McChord AFB, WA Image 1
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    McChord AFB, WA History

    McChord Field started in 1927, from a local drive to provide US Army Base Fort Lewis with an airfield. A local bond campaign provided funding to buy land north of the base, which was soon bought and established as Tacoma Airfield. The field was transferred to the US government in 1938, and in 1940 was renamed McChord Field in honor of the recently deceased Chief of the Training and Operations Division in HQ Army Air Corps, Colonel William Caldwell McChord, and designated General Headquarters Northwest Air District. 1940 McChord also saw the relocation of the 17th Bombardment Group to base, flying the B-18 Bolo bomber.

    The onset of World War Two sped life at the base up quite a lot, and within three months of the attack on Pearl Harbor the 17th was reassigned (crews from the 17th were later included in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo); the Northwest Air Force became the Second Air Force, and McChord was redesignated as a training center for B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator bomber crews, and later B-29 Superfortress crews.

    The end of the war saw McChord in a strategically valuable position, well situated to defend the Puget Sound, its cities and other military facilities, and on a corner of the United States; as the Cold War developed, concerns about possible Soviet attacks grew, and McChord provided a perfect base location for support of further forward Alaskan bases. McChord Air Force Base was assigned to Continental Air Command (soon renamed Strategic Air Command) and given a mission housing fighter-interceptor squadrons and an airlift mission.

    The airlift mission was the most active; McChord units transported troops, spare parts, equipment, and medical supplies to Korea throughout the Korean War, as well as equipment and supplies to crews building the Distant Early Warning line of early warning radar stations in Alaska. In the early 1960s McChord gained a nuclear weapons transport mission, which continued to the early 1970s.

    Not all missions lifted by McChord were military - many have been humanitarian or scientific. In the late 1950s scientists and weathermen were transported worldwide by McChord in an ongoing effort to increase global geophysical information. UN personnel were transported to the Congo in the early 1960s in support of peace initiatives. In 1980 McChord planes were used to search for survivors of the Mount St. Helen's eruption, and to evacuate survivors, and in 1991 McChord helped evacuate Clark Air Force following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. 2005 saw McChord's 62nd Wing airlifting food and other supplies to survivors of Hurricane Katrina, and in 2006 the same squadrons helped evacuate over 12,000 civilians from combat zones in Cyprus.

    Of course, McChord has also had a military mission to pursue, and the 62nd has been actively involved in Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.