Maxwell Air Force Base

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Maxwell Air Force Base
Air Education and Training Command.png
Part of Air Education and Training Command (AETC)
Located in Montgomery, Alabama
Air Command and Staff College trains strategic leaders at Maxwell AFB Alabama.jpg
Air Command and Staff College trains strategic leaders at Maxwell AFB
Coordinates 32°22′45″N 086°21′45″W / 32.37917°N 86.36250°W / 32.37917; -86.36250 (Maxwell AFB)
Site information
Controlled by  United States Air Force
Site history
Built 1910
In use 1910-Present
Garrison information
Garrison 42d Air Base Wing.png 42d Air Base Wing
Airfield information
IATA: MXFICAO: KMXFFAA LID: MXF
Summary
Elevation AMSL 171 ft / 52 m
Coordinates 32°22′45″N 086°21′45″W / 32.37917°N 86.36250°W / 32.37917; -86.36250Coordinates: 32°22′45″N 086°21′45″W / 32.37917°N 86.36250°W / 32.37917; -86.36250
Website www.maxwell.af.mil
Map
KMXF is located in Alabama
KMXF
KMXF
Location of Maxwell Air Force Base
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
15/33 8,013 2,442 Asphalt
18/36 (assault training rwy) 3,015 919 Asphalt

Maxwell Air Force Base (IATA: MXFICAO: KMXFFAA LID: MXF), officially known as Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, is a United States Air Force (USAF) installation under the Air Education and Training Command (AETC). The installation is located in Montgomery, Alabama, US. Occupying the site of the first Wright Flying School, it was named in honor of Second Lieutenant William C. Maxwell, a native of Atmore, Alabama.

Units[edit]

Maxwell AFB is the headquarters of Air University (AU), a major component of Air Education and Training Command (AETC), and is the U.S. Air Force's center for Joint Professional Military Education (PME). The host wing for Maxwell-Gunter is the 42d Air Base Wing (42 ABW).

The Air Force Reserve Command's 908th Airlift Wing (908 AW) is a tenant unit and the only operational flying unit at Maxwell. The 908 AW and its subordinate 357th Airlift Squadron (357 AS) operates eight C-130H Hercules aircraft for theater airlift in support of combatant commanders worldwide. As an AFRC airlift unit, the 908th is operationally gained by the Air Mobility Command (AMC).

Gunter Annex is a separate installation under the 42 ABW. Originally known as Gunter Field, it later became known as Gunter Air Force Station (Gunter AFS) when its runways were closed and its operational flying activity eliminated. It was later renamed Gunter Air Force Base (Gunter AFB) during the 1980s. As a hedge against future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) closure actions, Gunter AFB was consolidated under Maxwell AFB in March 1992 to create a combined installation known as Maxwell/Gunter AFB.

Maxwell AFB is also the site of Federal Prison Camp, Montgomery, a minimum security facility for male inmates.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

Toward the end of February 1910, the Wright Brothers decided to open one of the world's earliest flying schools at the site that would subsequently become Maxwell AFB. The Wrights taught the principles of flying, including take-offs, balancing, turns, and landings. The Wright Flying School closed on May 26, 1910.[1]

The field served as a repair depot during World War I. In fact, the depot built the first plane made in Montgomery and exhibited it at the field on September 20, 1918. Repair activity at the depot was sharply curtailed at the end of the war.

Between the wars[edit]

Second Lieutenant William C. Maxwell, for whom the base is named.

The Aviation Repair Depot's land was leased by the U.S. Army during World War I, and later purchased on January 11, 1920 for $34,327. Diminished postwar activity caused the U.S. War Department in 1919 to announce that it planned to close thirty-two facilities around the country, including the Aviation Repair Depot. In 1919, the Aviation Repair Depot had a $27,000 monthly civilian payroll in 1919, and was a vital part of the city's economy. The loss of the field would have been a serious blow to the local Montgomery economy. The field remained open into the early 1920s only because the War Department was slow in closing facilities. After this initial reprieve, the War Department announced in 1922 that facilities on the original closure list would indeed close in the very near future. City officials were not surprised to hear that Aviation Repair Depot remained on the list, because 350 civilian employees had been laid off in June 1921. On November 8, 1922, the War Department redesignated the depot as Maxwell Field in honor of Atmore, Alabama native, Second Lieutenant William C. Maxwell. On 12 August 1920, engine trouble forced Lieutenant Maxwell to attempt to land his DH-4 in a sugarcane field in the Philippines. Maneuvering to avoid a group of children playing below, he struck a flagpole hidden by the tall sugarcane and was killed instantly. On the recommendation of his former commanding officer, Major Roy C. Brown, the Montgomery Air Intermediate Depot, Montgomery, Alabama, was renamed Maxwell Field.[2] In 1923, it was one of three U.S. Army Air Service aviation depots. Maxwell Field repaired aircraft engines in support of flying training missions such as those at Taylor Field, southeast of Montgomery.

Maxwell Field, as most Army air stations and depots developed during World War I, was on leased properties with temporary buildings being the mainstay of construction. These temporary buildings/shacks were built to last two to five years. By the mid-1920s, these dilapidated wartime buildings had become a national disgrace. Congressional investigations also showed that the manning strength of the U.S. Army's air arm was seriously deficient. These critical situations eventually led to the Air Corps Act of 1926 and the two major programs that dramatically transformed Army airfields. The Air Corps Act changed the name and status of the Army Air Service to the U.S. Army Air Corps and authorized a five-year expansion program. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, this program and its companion, the 1926 Army Housing Program, produced well-designed, substantial, permanent buildings and infrastructure at all Army airfields retained after World War I.

Taking up the cause of Maxwell Field was freshman Congressman J. Lister Hill, a World War I veteran who served with the 17th and 71st U.S. Infantry Regiments. He, as well as other Montgomery leaders, recognized the historical significance of the Wright Brother’s first military flying school and the potential of Maxwell Field to the local economy. In 1925 Hill, a member of the House Military Affairs Committee, affixed an amendment to a military appropriations bill providing $200,000 for the construction of permanent buildings at Maxwell Field. This amendment did not have the approval of the War Department nor the Army Air Corps, but as a result of this massive spending on Maxwell Field, the War Department kept it open. Hill recognized that to keep Maxwell Field open, it needed to be fiscally or militarily valuable to the War Department.

In September 1927, Hill met with Major General Mason M. Patrick, chief of the Army Air Corps, and his assistant, Brigadier General James E. Fechet, to discuss the placement of an attack group at Maxwell Field. Both made it clear that Maxwell Field was too close to Montgomery and was not a suitable location for an attack group. In fact, they asked Hill as "a friend of the Air Corps" not to "embarrass" the Corps by asking that the group be placed there. They warned that if he persisted, they would "very much oppose" the effort. However, General Patrick not wanting to alienate the new and up and coming Congressman (who was also a member of the House Military Affairs Committee) sought to appease Hill by offering to create an observation squadron at Maxwell Field. Hill welcomed the gesture; however, the creation of an observation squadron fell short of the long term on-going mission sought by Hill for Maxwell Field.

Hill continued to argue for the attack group to be placed at Maxwell Field. He argued that because of the permanent buildings scheduled to be built, it would be fiscally advantageous for the placement of the attack group at Maxwell Field. Hill's arguments were an extension of ones that had been presented to him by Major Roy S. Brown, former commandant of Maxwell Field from 1922-1925. In 1927, Major Brown was the commander of the Air Corps Tactical School located at Langley Field, Virginia. Major Brown urged Hill to keep his name out of it because of the easily traceable insider information. Hill, frustrated with the lack of positive response from Generals Patrick and Fechet, moved up the chain of command and passed on the correspondence he had with General Fechet to Secretary of War Dwight Davis, Assistant Secretary of War for Air F. Trubee Davison, and Army Chief of Staff Charles P. Summerall. His request to them was given the answer: that they would give the matter "full consideration."

The depot's first official flying mission was carried out after that. Observation missions originated there in 1927–1929. Pilots from the field were also involved in completing the first leg of a test designed to establish an airmail route between the Gulf Coast and the northern Great Lakes area. The successful test played a major role in the eventual establishment of permanent airmail service in the Southeast.

By early 1928, the decision of basing a new Army Air Corps attack group had come down to Shreveport, Louisiana, and Montgomery. Both cities vied for the federal money to be spent in their respective local areas, but Shreveport the more economically developed city than its counterpart Montgomery won the day. In April 1928 Hill, via his contacts in the War Department, found out that Montgomery would not be getting the attack group. Flexing his congressional muscle, Hill persuaded Assistant Secretary Davidson and now chief of the Air Corps Major General Fechet to hold off the official announcement until Montgomery had a second look by the War Department. During the interim Montgomery leaders had set forth actions to acquire over 600 acres (2 km2) for Maxwell Field’s expansion in hopes of wooing the War Department into placing the attack group in Montgomery.

In May 1928 General Benjamin Foulois, General Fechet's assistant, during an inspection visit with Third Army commander General Frank Parker to Maxwell Field mentioned that the Air Corps Tactical School would be moving from Langley Field to a still undecided location. During his stay General Foulois met with local Chamber of Commerce chairman Jesse Hearin and Maxwell Field post commandant, Major Walter R. Weaver. Hearin and Weaver touted the feasibility of Maxwell Field and the Montgomery area for the placement of the attack group at Maxwell Field. However, General Foulois guided the conversation towards the impending movement of the Air Corps Tactical School and he favored Maxwell Field for the new home. Hearin immediately worked up an option on another one thousand acres (4 km²) for the Air Corps Tactical School should Montgomery not be favored with the attack group.

In July 1928, word "via rumor" of the decision for the establishment of an attack group came out that Shreveport was indeed the victor of the final decision. In December 1928, after much debate and political maneuvering it was announced officially by the Assistant Secretary of War that Shreveport would be getting the attack group and that the Army Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) would be coming to Maxwell Field. The move to Maxwell Field from Langley Field was initially expected to increase Maxwell Field's population by eighty officers and 300 enlisted. It was expected that the ACTS would be to the Army Air Corps what Fort Benning, Georgia was to the infantry.

On January 15, 1929, it was announced that the ACTS would be twice as large as originally planned. On February 11, it was announced that $1,644,298 had been allowed for ACTS construction. This was not including an additional $324,000 the Secretary of War had approved previously for non-commissioned officer barracks and a school building after a conference with Congressman Hill. On March 12, a conference between a Major Kennedy, Chief of Buildings and Grounds of the Army Air Corps and commandant of the ACTS, and Congressman Lister Hill to determine the locations of the buildings and types of construction. In March 1929, personnel at Maxwell provided flood relief to citizens of Montgomery. This was the first time at which food and supplies were airdropped by U.S. military forces during a major civilian emergency.

On July 9, 1929, Captain Walter J. Reed and a battery of attorneys checked titles for the land. The War Department also announced the same day that the plan had changed to where the ACTS would now be four times as large as originally planned with 200 officers and 1,000 enlisted men. At the time, this made Maxwell Field the largest (as far as personnel) Army Air Corps installation in the southeast. Approximately 300 signatures to the deed of the land occupied by the Air Corps Tactical School were signed, of which one was signed by a minor. Chairman of the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce James Hearin said, "...several cases had to be taken to court." Despite the obvious rush for signatures, by October 5, deeds to the land were signed and mailed to the War Department.

On December 17, 1929, Congressman Lister Hill introduced a bill to appropriate $320,000 for the acquiring of 1,075 acres (4 km2) of land in Montgomery County as a part of an expansion program for Maxwell Field. This was a particularly bold move at the time by Hill because of the stock market crash. Effects of the crash had yet to take place; however, the panic caused by the crash had certainly captured Montgomery’s attention.

Austin Hall was built in 1931 to serve as the Air Corps Tactical School's main building.

On January 25, 1930, President Herbert Hoover asked Congress to re-appropriate an additional $100,000 for the main school building at Maxwell Field. President Hoover’s policy was to speed public works to offset unemployment. In February 1930, Congressman Hill’s resolution was passed in the House of Representatives and 80 acres (320,000 m2) were to be added to Maxwell Field for expansion purposes. George B. Ford and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., were hired by the Army Quartermaster Corps and they designed the overall layout of ACTS at Maxwell. Ford used an approach that clustered similar functions together. This technique provided plenty of open space and gave each cluster a distinct appearance.

On September 17, 1931, the first ACTS training occurred at Maxwell Field. Forty-one students met at 8:40 a.m. in the operations office conference room for general instruction. Classes were divided into sections, with some pilots sent on check flights, while others were sent out to become familiar with the surrounding countryside to become familiar with emergency landing field locations.

On the morning of September 22, 1931, opening exercises of the Air Corps Tactical School were held. On September 24, the Air Corps Tactical School was officially launched. The address was made by Major General James E. Fechet, chief of the Army Air Corps also attending were Congressman Lister Hill and commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School, Major John F. Curry. General Fechet, along with announcing his impending retirement, declared that the forty-one student officers could be future generals of the Air Corps. At a later luncheon, General Fechet also lauded Montgomery’s attitude toward the Air Corps.

The 1931-1932 faculty included Army Air Corps (AC), Army Infantry (Inf), Army Chemical Warfare Service (CWS), and Army Field Artillery (FA) instructors. Initially, the school's curriculum reflected the dominating influence of Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. Mitchell was a strong believer in the importance of gaining and maintaining air superiority during a conflict. He argued strongly for pursuit (e.g., "fighter") aircraft in combination with bombers and regarded enemy pursuit forces as the most serious threat to successful bombing operations and felt that the task of American pursuit was not necessarily to escort bombers, but to also seek out and attack enemy fighters. During the first five years of the school's operation, Mitchell's beliefs formed the basis for instruction at the tactical school. However, by the mid-1930s the school's emphasis had shifted from pursuit to bombardment aviation.

On July 16, 1933, Congressman Lister Hill secured approval from the War Department for $1,650,075 for immediate spending at Maxwell Field. Hill’s request was justified by increased enrollment at the Air Corps Tactical School and the desperate need for employment for the local Montgomery population. At the start of October 1933 bids opened for four construction projects that were to start immediately; 1933-1934 construction at Maxwell Field later employed an average of 500 plus workers.

World War II[edit]

Overhead Maxwell Field in 1937

The Air Corps Tactical School opened July 15, 1931. The school evolved into the Army Air Corps (later, U.S. Air Force's) first tactical center until the imminence of American involvement in World War II forced a suspension of classes in June 1940 that resulted in permanent closure of the school. One of the school's notable achievements was its development of two aerial acrobatic teams: the "Three Men on a Flying Trapeze", put together by then-Captain Claire L. Chennault in 1932, and the Skylarks in 1935.

In 1940, it was announced that the installation was to be converted into a pilot-training center. On 8 July 1940 the Army Air Corps redesignated its training center at Maxwell Field, Alabama as the Southeast Air Corps Training Center. The Southeast Air Corps Training Center at Maxwell handled flying training (basic, primary and advanced) at airfields in the Eastern United States.

An Air Force Pilot School (preflight) was also activated which instructed Aviation Cadets in the mechanics and physics of flight and required the cadets to pass courses in mathematics and the hard sciences. Then the cadets were taught to apply their knowledge practically by teaching them aeronautics, deflection shooting, and thinking in three dimensions. In June 1941, the Army Air Corps became the U.S. Army Air Forces, and on 8 January 1943, the War Department constituted and redesignated the school as the 74th Flying Training Wing (preflight).

During following years, Maxwell was home to six different schools that trained U.S. military aviators and their support teams for wartime service. As World War II progressed, the number of required pilot trainees declined, and the Army Air Forces decided not to send more aircrew trainees to Maxwell Field. The following known sub-bases and auxiliaries were constructed to support the flying school:

On 31 July 1943, the Southeast Air Corps Training Center was redesignated as the Eastern Flying Training Command. Also in July, the Army Air Forces announced a specialized school for pilots of four-engine aircraft. The first B-24 Liberator landed at the field later that month and in early 1945, B-29 Superfortress bomber training replaced the B-24 program.

=Postwar / Cold War / Present[edit]

Training at Maxwell continued until 15 December 1945, when the Eastern Flying Training Command was inactivated and was consolidated into the Central Flying Training Command at Randolph Field, Texas.

Air University, an institution providing continuing military education for Army Air Forces personnel, was established at Maxwell in 1946, prior to the U.S. Air Force becoming an independent service the following year. Today, it remains the main focus of base activities at Maxwell. In 1992, the 3800th Air Base Wing (3800 ABW) was disbanded and the 502d Air Base Wing (502 BW) took over as the host wing, which two years later gave way to the current 42d Air Base Wing.

As home of the Air University, Maxwell became the postgraduate academic center of the U.S. Air Force. Air University evolved first as an institution influenced by air power as shaped in World War II, then by the Cold War under the threat of nuclear annihilation, and by air power as applied during the Cold War's Korean and Vietnam conflicts. In the early twenty-first century, the emphasis shifted to air power's role in confronting international and transnational terrorism by both state-sponsored and non-state actors. AU grew materially from inadequate quarters, classrooms, and instructional technology into a campus that is as modern and up-to-date as those of any other in the U. S. armed forces. Construction of Maxwell's Academic Circle, Air University's primary education complex, began in the 1950s. Its centerpiece was the Air University Library, eventually one of several major libraries on a military installation.

Over the years, other activities were established or relocated to Maxwell AFB, to include Headquarters, Civil Air Patrol - USAF; the Air Force Reserve's 908th Tactical Air Support Group (908 TASG), which evolved into the present day 908th Airlift Wing; the Ira C. Eaker Center for Professional Development; the Center for Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education (CADRE); and the Air Force Historical Research Agency, a support organization and repository for air power scholars and AU students. In 1994, Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) was also relocated from Lackland AFB/Medina Annex, Texas to Maxwell AFB, joining the national headquarters of the Air Force's other non-Academy officer accession source, Air Force ROTC.[3]

Popular Culture[edit]

Maxwell AFB appears in the video game Tom Clancy's EndWar as a possible battlefield.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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

  • Shaw, Frederick J. (2004), Locating Air Force Base Sites History’s Legacy, Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air Force, Washington DC, 2004.
  • Manning, Thomas A. (2005), History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. Office of History and Research, Headquarters, AETC, Randolph AFB, Texas ASIN: B000NYX3PC

External links[edit]