Saturday, October 25, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

1950s: A decade of growth and large bombers at Travis

1950s1

20 April 1951 – SAC Held an Official Rededication Ceremony for Travis AFB. Planes fly overhead

By
From page TRA18 | January 31, 2014 |

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — The 1950s was the decade of Strategic Air Command at the Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base with its flight line dominated by the large bombers.

With the base’s airlift squadrons now stationed in West Germany because of the Berlin Airlift, almost all of the West Coast air transport missions were carried out by Navy transports or transferred to civilian airlines.

In the early 1950s, Moffett Field became the area’s main air terminal and Fairfield-Suisun’s airlift schedule was reduced to a weekly shuttle to Hickam Air Force Base and aeromedical flights flown by C-47s from nearly vacant runways.

On May 1, 1949, Strategic Air Command activated the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing under Col. Raymond Winn at Fairfield-Suisun, bringing with it the RB-29 Superfortress reconnaissance bomber, whose prime mission was very-long-range telephoto reconnaissance across the Pacific.

Winn lasted a little more than a month at the job and, on June 17, he was replaced by Brig. Gen. Robert Falligant Travis.

Six months later, on Nov. 8, 1949, the 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing arrived to join the 9th and Travis was put in command of both wings, an unusual setup.

In April 1950, the 9th started replacing its RB-29s with the massive, six-propeller engined B-36 bombers and was renamed the 9th Heavy Bombardment Wing-Heavy.

It was just in time for the outbreak of the Korean War, which saw the 9th increase its local training flights and practice bombing runs in preparation for partial deployment to Korea. By February 1951, the 14th Air Division was headquartered at Travis Air Force Base.

Family housing at the base tripled with the construction of 980 new Wherry housing units, while the base hospital saw the temporary addition of 500 beds to accommodate wounded from Korea, which averaged 2,000 a month during the war brought in by the 1733rd Air Transport Squadron (Air Evacuation).

What was called the “West River Depot,” and later renamed the Fairfield Air Force Station, was located on the southwest corner of the base and soon acquired the nickname of Secret City because of its high security and its work storing and maintaining nuclear bombs. It stayed in business until 1962.

A Strategic Air Command reorganization in 1953 sent the 9th to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, and the 5th phased out the last of its RB-29s for reconnaissance-configured RB-36s by 1952.

F-86D Sabre jet fighters arrived to defend Travis and other regional bases in July 1954 when Air Defense Command activated the 413th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. The pilots stood on five- to 15-minute alerts to defend the base and its growing fleet of Strategic Air Command and Material Air Transport Service aircraft should the Cold War go hot.

In August 1955, the 413th was replaced by the 82nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, and the F-86Ds were soon replaced in 1957 by the F-102 Delta Dagger fighter, capable of firing air-to-air guided missiles, which could be nuclear tipped. The 82nd and its F-102s left Travis in 1966 for Okinawa.

The Army did its part to defend the base when the 1st Battalion, 61st Artillery, part of the North American Air Defense Command, set up shop in the old base hospital area to oversee the ring of six underground Nike missile bases around Travis, which started to be built in March 1956.

The missile crews stood on alert in shifts 24 hours a day until 1971, when changing military technology made the Nike missiles obsolete. The missile crews packed their bags and left without firing a shot. The sites have since been sold off to become everything from storage for a farm to the home of the Fairfield-Suisun School District’s bus yard.

It was also during the mid-1950s that the Royal Air Force set up shop with a small detachment of three dozen men to support British military aircraft flying through the Western United States and the Pacific. By 2000, that presence had shrunk to only a couple of RAF personnel.

Even though Travis was a Strategic Air Command base, the Military Air Transport Service did ship a lot of personnel and equipment out of Travis to the Pacific.

When the 9th left Travis, three Military Air Transport Service squadrons moved in with their C-54s, which were soon replaced with C-97 Stratofreighters and C-124 Globemasters. They were followed by three more transport squadrons by 1955, which was the same year the 1501st Air Transport Wing was activated at Travis.

Travis formally entered the jet age when the 5th’s first B-52 arrived at the base on Feb. 13, 1959. Named the Spirit of Solano, the bomber was welcomed with much ceremony and even an appearance by California Gov. Edmund “Pat” Brown Sr.

The base’s bomber squadrons completed their conversion to B-52s in September 1958 with Project Adios, the departure of Travis’ last RB-36 with members of the same aircrew who flew in the first one to Travis in 1951.

This was the same time that Strategic Air Command dispersed two of its bomber squadrons to surrounding bases, Mather and Beale Air Force bases, to minimize the wing’s vulnerability to attack. The 14th Air Division also packed its bags for Beale, leaving only the 23rd Bombardment Squadron at Travis.

Travis ended the decade bringing another mission to the base – air refueling in the form of the 916th Air Refueling Squadron and its KC-135 Stratotankers, the first of which arrived in December 1959.

Strategic Air Command also handed over the keys of the base to Military Air Transport Service when that command’s 323rd Air Division was activated at Travis, as well as the Western Transport Air Force in July 1958 with Maj. Gen. Russell Waldron assuming command of Western Transport Air Force, re-establishing airlift as Travis’ top mission.

Western Transport Air Force had just set up shop at Travis in 1958, overseeing four bases including Travis and a slice of the globe from Florida to Saudi Arabia, which included 37,000 miles of military air routes. Even though its East Coast bases were reassigned, the land between the Mississippi River to Saudi Arabia was still a big chunk of territory.

The first mission by a Travis aircraft to Southeast Asia took place in 1954 when, in the aftermath of the disastrous French defeat at Dien BienPhu, 10 of the base’s C-97s collected 509 French soldiers from what was then called Indochina and flew them to destinations in France and Algeria. In 10 years, Travis would be back, and the place would have a new name – Vietnam.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or ithompson@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
 
 
Optimist Club brings youth together for Halloween golf

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Cut-a-thon to help fight cancer, abuse

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Fall Harvest Festival brings children back to school

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

School board candidates forum set next week

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A4

 
 
Staying active may prolong your life

By Scott Anderson | From Page: B8

 
Suisun City police log: Oct. 23, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

.

US / World

Suspect arrested in death of 2 California deputies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 3 Comments

 
KC-10 from Travis lands in Houston, smoke in cockpit

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Reagan astrologer, Joan Quigley, dies at 87

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
Jury says castrated sex offender should be freed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Remains belong to missing Virginia student

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Dallas nurse receives thanks, hug from Obama

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 13 Comments

School gunman was Homecoming prince, students say

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Lava creeps toward road on Hawaii’s Big Island

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

NY, NJ order Ebola quarantine for doctors, others

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Gunman in Canada attack complained about mosque

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Egypt declares emergency in northern Sinai

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Militant group said to be using chlorine bombs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Putin accuses US of undermining global stability

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Opinion

Return Garamendi to Congress

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8, 13 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoons: Oct. 25, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

SEIU shouldn’t own Board of Supervisors

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 6 Comments

 
Vote, and make a difference

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

Yes on Measure A

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

 
Spering best choice for county supervisor

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8, 7 Comments

.

Living

Today in History: Oct. 25, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Oct. 25, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Oct. 25, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

 
My mother-in-law wants me to convert to Catholicism, but I don’t want to

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7

Hello Kitty turning 40, and the birthday bash will be ‘supercute’

By Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service | From Page: B8

 
.

Entertainment

TLC cancels its ‘Honey Boo Boo’ series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
P.D. James’ riff on Jane Austen comes to TV

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B9

 
.

Sports

Vintage rolls past Armijo, 55-8

By Mike Corpos | From Page: B1

 
Mustangs fall flat in rout by Wildcats

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1, 3 Comments

Royals beat Giants 3-2 for 2-1 World Series lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Vargas to take on Vogelsong in Game 4 of Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Falcons hang with Wolves in 34-8 setback

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Hamilton helps Vanden sink Vallejo, 35-0

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B1

Unfazed, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh doing it his way

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Lloyd leads US women past Mexico 3-0

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raiders’ Woodley, Young expected to be placed on IR

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Henley’s putting gets him lead at Sea Island

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Judge halts New Jersey’s sports betting plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Joe Maddon exercises opt-out, won’t return to Rays

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Jamie McMurray bests Chase drivers to win pole

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Attorney: NFL, Ravens not helping union in Rice probe

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

SCC women’s soccer team falls to Mendocino 3-1

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
.

Business

US official: Auto safety agency under review

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Ford profit falls in third quarter on truck costs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Procter & Gamble taking out its batteries

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
UPS expects double-digit surge in Dec shipments

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

US new-home sales close to flat in September

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Obituaries

Melvin Tate

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Mark Dean Lindsay

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Dr. Robert M. Takamoto

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
.

Home Seller 10/25/14

Real estate transactions for Oct. 25, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2