Gambell Airport was used as a transport base during World War II, facilitating the transit of Lend-Lease aircraft to the Soviet Union. It was also used by the USAAF as an emergency landing field for aircraft patrolling the west coast of Alaska.
On 27 February 1974, a Soviet UnionAn-24LR carrying a crew of 3 and 10 scientists on an ice-reconnaissance mission landed at Gambell due to fuel exhaustion in bad weather, causing a minor Cold War incident. Villagers, mostly Yupik Native Americans, provided space heaters and food. A U.S. Air Force C-130 flew in a load of fuel bladders with JP-1 fuel from Anchorage to refuel the An-24, which departed at 7:30 pm. She dipped her wings in salute in a pass over the airfield, then returned to Soviet airspace.