Wurtsmith Air Force Base: Wikis

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Wurtsmith Air Force Base

Airdefensecommand-logo.jpg Shield Strategic Air Command.png

Part of Air/Aersopace Defense Command (ADC)
and Strategic Air Command (SAC)
Located near Oscoda Township, Michigan
Wurtsmith Air Force Base-10April1999.jpg
USGS aerial photo as of 10 April 1999

Wurtsmith Air Force Base-dotmap.jpg
Location Of Wurtsmith Air Force Base

Type Air Force Base
Coordinates 44°27′09″N 083°22′49″W / 44.4525°N 83.38028°W / 44.4525; -83.38028
Built 1923
In use 1923-1993
Controlled by United States Air Force
Garrison 379th Bombardment Wing
For the civil use of this facility and airport information, see Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport

Wurtsmith Air Force Base is a decommissioned United States Air Force base in northeastern Iosco County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The former base includes 4,626 acres (1,872 ha) located approximately two miles west of Lake Huron in the Charter Township of Oscoda, bordered by Van Ettan Lake, the Au Sable State Forest.

Contents

History

Wurtsmith got its start in 1923 as Loud-Reames Aviation Field, a soft-surface landing site for Army Air Corps aircraft from Selfridge Field. It was renamed Camp Skeel in 1924, for World War I pilot Captain Burt E. Skeel, and was used as an aerial gunnery range until the onset of World War II.

A 5,000 foot hard-surface runway was built in 1942 when the camp was renamed Oscoda Army Air Field. The field was used to train Free French Forces pilots, and also operated as a transient aircraft stopover under the auspices of the Continental Air Command.

The base was renamed Wurtsmith Air Force Base in 1953 after Michigan native Major General Paul Wurtsmith, who was killed when his B-25 Mitchell crashed near Cold Mountain, North Carolina in September 1946.

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Air Defense Command Use

The base became a permanent installation in 1951 when the United States Air Force designated it as a fighter-interceptor training base for the Air Defense Command's (ADC) 30th Air Division. ADC interceptor squadrons based at Wurtsmith were:

Flew the North American F-86A/F/D Sabre
  • 18th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (1953-1960)
Flew the Convair F-102A Delta Dart
  • 445th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (1955-1968)
Flew the Northrup F-89H/j Scorpion and the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo
  • 31st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (1956-1957)
Flew the Convair F-102A Delta Dart
Flew the McDonnell F-101B/F Voodoo
  • 94th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (1969-1971)
Flew the Convair F-106 Delta Dart
Flew the Convair F-106 Delta Dart

Strategic Air Command Use

The Strategic Air Command's 4026th Strategic Wing was activated at Wurtsmith on 1 Aug 1958. It appears it was one of SAC's B-52's dispersal wings, a part of SAC's plan to disburse its big bombers over a larger number of bases, thus making it more difficult for the Soviet Union to knock out the entire fleet with a surprise first strike. The 920th Refueling Group's KC-135 Stratotankers were transferred to the 4026th from Turner AFB, Georgia in July 1960. It was inactivated on 9 Jan 1961.

SAC's 40th Air Division was reactivated in July 1959 and assigned to Eighth Air Force with headquartered at Wurtsmith AFB. The Division was the parent unit of four SAC wings and advisor to three Aerial Reserve Force units. The Division's mission was to supervise and monitor the operation of the 379th and 410th Bombardment Wings, the 305th Aerial Refueling Wing, the 351st Strategic Missile Wing, the 128th Aerial Refueling Group, and the 931st Aerial Refueling Group.

In 1960, SAC decided Wurtsmith would be an ideal location to house the new Boeing B-52H Stratofortress model bombers, as well as KC-135 Stratotankers that would refuel them in mid-air. The Air Force extended the runway to 12,000 feet in 1959, and on May 9, 1961, the 379th Bombardment Wing's 524th Bomb Squadron took delivery of its first B-52H, the "State of Michigan."

The 379th and its subordinate units' mission was to operate at full readiness, and support activities included aircraft and vehicle maintenance, bombing crew and unit training, and air refueling support. The wing did not deploy aircraft or crews to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, as the B-52H was dedicated to strategic deterrence

In 1977, the 379th exchanged their B-52Hs for the conventional bomb capable B-52G. In 1989, the Air Force selected Wurtsmith as one of seven bases that would house LGM-118A Peacekeeper ICBM Peacekeeper Rail Garrison. A Rail Garrison would address the survivability problem by which 25 trains, each with two missiles, would use the national railroad system to conceal themselves. It was intended that this system would become operational in late 1992, but budgetary constraints and the changing international situation led to it being scrapped.

Retirement of the B-52G began in the late 1980s in accordance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), however the Gulf War of 1990-1991 resulted in a temporary delay in the inactivation of B-52G units. Wurtsmith-based B-52Gs were flown on missions against Iraq staged out of Prince Abdullah AB in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and part of the 1708th Bomb Wing (Provisional), a temporary wing formed from B-52s out of Barksdale AFB, Castle AFB, Wurtsmith AFB, and others. The planes arrived at dawn on the first day of the air war. One plane flew 29 missions out of Jeddah, the most of any bomber crew in the theater.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union further accelerated B-52G retirements and led the U.S. Air Force to inactivate the Strategic Air Command in 1992. As a result of this action, nearly all KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft were transferred to the newly-established Air Mobility Command (AMC), while all B-52 Stratofortresses, along with all B-1 Lancers, FB-111s, and the soon-to-be operational B-2 Spirits were transferred to the newly-esablished Air Combat Command (ACC). As a result of this action, Wurtsmith was also transferred to ACC control.

Wurtsmith AFB closed on June 30, 1993 as a result of the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, which determined that the development of new weapons and long-range satellite surveillance systems rendered many installations unnecessary. On the overcast foggy morning of December 15, 1992, the last B-52G, AF Serial No. 57-6492, the "Old Crow Express," was flown to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for storage.

Major SAC Units Assigned

Redesignated 379th Wing (1991-1992)

Present operation

The Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport became a public airport in 1993. It now occupies a portion of the base and is primarily used for cargo and light general aviation activities; there is no scheduled airline service. The Airport offers 24-hour near all weather daily access. The former USAF air traffic control tower is not operational and the airport's UNICOM frequency is 123.0 MHz, which doubles as a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). Automated weather is available by monitoring the ASP VOR on 116.1 MHz or by telephone at (989)739-1310. Services are available through Oscoda Aviation Services at (989)739-8486.[1]

The Wurtsmith Base Conversion Authority terminated in 1994, when the Charter Township of Oscoda took over as the Redevelopment Authority. The Authority was organized under Michigan Public Act 206 of 1957. It has five municipal constituents: Oscoda Township, AuSable Township, Greenbush Township, Iosco County and Alcona County. The purpose of the Authority is generally to operate and maintain a public airport. The Michigan Legislature created the Wurtsmith Renaissance Zone in 1997, which exempted businesses and residents of the 5,000 acre (20 km²) zone from all state and most local taxes.

Kalitta Air has a large operation at the airport. Other tenants at the former base include the Aune Medical Center, Alcona Health Center Dental Clinic, Alpena Community College, Yankee Air Force Museum - Wurtsmith Division, and numerous private businesses. The former military housing units have been refurbished by the Villages of Oscoda, and now serve as a major population base in the Oscoda area.

Environmental concerns

On January 18, 1994, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to add Wurtsmith Air Force Base to the National Priorities List. This would make the base a Superfund site. The proposal was driven by the discovery of contaminated groundwater on the base. Contaminants of primary concern include metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and volatile organic compounds, including trichloroethylene, 1,1-dichloroethane, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and vinyl chloride.[2] Knowledge of the contaminated soil and groundwater have been known since 1977, and cleanup efforts began before the Superfund program was created. In 1999 and 2001, Soil vapor extraction systems were added to remove the volatile organic compounds from the site. Since 2004, bioventing and biosparging systems have been cleaning the soil and groundwater as well.[3]

See also

References

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

  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office 1961 (republished 1983, Office of Air Force History, ISBN 0-912799-02-1).
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • 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
  • USAF Aerospace Defense Command publication, The Interceptor, January 1979 (Volume 21, Number 1).

External links


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