Saturday, February 28, 2015
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 [email protected] 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

.

US / World

Man shoots wife, himself at Northern Calif. retirement home

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
 
Thieves crash car through electronics store in San Francisco

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Some California farmers to go without federal water

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

Congress OKs 1-week bill to keep Homeland Security open

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
US rescinds rule requiring judges to move to Guantanamo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

US, Liberia start 1st formal test of ZMapp Ebola virus drug

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
US appeals court: Marathon bombing trial can stay in Boston

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Woman knocked out by eggs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Mexico official: Police capture top capo ‘La Tuta’ Gomez

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Well-educated ‘Jihadi John’ no surprise to experts

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Unmasking of ‘Jihadi John’ as a London lad shocks Britain

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Opinion

How GOP can resolve immigration mess

By Ramesh Ponnuru | From Page: A8, 10 Comments

 
Unlikely winners of Greece’s surrender on euro

By Mark Gilbert | From Page: A8

A remedy for veterans’ care

By Bill Frist And Jim Marshall | From Page: A8

 
Editorial Cartoon: Feb. 28, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

.

Living

Today in History: Feb. 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Feb. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Feb. 28, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

 
Poem about heaven helps dog owners when beloved pet dies

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

Coca-Cola bottle as art? Atlanta’s High Museum takes a look

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Entertainment

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B9

.

Sports

Thompson scores 25 points, Warriors rout Raptors 113-89

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Casey McGehee’s move to Giants a homecoming of sorts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Vaca advances three wrestlers into semis at Masters

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Spurs snap 4-game skid, beat short-handed Kings 107-96

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Travis Kvapil’s NASCAR car stolen from hotel before race

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
McIlroy to miss cut at Honda Classic; Reed leads

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NHL fines Sharks’ Couture $5,000 for tripping from behind

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Browns agree to terms with quarterback Josh McCown

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Kyle Busch released from hospital following foot surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bulls expect Derrick Rose back this season from knee surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Testimony: Several Hernandez texts are missing from phone

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Approaching ‘last call’ for NHL GMs to tweak rosters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
PGA Tour to move Match Play to Texas

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Notre Dame president credited for transforming school dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
MLS Commissioner Garber: Hopeful season will start on time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

.

Business

Gas prices soar in California as supply shrinks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
5 reasons US economy is stronger than Q4 GDP suggests

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

Tribes from around US gather to discuss legal marijuana

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Uber says database containing driver info was breached

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Signed contracts to buy US homes rise to 18-month high

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Fiat Chrysler recalls 467K SUVs for possible stalling

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Southwest nearly done inspecting planes that were grounded

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

Gabriel T. Traub

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Maria Kraszewski

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
.

Home Seller 2/28/2015

Right at Home: Decor made of bicycle parts

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2Comments are off for this post | Gallery

Real estate transactions for Feb. 28, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3

Average US rate on 30-year mortgage rises to 3.80 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3