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George Air Force Base
(Victorville Army Air Field, Victorville Air Force Base)
 

George Air Force Base (1941–1992) is a former United States Air Force base located 8 miles Northwest of Victorville, California, about 75 miles Northeast of Los Angeles, California.

It was closed by the Base Realignment and Closure (or BRAC) 1992 commission at the end of the Cold War.

George Air Force Base was named in honor of Brig Gen Harold Huston George (1892–1942) on June 2, 1950. A World War I fighter ace, General George directed air operations in defense of the fortified islands in Manila Bay at the beginning of World War II. He died on April 29, 1942 in an aircraft accident near Darwin NT, Australia.

Major Commands to which assigned:

Major Units assigned:

World War II

George AFB, originally called the Victorville Army Flying School, was constructed between 1941 and 1943 as a flight training school. It was renamed Victorville Army Air Field on April 23, 1943, and after the creation of the United States Air Force, Victorville Air Force Base on January 13, 1948. Known World War II units based at Victorville AAF were:

Training began in February 1942 on Curtiss AT-9's, T-6 Texan's, and AT-17's for pilots, and AT-11's and BT-13 Valiant's for bombardiers. The first class of flying cadets graduated on April 24, 1942.

During 1943, the following aircraft were assigned: C-60A, C-47, C-53, L-4A, L-4E, L-3C, PT-15, L-3B, and CG-4A gliders.

In March, 1944, the 36th Flight Training Wing was activated as a school for P-39 single-engine pursuit pilots. The wing also included training crew members in the B-24 and B-25.

On October 12, 1945, all flying operations ceased, and the base was placed on standby status and used for surplus aircraft storage (mostly Boeing B-29s, Beechcraft AT-7s, and AT-11s) Its carekeeper host unit was renamed the 2756th Air Base Squadron in January 1948 after the establishment of the United States Air Force.

Cold War

Flight training remained the primary mission of George AFB throughout the Cold War and a number of bomber, glider, single engine, twin engine, and jet fighter aircraft were flown by the various organizations assigned.

George AFB was assigned to Continental Air Command, October 10, 1950, reassigned to Air Defense Command, January 1, 1951 reassigned to Strategic Air Command on July 23, 1951, then assigned to Tactical Air Command in November 1951.

Primary USAF Wings Assigned

1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing

The initial USAF unit assigned to George AFB was the Continental Air Command's (ConAC) 1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, being reassigned from March AFB, California on July 18, 1950. Operational squadrons of the 1st FIW were:

The 1st FIW Headquarters was normally assigned to George, however during its time at George, its 27th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was detached to Griffiss AFB, New York for attachment to the Eastern Air Defense Force (EADF). The 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was attached to Air Force Reserve/Air National Guard facility at Pittsburgh International Airport, Pennsylvania, also as part of the EADF.

Air Defense Command (ADC) was reestablished as a major command on January 1, 1951. Continental Air Command lost responsibility for air defense on that date and the wing was reassigned to ADC.

In May, 1951 the 27th and the 71st were attached to the 103d Fighter-Interceptor Wing, which provided administrative and logistical support and operational control, although the squadrons remained assigned to the 1st Fighter Group. Air Defense Command planners recognized that the policy of deploying squadrons over a wide area negated whatever advantages may have accrued from the establishment of the wing-base plan in 1948. In the case of the 1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, a wing headquarters stationed in California could provide only limited control and virtually no support to squadrons deployed on the East Coast.

With the exception of the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, and the three fighter-interceptor squadrons, all 1st Fighter-interceptor Wing organizations and the group headquarters were reduced to a strength of one officer and one enlisted man on November 30, 1951, at which time the wing moved from George to Norton Air Force Base, California. The 94th FIS remained at George until 1955 when it was reassigned to Selfridge AFB, Michigan.

Other ADC squadrons assigned to the Western Air Defense Force at George were:

479th Tactical Fighter Wing

The 479th Fighter-Bomber Wing was activated at George AFB on December 1, 1952. It was redesignated as the 479th Fighter-Day Wing on February 15, 1954, and the 479th Tactical Fighter Wing on July 1, 1958. Replaced the 131st Fighter-Bomber Wing at George AFB.

35th Tactical Fighter Wing

The 35th Tactical Fighter Wing reactivated at George Air Force Base, Califoinia, on October 1, 1971, where it replaced the 479th Tactical Fighter Wing. The wing's mission at George was to take over the mission of training F-4 flight crews. Its operational squadrons (Tail Code: GA) were:

With the arrival of F-105F/G aircraft from the 388th TFW at Korat RTAFB, Thailand in July 1973, the wing began training aircrews for radar detection and suppression or "Wild Weasel" missions in addition to other F-4 training. By 1975, with the arrival of new F-4G aircraft, the wing was training aircrews exclusively in Wild Weasel operations for deployment to operational units in Okinawa and Germany.

McDonnell F-4D-28-MC Phantom II AF Serial No. 65-0672, 4452th Combat Crew Training Squadron June 10, 1972. Retired to AMARC as FP0308 on September 20, 1989.
McDonnell Douglas F-4E-43-MC Phantom II AF Serial No. 69-7254/WW in F-4G configuration awaits its turn at Mojave for conversion to a 'Red Tail' Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) drone. White fin cap indicates aircraft was assigned to the 563 TFS, deactivated October 1989. Converted to QF-4G AF-209. Expended as target June 4, 2002.
Republic F-105F-1-RE Thunderchief, AF Serial No. 63-8320 of the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron, 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, George Air Force Base, California, November 1973. Converted to F-105G in 1972. This aircraft scored 3 MiG kills in Vietnam with the 388th TFW and is currently on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In 1980, the wing received the new F-4G and its advanced Wild Weasel system. By July 1980, the last F-105G left George Air Force Base, leaving the 35th with F-4Gs in its inventory for Wild Weasel training.

Operations at George Air Force Base were reorganized by mission requirements March 30, 1981. The 35th Tactical Fighter Wing retained control of the 20th and 21st Tactical Fighter Training Squadrons and gained the 39th Tactical Fighter Squadron.

With the inactivation of the 39th Tactical Fighter Squadron in 1985, the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing was redesignated the 35th Tactical Training Wing. However, the wing kept its air defense augmentation responsibility. It provided operations and maintenance support for the close air support portion of Army training exercises conducted at the U.S. Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., from 1981 to 1990. Also, the wing advised specific Air National Guard units on F-4 operations from 1981 to 1991.

The new 37th Tactical Fighter Wing assumed the 561st and 562nd Tactical Fighter Squadrons active Wild Weasel missions in 1981. This training ended in 1989 when the 37th TFW was reassigned to Tonopah Test Range Nevada assuming F-117A operational development.

Operations at George Air Force Base were reorganized again October 5, 1989. The 37th Tactical Fighter Wing and the 35th Tactical Training Wing consolidated all operations under the newly redesignated 35th Tactical Fighter Wing. Under the reorganization the 35th regained control of the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron and the 562nd Tactical Fighter Training Squadron.

In August 1990, the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing mobilized in support of Operation Desert Shield. On August 16, 1990, 24 F-4Gs of the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron left George Air Force Base enroute to Shaikh Isa Air Base, Bahrain. Once in the Middle East, its deployed people established operational, maintenance and living facilities for the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional). These facilities eventually housed more than 60 active duty and Air National Guard F-4s and more than 2,600 military members.

During Operation Desert Storm, which started January 17, 1991, the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron flew 1,182 combat sorties for a total of 4,393.5 hours. The 35th Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional) was credited with flying 3,072 combat missions for 10,318.5 hours. U.S. Central Command relied heavily on the wing's Wild Weasels to suppress enemy air defense systems. The F-4G aircrews were credited with firing 905 missiles at Iraqi targets, while the RF-4C aircrews shot more than 300,000 feet of vital reconnaissance film. During operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional) suffered no casualties. The wing's people began returning to George Air Force Base March 23, 1991, with its aircraft and pilots following three days later.

The 35th became the host unit for George Air Force Base when the 831st Air Division there inactivated on March 31, 1991. As a result, the wing gained several support agencies, including the 35th Combat Support Group and associated squadrons. In support of the Air Force's force reduction programs, the 21st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron inactivated June 28, 1991. That October, as part of the Air Force's reorganization plan, the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing was redesignated the 35th Fighter Wing. A month later, the wing's tactical fighter squadrons were redesignated fighter squadrons.

In 1992, the 35th began downsizing in preparation for the closure of George Air Force Base. On June 5, 1992, the 20th Fighter Squadron moved to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, and by the end of June, the 561st and 562d Fighter Squadrons were inactivated.

On December 15, 1992, the 35th Fighter Wing inactivated and George Air Force Base closed bringing an end to 21 years of continuous service and more than 34 years of total service for the 35 FW.

Secondary USAF Wings Assigned

52d Bombardment Wing (Light)

As a result of the Korean War, the Long Beach Municipal Airport, California Air Force Reserve 452d Bombardment Wing (Light) was mobilized at George AFB and ordered to active duty August 10, 1950. Four squadrons (728th, 729th, 730th, 731st) of Douglas B-26 Invaders.

The wing was deployed to Itazuke AB Japan October 1950. It was the first Air Force Reserve wing to fly combat missions in Korea.

116th Fighter-Bomber Wing

The 116th Fighter-Bomber Wing was a Washington Air National Guard unit activated to federal service during the Korean War. Received five Republic F-84G Thunderjets becoming the first Guard unit west of the Mississippi River to be equipped with the jets. On February 1, 1951, as a result of the Korean Conflict, the 116th Fighter Squadron received new North American F-86A Sabres.

The 116th FBW was ordered to RAF Shepherds Grove, England, in August 1951 to bolster NATO forces in Europe. The move was the first time in aviation history that a full tactical fighter squadron had crossed an ocean.

131st Fighter-Bomber Wing

The 131st Fighter-Bomber Wing was a federalized Missouri Air National Guard unit during the Korean War. It was assigned to George during August 1951

The wing trained at George with North American F-51D Mustangs. It was relieved from active duty and returned to state control on December 1, 1952.

21st Fighter-Bomber Wing

The 21st Fighter-Bomber Wing was activated at George on January 1, 1953 with three (72d, 416th and 531st) Fighter-Bomber squadrons, equipped with F-86F Sabres.

At George, the wing established and maintained tactical proficiency and provided air defense augmentation. In December 1954, the wing was assigned to NATO and was reassigned to Chambley-Bussieres Air Base, France.

413th Tactical Fighter Wing

The 413th Tactical Fighter Wing was activated at George on November 11, 1954 as the 413th Fighter-Bomber Wing. It was initially equipped with four (1st, 21st, 34th, and 474th) F-86H squadrons.

Transitioned to the F-100D/F in 1958, becoming the 413th TFW. The wing trained to achieve and maintain combat readiness by participation in tactical exercises, firepower demonstrations, joint training with US Army and US Marine Corps units, and tactical evaluations. Provided augmentation of Sixteenth Air Force to Morón Air Base Spain through deployment of assigned squadrons on a rotational basis, 1958–1959. The 1st Fighter Day Squadron was commanded by Lt-Col Chuck Yeager from April 1957 to its deactivation in March 1959.

The wing was deactivated on March 15, 1959 for budgetary reasons. 34th TFS was inactivated and personnel and F-100s of three other squadrons were reassigned to incoming 31st TFW.

31st Tactical Fighter Wing

On March 15, 1959 the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing was activated without personnel or equipment at George AFB, and absorbed the personnel and equipment of the inactivated 413th TFW.

The 31st was previously assigned to Turner AFB, Georgia as a Strategic Air Command fighter wing and had transferred its F-100s to the 354th TFW at Myrtle Beach AFB South Carolina in 1956 after SAC turned all of its strategic escort fighters over to Tactical Air Command. The 31st was maintained as an inactive "paper unit" by TAC with no personnel or equipment assigned until it was reactivated at George.

The reassignment equipped three F-100D/F tactical fighter squadrons (306th, 308th, 309th) which were trained for operational capability. The 31st TFW was reassigned to Homestead AFB, Florida on May 31, 1962.

355th Tactical Fighter Wing

The 355th Tactical Fighter Wing was activated at George on April 13, 1962. Four operational tactical fighter squadrons (354th, 357th, 421st, and 469th) equipped with Republic F-105D/F aircraft. Trained in tactical fighter operations and deployed tactical squadrons overseas as required, primarily to combat duty in Southeast Asia.

354th TFS deployed to Korat and Takhli RTAFB Thailand January 24 – February 21, 1964, and May 2 – September 20, 1964 as a part of the USAF buildup of forces in Thailand.

The 355th TFW was reassigned to McConnell AFB, Kansas on July 21, 1964.

32d/8th Tactical Fighter Wing

On April 1, 1964, the 32d Tactical Fighter Wing was activated and being organized at George. Three fighter squadrons (68th, 433d and 497th) were equipped with F-4Ds.

On June 18, 1964, the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing was reassigned without personnel or equipment to George AFB from Itazuke AB, Japan as part of an overall effort to reduce the number of wings in Japan. The 8th TFW replaced and absorbed the resources of the 32d TFW. Operational squadrons of the 8th TFW at George were:

While at George AFB, the wing trained with the McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II fighter aircraft. The 68th TFS deployed to Korat RTAFB Thailand during July–December 1964, with the wing participated in numerous exercises, operational readiness inspections, and the like.

The entire 8th TFW was reassigned to Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand in December 1965 to commence combat operations in the Vietnam War.

37th Tactical Fighter Wing

The 37th Tactical Fighter Wing was activated at George on March 30, 1981 with F-4G/E Wild Weasel elements of the 35th TFW (561st, 562d, 563d TFS).

Squadrons returned to 35th TFW control October 5, 1989. 37th TFW reassigned to Tonopah Test Range, Nevada to conduct F-117 operations and training.

Closure

George Air Force Base was officially decommissioned in December 1992. In 1993, President Bill Clinton announced a "Five Part Plan" to speed economic recovery in communities where military bases were to be closed. One part of this plan called for improving public participation in the base's environmental cleanup program. George AFB was among a number of installations where environmental cleanup was placed on a "fast track" so base property could be quickly transferred to the community for reuse. Many of the old base housing homes and buildings are currently used by the Army and Marine Corps for urban warfare training.

 

Posted 8 March 2009


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