In a tent on Pati Point in 1944, four men of the 854th Airfield Construction Battalion stood at a draftsman's table drawing lines on a blueprint that would become runways, taxiways and parking aprons for World War II B-29 operations. North Field's first runway became operational Feb. 3, 1945. The first combat mission from North Field took place Feb. 25.
After World War II, the Army Air Forces in the Pacific closed many airfields, leaving the 19th Bomb Group at North Field as the only bombardment unit of the Far East Air Forces.
In the fall of 1946, construction began for permanent structures. When the Air Force became a separate service in 1947, North Field became North Guam Air Force Base. The installation was renamed Andersen AFB on Oct. 7, 1949, in honor of Brig. Gen. James R. Andersen, who was presumed lost at sea in the crash of his B-24 Liberator, Feb. 26, 1945, on a flight from Kwajalein to Hawaii.
During the Korean War, Andersen served in an administrative and logistical capacity, operating ammunition dumps and providing maintenance to transient aircraft. Following the war, Andersen began supporting bomber and aerial refueling units on rotational deployments from the United States. During this time, Andersen was home to the B-36, B-47, B-50, B-52, B-29, KC-97 and KC-135.
Andersen's role in Vietnam is legendary, starting on June 18, 1965, when 27 B-52 bombers were launched from its runway. These flights began Operation Arc Light, bombing missions against Viet Cong base operations, troop concentrations and supply lines. In early 1972, 153 B-52s lined the airfield in a surge of Arc Light missions titled Bullet Shot. It took five miles of ramp space to park them and an expert to ensure their orderly movement since a blocked taxiway could prove a mission-crippling impasse.
Later that year Operation Linebacker II got underway when, on December 18, 1972, 87 B-52s were launched from Andersen in one hour and 43 minutes. Throughout the 11-day operation, Andersen-based B-52s flew 379 of the 729 sorties. Often called the "11-day war," Linebacker II led to the renewal of the Paris Peace Talks and, on January 28, 1973, the signing of a cease-fire agreement with the government of North Vietnam.
Two years after U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War ended Andersen participated in Operation New Life, becoming home to thousands of Vietnamese refugees until officials could process them into the United States. In the end, 109,553 refugees departed Andersen for the United States aboard 518 aircraft.
The post-Vietnam period brought a return to routine operations at Andersen, with B-52s on the ramp throughout the 1980s and the base remaining a vital overseas platform for carrying out the USAF's mission of global deterrence.
In support of the Gulf War in 1991, Andersen aided in transporting and deploying 200 aircraft, 2,200 troops and 2,212 tons of cargo. In addition, Andersen munitions specialists shipped more than 75 million pounds of bombs to the Gulf.
During Operation Fiery Vigil in June 1991, more than 21,000 people and their pets evacuated from Clark Air Base in the Philippines, came through Andersen following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo.
The Air Force inactivated 633rd Air Base Wing Oct. 1, 1994, and activated the 36th Air Base Wing, in keeping with the Air Force chief of staff's policy of keeping the most highly decorated and longest serving Air Force units on active duty. The Air Force had inactivated the 36th Fighter Wing at Bitburg Air Base, Germany, Oct. 1, 1994.
In October 1994, the U.S. Navy Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Five relocated to Andersen from the now closed Naval Air Station, Guam.
Today, with its huge fuel and munitions storage facilities and dual runways, Andersen is an important forward-based logistics support center for contingency forces deploying throughout the southwest Pacific and Indian oceans. Andersen's ideal flying conditions, relatively unlimited airspace and nearby air-to-ground range make this an ideal training area for the U.S. military and militaries of nearby countries.
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