Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Barksdale: From Field to Air Force Base

Construction of Barksdale Field. Philip & Vickie Hardin Collection; 2011.053.001-45.
In 1931, construction began on the world's largest airfield (over 22,000 acres), Barksdale Field. In the fall of 1932, the 20th Pursuit Group arrived from Mather Field as Barksdale Field's first combat organization. The formal dedication ceremony for Barksdale Field was Feb. 2, 1933. Just before its fifteenth anniversary in 1948, it was announced that Barksdale Field would be operating under a new name.

Bossier Parish Library History Center Collection; 2001.007.171.

The following announcement appeared in the Jan 29th issue of The Planters Press, "As announced officially, the permanent military base adjoining Bossier now is officially 'Barksdale Air Force Base' its name having been changed from 'Barksdale Field,' which it bore for years, since 1932, to be exact, until January 22, 1948.

"The change is in accord with a general order from Washington, redesignating all of the U.S. air force air fields to U. S. air force bases, according to notice from First Lieut. John W. Hassard, public information officer, Barksdale Air Force Base, received by The Planters Press.

"The base is now the headquarters of the air training command, and the location of air force advanced multi-engine and instrument flying schools.

"The air force is no longer known as 'Army Air Force' but 'United States Air Force.'

"In order to be accurate, the readers of The Planters Press are urged from now on to refer to the base in Bossier, one of the largest on earth, as 'Barksdale Air Force Base.'"

Bossier Parish Library History Center Collection; VF2019.023-11.

The general order mentioned in the article was the National Security Act, Sept. 18, 1947, which established the United States Air Force as an independent branch of the United States military. Since 1941, it had been known as the U.S. Army Air Forces, and from 1926-1941 it was the U.S. Army Air Corps. The first major U.S. aviation combat force was created during WWI, known as the Air Service, U.S. Army from 1918-1926.

Barksdale Air Force Base is 87 years old and has a long record of outstanding service to its credit. After the second world war, Barksdale became a peacetime training center, becoming home to the Air Training Command. After the name was changed, it became the first Air Force all-jet strategic reconnaissance/bomber aircraft, the North American RB-45 Tornado, and the 2nd Air Force headquarters, bringing Barksdale into the Strategic Air Command.

More recently, Barksdale was called upon by the National Command Authority to spearhead the global war on terrorism shortly after the terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001. To this day, Barksdale's men and women continue to serve both at home and abroad to support the global war on terrorism. Since Barksdale's beginning, it has contributed vital human resources and facilities to our nation's military.

As the nation celebrates the United States Air Force's 73rd birthday this Friday, this writer would like to recognize Barksdale Air Force Base for 87 years of defending liberty. Thank you to all the men and women of yesterday, today, and tomorrow for your sacrifice and dedication in defending our freedom.

To learn more about Barksdale Air Force Base, visit the Bossier Parish Library History Center, 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City. We have many photographs of and relating to Barksdale Air Force Base in our collection, including aerial photos, aircraft, architecture, celebrations, and the original postcard collection of Barksdale Field.

These images and more can also be accessed online by visiting the Bossier Parish Library History Center Collection online database at Select keyword search, then type in "Barksdale Air Force Base" (be sure to use the quotes) and enjoy.

By: Amy Robertson

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