Charleston Air Force Base got its start in the 1900s as a local airfield. As interest spiked in aviation because of Charles Lindbergh’s crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, the city of Charleston began operating a small airfield 10 miles from the city limits. The city created the Charleston Aircraft Corp., purchasing 432 acres from the South Carolina Mining and Manufacturing Co., and acquired the airport facility that same year.
As the world of aviation expanded so did the airfield; improvements costing more than $300,000 were made to the airport in the 1930s and it quickly grew into a hub. With the advent of World War II, the Army Air Corps entered the picture and the War Department assumed control of Charleston Municipal Airport. It was formally activated as a base in 1942.
In October of that year, the base was officially named Charleston Army Air Base under the command of Col. Hoyt Prindle. By June 1943, it was renamed Charleston Army Air Field, serving mainly as an air depot training station and providing the final phase of training to service groups. The base grew during the next few years from about 1,000 to more than 2,000 acres, and nearly $12 million was invested in improvements and new facilities.
With the end of World War II, the government put the base in a surplus status, and the city of Charleston requested the airfield’s return. A new air terminal was constructed in 1947 and commercial operations resumed, with the airfield operating once again as a civilian airport.
The Cold War brought more changes, and the U.S. Air Force received a $28 million public works improvement package approved by Congress to begin troop carrier operations out of Charleston’s airport. A lease agreement was signed between the city and the Air Force that gave the Air Force use of all properties south and west of the Southern Railway tracks. Construction for new base facilities began in 1952, and in 1953 the base was named Charleston Air Force Base.
In 1962, the Air Force decided to retire its C-121 fleet, and two years later, Charleston Air Force Base received its first C-141 Starlifters, which resulted in a change in host units. The 437th Military Airlift Wing assumed command in 1966.
By 1992, the Air Force had completed a systemwide reorganization and the 437th Military Airlift Wing and 315th Military Airlift Wing were both placed under the Air Mobility Command and renamed the 437th Airlift Wing and the 315th Airlift Wing.
The base has remained an alert site for fighter-interceptor aircraft. Even though the last unit to occupy the alert site was a detachment of F-16s from the 158th Fighter Wing in 1999, after the 2011 terrorist attacks in the U.S., the facility began to see some operations by Air Force fighter aircraft resuming the continental defense mission.
In 2005, a Base Realignment and Closure list released by the Department of Defense included Charleston. This meant Charleston Air Force Base would become a joint base with the nearby naval weapons station, with implementation beginning in September 2007.
A year later, the base had grown to almost 3,500 acres, with thousands of active-duty and reserve personnel and families and hundreds of civilian employees. The base still shares flight lines with Charleston International Airport.
In 2009, the Air Force announced the activation of the 628th Air Base Wing, which now provides installation support and service to more than 90,000 airmen, sailors, soldiers, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, contractors, retirees and family members on the air base and at the naval weapons station. Going fully operational as Joint Base Charleston in October 2010, personnel have worked to make the joint base a success.