Myrtle Beach Air Force Base

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Myrtle Beach Air Force Base

Tacemblem.jpg

Part of Tactical Air Command (TAC)
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Mbafb-23jan1994.jpg
January 23, 1994
Myrtle Beach AFB is located in South Carolina
Myrtle Beach AFB
Myrtle Beach AFB
Coordinates 33°40′14″N 078°56′02″W / 33.67056°N 78.93389°W / 33.67056; -78.93389Coordinates: 33°40′14″N 078°56′02″W / 33.67056°N 78.93389°W / 33.67056; -78.93389
Type Air Force Base
Site information
Owner Private/Public
Controlled by United States Air Force
Condition Redeveloped
Site history
Built 1940
In use 1940–1993
Battles/wars World War II
Vietnam War
Operation Desert Storm
Garrison information
Garrison 354th Tactical Fighter Wing
For the civilian use of the facility after March 1993, see Myrtle Beach International Airport

Myrtle Beach Air Force Base is a closed United States Air Force facility, located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was established in 1940 as a World War II training base and was also used for coastal patrols during the war. After the war it was a front-line USAF base in the Cold War, Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War of 1990.

The base was closed in 1993 and is currently being redeveloped for civilian uses.

History

Myrtle Beach Air Force Base was named after the city of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Originally named Myrtle Beach Municipal Airport, it first opened in October 1937 as a civil airport. It was taken under United States Army Air Corps administration in June 1940. During World War II the facility was named Myrtle Beach General Bombing and Gunnery Range (March 24, 1942 – November 8, 1943); Myrtle Beach Army Air Field (November 8, 1943 – September 18, 1947), and lastly Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, effective September 18, 1947 after the establishment of the United States Air Force the previous day.

Reverted to civilian control on November 1, 1947, the USAF again took possession of the base on April 1, 1956. It was inactivated and returned to civilian control on March 31, 1993.

World War II

Origins

Airfield in 1943, Looking from Southeast to Northwest
Airfield in 1943 Looking from West to East

The very beginnings of a military air base at Myrtle Beach can be traced to a meeting of the Myrtle Beach Town Council on 16 October 1939. At that meeting the council agreed to purchase 135 acres (0.55 km2) for a municipal airport. At the next meeting, the Council named the new airport the Harrelson Municipal Airport in recognition of Mayor W. L. Harrelson's efforts in promoting the construction of an airport.

In 1940, the airport consisted of a grass strip on some cleared land. Benjamin M. Graham, a former mayor of the City of Myrtle Beach, made the War Department aware of the suitability of Myrtle Beach Airport and the area for a bombing and gunnery range so it might be incorporated into the National Defense Program. Later in the year federal funds, as part of the National Defense Program, were given to the town of Myrtle Beach to help construct two runways. Two runways were constructed, a main north-south (18/36) and a secondary east-west (26/30).

In June 1940, an agreement was made for the United States Army Air Corps to jointly administer the airport. Its initial role for the Air Service was a training facility for civilian pilots. The Civil Aeronautics Administration provided the City of Myrtle Beach $112,000 to improve the runways at Myrtle Beach Municipal Airport to train civilian pilots.

Myrtle Beach General Bombing and Gunnery Range

During June and July 1940 the first military unit, the 3d Observation Squadron arrived at the airport to conduct firing activities along the oceanfront and to map and photograph the entire area. The squadron departed on July 15. On November 1 the 105th Observation Squadron came for the same purpose and also used the beaches at Singleton's Wash for target practice. The 105th left on December 21, 1940. Another unit, the 112th Observation Squadron arrived in March 1941 and was assigned as the first permanent host unit, with the duty of furnishing camp equipment to whatever units might come to the Myrtle Beach area for gunnery practice.

In 1941, the United States Army Air Corps expressed interest in the use of the airport for pilot training, and additional funds were made available to lengthen and pave two runways, and the Works Progress Administration began work constructing the concrete runways.

With the pending entry of the United States into World War II, on November 21, 1941 The War Department acquired 6,709 acres (27.15 km2) of base land, including the Harrleston Municipal Airport, under the Second War Powers Act. On December 7 the 112th Observation Squadron returned to Myrtle Beach to defend the coastline after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Civilian aviation was suspended and the town's Municipal Airport became Myrtle Beach General Bombing and Gunnery Range on March 24, 1942.

One officer and 188 men arrived in Myrtle Beach to operate the base. Many airfield improvements ensued and by May, the range covered 97,300 acres (394 km2) in Horry and Georgetown counties was operational. The facility was placed under the command of the Third Air Force and the 112th Observation Squadron host unit was redesignated as the 3rd AAF Bombing and Gunnery Range Squadron.

Myrtle Beach Army Air Field

A great deal of construction took place as a result of the entry of the United States into World War II. Additional taxiways and hardstands for military aircraft were constructed. Over 114 buildings were built, and the entire area was connected by a network of access and secondary roads. Camouflage was applied to the runways, taxiways, hardstands, repair and parking aprons, and to most of the buildings.

It was a tremendously difficult job to create an air field out of the dense swamps and forests of the South Carolina lowlands. By the fall of 1942, that work was virtually complete and the newly constructed facility was opened on September 7, 1942. The 3rd AAF BGRSquadron was redesignated the 519th Base HQ and Air Base Squadron on March 30, 1943. On November 8, 1943, facility was renamed Myrtle Beach Army Air Field. It consisted of two bombing ranges and three gunnery ranges. A secondary airstrip in North Myrtle Beach, about 20 miles (30 km) north of the airfield known as Wampee Flight Strip (now Grand Strand Airport) was also under the operational control of Myrtle Beach Army Airfield beginning in 1942. Wampee was used as an auxiliary landing airfield.

Photos of Myrtle Beach Army Airfield

The first unit assigned was the 323d Bombardment Group (Medium), which arrived on November 2, 1942 from MacDill AAF, Florida. The 323d trained with the B-26C Martin Marauder medium bomber. On April 25, 1943, the aircraft and flight crews deployed to RAF Horham, England, and in June 1943 the ground echelon of the 323d departed on the RMS Queen Elizabeth for combat duty in Europe.

On May 24, 1943, the 391st Bombardment Group (Medium) arrived at Myrtle Beach Field from MacDill AAF, Florida. After training with Martin B-26 Marauders, the group departed to Godman Field, Kentucky on September 4 for final training before movement overseas with Ninth Air Force in England.

On November 13, 1943, the 404th Fighter-Bomber Group took residence at Myrtle Beach AAF from Congaree AAF (now McEntire ANGB), Congaree, SC. Originally the 404th Bombardment Group (Dive), flying Douglas A-24A "Dauntless" dive bombers (The USAAF's version of the Navy SBD-4). At Myrtle Beach, the group transitioned to the Bell P-39 "Airacobra" pursuit fighter. By January the group was training on a variety of aircraft, having received fifty P39s and twelve Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. The 404th reached operational status on January 27, 1944. The unit was placed on overseas alert on January 20 and movement orders were received on January 30. The Ocean Forest Hotel in Myrtle Beach on February 22d held a final departure party for the unit, and on March 13, 1944 the 404th Fighter Bomber Group was ordered to proceed overseas via New York, arriving at RAF Winkton (Station 414), England, during March and April 1944.

Training continued at a rapid pace throughout the war. Foreign airmen also received training assigned to the 40th Aviation Squadron, which was a detachment of the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School, assigned to Jackson AAB, Mississippi. The "Flying Dutchmen" left an indelible impression on those who saw them fly in their B-25's.

Because of manpower shortages overseas, the Army changed the way it manned and organized the support units reporting to it. All existing AAF units that were not scheduled to move overseas were disbanded in April and May 1944 and replaced by Army Air Forces Base Units. At Myrtle Beach this meant that the 519th HQ Sq, the 40th Aviation Sq. and the 304th Fighter Squadron were consolidated and redesignated as the 351st AAF Base Unit on May 1, 1944 and later the 136th AAF Base Unit when Myrtle Beach AAF was allocated to First Air Force on February 1, 1945.

During 1944 and 1945 activities at Myrtle Beach AAF were expanded into performing coastal patrols over the Atlantic, monitoring for German U-Boat activity, and in the spring of 1945, a rocket testing range was established on the field. In November 1944, a German prisoner of war camp was opened on the base, first near Cane Patch Swash, then on base. Prisoners provided upkeep for the facility.

Post World War II activities

After the end of World War II, the Army Air Force planned to retain Myrtle Beach AAF as an active facility. The base's mission becomes recruitment and support of activities for units that camp on base and trained for airlifts. The field was initially assigned to Air Defense Command on March 27, 1946, and the host unit was redesignated the 317th AAF Base Unit. Tactical Air Command assumed organizational assignment of the field on April 1.

On October 5, 1945 the 410th Bombardment Group arrived from France. The group's squadrons of Douglas A-20G and A-20J Havoc light bombers were flown west to the 4105th Army Air Force Base Unit at Davis-Monthan AAF Arizona for disposal after the group's inactivation on November 7.

On September 13, 1946, the 77th Fighter Squadron moved to Myrtle Beach from Biggs Field in El Paso, Texas, flying P-51 "Mustangs". However the stay of the 77th FS was brief, moving to Shaw Field, South Carolina on October 5.

The 617th Bombardment Squadron (Composite) was briefly assigned to MBAAF on February 1, 1947, flying B-25 "Mitchell" bombers and P-47 "Thunderbolts, along with a RADAR control unit, the 607th Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron (AC & W) on January 13. The 617th was inactivated on July 1 and the 607th on October 28, 1947.

In the spring of 1947, budgetary cutbacks forced the closure of Myrtle Beach Army Airfield. Most military operations ceased and all of the field's support facilities were closed and turned over to civilian authorities on November 1, 1947.

The 317th AAF Base Unit, (Redesignated the 317th Air Force Base Unit on September 20) however, retained a minimal presence on the airfield. The facility was renamed Myrtle Beach Air Force Base by the newly established United States Air Force on January 13, 1948. The USAF maintained a presence on the base to facilitate its final closure until the unit's final inactivation on August 5, 1948.

With the departure of the USAF, the airfield was renamed Myrtle Beach Municipal Airport and was operated as a civilian airport for the Grand Strand area. The wartime buildings were declared as surplus property and put up for sale. The former military technical and communal sites found uses as a turkey farm and a minor league baseball spring training camp for the Boston Braves.

USAF use

Emblem of the 727th AC&W Squadron

With the outbreak of the Cold War and the expansion of the USAF as a result of the Korean War, the City of Myrtle Beach was vitally interested in obtaining an active Air Force Base.

City officials sent a letter to Headquarters, USAF on May 8, 1954 offering to donate the Myrtle Beach Municipal Airport to the Air Force. A survey was made by USAF personnel of the former Army Air Field and the offer was accepted on June 1. The Air Force notified the town that funds for the rehabilitation and expansion of the facility would be forthcoming by the end of the year.

The USAF re-established its presence in Myrtle Beach on September 27, 1954, with TAC activating the 727th Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron. a mobile radar squadron assigned to the 507th Tactical Control Group at Shaw AFB at the new base. The 727th used AN/MPS-11, AN/MPS-14 and AN/MPS-16 radars providing local air defense over the Grand Strand. In addition to the radars at Myrtle Beach, the squadron operated a detachment at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina in 1964-1965.

The squadron remained at Myrtle Beach AFB until being moved to Alaska in early 1965.

4434th Air Base Squadron

Col. Robert G. Emmens USAF Construction supervisor and first Wing Commander, 342d FDW Myrtle Beach AFB

The base was assigned to Tactical Air Command, and plans were made to make the base ready by the end of 1956, with operational status to be restored by mid-1957 with combat units assigned there. However, these initial plans were not completed on schedule, with construction delayed until 1956.

Delays were caused by several controversies. One was a controversy by the CAA, the Air Force and the town over use of the base by civilian aircraft. In October 1954 an agreement was reached. Civilian planes with two-way radios would be permitted to use the base.

Another issue was caused by difficulties in transferring six plots of land, formerly leased by the government, to the Air Force. It was not until December 1954 that this was worked out successfully.

The worst complication of all was the desire of the Air Force to purchase 27 acres (110,000 m2) of beach property from the State of South Carolina on the east side of U.S. Route 17, directly across from the base for use as a recreational area for the Airmen to be stationed at the base. This was deemed necessary by the Air Force due to the Jim Crow laws in effect at the time, which prohibited African Americans from using the beach areas. By having the Air Force own the beachfront property, this would place the land under Federal Ownership and exempt it from the state segregation laws. The state of South Carolina strongly objected to this and it was only the threat by the Department of Defense to withdraw from the project in its entirety that the state relented. An arrangement was made by the State of South Carolina to transfer the land to the State Parks Commission and establish Myrtle Beach State Park, and allow all military personnel and their families access to it and the beach area within the park. Thus, the dispute was settled.

In June 1955, Colonel Robert G. Emmens was assigned to supervise the construction efforts at Myrtle Beach. Col. Emmens also assumed the role of Liaison Officer with both Ninth Air Force and HQ, TAC. During his supervision, construction was performed at a rapid pace.

Due to the deterioration of many of the wartime buildings on the east side of the main runway, the former Army Air Force facility was considered unusable and forced a completely new Air Force Base to be constructed on the west side. The old wartime buildings were demolished, leaving the concrete wartime taxiways and hardstands for possible later use if necessary.

A new jet aircraft capable north-south runway of 9,500 feet (2,900 m) was overlaid on the former main runway, and the secondary east-west runway was converted to a taxiway. A large aircraft parking ramp was poured, along with the construction of several maintenance hangars, a control tower, fire station and other support buildings along the new flightline of the Air Base. In addition, warehouses, barracks, a dining hall, and other necessary support buildings were erected along a new base street grid to the west of the new runway. The initial construction cost of Myrtle Beach Air Force Base was $14,449,937.

Work proceeded smoothly and it was possible to activate the 4434th Air Base Squadron as a "housekeeping" unit on April 9, 1956. The 4434th was commanded by Colonel Emmens. Although the initial construction was completed to bring the base to an operational state, ongoing construction, including a large base hospital, service clubs, commissary, a large base exchange, family housing and other support, but non-essential facilities, continued into the early 1960s.

Base Construction Photos (1955/56)

342d Fighter-Day Wing

F-80Cs of the 342d Fighter-Day Wing, 1956. Serial 47-0537 shown in foreground.
Col. Francis S. Gabreski, first wing commander, 354 FDW/TFW, Myrtle Beach AFB

On July 25, 1956, the 342d Fighter Day Wing with three squadrons (33rd, 572nd and 573rd) was activated along with the 342d Air Base Group. The Wing Commander was also Colonel Emmens. In addition to the 342 FDW, the 455th Fighter-Day Group was activated with the 740th, 741st and 742d Fighter-Day Squadrons.

The total manpower force of the 342 FDW at the time of its activation was 20 Officers, 1 Warrant Officer and 241 enlisted men. Aircraft assigned to the 342 FDW were 5 RF-80A's, 2 T-33A's, 1 SA-16A, 1 H-19B, 2 C-45's and 2 B-25's. These aircraft were considered to be at Myrtle Beach on an interim status, as North American Aircraft established a training facility on November 18, 1956 for F-100 orientation.

On September 10, 1956, the 342 FDW received a new commander, Colonel Francis S. Gabreski. Colonel Emmens assumed the role of Deputy Base Commander at that time.

The new Myrtle Beach Air Force Base was dedicated on December 7, 1956, however construction of major support facilities, including the base housing complex was not completed until 1960.

The 342 FDW's mission was officially that of a fully functional fighter-day wing. In reality, the efforts and activities of the 342 FDW were directed to reach operational capabilities by overcoming the problems and obstacles inherent in the activation of a new fighter wing on a base sill largely under construction.

Close liaison was maintained between units at Shaw AFB, SC for many activities. There were regularly scheduled truck convoys between Shaw and Myrtle Beach during the Wing's development.

354th Fighter-Day Wing/Tactical Fighter Wing

The 342 FDW lasted 117 days until November 18, 1956. On November 19, the Air Force redesignated the unit as the 354th Fighter-Day Wing. At the same time, the 455th Fighter-Day Group and its associated FDS's were inactivated. The 342d Fighter-Day Group's fighter squadrons were redesignated the 353d, 355th and the 356th Fighter-Day Squadrons. The non-flying support elements of the wing were consolidated into the 354th Air Base Group. The history, battle honors and colors earned during World War II by the 354th Fighter Group were bestowed on the new Fighter Wing and subordinate groups and squadrons.

During the tenure of the 342d FDW, great strides had been made in organizational development of the wing. The total manpower force of the 354th FDW at the time of its activation was 84 Officers, 3 Warrant Officers and 911 enlisted men.

Vietnam War

North American F-100D-50-NH Super Sabre Serial 55-2879 of the 356 TFS on nuclear alert duty, Kusan Air Base South Korea, 1965
North American F-100F-10-NA Super Sabre serial 56-3869 of the 353d TFS. The aircraft is marked as Col. Gabreski's Wing Commander's aircraft.
War-weary former Myrtle Beach 352d TFS North American F-100F-20-NA "Super Sabre" Serial 58-1213 at Phan Rang, South Vietnam, 1971
North American F-100C-5-NA "Super Sabre" 54-1798 of the 119th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Myrtle Beach AFB, May 1969. After its service to the ANG, this aircraft was sold to the Turkish Air Force
Former Myrtle Beach 355 TFS North American F-100D-80-NH "Super Sabre" 56-3374 on a mission into North Vietnam from Phu Cat AB, South Vietnam

The Vietnam War drained the 354 TFW at Myrtle Beach, starting in 1965 with its flying squadrons and support personnel being deployed for several years to Spain, Japan, South Korea and South Vietnam. The 354th's first assignments to Vietnam started in July 1965 with the deployment of a sentry dog unit.

This practice of stripping away squadrons and aircraft from their home units and attaching them indefinitely to another wing was a common practice during the 1960s as squadrons (and replacement aircraft) were deployed to support Vietnam.

After having its fighter squadrons stripped away, the 354 TFW itself would be reassigned to South Korea, with Myrtle Beach AFB being manned by Air National Guard aircraft and personnel for several years. It was not until 1970, with the drawdown from Vietnam that the 354th TFW would be re-formed back at Myrtle Beach AFB.

352d Tactical Fighter Squadron

The 352d Tactical Fighter Squadron was deployed and permanently reassigned to the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Phan Rang Air Base, South Vietnam on August 15, 1966. The squadron was inactivated permanently on July 31, 1971 as part of the American drawdown in Vietnam.

353d Tactical Fighter Squadron

The 353d Tactical Fighter Squadron was deployed and permanently reassigned to the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing at Torrejon Air Force Base, Spain on April 27, 1966. On July 15, 1971 the 363 TFS was inactivated and reassigned without equipment or personnel to the 354 TFW at Myrtle Beach AFB.

356th Tactical Fighter Squadron

The 356th Tactical Fighter Squadron was deployed to Misawa AB, Japan on March 16, 1965. At Misawa, it was attached to the 39th Air Division, whose mission was to support Misawa, Taegu AB and Kusan AB in South Korea which all had just been reactivated.

355th Tactical Fighter Squadron

On February 3, 1968 the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron was deployed to support the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing at Phu Cat Air Base, South Vietnam on February 3, 1968 for five months Temporary Duty (TDY). On November 1, 1970, the 355 TFS was reactivated at Myrtle Beach AFB, SC as part of the 354 TFW. along with the blackcat sqd.

354 TFW - Kusan AB Korea

On July 1, 1968 the 354 TFW was reactivated without personnel or equipment and assigned as the permanent host unit at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. The 354 relieved the temporarily deployed 4th Tactical Fighter Wing in a name-only re-designation.

113th Tactical Fighter Wing

With the 355 TFS's deployment, the 354 TFW was reduced to a "paper" organization. On April 1, 1968, the mobilized 113th Tactical Fighter Wing of the DC ANG was activated as the host unit at Myrtle Beach AFB. The 113 TFW absorbed the remaining resources of the 354 TFW. On August 25 the 113th Combat Support Group absorbed the assets of the 354th Combat Support Group. Flying units of the 113 TFW were the 121st Tactical Fighter Squadron from Andrews AFB, and the 119th Tactical Fighter Squadron from the 177th Tactical Fighter Group of the NJ Air National Guard, based at Atlantic City International Airport. Both squadrons were equipped with F-100C's.

In July 1968, activated ANG personnel from the 113 TFW were deployed to Phu Cat AB, RVN, replacing the personnel of the deployed 355 TFS who returned to Myrtle Beach AFB. The returning personnel were assigned to the 113 TFW as active duty members of the wing.

4554th Tactical Fighter Wing

With the end of the activation of the Air National Guard 119th TFW on May 27, 1969, the 4554th Tactical Fighter Wing was designated as the host unit. Returned F-100 aircraft and aircrew from the 355th TFS at Phu Cat AB, South Vietnam were formed into the 4430th Combat Crew Training Squadron on March 1, 1969. The support element was designated the 4554th Combat Support Group.

In addition, the 4554 TFW operated several T/AT-33A aircraft in a training role, and a VT-29B which acted as a courier aircraft between Ninth Air Force bases.

10.html Lockheed T-33A-1-LO Serial 54-1581 support aircraft of the 4554th Tactical Fighter Wing
Convair VT-29B Serial 51-7899 support aircraft of the 4554th Tactical Fighter Wing
Returning from Vietnam
Ling-Temco-Vought A-7D-7-CV Corsair IIs 70-0976, 70-0989 and 70-0970 of the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing - 1971. 976 and 989 were retired to AMARC in 1992, 970 is on permanent display at the Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

On June 14, 1970, the 354 TFW at Kusan was inactivated with the new 54th Tactical Fighter Wing being activated in place. The 16th and 478th TFSs were transferred and attached to the 54th.

The 354th Tactical Fighter Wing was reactivated (without personnel or equipment) at Myrtle Beach AFB, SC on June 15, 1970.

On June 15, 1970, the 354 TFW was reactivated and absorbed the resources of the 4554 TFW at Myrtle Beach AFB, SC. The 4554th CSG was redesignated the 354th Combat Support Group. The 4430th Combat Crew Training Squadron was inactivated and the flying assets assigned to the 511th Tactical Fighter Squadron.

The 354 TFW was charged with combat crew training in T-33s and with becoming proficient in A-7D aircraft, with the first aircraft arriving in November 1970

However, the reunited 354 TFW did not remain long at Myrtle Beach AFB. In September 1972 the wing split into rear and advance echelons. The 353 and 355 TFSs deployed 72 A-7D's to Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, while the 356 TFS remained at Myrtle Beach. This was the first combat deployment of the A-7D into Southeast Asia. This operation was known as Constant Guard VI.

The last shot fired in anger by United States military forces in Southeast Asia was fired by an A-7D of the deployed 353 TFS assigned to Korat RTAFB on August 15, 1973. In October the wing rotated personnel at Korat once again, but with the establishment of the 3 TFS in Thailand and the end of American combat in Southeast Asia, the mission of the 354th was ended. Some additional aircraft and equipment were transferred to the 388 TFW, and on May 23, 1974 the wing returned from Thailand and was recombined at Myrtle Beach AFB.

Post SEA activities

On February 1, 1974, the 354th began a 15-month deployment to Howard AFB in the Panama Canal Zone to support operation "Coronet Cove". This entailed rotating a contingent of aircraft, aircrews and maintenance technicians to Panama on 45-day cycles to provide close air support for US Army training exercises for the air defense of the Panama Canal.

In April 1974, A-7D's were deployed from Myrtle Beach to Barbers Point Naval Air Station, Hawaii, for exercises with Army and Marine units. Also T-33A aircraft were deployed to McConnell AFB, Kansas, to support the USAF Tactical Air Weapons Center's comparative flight evaluation of the A-7D and the A-10A aircraft.

A phaseout of the A-7D at Myrtle Beach AFB started in the summer of 1974, with the A-7D's being transferred to Air National Guard units. These transfers continued until 1978, when the last A-7D was sent to the South Carolina ANG. In addition, the T-33's and VT-29 of the inactivated 4554th were retired and sent to AMARC in 1976. The former Myrtle Beach A-7D's continued service in the Air National Guard until the late 1980s, with the last at Rickenbacker ANGB (Ohio), Des Moines (Iowa), Tulsa (Oklahoma) and Springfield (Ohio) being replaced by the F-16 by mid-1993. By the end of 1998, all were disposed of by AMARC.

The 354th converted to A-10A aircraft in 1977, with the 354th being the first operational A-10A wing in the USAF, achieving initial combat readiness with the Thunderbolt II during the summer of 1978.

With the A-10 aircraft, the 354th returned to its pre-Vietnam era NATO commitment, deploying aircraft and personnel to Europe supporting the COMET, CORONET and CRESTED CAP exercises. These deployments were designed to exercise CONUS based Air Force squadrons long range deployment capabilities and to familiarize the personnel with the European theatre of operations.

During these NATO deployments, exercises with Army infantry and armored units were conducted to enhance the Close Air Support role in Europe.

Middle East

Photo of the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron Personnel - March 1991 - King Fahd International Airport after victory in Operation Desert Storm

In 1980, the 354th was allocated to President Jimmy Carter's Rapid Deployment Force, formally known as the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF). In 1983 the RDJTF became a separate unified command known as the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), focusing on the Middle East.

Within CENTCOM, The 354th was assigned to the United States Central Command Air Forces (USCENTAF). Starting in 1985, the 354th's A-10 aircraft and personnel were deployed to Cairo West AB, Egypt for BRIGHT STAR exercises. BRIGHT STAR deployments also occurred in 1987 and 1989 from Myrtle Beach AFB.

With the outbreak of the Kuwait crisis in August 1990, Myrtle Beach AFB deployed the 353 and 355 TFS on August 15, 1990 to King Fahd International Airport, near Dammam, Saudi Arabia. At the time of the deployment, King Fhad was under construction. At King Fahd, the The 354 TFW (Provisional) was formed. The 354 TFW was one of the first USAF units deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Shield.

During Operation Desert Storm, aircraft assigned to the 354th initially flew against early-warning radar and Scud missile sites, as well as search-and-rescue missions of downed coalition pilots. When the ground attack began in late February 1991, the 354th performed its ground support mission, inflicting heavy damage to Iraqi armor and artillery emplacements, as well as cutting off enemy supply lines. The 354th returned home from the Gulf on March 25, 1991

On October 1, 1991, the 354 TFW was redesignated the 354th Fighter Wing with the inactivation of Tactical Air Command (TAC) and the wing's reassignment to the new Air Combat Command (ACC).

BRAC closure

Inactivation Ceremony Program - March 31, 1993

After the end of the Cold War, reductions in defense spending led to the military reducing the size of the armed forces, and the number of facilities both in the United States as well as overseas. In July 1991, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended the closure of Myrtle Beach Air Force Base and that the Air Force redistribute all aircraft to modernize other Active and Reserve Component units.

Rumors regarding the closure of Myrtle Beach AFB had surfaced since the end of the Vietnam War in 1973, however strong congressional pressure by longtime Senators Strom Thurmond and Ernest Hollings led to the base being kept open. By 1990, it was believed that the Air Force had five more tactical bases than needed to support the number of fighter aircraft in the revised DoD Force Structure Plan. In evaluating Air Force tactical fighter bases, Myrtle Beach AFB had issues regarding the encroachment of the urbanized area of the Grand Strand, and being a relatively small base, did not have the capability of being expanded to perform additional missions.

BRAC also recommended the inactivation of the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing.

In response, the City of Myrtle Beach argued that Myrtle Beach AFB was incorrectly downgraded for ground encroachment and that the weather does not downgrade the base's ability to meet its mission. The community also noted that the base was recently identified as one of the best in the Air Force and has the potential to house a composite wing, which was not considered by the Air Force. It also argued that the closure of Myrtle Beach AFB was an example of the Air Force's failure to consider providing close-air support to the Army.

These objections were reviewed by the BRAC committee but were ultimately rejected. The disposition of the A-10 aircraft was as follows:

The 354th Fighter Wing and all supporting groups and squadrons were inactivated on March 31, 1993. Myrtle Beach AFB was closed as scheduled, ending military control over the facility.

On August 20, 1993, the 354th Fighter Wing was re-activated at Eielson AFB, Alaska, with a new mission and organization. No personnel or equipment were affected by the change. This change was part of a service-wide effort to preserve the lineage of the Air Force's most honored wings. The 353d and 355th Fighter Squadrons were also reactivated at Eielson.

After 1993 closure

With the closure of the facility by the Air Force in 1993, the City of Myrtle Beach and Horry County spent the better part of a decade at loggerheads over what to do with the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.

The Air Force divided the land among the Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority, Santee Cooper, Myrtle Beach, the Myrtle Beach International Airport, the Horry County Red Cross, the Cathedral Bible College and Horry-Georgetown Technical College. Some of these transfers were through sales, some through land swaps and some through a program called public-benefit conveyance.

In November 1993, the State of South Carolina received 1,545 acres (6.25 km2) of the former air base in a land swap with the federal government. Timberland Properties Inc. obtained the option to develop a theme park on most of that land. The state in return gave land in Sumter next to Shaw Air Force Base. During the summer of 1994 the Myrtle Beach Air Base Redevelopment Authority was formed.

In 1995 Timberland Properties Inc., exercised its option to buy the more than 900 acres (3.6 km2) from Santee Cooper to build a theme park called Isle of America. However in 1997 TPI defaulted on its contract by not starting construction of its theme park and subsequently declared bankruptcy.

During 1998 the Myrtle Beach Air Base Redevelopment Authority unveiled plans for an urban village. In 1999 Santee Cooper named a developer for the land. WBLC paid $20.1 million and had four months to complete the deal. In 2000 Coastal Arena LLC announced plans to build an arena. Later, the city balked at a request for tax rebates, and the plan fell apart.

In 2001, the Air Force Base Housing was made available to the public, units being sold through Coldwell Banker, or rented through beach property management, both of which have offices on-site. This new subdivision was officially named Seagate.

Finally, in 2004 an agreement was reached that would allow Myrtle Beach International Airport, which assumed control over the runway of the former AFB, to expand and build a second runway and supporting facilities. Besides the main runway, old taxiways and hardstands from the 1940s World War II Army Airfield survive unused. The USAF flightline ramp, hangars, control tower, maintenance shops and other operational assets are used for various civil aircraft purposes.

Post Closure Base Photos

Market Common

June 2006 oblique aerial photo looking northeast of the Market Common development under construction

In 2004, two developers announced intentions to create large neighborhoods on the base. Lennar Corp. purchased land on the Ross Tract and McCaffery Interests and announced plans to create the urban village on 113 acres (0.46 km2) of the base to be known as Market Common. In 2006 RWO Acquisitions purchased 560 acres (2.3 km2) of the Ross Tract and announced plans for retail, offices, hotels and neotraditional housing.

In April 2008, the Market Common development opened bringing a new movie theater, grocery store and many other shops and restaurants. Essentially all property on the former Air Force Base has been conveyed by deed or is under lease by private owners. Townhouses, lakes, small stores and a large multi-screen cinema have been built on the former base, giving a small town atmosphere to the area. Many new developments have been built along the main road though the former base, a large park and recreational area.

Scattered through the development are about 150 permanent signs along parks, bike paths and walkways on the base, detailing the contributions of those who served at Myrtle Beach AFB during its history. The markers provide visual pictures of what Air Force buildings were located there; the people who were involved, and the history of the base. Also, a kiosk was erected that contains maps to the historical markers and brochures about the history of the base.

The remainder of the ground station has largely been redeveloped, with only a few former military buildings remaining. The flight line, hangars, and the former base operations control tower are being used for general aviation operations across from Myrtle Beach International Airport. Some buildings have been converted to civil uses, such as the former Flight Simulator building now a television station and a branch of Horry Georgetown Technical College being developed from the former NCO Club and Base Hospital. The large Base Supply warehouse remains, the former Base Chapel is now a private church, and some scattered buildings are either being reused by new owners (Kwik Pic), or abandoned and awaiting demolition (Rec Center) and that land redeveloped.

War Bird Park

An F-100D, A-7D and an A-10A, formerly assigned to the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing are preserved and on display in a memorial park (Warrior Park) located near the former main entrance to the base. Warrior Park contains a Wall of Honor to those Airmen who were assigned to the base, with many names inscribed on the wall. There is a walking trail in the park with many informational markers about the 354th TFW and the World War II 354th Fighter Group along with a State of South Carolina historical marker.

Its military use over, the former Cold War Air Force base now serves the public as a 21st-century place of commerce and living for future generations.

Previous names

  • Myrtle Beach Municipal Airport (Under United States Army Air Corps administration), June 1940
  • Myrtle Beach General Bombing and Gunnery Range, 24 March 1942
  • Myrtle Beach Army Airfield, 8 November 1943
  • Myrtle Beach Municipal Airport, 1 November 1947
  • Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, 13 January-5 August 1948; 27 September 1954-31 March 1993

Major commands to which assigned

Ninth Air Force, April 1, 1956 – June 1, 1992
833d Air Division, October 1, 1964 – July 5, 1968

Major units assigned

References for history introduction, major commands and major units1

See also

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ Mueller, Robert (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-912799-53-6, ISBN 0-16-002261-4
  • Ravenstein, Charles A., Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977, Office of Air Force History, 1984
  • Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989
  • Endicott, Judy G., USAF Active Flying, Space, and Missile Squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Office of Air Force History
  • Maurer Maurer, Air Force Combat Units Of World War II, Office of Air Force History, 1983
  • History of the 347th Fighter-Day Wing, Office of Air Force History, 1956
  • Martin, Patrick, Tail Code: The Complete History Of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings, 1994
  • History of the 354th Fighter Wing and Eielson AFB, Eielson Air Force Base History Office, 2004
  • "Myrtle Beach, Air Force Base Share Long History", Myrtle Beach Sun News, April 23, 2006
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present

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