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Farmland roots bear 80 years of American Freedom

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland
  • 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
More than 80 years ago a 22,000-acre cotton field gave birth to more than just the cotton planted by a Northwestern Louisianan, from that fertile soil grew Barksdale Air Force Base and home of the oldest bomb wing of the Air Force.

The dedication of Barksdale Field, in honor of 2nd Lt Eugene Hoy Barksdale, on Feb. 2, 1933, would begin an illustrious career that has housed many units over its 80 year span and has been in many of the country's engagements throughout the military's history.

Even before the official dedication of the base, the 20th Pursuit Group, which later became the 20th Operations Group at Shaw AFB, S.C., began aerial training here with Boeing P-12's for engaging hostile air targets.

By the mid-1930s the 3rd Attack Wing, which is still serving today at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, brought the Curtis A-12 and Northrop A-17 to make Barksdale Field its new home. Both the 3rd Wing and 20th Pursuit Group used Barksdale Field to hone gunnery and bombing skills that would be used in the coming wars.

After November of 1940, Barksdale transitioned into an Air Corps flying school where the airfield trained many of the replacement crews and entire units that were sent downrange to fight in World War II. The 17th Bomb Group, which would later be led by Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, trained here after completing their famous raid on Tokyo.

After the Air Force became its own service in 1947, Barksdale Field was renamed Barksdale Air Force Base in 1948. The following year, Barksdale became the home of the first Air Force strategic reconnaissance and bomber aircraft, the North American RB-45 Tornado, entered into the Strategic Air Command.

A decade later the B-52 landed and set up camp for its permanent home here. After a few years of waiting the 2nd Bomb Wing arrived at Barksdale to form the perfect marriage of wing and plane and promptly sent the eager young aircraft on its missions to Southeast Asia to support missions such as Linebacker II, Arc Light and Young Tiger during the Vietnam War. During the war, the 8th Air Force Headquarters was installed here and began the partnership of more than three decades.

Barksdale has had many accomplishments during these past 80- years some of which include: a visit from space shuttle Columbia in 1990 and space shuttle Endeavor in 2008, Operation Just Cause, Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm where we flew the longest combat sortie in history at that time; 35 hours. Barksdale even provided a safe haven for former President George Bush on Sept. 11, 2001. Barksdale then played a key role in Operation Enduring Freedom providing devastating combat capability.

For the past 80 years Barksdale has paved the way and provided stepping stones for other major commands within the Air Force and continues to enable the success of our expeditionary Air Force. Barksdale and its Airmen will remain ready to conduct air operations - from training and maintaining our wartime proficiencies to ensuring our families are prepared to endure our absence during a deployment.

Some information and photos for this article courtesy Dennis Pinner, 2nd Bomb Wing historian.