the 5th Strategic Reconnaissance and 9th Bombardment wings.

The Military Air Transport Service resumed command of Travis on July 1, 1958, after SAC’s new dispersal policy led to the transfer of the 14th Air Division to Beale Air Force Base, California. The base became headquarters to the 1501st Air Transport Wing in 1955; MATS’ Western Transport Air Force (later the 22nd Air Force) in 1958; and the 60th Military Airlift Wing in 1966 (now the 60th Air Mobility Wing). The 349th Military Airlift Wing (United States Air Force Reserve) moved to Travis from Hamilton Air Force Base, California, in 1969. Travis became part of the Air Mobility Command on June 1, 1992, when assets from Military Airlift Command and the Strategic Air Command were fused into a single team.

From 1969 to the present, the 60th and 349th air mobility wings have worked closely to make Travis one of the best and most versatile bases in the Air Force. The base would provide continuous airlift support in the face of worldwide contingencies for another 25 years, when the base added air refueling to its mission in September 1994.

In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Travis provided rapid global airlift and aerial refueling crucial to combating the war on terrorism. Travis has also played a role in humanitarian missions, medical support and emergency response relief efforts. Once a major hub for transporting passengers and cargo in the Pacific, Travis has become an integral part of the total force. The base is now called upon to perform its mission anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.

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