R.I. Bong Air Force Base
|Richard I. Bong Air Force Base|
Remains of Bong AFB, 14 April 2000
Location of Richard I. Bong Air Force Base
|IATA: none – ICAO: none|
|Owner||United States Air Force|
|Location||Brighton, Kenosha County, Wisconsin|
|Elevation AMSL||803 ft / 244 m|
The base was originally intended to be an air defense fighter base for the Chicago and Milwaukee areas. It was conceived in the early 1950s and construction began in the mid-1950s. Construction had barely begun when the base was transferred to the Strategic Air Command. Eventually, the base was considered obsolete as it had become apparent to Air Force officials that the base would be rather redundant with installations nearby that would soon have space for more units. The base was abandoned in 1959 and disposed of the following year.
The base is not to be confused with the planned renaming of Spokane Air Force Base, Washington as Bong Air Force Base, which was the planned name of that facility until General Muir Fairchild died on active duty in 1950, cementing "Fairchild" onto the name of the current Fairchild Air Force Base.
Major commands to which assigned
Base operating units
- 56th Fighter-Interceptor Wing
- 4040th Air Base Squadron (1957–1959)
The idea of an air force base for the Chicago area began in 1951 when it was realized that the air traffic at O'Hare International Airport would soon oversaturate control facilities. The United States Air Force then instructed the Air Defense Command to study the possibility of locating a base which would house two fighter-interceptor squadrons within a 70-mile radius from the city. The aim of the base was to protect the Milwaukee and Chicago areas from attack by Soviet bombers. A survey team then selected a site south of the unincorporated community of Kansasville, Wisconsin. On August 30, 1954, the Air Defense Command requested funds for development of the site. The 56th Fighter-Interceptor Group was scheduled to move to the base as soon as it was completed.
Construction barely begun in 1956 when the Air Defense Command began to doubt the selection of the site. By this time, it was named after the famous aviator Major Richard Ira Bong, a Wisconsin World War II flying ace. The new commander of the command pointed out that new problems in air traffic control would develop and that the community of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, only 18 miles west, protested violently when a site there had been proposed for the location of the United States Air Force Academy. His recommendations were to select a site north of Milwaukee where the location would be beneficial to not only the Air Defense Command, but the Strategic Air Command, which was planned to be the base tenant at the time.
Only the drainage system was being built in the middle of 1957 and the acquisition of land was not even complete. At that time, the scheduled date of the moving of the two squadrons was changed to mid-1960. On June 5, 1957, the major command for the base was changed to the Strategic Air Command. The two squadrons that were planned to be located there became tenants at the base. As technology increased, the Air Defense Command was able to reduce its aircraft and continue its strength. One of the O'Hare squadrons was eliminated in 1958 while another was transferred to K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base.
During 1956 and 1957, Strategic Air Command devised a program where the units were to be dispersed throughout the country, which in theory would lessen losses from a direct enemy attack. Bong became one of these bases. As a result, the 4040th Air Base Squadron was activated on August 1, 1958 to maintain the base. The base was also assigned to the Eighth Air Force as well. The planned tenants of the base were a bomber wing and an air refueling wing.
On January 1, 1959, responsibility for the base was transferred from the Eighth Air Force and 4040th Air Base squadron to the Second Air Force. Interestingly, the tenant 4040th was made up of two servicemen when this move occurred. The Air Force then realized that the units planned for the base could be accommodated at other existing bases. Since the base would no longer be needed, the Air Force announced on October 1 that Bong would be closed. At that date, the 12,900-foot (3,900 m) asphalt runway was just three days from having the concrete poured over it. That same day, all construction was halted. The 4040th, now made up of 12 servicemen and no civilians was discontinued on December 1, 1959. The decision to close the base was due to the realization that the B-58 Hustler could be accommodated at other bases through the elimination of B-47 Stratojet units ahead of schedule. Bong Air Force Base was declared excess on August 23, 1960. Secretary of the Air Force James H. Douglas, Jr. later explained the decision to close Bong by saying:
"Finally we realized that by 1961-62 when Bong would be ready, we would have several other medium bomber bases empty of squadrons & we really don't need Bong."
The only military activity that ever occurred at Bong was the training of Special Forces units before they headed over to the Vietnam War.
Post closure usage
After it was closed, the base sat in disuse for many years. After becoming the hotspot for biker gangs and criminal activity, the state of Wisconsin finally bought the 4,515-acre (18.27 km2) site in 1974. It was then turned into a park, called Richard Bong State Recreation Area. It was the state's first recreation area. Part of the base was also turned into a golf course.
The base has a total area of 7.055-square-mile (18.27 km2) .
- AFHRA Document 00464883
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.