|Bruning Army Airfield
|USGS aerial photo - 1999|
|Location of Bruning in Nebraska|
|IATA: none – ICAO: none|
|Owner||United States Army Air Forces|
Bruning Army Airfield was a flight training installation of the United States Army Air Forces used during the Second World War and located in northeast Thayer County, Nebraska, at coordinates 40°20'25" North, 97°25'42" West, approximately six miles east of Bruning.
Bruning AAF was one of eleven Nebraska training airfields of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. The airfield was constructed in 1942. The 1,720 acre site is bordered on the west by low hills and a small creek bed. Level farm ground is on the north, east and south boundaries. On 12 September 1942, twelve land owners received notice from the federal government that they had ten days to move off their farms, including livestock, farm equipment, feed and all possessions, leaving crops in the fields. They were compensated approximately $50 an acre. Some of the vacated farm buildings and houses were moved, while others were demolished. Immediately thereafter, construction began on the Bruning Army Airfield, with approximately 1,000 construction workers were used to build the field on 1,720 acres (7 km²) of land, with an additional 2,122 acres (9 km²) south of the base leased for a gunnery range. At its peak of activity Bruning had 3,077 military and 500 civilian personnel assigned.
The base consisted of three runways of 6,800 feet (2,070 m) in length, formed in a triangle, with the main parking apron (600 by 2,135 ft) located on the north-south (17/35) runway. Three hangars and 231 support buildings were constructed. The base was activated on March 18, 1943, and dedicated on August 28, 1943. The first unit arrived for training on August 2, 1943.
Bruning AAF was under the command of Second Air Force Headquarters, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and provided final training for Consolidated B-24 Liberator Heavy Bombers and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt Fighter-Bombers. Twelve bombardment squadrons and nine fighter squadrons completed proficiency training at the field before receiving orders for overseas combat assignments. Complete engine and airframe repairs were available for the B-24 bombers and P-47 fighters attached to Bruning AAF.
The host unit at the airfield was the 510th Headquarters and Air Base Squadron (Later 510th Army Air Force Base Unit). The 510th was assigned to the 16th Bombardment Operational Training Wing (July - Dec 1943), then was transferred to the 72nd Fighter Wing in December 1943. The following units trained at Bruning AAF:
Local historians record that 23 airmen died in training accidents at the base, and an additional 28 were killed on August 4, 1944, when a C-47 Skytrain carrying a graduating class of fighter pilots ran into a thunder storm and crashed near Naper, Nebraska, killing all 28 men.
Bruning AAF was placed on reserve status effective 7 February 1945 and assigned to Air Technical Service Command. The 4167th Army Air Force Base Unit was assigned to the airfield with a mission to maintain the airfield in reserve status until such time as it may be needed as an active station.
The base was declared surplus by the USAAF on November 21, 1945 and turned over to the State of Nebraska. In 1947, 174 buildings were dismantled at Bruning. On January 15, 1948, Nebraska Department of Aeronautics acquired a quitclaim deed for Bruning Army Airfield from the U. S. War Assets Administration. The Nebraska Department of Aeronautics eventually took over a total of six former Army airfields after the war, and continued to operate nearly all of them for many years as state operated civilian airports. The Bruning field was operated as a State airfield until August 1969, although gradually all but a small portion of one runway were closed. The property is now closed to traffic and is leased to local farmers and a cattle feedlot company
Bruning Army Airfield is now abandoned with only a few buildings and the large Sub-Depot hangar is still standing, as well as remnants of foundations and floors found at the site. The integrity of Hangar 52 is fairly intact, but Hangar 53 is in very poor condition, near ruins. The North-South and SW-NE runways are used as the home of Mid-America Feed Yard, a large commercial cattle feed lot, and the NW-SE runway is still visible.
On July 19, 1998 the Thayer County Historical Society dedicated a Nebraska State Historical Monument on Highway 4 about 6 miles (10 km) east of Bruning, near the site of Bruning AAF.