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Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base

Airdefensecommand-logo.jpgAir Combat Command.pngAir Force Reserve Command.png

Part of Air/Aerospace Defense Command
Tactical Air Command
Military Airlift Command
Air Combat Command and
Air Force Reserve
Located in Kansas City, Missouri
Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, 23 March 1977
Location of Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base
Coordinates 38°50′56.8788″N 94°33′7.4622″W / 38.849133°N 94.552072833°W / 38.849133; -94.552072833
Built 1941
In use 1941-2001
Controlled by United States Air Force (1944-1994)

Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base located partly within the city limits of Kansas City, Missouri and crossing into northwestern Cass County, just outside Belton, Missouri, 16 miles (26 km) south of downtown Kansas City. Opened for military use in March 1944, the facility was returned to civilian use in 1994. The runways have since been decommissioned and are no longer in use.





The City of Kansas City built Grandview Airport (IATA: GVWICAO: KGVWFAA LID: GVW) in 1941. It was used as an auxiliary airport for the Olathe Navy Air Station during World War II.[1] In 1955 the city deeded the airport free of charge to the United States Air Force which named it Grandview Air Force Base.

At the same time Kansas City built a large airport north of the city initially to house TWA overhaul operations which had been damaged at Fairfax Airport in the Great Flood of 1951.

On 27 April 1957, the installation was renamed Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base in honor of Kansas City natives 1st Lt John Francisco Richards II (1894-1918) and Lt Col Arthur William Gebaur Jr. (1919-1952). Lieutenant Richards's Nieuport was shot down on 26 Sep 1918 during an artillery surveillance mission on the first day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of World War I. Colonel Gebaur's F-84 was shot down over North Korea on 29 Aug 1952 during a low-level bombing run during the Korean War.

Major commands to which assigned

Redesignated : Aerospace Defense Command, 15 Jan 1968)

Major units assigned

  • 4676th Air Defense Group, 16 Feb 1954 - 18 Aug 1955
  • HQ, Central Air Defense Force, 24 Feb 1954 - 1 Jul 1960
  • Kansas City Air Defense Sector (Manual), 1 Jan 1960 - 1 Jan 1962
  • 20th Air Division (Defense), 8 Oct 1955-1 Jan 1960
  • 442d Troop Carrier (later Air Transport, Military Airlift, later Tactical Airlift) Wing, 3 Apr 1955-1 Oct 1982
  • 4620th Air Defense Group (SAGE - Programing & Training), 8 May 1957 - 15 Dec 1958 : Redesignated as the 4606th Air Defense Group (SAGE - Programing & Training), 15 Dec 1958 - 25 Jun 1962
  • 4660th Support Squadron (SAGE), 25 Jun 1962 - 31 Dec 1969
  • 4650th Combat Support Squadron, 1 Sep 1959 - 31 Jul 1972
  • 4715th Ground Observer Squadron, 8 Oct 1955 - ca: 1 Mar 1959
  • 50th Communications Squadron (Air Force), 24 Feb 1954 - 1 Jan 1960
  • 33d Air Division (SAGE), 1 Jan 1960 - 1 Jul 1961
  • 935th Troop Carrier, 935th Air Transport, 935th Military Airlift, 935th Tactical Airlift Group, 17 Jan 1963 - 1 Nov 1974
    • 303d Troop Carrier, 303d Air Transport, 303d Military Airlift, 303d Tactical Airlift Squadron
  • 936th Troop Carrier, 936th Air Transport, 936th Military Airlift, 936th Tactical Airlift Group, 17 Jan 1963 - 30 Nov 1974
    • 304th Troop Carrier, 304th Air Transport, 304th Military Airlift, 304th Tactical Airlift Squadron
  • HQ, Tenth Air Force, 1 Apr 1966 - 31 Dec 1969
  • 123d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, 1968 - 1969
  • 4676th Air Base Group, 18 Jul 1968 - 1 Jul 1970
Redesignated: 1840th Air Base Wing, 1 Jul 1970 - 31 Dec 1978
  • 1607th Air Base Group, 1 Oct 1977 - 9 Oct 1978
Redesignated: 1607th Air Base Squadron, 9 Oct 1978 - 1 Oct 1980
326th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (1954-1967) (F-86D, F-102)
65th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (1957-1958)
326th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (1961-1967) (F-102)
71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (1967-1968) (F-106)
*Previously designated as 442d Tactical Fighter Wing (A-10), 442d Tactical Airlift Wing (C-130), 442d Military Airlift Wing (C-124) and 442d Air Transport Wing (C-124), 442d Troop Carrier Wing (C-119)

Operational history


The City of Kansas City built Grandview Airport (IATA code GVW) in 1941. During World War II, the United States Army Air Forces I Troop Carrier Command built a facility on part of the airfield in 1944 which was used as a sub-base for Sedalia AAF (later Whiteman Air Force Base) for overflow traffic and training uses. The main USAAF unit at Grandview was the 813th AAF Base Unit. After the war, the AAF facility was turned over to Continental Air Forces with C-46s occasionally using the field until it was closed in November 1945. The airfield was declared surplus on 13 December 1945 and was transferred to Army Division Engineers on 1 March 1946 for disposal.

USAF use

As a result of the Cold War military buildup, Grandview Airport was leased by the United States Air Force on 1 January 1952. After some construction and upgrading of facilities, Grandview Air Force Base was opened on 1 October 1952, with the 4610th Air Base Squadron being the base operating unit (operating from Fairfax Field in Kansas City, Kansas). No military personnel were assigned prior to 1954 while major construction took place of runways, taxiways, aprons and support facilities.

The first major use for the base was Air Defense Command, which used the base as a command and control headquarters. HQ, Central Air Defense Force was established on 24 February 1954, along with HQ 20th Air Division (Defense) on 8 October 1955. The first flying unit was the 328th Fighter Group, with its 326th Fighter Squadron Later designated as the 326th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron being equipped with F-86 Sabres and later equipped with the F-102 Delta Dagger until Dec 1966. The 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron arrived Jan 1967 from Selfridge AFB, Michigan with the F-106 Delta Dart.

Headquarters ADC also stationed the 4650th Air Transport Squadron later designated as the 4650th Combat Support Squadron provided ADC with Air Transportation for parts and equipment and to transport personnel from the Fighter Interceptor Squadrons to training bases where the crews could conduct live missile firings. The 4650th operated the C-118 Liftmasters from Richards-Gebaur as well as C-123 Providers and C-119 Flying Boxcars from Detachments located at Stewart AFB, New York and Hamilton AFB, California.

In 1957, the 4620th Air Defense Group was activated at Richards-Gebaur. The 4620th was a SAGE unit, which operated the Semi Automatic Ground Environment RADAR system for ADC. SAGE was an automated control system used by ADC and later NORAD for collecting, tracking and intercepting enemy bomber aircraft. It could also automatically direct aircraft to an interception by sending commands directly to the aircraft's autopilot. The mission of the 4620th was later turned over to the 4660th Support Squadron (SAGE) (ADC)

As the threat of Soviet air attack diminished during the 1960s, the Air Defense presence at Richards-Gebaur was reduced. The F-106-equipped 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron departed in 1968, ending the ADC interceptor presence on the base. On 1 July 1970, the base was turned over to the Air Force Communications Service, with HQ AFCS establishing its headquarters on the base. HQ AFCS moved to Scott Air Force Base, Illinois in 1980.

Along with the Air Defense and Communications mission, the Military Air Transport Service (MATS), later Military Airlift Command (MAC), begin using the base in 1955 as a reserve troop carrier unit facility under the auspices of the 2472nd Air Force Reserve Training Wing. C-119 Flying Boxcars and later C-124 Globemaster cargo and transport aircraft were flown by the 442d Troop Carrier (Later: the 442d Air Transport Wing / Military Airlift Wing / Tactical Airlift Wing)and assigned 935th Troop Carrier / Air Transport / Military Airlift / Tactical Airlift Group / 303d Troop Carrier / Air Transport / Military Airlift / Tactical Airlift Squadron and 936th Air Transport / Military Airlift / Tactical Airlift Group / 304th Troop Carrier / Air Transport / Military Airlift / Tactical Airlift Squadron until being transitioned to a fighter unit. MAC assumed control of the base in 1977 442nd TAW / 935th TAG - 303d TAS and the 936th TAG - 304th TAS to the base for training in flying C-130 Hercules aircraft.

On 1 October 1980, MAC turned over Richards-Gebaur to the Air Force Reserve (AFRES) and its 442d Tactical Airlift Wing (442 TAW) tactical airlift mission, transitioned to the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft and became operationally-gained by Tactical Air Command (TAC) as the 442d Tactical Fighter Wing (442 TFW). In 1992, as part of an Air Force-wide reorganization, the 442d was renamed the 442d Fighter Wing (442 FW) and became operationally gained by the Air Combat Command (ACC). As part of a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decision to close Richards-Gebaur ARS, the 442 FW began transferring to its current home of Whiteman AFB, Missouri in 1993 and the last military aircraft departed Richards-Gebaur ARS on 12 June 1994, ending military use of Richards-Gebaur.

Richards Gebaur's Base Commanders include United States Air Force Reserve Colonel Garey M. Reeves, Commander of Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base and the 442nd Combat Support Group. United States Air Force Reserve Colonel Garey M. Reeves, most recently the Commander of Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base and the 442nd Combat Support Group located there, retired February 22, 1991 after 35 years of military service to his country.

Colonel Reeves was promoted to Colonel on January 26, 1977, became Commander of the 442nd Combat Support Group on November 1, 1980 and Commander of Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base on October 1, 1980. Under his command Richards-Gebaur was extensively remodeled and upgraded, modified for use as a shared facility with the Kansas City, Missouri Aviation Department and hosted numerous highly successful "Operation Handshake" programs, all while maintaining the combat readiness status of his command.

Civil use

The former Richards-Gebaur AFB about 2003

After a Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) memo in the early 1960s declared that the city's Kansas City Downtown Airport was the most unsafe major airport in the country, the city considered relocating its main airport to Richards-Gebaur. However, the city government ended up relocating the facility north of the city at Kansas City International Airport.

Richards-Gebaur's main Runway 18/36 was a 9,000-foot (2,700 m) runway with a 1,000-foot (300 m) overrun on each end.

Between 1983 and 1997 the city of Kansas City lost $18 million operating the airport and in 1998, the Federal Aviation Authority approved a plan to close the airport. In 2001 the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision to close the airport in a suit brought by Friends of Richards-Gebaur Airport of Grandview, Missouri.

The former airport is now used as the Kansas City SmartPort for Kansas City Southern Railroad to ship cargo to and from Mexico. Several businesses, in major agreement with the City of Kansas City and the State of Missouri, are removing the old runway and facilities and building a large truck-to-rail freight center, with above-ground and underground storage. The CenterPoint-Kansas City Southern Intermodal Center will cover 1,340 acres of rail and industrial space. Phase I of the project will include 4.5 million square feet of covered industrial warehouses and distribution centers. Developer CenterPoint Properties of Chicago bought the property from the Port Authority of Kansas City, which still owns 100 acres and with Hunt Midwest Enterprises, Inc., will mine limestone and create underground storage spaces. Major transportation companies include Kansas City Southern railway and Schneider National, Inc., a truck line. Kansas City Southern's main line runs from the intermodal center at Richards-Gebaur all the way to a deep-sea Pacific port at Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico. The first phase is expected to cost $250M and when complete will be able to handle up to 250,000 shipping containers per year.[1]

Richards-Gebaur AFB was a very nice well kept facility with modern updates including new Base Exchange prior to 1976. The golf course had been expanded and was top grade. The base even had a saddle club that included the best arena in the southern KC area. The RG Saddle Club was host to many horse shows and events including the Golden Circle Horse Show circuit. With a youth center and even an airman's club the base had a lot to offer to the active duty personnel their families and the retired that lived in the area. Today the facility is essentially abandoned, with the buildings and flightline in a deteriorating state.

The main user of the base is the United States Army Reserve's 308th Tactical Psychological Operations Company, the Army Reserve Center, as well as the United States Marine Corps' Mobilization Command. The Army and Marines have upgraded the buildings they use, as well as constructing new facilities. The Army Reserve Center occupied the building that was the brand new Base Exchange (BX), which was only open for military personnel for a very short time before the base lost its primary active duty status. Most of the old ADC facilities still exist (including the SAGE block-house), the alert hangars and pads remain, although the runway and taxiways are deteriorating. Many of the old hangars have been torn down for the new rail-to-truck freight center, and portions of the runway are slowly being removed as rails are installed.

See also

Many of the Air Force buildings such as the Officers and NCO Clubs, the Commissary, Hospital, Base Theater, Wing Headquarters buildings and some housing units have been completely demolished and removed. Many of the remaining buildings are occupied by private companies and some of the former Officer's Housing areas are being utilized by the Marine Corps. The former Base Exchange building is now an Army Reserve Center. The former Base Commander's and Commanding General's residence have also been removed.


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Mueller, Robert (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0912799536; 0160022614
  • Aerospace Defense Command publication, The Interceptor, January 1979 (Volume 21, Number 1).

External links


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