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Ramey Air Force Base

Shield Strategic Air Command.png

Part of the Strategic Air Command, decades ago
Located in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
Rameyafb-13oct1993.jpg
13 October 1993
Type Air Force Base
Built 1936
In use 1936-1971
Controlled by Formerly the Strategic Air Command
Garrison None - base deactivated in 1973

Ramey Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base near Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. In addition to a small on-site Air Force detachment, and occasional operations by the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, a portion of the former Air Force Base is operated by the United States Coast Guard as Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen. There is also civilian general aviation use of the airfield, now known as Rafael Hernandez International Airport.

Contents

History

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Origins and Military Use

Ramey's origins go back to 1936, when the necessity for an air base in Puerto Rico was recognized and advocated by United States Army Air Corps officials as a logical extension of the air defenses of the Panama Canal and of Puerto Rico itself. On the first week of September 1939, some 3,796 acres covered by sugar cane, had been purchased at a cost of $1,215,000.

The Commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School forwarded to the Chief of the Air Corps a report pointing out that Puerto Rico was a "most valuable asset" for national defense, and recommending that a military Air Base be established on the island.

In 1939, then-Major George C. Kenney was sent to Puerto Rico to conduct a preliminary survey of possible air base sites. In all, 42 sites were examined, and Major Kenney declared that Punta Borinquen was the best site for a major air base. A total of 3,796 acres (covered by planted sugar cane farms) were taken for government military use in 1939.

Later that year, Major Karl S. Axtater assumed command of what was to become "Borinquen Army Air Field". In a less than auspicious arrival, Axtater, upon landing the first aircraft ever at Borinquen's crude & unprepared runway, blew the tire on his plane's tail wheel, but no serious damage or injury resulted.

The first squadron based at Borinquen Field was the 27th Bombardment Squadron, consisting of nine B-18A Bolo medium bombers, arriving from Langley Field, Virginia, in late 1939.

In 1940, the air echelon of the 25th Bombardment Group (14 B-18A aircraft and two A-17 aircraft) arrived at the base from Langley Field.

On December 13, 1940, the "tempest-in-a-teapot" "Battle of Borinquen Field" took place. Strictly a misnomer, the "battle" consisted solely of an "alert" and the firing of machine guns by nervous guards against a non-existent enemy invasion force, which was in reality a friendly merchant vessel traveling inshore for protection. The "battle" lasted 15 minutes, and in the confusion, one woman was wounded.

During World War II, the following squadrons were assigned to the airfield:

417th Bombardment Squadron, 21 Nov 1939-13 Apr 1942 (B-18 Bolo)
10th Bombardment Squadron, 1 Nov 1940-1 Nov 1942 (B-18 Bolo)
12th Bombardment Squadron, 1 Nov 1940-8 Nov 1941 (B-18 Bolo)
35th Bombardment Squadron, 31 Oct-11 Nov 1941 (B-18 Bolo)
As: Antilles Air Division, 12 Jan 1948-22 Jan 1949

Following World War II, Ramey was significantly expanded for its new role as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) bomber base. From 1952-1959, the 72d Bombardment Wing, Heavy was equipped with the huge B-36 Peacemaker. In 1959, the 72d Bombardment Wing transitioned to the B-52 Stratofortress and Ramey served as a B-52 and KC-135 Stratotanker base until mid-1971.

Closing and Current Use

In 1971, the Coast Guard relocated its aviation units from San Juan, and established the "Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen". U.S. Coast Guard fact sheets and historical documents state that the Coast Guard took possession of, "...an outstanding hangar with adjacent support facilities," from the Air Force.[1] Within the boundaries of the base are a housing area, a clinic and dispensary, a station library, a community center, a swimming pool, a Base Exchange, a mini-mart, a package store, a gymnasium and other fitness facilities, a chapel, and a movie theater.[1]

In 1973, Ramey AFB was closed by the Air Force as an active Air Force Base, part of a post-Vietnam War reduction-in-force (RIF) that closed-down numerous Air Force Bases.

As it was before the Air Force's departure, the primary mission of Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen remains search & rescue. Secondary missions include law enforcement, aerial support for ATON, and logistic support. To accomplish these missions, the Air Station has now four HH-65A Dolphin helicopters and four HU-25 Guardian jets, as well as periodically hosting Coast Guard HC-130H/J Hercules aircraft normally based at other Coast Guard Air Stations.

CGAS Borinquen consists of two runways (the primary runway, 11,700 feet long, is still maintained), a very large former B-52 heavy bomber dispersal parking area, and numerous ramps & hangars - many of which are currently in a state of disrepair.

The primary runway at Ramey is still available for USAF, US Navy, and USMC fighter aircraft deployed on a contingency basis for military exercises and/or the air defense of Puerto Rico, since the Puerto Rico Air National Guard no longer has any fighter aircraft at its main base at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, the PRANG having converted from a fighter mission with F-16s to a tactical airlift mission with C-130s in the late 1990s.

In addition to the Coast Guard facility, the former Ramey AFB flight-line is now operated as a general aviation airport, named Rafael Hernandez International Airport, and it supports numerous other government agencies such as the:

The US Army and the US Air Force also have active duty and reserve units stationed on the base grounds. The former Air Force Base is also the home of the Ramey Sector of the US Border Patrol, which covers all of Puerto Rico, and also an Immigration Detention Center run by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

See also

References

External links

Coordinates: 18°29′41″N 67°07′46″W / 18.494861°N 67.129444°W / 18.494861; -67.129444


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