HISTORY OF LARSON AFB
FROM P-38'S TO TITANS ( a military pamphlet for incoming soldiers)
Situated near an old camp where Chief Moses once trafficked in buffalo hides and horses, Larson AFB has come a long way to its "new look" as a missile and supersonic bomber base. Only five miles from the city of Moses lake, Washington, Larson's original name was Moses Lake Army Air Base. First activated on 24 November 1942 as a temporary World War II training center, Larson's first mission was to train pilots for P-38's and later to train combat crews for the B-17 Flying fortress.
In 1945 --at the end of the war -- Moses Lake Air Force Base activity was curtailed to a standby status. During the following three year period the base was used as a testing site for two of Boeing's aircraft, the B-47 Stratojet and the B-50. It was from this base, in February 1949, that the B-47 began its record-breaking cross country speed run to Andrews AFB, Maryland, completing the flight in three hours and forty five minutes.
Reopened as a permanent installation in November 1948, under the Air Defense Command, F-82's, F-94 Star Fires, and finally F-86 Sabrejets patrolled the Pacific Northwest with the primary mission of protecting the vital Hanford atomic works Grand Coulee Dam, and other strategic points against possible enemy attack.
In May 1950, Moses Lake AFB was redesignated Larson Air Force Base in honor of Major Donald A. Larson, a WW II ace from Yakima,Washington who was killed in action over Germany in 1944.
On April 1,1952, Larson was placed under tactical air command, and the 62d Troop Carrier Wing (Heavy) was reassigned from McChord AFB,Washington, to Larson to assume command of the base and its tenant organizations.
Several times in its eight years as a headquarters of the 62d's troop and cargo carrying C-124 Globemasters, Larson was prominent in nationwide-and world wide -news, in such missions as a construction of the Distant Early Warning Line and White Alice communications network in the Arctic, mercy flights to flood-ravaged East Pakistan, and, more recently, in missions to Formosa, North Africa, Saudi Arabia, South America, and in the "Down Range" project from Florida to Ascension Island.
Sharing Larson's operation facilities with the Globemasters from 1955 until 1959 was another famous aircraft, Boeing's B-52 Stratofortress. The first B-52 arrived at the AMC Flight Test Center in February 1955. The Sratofortress program was discontinued in 1959.
Larson became a Continental Division, MATS, base on 1 July 1957. In June of the following year, under the reorganization of MATS' subcommands, this base became a member of the newly-created Western Transport Air Force (WESTAF).
On July 1 1959, a nucleus force of the Strategic Air Command was assigned to this base to coordinate matters between MATS and SAC, preparatory to the latter's assumption of base command after the close of the calendar year. On 1 January 1960, MATS' 62d Troop carrier Wing relinquished command of Larson to SAC's 4170th Strategic Wing.
With a ground-breaking ceremony in December 1959, three missile-launching facilities for the Titan intercontinental ballistic missile program at Larson were begun. Thus, the general appearance and the entire mission of the base were undergoing radical changes at the dawn of the first day 1960. Within the space of a little more than a year, this base has acquired an operational SAGE system, and two powerful striking forces: A SAC wing and a Titan missile organization (p.3).
The Larson Air Force Base Guide and Directory was published circa 1961.
Numerous articles and editorials in the Columbia Basin Herald and other regional newspapers reflect the impact of LAFB's closure on eastern Washington communities.
OUR MONDAY POTPOURRI of editorial opinion from the Columbia Basin's weekly press:
Grant County Journal, Ephrata -- The world looks different when you're lying on your back--because only then are you looking up. This may be the thought of a lot of people in the Moses Lake-Ephrata-Soap Lake area following disclosure of plans to close Larson Air Force Base by June 30, 1966.
The full realization that this important part of our life and economy may not be with us much longer is a little numbing. It is hard to realize how we can continue to prosper without its $15 million annual payroll and the $4 1/2 million that is spent locally with suppliers.
It is even more shocking to realize that we will lose the base population of 8,000 people, 2,500 of school age, if plans for the big installation's closing are carried out.
The Grant County Public Utility District will miss the $200,000 it receives annually for electricity and the oil and gas companies will miss the $500,000 spent annually for heating, not to mention the giant fuel bills for its fleet of B-52 bombers and KC-135 tankers.
St. Rose of Lima school will miss the four-bus-loads of youngsters who make the daily trip to school during the school year. Service stations, automobile agencies and appliance dealers and hosts of others will be hit hard by the shut down of the base. In many respects, Moses Lake will be much harder hit than Ephrata--but that does not lessen the blow to other communities who must now join hands as never before to try to salvage something worth-while out of the disaster that has struck.
If the decision to move the 462nd Strategic Aerospace Wing to March Air Force Base and the closure of Larson is a feasible economic move that will not impair the defense of the United States, then we have very little argument against its closing. After all, most of us are for anything that will allow our government to operate more efficiently without curtailment of our protection. We must all demand to know the full facts behind the decision to close Larson, however, before giving in without a fight.
If we have been knocked flat on our backs by this news, let us look upward and see what we can find to take its place. Let us list the assets that remain, rather than the liabilities. We have:
One perfectly good Air Force installation, consisting of 9,560 acres, on which are located 1,153 buildings, and some of the finest and longest runways and taxiways in the nation.
Housing for 8,000 people, including 4,124 military personnel and their families. There are 1,335 modern family homes on the base and a number of good barracks, some of them practically new.
One of the largest and finest maintenance and repair installations in the northwest in a huge complex formerly occupied and operated by Boeing Aircraft Co. It is ideal for manufacturing or servicing, particularly in the field of space and aeronautics.
Our communities have more than 18 months to do something to keep alive the profitable operating of Larson Air Force Base in some manner that will fill an important segment of our economy. It can't be picked up and relocated. It can't be moved closer to Ephrata or Soap Lake or farther away from Moses Lake. There can be no quarelling about location or who will benefit most if we find something to replace the Strategic Air Command at Larson.
Now is the time for concerted action. If ever the tri-cities of Moses Lake, Ephrata and Soap Lake needed to join hands to look upward toward future potentials of Larson Air Force Base, the time is now. There is much at stake for all [of] us. Let us hang our crying towels on the rack and wipe the tears from our eyes. We're flat on our back and we're looking up. Let us not divert attention from this high objective.