Thursday, March 5, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

‘Secret city’ a mystery that rumors connect to nuclear weapons

A rough map of the "secret city". (USAF photo)

A rough map of the "secret city". (Travis Heritage Museum)

By
From page TRA22 | January 31, 2014 |

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — It’s nickname was “secret city.”

Many knew the 3083rd Aviation Group was there, but few knew what it did behind closely patrolled perimeter fences.

The sign over the front gate of the Fairfield Air Force Station declared the unit as “Best Damned Outfit in the USAF,” but gave no further clue.

Today, many of the people who knew of the 3083rd believe the unit handled atomic weapons, maintaining them and loading them onto the base’s bombers. But no one who served in the unit, even decades after it closed, will confirm it.

“It’s still a fairly sensitive subject,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. Floyd Park, a nuclear weapons technician with the unit, in a 1990s Daily Republic interview.

Most of the former members are reluctant to talk about what the facility did. Some admit that from 1953 to 1962, it stored, handled, loaded and unloaded what they referred to as “special weapons” at Travis.

All training had to be approved by the Atomic Energy Commission, Park said. To say anything further could have ruffled some feathers, Park added.

The Fairfield Air Force Station covered 512 acres, where the 60th Security Forces headquarters now stands. It was its own separate, self-contained base, which was established on Sept. 8, 1952. It was one of five such groups established between 1951 and 1954 to handle nuclear weapons.

“It was part of a plan to have depots at all the different bases,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. Delane Kelly.

The 3083rd’s airmen loaded bombs carried on the Strategic Air Command’s 5th Bombardment Wing’s B-36 Peacemaker and then the B-52 Stratorfortresses.

“Whatever SAC wanted, we would go and give it to them,” Park said.

Six hundred military and civilian men and women organized in four squadrons made up the unit. Passing through just the first gate alone required secret clearance. Passing through the four other interior gates required higher clearances.

“There were many people who served at our installation who never got past the first gate,” said retired Lt. Col. Ed Craig.

“We were formed to receive, ship and repair all kinds of munitions,” said retired Lt. Col. Curt Burgan in a 1990s interview. “We had some of the highest trained men in the Air Force.”

“Some of the weapons were so sensitive that you couldn’t open them up unless you had two people in the room who knew what they were doing,” Park said.

Relations with Travis, which was a Strategic Air Command base at the time, were rough at first because during the 1950s, “SAC was looked upon as a God and we weren’t SAC,” Parks said.

“But once they (Travis) got used to it (the station’s existence), we fit like a glove,” Park said.

The 3083rd’s commander had the final word on who got to enter his facility. Burgan remembers refusing one high-ranking base officer access.

“He was not yet briefed on our status and he was mad,” Burgan said.

Another Travis commander, offended by the sign saying the 3083rd was the “Best Damned Outfit in the USAF,” demanded the sign be removed. The 3083rd’s commander refused and the sign stayed up.

Five fences surrounded the base and the third of the five was electrified.

“Security got tired of constantly picking up dead rabbits,” Burgan said.

Three migrant workers whose car broke down on Highway 12 almost became victims, too. The three saw the facility’s lights and mistook it for a small town. Security police caught them as they finished scaling the second fence and were about to scale the third.

The unit had its own sports teams and clubs. It had good community relations, because of the sports activities. Its members turned out in strength for community projects, such as building a Little League park where the Chick-fil-A restaurant now stands.

One of the unit’s more resourceful scroungers convinced the Navy to supply them with boats, which were moored at Brannan Island.

“We were the only Air Force unit around with its own Navy,” Park said.

The small fleet included a 10,000-gallon fuel barge, a 99-foot maintenance barge, a gig, a runabout and a captain’s boat.

The 3083rd received at least two E-for-Excellence banners for good work, Burgan said.

Advances in weapon technology and the advent of the missile age made the depots obsolete by the early 1960s.

“Weapons developed to the point that we were no longer needed,” Burgan said. “It was to a point that you could plug in a component and if the light was red, you sent it back, and if the light was green, it was good.”

Burgan commanded the facility when it closed in July 1962. Everything had to be accounted for, down to the pillows, he said.

The only thing left of the base after it closed was a radioactive burial site, which was a backfilled trench that contained cleaning materials from the maintenance of nuclear components at the facility.

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

  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    Solano News

    Docs: No significant impact from tons of SF waste sent to Solano

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Suisun residents not happy with proposed water rate hikes

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Show resilience in the face of adversity

    By Mayrene Bates | From Page: A2

     
    Police arrest trio from Martinez in Vacaville

    By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3

    Real McCoy II Ferry set for maintenance

    By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3

     
    Vacaville police slate annual awards ceremony

    By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3

    Limited damage to apartment from carport fire

    By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Students sample industry choices during school career fair

    By Glen Faison | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Car burglaries lead to Vacaville man’s arrest

    By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3

     
    National Red Cross Month celebrates heroes

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

     
    Il Fiorello schedules citrus class

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

    Jury convicts ex-con who served as own lawyer

    By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A4

     
    Red Carpet Gala to benefit theater foundation

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

    Pet remembrance event set in Vallejo

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

     
    Suisun police plan community meeting downtown

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A4

    Friday concert benefits Families Helping Families

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

     
    Fairfield OKs $54,467 consultant pact after the fact

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

    Vallejo police arrest 4 in connection with 3 killings

    By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

     
    Suisun City police log: Tuesday, March 3, 2015

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

    Fairfield police log: Tuesday, March 3, 2015

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    .

    US / World

    Woodland mom charged with manslaughter in death of infant

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Justices sharply divided over health care law subsidies

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    ‘It was him': Defense admits Tsarnaev bombed Boston Marathon

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    More mutilated animals found in California’s capital city

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    California lawmaker pushes child care worker vaccinations

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

     
    Children in Southern California breathing easier, study says

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Failures by 3 governments preceded homeless man’s death

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Second Los Angeles hospital reports ‘superbug’ infections

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    Obama signs Homeland Security funding bill into law

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    House panel issues subpoena for Clinton’s personal emails

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Fossil jaw sheds light on turning point in human evolution

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Feds: Evidence backs Ferguson officer’s account in shooting

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    A defiant Alabama regains ground against gay marriage

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    How much sugar is in that? 7 foods with added sugar

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Senate fails to override Obama’s veto of pipeline bill

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Microsoft co-founder says he found sunken Japan WWII warship

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

    Italy rescues more than 1,000 migrants at sea; 10 perish

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

     
    Coal mine blast kills at least 24 in war-torn east Ukraine

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    .

    Opinion

     
    Headwinds at home drive Korea Inc. abroad

    By William Pesek | From Page: A7

    How can I be sick when I feel great?

    By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Living

    Today in History: March 5, 2015

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Community Calendar: March 5, 2015

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

    Horoscopes: March 5, 2015

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

     
    I can’t tell if I still want to be married, or just don’t want to be alone

    By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

    .

    Entertainment

    Glen Campbell children fighting wife’s control of affairs

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

     
    DiCaprio partners with Netflix for series of documentaries

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

    ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ tops MTV Movie Awards nominations

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

     
    .

    Sports

     
    Posey has 2-run double in Giants’ 9-2 loss to A’s

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Local report: Vanden softball slips by Rodriguez with late run

    By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

    Curry shoots Warriors to 102-93 victory over Bucks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    MLS, players agree in principle to 5-year deal

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Prosecutors can’t bring up Florida shooting in ex-NFLer case

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Vikings agree to trade Cassel to Bills

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Scott opens a season of change at Doral

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    ‘It WAS him': Defense admits Tsarnaev bombed Boston Marathon

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    With Peterson’s status in question, Vikings pay a visit

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    NFL stadium supporters in LA suburb file ballot paperwork

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Alex Johnson, AL batting champ in 1970, dies at age 72

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Goodell: NFL responsible for Super Bowl seating problems

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Former player Nate Jackson calls for NFL to allow marijuana

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Phoenix to install tire barriers before NASCAR visit

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Pirelli sticks with same tire choices for first 4 F1 races

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    AP Source: Peyton Manning returning for 18th NFL season

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    NCAA reports big jump in home runs with new flat-seam ball

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Aaron D. Malave

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Thelma A. Roche

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    Cesar Luis Garcia-Regalado

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

     
    Rodolfo Landabora Porquez

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Sally Forth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Peanuts

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Pickles

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Baldo

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Dilbert

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Baby Blues

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Beetle Bailey

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Frank and Ernest

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    B.C.

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Garfield

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Rose is Rose

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    For Better or Worse

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Zits

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Blondie

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Wizard of Id

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Get Fuzzy

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Word Sleuth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Sudoku

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Cryptoquote

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Crossword

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Bridge

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9