|SAC Bases: MacDill
Air Force Base
Construction of the base,
acquired for the Army Air Corps, started Nov. 28, 1939, with the clearing of the
land. People began arriving from Barksdale Field, La., along with
600 men and 14 planes from Langley Field, Va., in 1940. By May, more than
1,000 people were assigned to the new base. The first aircraft arrived May
MacDill Army Air Base was officially activated April
16, 1941, named after Col. Leslie MacDill, who was killed in an airplane
crash near Washington D.C., Nov. 9, 1938. The first commander was
Col. Clarence L. Tinker. MacDill's first mission was
transitional training. During World War II, airmen in every operational
theater trained at MacDill in B-17 Flying Fortress and B-26 Marauder aircraft.
From 1941 to 1943, the host units assigned to the base were the 29th, 44th and
21st Bombardment Groups. I
its SAC career as a B-29 training base
||In 1951, it
began its transition to B-47s and KC-97s
After World War II,
MacDill became an operational base of the Strategic Air Command. In early
1946, people began training in B-29 Superfortress aircraft under the 498th Bombardment Group. The
498th was inactivated Aug. 4, 1946. The many SAC units stationed at MacDill between
1946 and 1960 included the 305th 306th, and 307th Bombardment Groups, the 311th
Reconnaissance Wing and the 6th Air Division.
In February 1951, the 307th deployed to Okinawa for
the Korean conflict. It was one of the first units to move its fighting
forces overseas but was still attached to MacDill during its deployment.
The 306th BG was at MacDill from September 1950
until March 1963. The 305th BG was at MacDill from January 1951 until May
1959. All of these units flew B-29 Superfortress, B-47 Stratojet and KC-97 Stratofreighter aircraft. The 306th also flew the B-50 Superfortress, an
updated version of the B-29D.
The Department of Defense announced Nov. 28, 1960,
that activity at MacDill would be reduced and a major portion of the base would
be closed by June 1962. However, in 1961, increasing tensions with Cuba
led to the activation of the U.S. Strike Command, headquartered at
MacDill. Instead of closing, MacDill assumed a dual role with a fighter
force and Strike Command.
In 1962, MacDill transitioned from SAC to Tactical
Air Command. The last SAC B-47 left the base in March 1963.
From April 1962 to 1964 the base was home to F-84 Thunderstreaks. MacDill aircrews then began training for transition to the
McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom II jet aircraft in November 1963. By March 1965,
MacDill became the first base in the Air Force with two operation-ready F-4C
wings, the 12th and 15th Tactical Fighter Wings. Both wings transitioned
from the F-84s. The base registered another first in December 1964,
when a squadron of jets deployed to Okinawa on a rotating basis. These
aircraft performed an air defense role.
In July 1965, pilots of the 45th Tactical Fighter
Squadron, the first F-4 unit in Southeast Asia, were credited with the first air
victory of the Vietnam conflict, downing two North Vietnamese MiG-17s. The
45th Tactical Fighter Squadron, a unit of the 15th TFW, was on temporary duty
overseas, although its permanent home remained MacDill. Later that year,
the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing was transferred to Vietnam. At that time,
the mission of the 15th TFW became that of a replacement training unit, training
pilots in the F-4 for future combat missions in Southeast Asia.
The 4424th Combat Crew Training Squadron, a B-57
Canberra unit from Clark Air Base, Philippines, was transferred to MacDill in
November 1968. Another B-57 unit, the 13th Bombardment Squadron, was
transferred from the Philippines to MacDill in February 1969.
The first remodeled B-57 -- the "G" version --
arrived at MacDill in May 1970. The basic design was not altered; however,
the fuselage was lengthened and superchargers were added to the engines for more
thrust. Many electronic sensing devices were added to the aircraft,
extending its capabilities for night interdiction missions. In September
1970, the 12th was transferred back to Southeast Asia.
In June 1970, the 43rd Tactical Fighter Squadron of
the 15th TFW was permanently assigned to the Alaskan Air Command and stationed
at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, to assist that command with its mission of
air defense. The 15th was inactivated Oct. 1, 1970, and the 1st Tactical
Fighter Wing, formerly at Hamilton Air Force Base, Calif., was activated at
MacDill. In 1971, the wing returned to training F-4 air crews.
In January 1972, the U.S. Readiness Command was
activated as the successor to the U.S. Strike Command. A little less than
a year later, the 1st TFW was transferred to Langley Air Force Base, Va., and
the 56th Tactical Fighter Wing was activated at MacDill. The wing retained
the role of training air crews, first in the F-4E and later in the F-4D.
In October 1979, the wing began converting from the
F-4D to the Air Force's newest fighter, the F-16A Fighting Falcon. Two
years later, the wing was redesignated the 56th Tactical Training Wing.
The wing completed its conversion to the F-16 in July 1982.
The Rapid Deployment Task Force was activated at
MacDill by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in March 1980. Following the F-16 conversion, the structure of the
base began to change. Beginning in January 1983, the U.S. Central Command
activated on the same site as the inactivated Rapid Deployment Joint Task
Force. MacDill gained another unified command, U.S. Special Operations
Command, when it activated in April 1987.
In April 1991, the Defense Base Realignment. and
Closure Commission recommended MacDill cease all flight operations by September
1993. Later in the year, the 56th Tactical Training Wing was redesignated
the 56th Fighter Wing. Air Force restructuring also brought changes to the
base. The 56th FW became part of the newly formed Air Combat Command June
1, 1992. Later that month, downsizing actions inactivated the 72nd Fighter
Squadron, leaving the base with three flying squadrons.
Later that year, two organizations announced their
intent to make MacDill part of their operations. In October, the
Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
announced plans to move to the base. In December, plans were made to
temporarily relocate the 482nd Fighter Wing, a Reserve unit, from Homestead Air
Force Base, Fla., following the destruction of that base by Hurricane Andrew.
With the new year came other changes to the
base. In February 1993, the 63rd Fighter Squadron completed its move of
flight operations from MacDill to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., in accordance with
legislative action resulting from the 1991 BRACC recommendations. The 62nd
Fighter Squadron followed, leaving in May. The last fighter squadron --
the 61st -- left in August.
Early in 1994, the 482nd FW returned to Homestead,
which was rebuilt as a Reserve base. Also the host unit at MacDill, the
56th Fighter Wing transferred its people and equipment to MacDill's new host
unit, the 6th Air Base Wing. The 56th then moved to Luke.
As the host unit of MacDill, the 6th's mission
became "providing support to America's premier warfighting commands -- U.S.
Central Command, and U.S. Special Operations Command. MacDill is also the
home of the Joint Communications Support Element, the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, and several Department of Defense organizations.
MacDill's strategic location and outstanding
airfield capabilities were highlighted in September 1994, when the base became a
major staging area for Operation Restore Democracy in Haiti. MacDill
supported C-130 units from Texas, Arkansas and North Carolina.
In 1995, the Defense Base Realignment and Closure
Commission recommended keeping the MacDill flight line open and to relocate an
active flying mission back to MacDill. To help ease the lack of refueling
aircraft located in the southeast United States, the commission further
identified the 43rd Air Refueling Group from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.,
along with its 12 KC-135 Stratotankers , to transfer to MacDill in October
1996. MacDill's host unit -- the 6th Air Base Wing -- was redesignated
Oct. 1, 1996, as the 6th Air Refueling Wing under 21st Air Force and Air
Mobility Command. The 43rd ARG was inactivated at Malmstrom.
Avon Park Air Force Range in central Florida was a
detachment of the 6th Air Base Wing until Oct. 1, 1996, and provided DOD
organizations with coordinated air and ground operations training. The
range is operated from MacDill by Detachment 1 of the 347th Operations Group,
whose home wing is at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.
Reflecting on its varied roles, the mission of the
6th Air Refueling Wing is "dedicated Air Force professionals providing
proven and unequaled worldwide air refueling and airlift, global reach and power
projection for America and world-class air base support for our resident war fighting commands.