Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
Travis Air Force
Army Air Base, Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base)
Travis AFB is named in honor of Brigadier
General Robert F. Travis, who was killed in a B-29 crash at the
installation on 5 August 1950. At the time of his death, the
general was commander of the 9th Heavy Bombardment Wing and was
the base's commanding general. Formal dedication ceremonies were
held on 21 April 1951.
Although today Travis is the home of the
largest airlift organization in the Air Force, it began as an
isolated airstrip with a few tar paper shacks set in the middle
of a wind-swept prairie during World War II. Activated on 11
May 1943, the field was named Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base,
after the two closest--mostly agricultural--towns. Planned shortly
after Pearl Harbor, the base served as home for medium bombers
and fighters assigned to defend the West Coast. The first runway
and temporary buildings were constructed by the Army Corps of
Engineers in the summer of 1942. They were used initially by
Army and Navy fighter planes for takeoff and landing practice.
For a few months, the outline of an aircraft carrier's deck was
painted on the runway to help newly-commissioned Navy pilots
practice maneuvers. The strong local prevailing winds nearly
duplicated those at sea.
Shortly after construction began, however,
the base's potential as a major aerial port and supply transfer
point for the Pacific theater led the Army Air Corps to assign
it to the newly-designated Air Transport Command. The base officially
opened 1 June 1943, with a primary mission of servicing and ferrying
tactical aircraft from California across the Pacific to the war
zone. By 1945, the base had become the West Coast's largest aerial
port. The airlift of troops and supplies to occupied Japan and
Korea, and the processing of war-weary returning GIs, had become
the primary mission. On 1 June 1948, the Military Air Transport
Service assumed jurisdiction. In July, two of the base's air
transport squadrons left for Europe to assist in the Berlin Airlift.
On 1 May 1949, the Strategic Air Command
became the parent major command for the base, turning it into
a major long-range reconnaissance and intercontinental bombing
installation. For the next nine years, airlift operations became
secondary while the base served as home for SAC bombers such
as the B-29, B-36, and eventually, the B-52. During this period,
new hangers appeared, runways were added and widened, and permanent
barracks and family living quarters were built. The base grew
to its present size which encompasses 6,258 acres.
MATS resumed command of Travis AFB on
1 July 1958, after SAC's new dispersal policy led to the transfer
of the 14th Air Division to Beale AFB, California. The base became
headquarters the 1501st Air Transport Wing--1955; for MATS's
Western Transport Air Force (later Twenty-Second Air Force)--1958;
and the 60th Military Airlift Wing (later the 60th Airlift Wing,
later the 60th Air Mobility Wing)--1966. The 60th replaced the
1501st as the host unit on Travis on 8 January 1966. The 349
MAW (USAF Reserve) joined with the 60th when it moved from Hamilton
AFB, California, in 1969.
Travis became part of the Air Mobility
Command on 1 June 1992, when assets from MAC and SAC were fused
into a single team. AMC's primary mission is mobility for America's
armed forces. Travis supports this capability by deploying air
and air mobile forces anywhere in the world, and sustains them
in a conflict. The base has become the largest in AMC in terms
of aircraft and personnel. The only wing to fly both the C-5
"Galaxy" and the C-141 "Starlifter," the
base added the KC-10 "Extender" to its inventory in
With the addition of the KC-10 community,
and with other force structure changes, Travis AFB's construction
budget for Fiscal Years 1993 through 1997 totalled nearly $1
Two major facilities completed in 1995
included a new Child Development Center and the largest Base
Exchange in the Army and Air Force Exchange System.
Known as the "Gateway to the Pacific,"
Travis handles more cargo and passenger traffic through its aerial
port than any other military air terminal in the United States.
Additionally, the base has had a long and proud history of supporting
humanitarian airlift at home and around the world. Today, the
Travis Team includes approximately 7,260 active military, 3,770
civilians, and 4,250 reservists.
Fairfield-Susuin AAF by Justin M. Ruhge
Located at Fairfield, the airfield was
established on May 17, 1943. Construction began on July 6 1942.
The field was occupied on June 1,1943 by the 23rd Ferrying Group.
It became the Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base on January 13,
1948. The name was changed to Travis Air Force Base on October
20, 1950 and named in honor of Brigadier General Robert Falligant
Travis who commanded the 8th Air Force's 41st Combat Wing during
World War II. He personally led 35 combat missions. He was Commander
of the 9th Heavy Bombardment Wing in Strategic Air Command's
15th Air Force when he died on August 5, 1950 in a crash of a
B-29 at the field that bears his name.
Operations changed from processing and
ferrying of tactical aircraft to airlifting troops and cargo
after November 1944. Major construction programs included replacement
of temporary buildings with permanent structures, installing
underground fuel pipelines to Suisun Wharf and expansion of hangars,
runways and parking aprons between 1945 and 1946. A hospital
and other facilities were added in mid-1945, which enabled the
base to serve as the west coast's aerial embarkation and debarkation
point for the Pacific Theater. The primary base mission was changed
to long-range reconnaissance and strategic bombing when the Strategic
Air Command (SAC) assumed jurisdiction of the base in May 1949.