New Boston Air Force Station

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New Boston Air Force Station
Air Force Space Command.png
Part of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)
Hillsborough County, New Hampshire
Coordinates 42°56′32″N 71°38′10″W / 42.942350°N 71.636095°W / 42.942350; -71.636095Coordinates: 42°56′32″N 71°38′10″W / 42.942350°N 71.636095°W / 42.942350; -71.636095
Type Air Force Station
Site information
Controlled by United States Air Force
Site history
Built 1942
In use 1959 - present
Garrison information
Garrison 23d Space Operations Squadron

New Boston Air Force Station is a United States Air Force facility located in Hillsborough County in south central New Hampshire. It occupies more than 2,800 acres (11 km²) in three towns: New Boston, Amherst, and Mont Vernon. It was established in 1942 as a practice area for bombers and fighter planes from nearby Grenier Army Air Field (now Manchester-Boston Regional Airport). Starting in 1959, it was turned into a satellite-tracking station.

New Boston AFS is operated by the 23d Space Operations Squadron (23 SOPS), a geographically separated unit (GSU) of the 50th Network Operations Group, 50th Space Wing, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.

History[edit]

The New Boston Air Force Station dates back to 1942, when Grenier Field - now Manchester-Boston Regional Airport - was preparing to meet the demands of World War II.

On Sept. 5, 1941, Col. John Moore, commanding officer of the U.S. Army Air Corps at Grenier Field, wrote a letter proposing the government create a bombing range in New Boston near Joe English Pond. "The nature of the terrain around the pond is such that aerial bombing thereon would offer the elements of surprise, concealed approach and navigation to a point," Moore wrote. "It is believed that Joe English Hill (altitude 1,245 feet) would be a satisfactory stop for any ricochet bullets from ground machine gun targets."

Eventually, land belonging to 16 families, 12 of them in New Boston, was taken at a cost of $23,200.

There was no electricity on site, and water had to be brought from Dodge's store in the center of New Boston. Nail kegs were used as chairs. Locals felt so sorry for the soldiers that they donated used furniture.

During World War II, local residents remember watching fighters and bombers train at the Air Force station and learned to recognize the sounds of strafing and bombing as they went about their tasks.

"I'd watch from the kitchen window," 89-year-old Evelyn Barss told the Telegraph of Nashua newspaper in a 2005 story. "They would come in across the hill and drop their bombs and we would see them. These little black specks would go down, and you would hear a small discharge - they didn't use a lot of powder because it was scarce during the war."

Roland Goodwin worked at the base on and off for three decades and he remembers seeing the tail fins of bombs sticking out of the pond. Planes at one time practiced dropping depth bombs for sinking submarines.

"Every building we built down there in the early days . . . we usually ran into a buried bomb of some kind. We'd have to bring people up from Fort Devens (in Massachusetts) to detonate it,"

After the war, the station took a lower profile. The bombing range was deactivated and after a long debate about the site's future, it became home to new satellite tracking antennas. The first antennas went up around 1960 and remain, protected by a geodesic dome resembling a golf ball about six stories high.

In previous years portions of the station have been open to fisherman, hunters, and loggers, but the station has been closed to most non-military personnel since the attacks of September 11.

Geography[edit]

A few working farms are in the vicinity; however, most of the area is heavily wooded with pockets of residential development. Commercial development consists primarily of small shopping centers with a few office complexes along NH State Route 101 to the southeast.

New Boston AFS consists mostly of undeveloped, forested land with extensive wetlands. Local, state, and federal laws governing the preservation of natural, cultural, and environmental resources play a major role in limiting development on and around the station.

The station lies within the Merrimack River watershed. Fourteen freshwater ponds fed by springs or streams, which occupy approximately 100 acres (405,000 m²), and seven miles (11 km) of streams exist on the station. The ponds are bordered by wetlands, and the streams by riparian vegetation. Riffle and pool habitats are favorable for many cold water fish species. Wetland types include freshwater emergent marshes of variable depths, wet meadows, shrub and deciduous wooded swamps such as red maple and black gum swamps, and a red spruce bog. This bog contains a deep peat layer.

Of all the water bodies on the station, only Joe English Pond appears on the list of protected water bodies under the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Comprehensive Shoreline Protection Act (CSPA).

External links[edit]