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Jan. 12, 2011
"From Cotton Fields to Airfield"
Starting From Scratch
Emerging from the cotton fields of Northwestern Louisiana in the early 1930s, Barksdale Air Force Base has grown into a major source of revenue and employment for the region.
Barksdale has proudly served the Ark-La-Tex ( Arkansas , Louisiana and Texas ) for more than 68 years. As a key Air Force Global Strike Command base, Barksdale has a pivotal role in providing a large part of the nation's deterrent force.
Barksdale is home to the Air Force's newest command, Air Force Global Strike Command. AFGSC was activitated August, 2009, and is responsible for the nation's three intercontinental Balistic Missile Wings, two B-52 Stratofortress Wings and the only B-2 Spirit Wing.
The "Mighty Eighth" Air Force, of World War II fame, is headquartered at the base. Barksdale is home to the 2nd Bomb Wing, 2nd Operations Group, 2nd Maintenance Group, 2nd Mission Support Group, the 2nd Medical Group, Eighth Air Force Museum (which maintains the historical aircraft and artifacts that grace the base) and the Air Force Reserve's 917th Wing.
Barksdale Air Force Base is named in honor of Lt. Eugene Hoy Barksdale, Air Corps, U.S. Army, who lost his life Aug. 11, 1926 , while flight testing Doug las O-2 observation airplane over McCook Field, in Dayton , Ohio .
Lieutenant Barksdale was born in Goshen Springs , Miss. , Nov. 5, 1897 . He attended Mississippi State College, but left during his junior year to enter the officers' training camp at Fort Logan H. Roots, Little Rock , Ark. He volunteered for aviation training a few weeks before receiving his commission as a second lieutenant and enlisted in the aviation section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a private first class.
After completing the ground school course at the School of Military Aeronautics in Austin , Texas , he embarked for England Sept. 18, 1917 , and received his flying training with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) at Oxford and several other aviation schools in England . He accepted his commission May 26, 1918 , at Markse, Yorkshire , England .
Following completion of flying training, he was assigned to the 41st Squadron, RFC, in August 1918, and placed on active duty at the front as a pilot, participating in the Somme and Amiens Offensives early in August 1918. He was wounded Sept. 2, 1918 , during the Cambrai Offensive. While on duty with the RFC, he received official credit for destroying three enemy aircraft through aerial combat. He also participated in the ground destruction of five other enemy aircraft. He left the RFC on Oct. 15, 1918 , and was placed in the U.S. 25th Aero Squadron until Dec. 24, 1918 .
After the war he became a test pilot and lost his life while flight testing a Douglas O-2 observation airplane. Lieutenant Barksdale attempted a bailout from a fast spin only to get his parachute caught in and severed by the brace wires attached to the wings of the plane. The lieutenant fell to his death.
Lieutenant Barksdale was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
The dedication of Barksdale Field Feb. 2, 1933 , marked the culmination of a concerted community action. As early as 1924 the citizens of Shreveport became interested in hosting a military flying field. In 1926 Shreveport citizens learned that the 3rd Attack Wing stationed at Fort Crocket , Texas , would be enlarged by 500 percent and would require at least 20,000 acres to support aerial gunnery and a bombing range. In February 1928, a delegation of prominent Shreveport citizens hired a young crop duster, an Air Corps captain named Harold Ross Harris, to fly over the local area and find a suitable site for an airfield.
Captain Harris selected what he felt was an adequate location for a military airfield. It was a sprawling section of cotton plantation near Bossier City , La. The site selection committee, representing the wealthiest taxpayers in the city, unanimously agreed upon the Barksdale Field location. A delegation of citizens traveled to Washington , D.C. , to personally present the advantages of the proposed site to the War Department. Following the return of this delegation, a special Army board visited Shreveport and reported the location met all requirements of the Air Corps.
Shreveport was selected Dec. 5, 1928 . Beginning in 1931, construction of the world's largest airfield at the time, 22,000 acres, introduced dramatic and significant changes to the cotton plantation area. About 150 men and 350 mules were used to grade the new landing field. More than 1,400 acres of cotton land were plowed under and planted in Bermuda grass. Today, the base encompasses more than 22,000 acres - 20,000 acres of which are used for recreation and as a game preserve.
On Oct. 31, 1932 , Barksdale Field's first combat organization, the 20th Pursuit Group, arrived from Mather Field , Calif. At the time, the 20th had two pursuit squadrons, the 55th and the 77th. Five months later, on April 1, 1933 , the group activated a third pursuit squadron, the 79th. The group's mission was aerial training for the purpose of developing procedures and techniques for engaging hostile aircraft. Boeing P-12s and later aircraft also served as protection to vital industrial centers, airdromes and airborne attack bombardment aircraft.
By the time Barksdale Field held its formal dedication ceremony on Feb. 2, 1933 , the 20th Pursuit Group's training program was in full operation. A crowd of 50,000 to 60,000 people, including many distinguished civilian and military visitors from the Shreveport area and Washington , D.C. , attended Barksdale Field's dedication ceremonies. Assistant Secretary of War F. Trubee Davison served as the key note speaker and unveiled a large portrait of Lt. Barksdale formally inaugurating the Army Air Corps' newest installation.
By the mid-1930s, Barksdale Field served as home to the 3rd Attack Wing with its two subordinate combat groups, the 20th Pursuit Group and the 3rd Attack Group. Flying everything from P-12s and P-26s to A-8 "Shrikes" and Doug las B-18 "Bolos," these units used Barksdale's immense acreage on the East Reservation to hone their gunnery and bombing skills. The 1940s at Barksdale saw the training of bomber crews instead of the pursuit and fighter crews as in the previous decade. Between May 23 and 25, 1940, Barksdale Field was host to the Army's "complete military maneuvers" simulating European combat operations. Some 320 aircraft from throughout the Army Air Corps participated, as Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower watched. Gen. George C. Marshall, the U.S. Army chief of staff, also briefly visited Barksdale Field during the latter stages of the maneuvers.
Among units trained at Barksdale Field was the famous 17th Bomb Group, which would be led by Gen. Jimmy Doolittle during his daring raid on Tokyo . Barksdale also served as a bomber training base for Free French and Nationalist Chinese aircrews. Aircraft used for training at the base included Martin B-26 Marauders, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses and Boeing B-29 Superfortresses.
Barksdale then became headquarters for the Air Training Command from 1945 to 1949 and began phasing out B-29 crew training.
Shortly after the U.S. Air Force became an independent branch of service, Barksdale Field was renamed Barksdale Air Force Base Jan. 13, 1948 .
During 1949, Barksdale was the home of the first Air Force all-jet strategic reconnaissance/bomber aircraft, the North American RB-45 Tornado and home to the Second Air Force Headquarters, bringing Barksdale into the Strategic Air Command. The Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber and Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter aerial tanker were assigned here during the 1950s under the 301st and 376th Bomb Wings. Following the transfer these two wings in 1957 and 1958 respectively, Barksdale was slated to receive Boeing's newest pair of strategic aircraft: the B-52 Stratofortress and the KC-135 Stratotanker. The first B-52 arrived at Barksdale Aug. 14, 1958 , and the first KC-135 arrived in mid-September the same year.
The renowned 2nd Bomb Wing transferred to Barksdale April 1, 1963 , from Hunter Field, Ga. taking over the B-52 and KC-135 mission from the 4238th Strategic Wing. From 1965 and into the 1970s, the 2nd Bomb Wing routinely deployed aircraft and personnel to Southeast Asia for "Arc Light" (B-52) and "Young Tiger" (KC-135) missions in support of the war in Vietnam .
From 1972 through 1973 almost all of the wing's resources were deployed overseas for operations over Vietnam . All aircraft and crews returned to Barksdale in January and October of 1973.
Headquarters Second Air Force was inactivated Jan. 1, 1975 , and Headquarters Eighth Air Force was installed on Barksdale after being located on Guam for five years in charge of strategic operations for the Vietnam War.
Barksdale received the first operational KC-10A Extender aerial tanker March 17, 1981 . The base's fleet of KC-135s and KC-10s remained familiar sights in the skies over northern Louisiana through 1994, when Air Mobility Command consolidated its tanker fleet. Barksdale's last KC-135 was placed in the Eighth Air Force Museum after its final flight in March, and the last KC-10 departed in October.
From 1972-1992, Barksdale hosted the annual Strategic Air Command Bombing and Navigation Competition awards symposium. After spending weeks dropping bombs on ranges throughout the United States and engaging in navigational competition, SAC's finest bomber and tanker aircrews gathered here for the score posting and awards presentation, and to work together to improve the training of SAC aircrews.
SAC's last Bombing and Navigation Competition was held in 1992; the first (and last) under Air Combat Command, its successor, was held in 1994, featuring the best bomber aircrews in the world.
In 1978 the Eighth Air Force Museum was established with the arrival of a B-17 Flying Fortress of the type the "Mighty Eighth" flew during World War II. The museum has grown greatly over the years, and today its collection includes the B-24, B-29, B-47, B-52D, B-52G, British Vulcan, FB-111A, C-45, C-47, VC-64, KC-97, KC-135, P-51D, F-84F, MiG-21F, T-33 and SR-71A.
In April 1982, and again in December 1990, the space shuttle Columbia made a stop at Barksdale on its way back to Cape Kennedy atop its Boeing 747 carrier.
Barksdale played significant roles in Operation Just Cause to restore democracy to Panama in December 1989, Operation Desert Shield in August 1990 and Operation Desert Storm in January 1991. The first combat sortie of Desert Storm was launched from Barksdale, when seven B-52Gs flew a 35-hour mission - the longest combat sortie in history at that time - to fire a barrage of conventional air-launched cruise missiles against Iraq . The B-52s from Barksdale that were deployed to Spain dropped 10 percent of all U.S. Air Force bombs during the Persian Gulf War.
The base turned its attention from combat to more peaceful pursuits when two B-52s, a KC-10 and their crews visited Dyagilevo Air Base, Russia , in March 1992. In May 1992 Barksdale hosted a return visit by two Russian Tu-95 "Bear" bombers, an An-124 "Condor" transport and 58 Russian airmen. The Russians stayed for six days, seeing a slice of America and participating in Strategic Air Command's final Bombing and Navigation Competition awards symposium. The Russians visited again in August 1994, bringing a Tu-95 "Bear" and an I1-78 aerial tanker.
In April 1992, 265 buildings on Barkdale's main base were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The area from the Shreveport Gate to the flightline and from the Bossier Gate to Hoban Hall makes up the Barksdale Field Historic District.
Barksdale began a friendship with Ukrainian airmen later in 1994, when a B-52 and KC-10 visited Poltava Air Base, Ukraine .
Barksdale became the focus of attention once again in September 1996 as two of its B-52s fired 13 conventional air-launched cruise missiles on surface-to-air missile sites and air defense radars in Iraq . Dubbed Operation Desert Strike, the mission came in response to Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein's attacks on Kurds in northern Iraq and was the first combat employment of the B-52H in history. In only a span of 80 hours, Barksdale B-52s and support personnel deployed forward to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam , carried out the strike against Iraqi targets and returned to Guam .
Fourteen months later, in November 1997, personnel and aircraft deployed from Barksdale to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean by order of the President. They joined forces already in the region in response to a renewed bout of provocations and threats made by Saddam Hussein. Remaining at Diego Garcia until June 1998, Barksdale's forces bolstered the ability to defend the security of the region against possible aggression by Iraq and to accomplish specific military objectives if a diplomatic solution to the confrontation could not be achieved.
B-52s and personnel from Barksdale were again deployed to Diego Garcia in November 1998. Seven bombers and about 180 people deployed in response to Iraq 's refusal to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors. Despite President Clinton calling off strikes after Hussein's last-minute concessions to meet U.N. demands, Iraq 's cooperation continued to deteriorate. U.S. military forces, including Barksdale's B-52s, launched a sustained series of air strikes against Iraq shortly after midnight Dec. 17, 1998 . The three-day-long campaign, dubbed Operation Desert Fox, followed the latest in a series of roadblocks by the Iraqi government against weapons inspections conducted by the U.N. Special Commission.
From March to June 1999, Barksdale played a prominent role in halting the brutal Serb expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. Operating from RAF Fairord in the United Kingdom , Barksdale B‑52s flew over 180 combat sorties and released over 6,600 weapons against military targets throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during Operation Allied Force.
Immediately following the devastating terrorist attacks launched by the al-Qaeda terrorist network against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 , Barksdale provided a safe haven for President George Bush on his return flight to the nation's capitol. Shortly thereafter, the National Command Authority called upon the base to provide substantial forces to spearhead the Global War on Terrorism. Operating from multiple overseas locations, Barksdale warriors and B-52s, both active and reserve alike, played a key role in Operation Enduring Freedom, which saw the elimination of the repressive Taliban regime of Afghanistan . The operation also resulted in the destruction of the al-Qaeda leadership and training infrastructure that had previously resided with impunity in that country.
In March 2003, time finally ran out for Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein whose regime had continually defied the U.N. for almost 13 years. Returning yet again to the deadly skies of Iraq , Barksdale B-52s flew over 150 combat sorties against military targets throughout the southern half of the country. In a lightning campaign dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. and Coalition military forces ousted Saddam Hussein paving the way for democracy in Iraq .
Today, the men and women of Barksdale continue to serve at both home and abroad in support of the Global War on Terrorism.