History page for the 19th Airlift Wing and Little Rock Air Force Base

More than 60 years of History

More than 60 years of History

History of LRAFB


- In 1951, the Air Force wanted to build a base in central US. Local citizens wanted that base in Little Rock, but congress said there wasn’t any money for it. Local leaders convinced congress they would buy land and donate it for the base.

- By the end of Sept 1952, the Pulaski County Citizens Council, (Currently LRAFB Community Council), had collected almost one million dollars, allowing the Air Base Committee to begin buying property from more than 150 private landowners near Jacksonville.

- That same month, the USAF announced it would build a $31 million jet bomber base on the site. Fundraising and land purchase took nearly 18 months, with construction beginning Nov. 6, 1953.

- First Units:

- Base assigned to Strategic Air Command, and by Aug. 1954 SAC had identified the 70th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, flying RB-47 Stratojet reconnaissance aircraft and KC-97 aerial refueling aircraft, as the first organization assigned to the base. SAC also assigned the new 384th Bombardment Wing (BW) to the new base, flying B-47 Stratojet bombers.

- First Airmen arrived in 1954 to no base housing, and had to live in the community.

- In January 1955, 70th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing officially activated at the not-yet-completed base, followed by the 384th Bombardment Wing in August.

- First base commander Col Joseph A. Thomas arrived February 1955 only to tragically die in the crash of the base's only aircraft, a C-45, after seeing base’s basic infrastructure finished.

- Base opened to air traffic Sept. 10, 1955, and was dedicated at open house celebration Oct. 9, 1955.

 - First Mission

- During these early years, the 70th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (SRW) performed operational reconnaissance missions flying b-47 Stratojets over the Soviet border, then added training to their mission, before leaving LRAFB in 1962.

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Historical Facts

-In 1952, Pulaski County Citizens Council raised $1.2 million for the purchase of land

-In January 1961, construction began on eighteen underground silos to house Titan II Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) across the region north of LRAFB. In September 1980, there was a nearby disaster in Titan II Missile Launch Complex 374-7 site in Southside (Van Buren County). A dropped tool pierced the missile's fuel tank causing it to eventually explode, killing one airman and injuring 21 people. The documentary, Command and Control tells the story of this disaster.

- During 2009, LRAFB and community council were awarded the Abilene Trophy.

-  AMC Rodeo the 19AW won the Best C-130 Wing and Best Airdrop Wing awards in 2005. 

- Aircraft from the base flew 238 missions in Operation UNIFIED RESPONSE, after an earthquake demolished Haiti in January 2010.

- The local community also won the 2011 Abilene Trophy for best community support to an AMC base.

- The 314 AW, at the 2011 Rodeo, brought home nearly every C-130 Trophy that the 19th didn't bring home. The 314th was the best C-130 Wing in the Air Force in 2011.

LRAFB is hit by a tornado in April 2011. - The base faced its own disaster on 25 April 2011, when an EF-2 tornado carved a five-mile path from North Pulaski High School, straight through the base housing area, and across the flightline. The storm damaged or destroyed more than 120 homes, five C-130s, and 50 other base facilities but only injured four people. Community support was immense and fairly immediate.

- LRAFB was the international hub for international aid flowing in from other countries after Hurricane Katrina.

Catching a moment in time

Yesterday's Air Force