Montana history: Malmstrom Air force Base
The foundation of the Malmstrom AFB happened year back around 1939. That was the time when the World War II outbreaks in Europe. The local Chamber of Commerce contacted two senators of Montana concerning an appeal of setting up a military structure to be located at the Great Falls, Montana. These two members of the Chamber of Commerce are Senator Burton K - Montana history: Malmstrom Air force Base introduction. Wheeler and James E. Murray. A research was done on where to put the military structure. The result shows Great Falls together with the other ten locations which have a thin population was chosen to be the best site for the installation of the military structure and was found to be an appropriate site to train and conduct bomber practices.
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The Great Falls Air Base, also known as the East Base was built on June 8, 1942. The structure was built to serve as a route for air travels from Great Falls to places such as Ladd Fields, Fairbanks and Alaska. The construction was a component of the program of the United States called the United States Lend-Lease Program wherein they are supplying aircrafts and other materials that will be needed by the Soviet Union in fighting the German Army.
For the function of the training processes of bombardment groups to be easier, a headquarter for the Bombardment group was established at the location of the Great Falls Army Base and one of the four squadrons who trained was assigned to the base while the other three squadrons were assigned to the station at Cut Bank, Glasgow, and Lewistown at Montana. The training of the bombardment groups, the 2nd, 385th, 390th and the 401st occurred between the months of November of year 1942 and completed the training on 1943 on the month of October. The aircrafts flights are programmed at a certain time where the take off occurs forming a squadron on their assigned bases and afterwards will be joining the other squadron to forming a group on the central of Montana (Schwiebert). The Allied daylight precision bombing came after the attacks of these bombardment groups on Germany.
Great Falls Army Air Base was moved to the Air Transport Command right after the training program named B-17 was completed in October 1943. Also during this year, there were many constructions of new establishments had occurred. This includes the construction of a Post Exchange, a theater, the construction of a hospital having 400 rooms. In addition, there were aircrafts supplied by the United States Lend-Lease Program, such aircrafts are P-39, C-47, B-25 and A-20. These aircrafts came to the base by parts by means of travel through rail such as the B-25 and the assembling process takes place at the Great Falls Army Air Base. The other aircrafts arrived at the base driven by pilots of the military and by the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs). The pilots of the United States then take over these aircrafts through Canada by means of the Alaskan-Siberian Route (ALSIB) to places like Fairbanks, Alaska. Then the Russian pilot would take over these aircrafts to fly them to Siberia.
The shipping of cargos which contains parts of aircrafts, tools, assorted equipments, supplies of medicines and explosives takes place at the Great Falls Army Air Base bringing them to Russia. However, the delivery of these cargos discontinued in the month of September 1945, right after the end of World War II. There was an estimated number of 8,000 aircrafts which were process which had undergone a process of a time period of 21 months.
The Beginning of Malmstrom AFB
The formerly known Great Falls Army Air Base was changed its name to Great Falls Air Force Base. It happened during the month of September 1947 after becoming a separate service of the United States Air Force. During this time, the “Cold War” was happening and the tension was heightened after the Soviet Union decided the closing of the entire land travels from the West Germany and West Berlin. However, the United States and Britain promised to continue its support on the people of the West Berlin when this closing of land travels was imposed. As a way of support, an operation called “Operation Vittles” was started on the 25th day of June, 1948. The purpose of the operation is to bring the supplies to the 2,000,000 people of Berlin through a strategic airlift. Upon doing this, the Great Falls Air Force Base plays a significant role to assure safety and contributed to the success of this very important operation.
Earlier in 1950, the activation of the 29th Air Division had taken place at Great Falls AFB along with the landing of the squadrons of fighter interceptors. Together with the landing of the fighter interceptors are the squadrons for aircraft control and warning, and ground observer detachments. One of the fighter interceptor squadrons remained at Great Falls AFB until 1968 since the first activation on 1953, which was the 29th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. Two years after the activation of the 29th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was made. Malmstrom Air Force Base was in charge of 24th NORAD region which roofed the western part of North America to some extent. The 24th region was composed of four squadrons of fighter interceptors and radar sites and had been the exchange command post of the NORAD and had continued to be active until 1983.
It was on the 21st day of August 1954 when a tragedy happened. Colonel Malmstrom died because of a plane crash. It was that very moment a new importance had taken place on the history of the Great Falls AFB. Colonel Einar Axel Malmstrom was the vice commander of the 407th SFW during that time. He was beloved by the community and his death had caused sadness to the people of the Great Falls when his T-33 plane crashed. The people then are driven to change the name of the base next to him. The name was changed on the 15th day of June 1956, from the Great Falls AFB to Malmstrom AFB (Lafferty). The 4061st Air Refueling Wing was formed by combining the Air Refueling Squadron and the KB-29s of the 407th wing and the Air Refueling Squadron and the KC-97s of the 97th wing. The operation of the 4061st Air Refueling Wing from Malmstrom Air Force Base continued until July 1961.
Together with the 341st Strategic Missile Wing from Dyess AFB in Texas being activated, was the time when Malmstrom was entering in the ICBM age. The 341st Strategic Missile Wing was before then the 314st Bombardment Wing. President John F. Kennedy named the 341 SMW and Malmstrom AFB to be the first in the nation “Ace in the Hole” (Pike). Malmstrom AFB has been selected to be the host of the base of the first Minuteman ICBM. The grant was given on the 23rd day of December, 1959 by the Air Force Ballistic Missile Committee. The progress of the Malmstrom AFB is becoming slow during due to the changes in design made occasionally. In addition, the strike made by the electricians during the start of the month of November until the 12th day in 1961 and the storms that passed in 1962 contributed to the slowing of the progress. There were six workers who have been killed during the construction of the 10th silo on December 15 (AFB). The silo was then turned over to the Air Force. In August 1964, the Malmstrom AFB has been chosen for the second time to host the Minuteman II and accommodate the missiles when the Air Force had planned to put an additional 50 silos. The target place was the prairies on Montana which is near the base. The construction of the silos was put in a bidding process and the Morrison Knudsen Company and Associates had won the bid. The date was February 23, 1965 and the construction started right after the two weeks of winning the bid. 1,593 was the most number of working men in the site. It was tallied and was to be the peak number of working men marked to September in the year 1965.
The missiles of the wing had undergone many upgrades on the systems and had stayed to be alert the whole time of the 1970s and 1980s. And in 1988, an upgraded mobile launcher called the Hardened Mobile Launcher, was evaluated it’s capability in operating during bad conditions in winter was evaluated at the Malmstrom Air Force Base (Base). After a year (1989), several reconstructions had happened when SAC decided the 40th Air Division to be transferred to the Malmstrom Air Force Base.
The task of hosting was brought back to the 341st Strategic Missile Wing when the 40th Air Division stopped its operation way back in June 14, 1991. It has been the time where changes in charge of the hosting had occurred because of the major reconstructions of several numbers of Air Force.
On December 31 of the year 1996, the runway was turned closed and stopped its operation for aircrafts. Before it was an active flightline of the military having several landings and departures happening everyday. However, the missile mission continued with the use of helicopters. Since then, after closing the runway, there were no plans or budgets USAF had in mind for the re-operation of the runway.
In 1997, the 819th RED HORSE Squadron had reached the Malmstrom Air Force Base. The 819th RED HORSE Squadron was composed of an active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reservists, which considered the squadron of that Air Force to be the first of its kind to have those elements. New methods were provided by the squadron which engineers the combat force of the military and operations for humanitarian missions around the world (Cragg). The Network Operations Center was the newest mission added to the Malmstrom Air Force Base which purpose is to perform surveillance on space which make it possible for them to track satellites near the earth and on deep space with high reliability.
There had been several constructions and renovations occurred at Malmstrom Air Force Base as of 1995. This includes the building of new and reconstruction of old dormitories, houses for the family of those on service of the base, work facilities, and the infrastructure of the base which had increased the capability of assuring the success of the missions and the better quality of life. As a result, in 1999, the Malmstrom Air Force Base was considered to be the best Air Force installation among all the Air Force bases on the United States.
AFB, Malmstrom. “Environmental Cleanup – Installation”. 2007. April 22 2007. <https://www.denix.osd.mil/denix/Public/News/Earthday99/Awards99/AFMalmstrom/malmstrom.html>.
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Cragg, Dan. Guide to Military Installations. 6th Edition ed: Stackpole Books, 2001.
Lafferty, Linda A. “In the Matter of Department of the Air Force Malmstrom Air Force Base Malmstrom Afb, Montana”. 1992. April 22 2007. <http://www.flra.gov/fsip/finalact/92fs_032.html>.
Pike, John. “Malmstrom Afb Great Falls International Airport 47°28’n 111°22’w”. 2007. April 22 2007. <http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/facility/malmstrom.htm>.
Schwiebert, Ernest George. A History of the U.S. Air Force Ballistic Missiles. F. A. Praeger, 1965.