England Air Force Base: A Brief History
Creation During World War II
Through its history as Alexandria Army Air Base, then Alexandria Air Force Base, and finally England Air Force Base (EAFB), the business was airplanes, and defense of the nation.
This base was one of several military camps in the Alexandria area created during World War II and part of the Louisiana Maneuvers including Camp Livingston and Camp Claiborne. And in nearby Bossier City was located Barksdale Air Force Base.
B-17G purchased with War Bonds
England AFB has its roots as Alexandria Municipal Airport. In 1939, city officials recognized a need for a municipal airport to handle commercial air traffic. The site they selected was just northwest of the city, roughly between Bayou Rapides and Louisiana Highway 1. It consisted of McNutt Plantation, plus parts of two other plantations that together comprised a total of 1,339 acres.
As the threat of World War II approached, the Army Air Corps leased the airport from the City of Alexandria, for one dollar a year for the duration of the war plus six months.
It became known as Alexandria Army Air Base at its opening on October 21, 1942. The 799th Bombardment Squadron of the 2nd Air Force subsequently used the base for the training of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress crews. In March of 1943, the base was reassigned to the 3rd Air Force under the command of Col. Quentin T. Quick.
Early in 1945, the base's mission was shifted to the training of B-29 crews. Before the Superfortress training could get under way, the war ended, and the base was returned to the control of the City of Alexandria.
It was placed on inactive, standby status on September 23, 1946, although a small group of Army and Air Force personnel (331 Comps Squadron) remained assigned to Alexandria Municipal Airport throughout the late 1940s. The City of Alexandria resumed commercial airline operations at the airport.
Reactivation During the Korean War as Alexandria Air Force Base
On October 10, 1950, with the advent of the Korean War, the Air Force reopened Alexandria Air Force Base. In December of 1950, the 137th Fighter-Bomber Wing was created.
The base was reactivated, under the command of Col. Dixon M. Allison, and attached to the 9th Air Force, Tactical Air Command.
The Creation of England Air Force Base
When the Air Force decided to build a permanent air base in Alexandria in 1954, the City donated the bulk of the acreage occupied by the base.
Later, on June 23, 1955, it was renamed England Air Force Base in honor of Lt. Col. John Brooke England, Commander of the 389th Fighter Bomber Squadron at Alexandria AFB, who died in a F-86 crash in France on November 17, 1954 near Toul-Rosieres Air Base, France.
A leading and much-decorated North American P-51 Mustang ace during World War II, Colonel England flew 108 missions and scored 19 aerial victories-including 4 on one mission. England also served as a combat pilot in the Korean War.
Aircraft Stationed at England AFB
The aircraft stationed at the base was the best of its time: the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, P-51, F-86 Sabre, North American F-100 Super Sabre, the Boeing KB-29 Superfortress, the KB-50, the A-7 Corsair II, the A-10 Warthog, the A-37 Dragonfly, the A-26A, and the rest of the arsenal ... whatever the mission, the base and its airmen met the challenge.
As part of the Tactical Air Command, England Air Force Base was for decades a key element in the defense of our nation.
In 1961, at England AFB, LA, (401st Tactical Wing), there were four fighter/bomber squadrons of F-100 aircraft. These were the 612th, 613th, 614th and the 615th). During the Berlin Crisis (September, 1961) the 614th was deployed to Ramstein Air Base, Germany to support the West Germans.
In July of 1972, the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing moved to England AFB, flying the LTV A-7D Corsair II aircraft. In December of 1980, the 23rd TFW traded out its Corsairs for Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II ground support "tank-buster" aircraft. The squadron used part of the old artillery range of nearby Camp Claiborne, a World War II Army camp, as a bombing and gunnery range.
The last A-10 that was built (S/N 82-0665) was delivered to the 74th TAC Fighter Squadron at England AFB. During its tenure at England, its ladder door was painted to commemorate it being the last A-10 build, and the fact it was assigned to the famous 23rd TFW Flying Tigers. The door depicted the cartoon character "Cool Cat" tying it to the Flying Tigers. Cool Cat had a lightning bolt behind him like the one found on the 23rd wing patch, and below him was the phrase "The Last Tiger" alluding to the fact it was the last A-10 built and proud to be a Flying Tiger. A-10 82-0665 flew with the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing until 1992 when it was transferred to Davis Monthan AFB AZ where it was used to train new A-10 pilots.
A number of Army Air Corp and Air Force units served at the base over the decades. The list is long, but here are just a few:
- 137th Fighter Bomber Wing
- 366th Fighter Bomber Wing
- 389th Fighter Bomber Squadron
- 420th Air Refueling Squadron
- 622nd Air Refueling Squadron
- 401st Tactical Fighter Wing
- 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing
Active Duty at England AFB
As an active military installation, England AFB employed 3,000 military and 681 civilian personnel.
The base covered 2,600 acres, and had two prime runways: 7,000' running north-south, and 9,350' running northwest-southeast.
The Base Closing
In 1988, Congress established a process to realign and close surplus military property and return the property for local economic development. The process required the President to establish the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. Closing England Air Force Base (AFB) emerged as a possibility following the first Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round in 1988. Closure did not occur then.
However, in October 1990, the Commission dictated that England Air Force Base would be closed by September 1992. EAFB was officially closed June 1, 1992.
Col. Dick Lemon, England’s last base commander, noted at closing ceremonies:
The jets are gone. The work spaces are dark. There are no families enjoying dinner. It’s
been great, Louisiana. There are ghosts here. You need to listen to them. You need to
respect them (Jim Leggett, “England AFB officially closed,” Alexandria Daily Town
Talk, December 16, 1992).
The base brought in about $100 million annually to the local economy, and its closure posed an economic challenge for the Central Louisiana region.
Since 1992, the England Authority has successfully transitioned the area to England Airpark which includes, among other facilities, Alexandria International Airport (AEX). Read more about the base today, England Airpark and AEX.