Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base

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Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base

Shield Strategic Air Command.png

Part of Strategic Air Command
Located near: Burns Flat, Oklahoma
Csafb-17feb1995.jpg
USGS 1995 Aerial Photo
Coordinates 35°20′23″N 099°12′02″W / 35.33972°N 99.20056°W / 35.33972; -99.20056
Type Air Force Base
Site information
Site history
Built 1942
In use 1954-1969
Clinton-Sherman AFB is located in Oklahoma
Clinton-Sherman AFB
Clinton-Sherman AFB
Location of Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base, Oklahoma
For the civil use of this facility and airport information, see Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark

Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base (1954–1969) is a former United States Air Force Strategic Air Command base located near the town of Burns Flat in Washita County, Oklahoma, 15 miles (24 km) southwest of the city of Clinton, Oklahoma.

Today it is the site of the Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark.

History[edit]

NAS Clinton[edit]

In 1942, at the beginning of World War II, the United States Navy established a naval air station on 5,000 acres (20 km²) of farmland in the area known as Burns Flat. The site was named Naval Air Station Clinton and was acquired by condemnation. Four runways and numerous installation support facilities were built. The mission of NAS Clinton was to train naval aviators.

After the war ended, NAS Clinton was closed in June 1946, but for a period of time was used as a "graveyard" for thousands of naval aircraft from the war. Some of these planes were sold to individuals or companies, but most were dismantled and melted and sold as scrap. A portion of the airfield was leased by Sherman Iron Works for use in salvaging surplus combat aircraft and parts.

On 27 January 1949, the United States of America (acting by and through the War Assets Administration) conveyed the installation to the City of Clinton, Oklahoma by quitclaim deed. The deed contained a recapture clause for national emergency purposes. After the transfer the installation was used for a time as a civilian airport.

Clinton-Sherman AFB[edit]

Patch of the 70th Bombardment Wing, Heavy

On 29 June 1954, the Eighth Naval District Public Works and Dock Office in New Orleans, Louisiana was designated as the engineering agency for the United States Air Force for the purpose of rehabilitating buildings on the former NAS Clinton facility, and transition of the facility into an active Air Force base supporting the Strategic Air Command (SAC).

On 15 September 1954, the United States of America leased the site from the City of Clinton to be used as an United States Air Force Base. The site consisted of 528.00 acres (2.1367 km2) of land in fee and 3,579.04 acres (14.4839 km2) of easements.

On 15 March 1955 the formal transfer of the base was made to the USAF. The facility was renamed Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base, with the name being derived from the nearby city of Clinton, Oklahoma and the Sherman Iron Works. The Air Force modernized the old World War II naval air station with many new buildings, as well as constructing a 13,000 ft (4,000 m) main runway to support Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers.

FAA diagram of Clinton-Sherman Airport (CSM)

The first tenant occupied the new base on 10 December 1957 when the Strategic Air Command activated the 4123rd Strategic Wing (4123 SW) to perform B-52 pilot training and development of aircraft equipment. It continued this mission until 15 November 1962 when the wing was inactivated. The 98th Bombardment Squadron (1959–63) operated B-52E Stratofortress aircraft on operationally-ready status while assigned to the 4123 SW.

The 4123 SW was replaced by the 70th Bombardment Wing, Heavy which absorbed the personnel and equipment of the training wing. The 70 BW was placed on operational status upon activation with the 61st and 98th Bombardment Squadrons being its operational flying squadrons. On 1 February 1963, the 98 BS was inactivated with its personnel and equipment being transferred to the newly established 6th Bombardment Squadron.

Initially equipped with B-52E models, the 70 BW was upgraded to the B-52D in 1968 along with some older B-52Cs which had limited use. It conducted strategic bombardment training and air refueling missions from February 1963 to December 1969.

In addition to the training missions (Matagorda Island Test Bomb-sight, Torrejon Spain, etc.), the 70th BW maintained a 24-hour watch "Christmas Tree" of eight nuclear-loaded B-52s (each with two additional 'Hound Dog' standoff nuclear missiles), and an "Alert Barracks" manned by full 24-hour mission crews adjacent to the Christmas Tree. (The Christmas-Tree area is clearly shown at the north end of the main runway in the aerial photo of the runway.) The 70th BW additionally took part in the "Polar Route" missions (Curtis LeMay's constant armed B-52s in the air) in rotation with other SAC bases.

In addition to the SAC 70th BW mission, Clinton-Sherman acted as (1) a refueling and layover point for cross-country USAF and Naval aircraft (mainly fighter aircraft of all sorts); (2) as a flight training destination for US Army helicopters from Fort Sill and fighter trainers from Vance AFB; and (3) as a diversion landing field when Tinker AFB was locked in by weather or traffic considerations.

Preceding 2 paragraphs from a member of the Clinton-Sherman 'Base Ops' crew (we called in all aircraft flight plans), from mid-'63 to May'64.

For several months in both 1968 and 1969, all of the 70 BW aircraft, most of the aircrew and maintenance personnel and some of its support people were loaned to other SAC units engaged in combat operations in the Far East and Southeast Asia. It was one of eleven SAC bomb wings that rotated such combat duty under the program known as Arc Light.

In 1969, military operations were de-emphasized and Clinton-Sherman AFB was designated for closure. Due to budgetary restrictions, the 70th Bombardment Wing was inactivated on 31 December 1969 and the USAF closed Clinton-Sherman AFB.

Post USAF Closure use[edit]

On 1 June 1971, the City of Clinton conveyed 101.43 acres (0.4105 km2) by Quitclaim deed to the General Services Administration (GSA). On 3 June 1971, the United States of America and the City of Clinton, Oklahoma, by mutual agreement, terminated the lease dated 15 September 1954.

On 1 July 1971, the City of Clinton, Oklahoma, granted Midwestern Oklahoma Development Authority (MODA) a leasehold interest for a portion of the site, with said lease containing provisions for sub-leasing property. On 16 August 1972, MODA leased to the United States of America a portion of the former Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base.

On 28 February 1975, the lease between MODA and the United States of America was terminated, with the United States retaining the right to reenter and use part of the land and improvements in the event of a national emergency. On 6 October 1989, the leasehold interest between MODA and the City of Clinton was terminated

Today the site continues as the Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark and the runway is one of the longest in the world. The runway is used daily for private non-commercial aircraft.

In addition, the runway at Clinton-Sherman is routinely used for training purposes by USAF and USN aircraft at nearby bases. This includes Lockheed C-5A/B Galaxy, Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, and Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers from Altus AFB; Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS, KC-135, and U.S. Navy E-6 Mercury TACAMO aircraft from Tinker AFB; Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons from Tulsa Air National Guard Base; and Raytheon T-1 Jayhawks and Northrup T-38 Talons from Vance AFB. The U.S. Air Force has also used the Clinton-Sherman site for training exercises such as "Mighty Force" and other exercises with personnel from Altus AFB or Tinker AFB.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol[edit]

The former northeast 'alert pads' and ready facility of the former SAC base curerntly houses the Law Enforcement Driver Training Center of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol; Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. Currently referred to as 'Building 120', the former bunker facility houses OHP Academy staff and cadets during the driving training portion of 'Patrol Schools'. The annual 'Cadet Lawman Academy' (sponsored by the OSTA, Elks Lodge, and C.U.D.D.), is also located at the same facility during the summer, which provides a 1 week program for high school students. The surrounding facility and tarmac incorporates over 12 miles of various roadways and courses, used for precision driving and emergency vehicle operation training. This facility is recognized as one of the top ranked law enforcement driver training centers in the country, according to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.


The location of the former naval air station World War II runways to the north and west of the main runway are still visible on aerial photographs of the airport; however they are not usable.

USAF Postcard Gallery[edit]

Photos derived from USAF postcards of Clinton-Sherman AFB taken about 1958/1959

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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

External links[edit]