Griffiss Air Force Base

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This article is about the former United States Air Force base in New York. For the civil use of this facility and airport information, see Griffiss International Airport.
Griffiss Air Force Base
Shield Strategic Air Command.png
Part of Air Combat Command (1992–1995)
Strategic Air Command (1959–1992)
Rome, New York
EADS Stewart NY ANG.jpg
NY ANG personnel concentrate on the air defense mission at the Eastern Air Defense Sector.
Griffiss AFB is located in New York
Griffiss AFB
Griffiss AFB
Location of Griffiss Air Force Base, New York
Coordinates 43°13′50.955″N 75°24′34.71″W / 43.23082083°N 75.4096417°W / 43.23082083; -75.4096417
Type Air Force Base
Site information
Controlled by  United States Air Force
Site history
Built 1941–1942
In use 1942–1995
Events World War II, Cold War
Griffiss AFB
2 May 1997 (closed 1995)
IATA: noneICAO: none
Elevation AMSL 504 ft / 154 m
Direction Length Surface
ft m
15/33 11,820 3,600 Concrete

Griffiss Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force installation, located in Rome, New York, about 15 miles (24 km) northwest of Utica in central New York state. Missions at Griffiss AFB included fighter interceptors, electronic research, installation, and support activities, aerial refueling, and bombers. Opened in 1942, the base closed pursuant to BRAC action in 1995 and its airfield is now Griffiss International Airport, owned by Oneida County. In November 1984 the site was added to the National Priorities List because hazardous chemicals were found in soil and ground water. Solvents, lead and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) had been disposed in landfills and dry wells

Closed September 1995, by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decision, Realigned for civilian and non-combat purposes in 1995, it is now home to the Griffiss Business and Technology Park. Post-closure, two USAF activities remained on the former Griffiss AFB: the Rome Research Site of the Air Force Research Laboratory, and the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS) of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) as operated by the New York Air National Guard from a small complex of buildings in the Technology Park.

Location, geography[edit]

Griffiss Air Force Base is located in Rome, New York, in the Mohawk Valley among the Mohawk River, Six Mile Creek, and the New York State Barge Canal.[1]


On April 3, 1941, the War Department began looking for an area to construct an air depot in central New York. Orders to begin construction came from the War Department on June 23, 1941 and ground was broken on August 2, 1941. Facilities were completed in February 1942, and flight operations on the depot airfield began on February 18, 1942. Construction had been supervised by Kenneth Nichols of the United States Army Corps of Engineers Syracuse Engineer District, which was headed by James C. Marshall. Marshall and then Nichols became District Engineer for the Manhattan Engineer District (MED) which built the atomic bomb. After a series of names and realignments, the base was finally named "Griffiss Air Force Base" in 1948. The base was named in honor of Lt. Col. Townsend Griffiss (1900–1942), a Buffalo native and 1922 West Point graduate who, in 1942, became the first U.S. airman to be killed in the line of duty in the European Theatre of World War II[2] when the Consolidated B-24 Liberator in which he was flying was shot down by friendly fire over the English Channel.

Rome Air Depot[edit]

On February 1, 1942, the Rome Air Depot was activated and throughout World War II the depot provided aircraft engine maintenance and repair, and trained air depot groups in engine repair. With the end of the war and the sharp reduction of AAF aircraft operations, activities were sharply curtailed in the fall of 1945. The Rome Air Depot continued operations well into the 1960s as an Air Force Logistics Command Air Materiel Area (AMA) supporting USAF electronics and RADAR systems. The depot began a phasedown in the early 1960s, with the depot closing in 1967 with its functions being transferred to other AFLC Air Materiel Areas.

Air Defense[edit]

Air Defense Command.png
49th FIS Convair F-106A Delta Dart in Bicentennial markings, 1976

Although many aircraft landed at Griffiss during the war, the airfield had no permanently stationed flying units. It wasn't until after World War II, that the Air Force Reserve 65th Reconnaissance Group conducted aerial photo and mapping operations from Griffiss from December 27, 1946 until being inactivated on June 27, 1949.

On October 3, 1950 the 1st Fighter-Interceptor Group of Air Defense Command (ADC) became the first permanently assigned USAF flying unit at Griffiss. Although the group moved to California in 1951,[3] its 27th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (FIS) remained behind.[4] ADC units were stationed there for the next 30 years as Griffiss became a center for the Northeast air defense mission, and was headquarters of the Northeast Air Defense Sector. The 27th FIS flew Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars, North American F-86 Sabres, Northrop F-89 Scorpion, Lockheed F-94 Starfires and Convair F-102 Delta Daggers before leaving Griffiss in 1959.[4]

27th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron Lockheed F-94C Starfire, 1955
27th FIS F-102A Delta Dagger about 1958

In October 1955, the 465th FIS was assigned to Griffiss[5] with F-89 Scorpion all-weather fighters. ADC activated the 4727th Air Defense Group as a headquarters for the two squadrons in February 1957 and it became a major tenant at Griffiss.[6] The 49th FIS moved, less personnel, equipment, and aircraft from Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts and replaced the 465th FIS in October 1959, receiving, after the transfer, its McDonnell F-101 Voodoos.[7] Later that year, when the 27th FIS departed Griffiss, the 4727th was discontinued.[6]

Rome Laboratory[edit]

Further information: Rome Laboratory

Electronic research began at the Rome Air Depot in 1949. The Watson Laboratory complex was transferred to Rome from Red Bank, New Jersey between 1950 and 1951. The Rome Air Development Center was begun at the base on June 12, 1951, as a response to the specific electronics needs of air forces learned by the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the war. The RADC would be renamed to Rome Laboratory in 1991 as a response to its changing role in research and development.

Strategic Air Command[edit]

Master plan for Griffiss
Further information: 416th Air Expeditionary Group
Shield Strategic Air Command.png

The 416th Bombardment Wing (416 BW), a Strategic Air Command (SAC) B-52 Stratofortress and KC-135 Stratotanker wing that conducted strategic bombardment training and air refueling operations on a global scale was based at Griffiss AFB. 416 BW crews and aircraft deployed to the Pacific during the Vietnam War era to support SAC operations during the conflict. In 1991, wing crews and aircraft participated in Operation Desert Storm, the first Gulf War in Southwest Asia.

On 1 June 1992, as part of an Air Force-wide reorganization and concurrent with the disestablishment of SAC, the 416 BW's KC-135 aircraft were transferred to the newly established Air Mobility Command (AMC). The 416th retained its B-52 aircraft and the wing was transferred to the newly established Air Combat Command (ACC), with Griffiss designated as an ACC base. The 416 BW was inactivated in 1995 as part of the post-Cold War drawdown of United States strategic forces pursuant to a 1993 BRAC decision. Closure of Griffiss AFB was part of this same BRAC action.

Among the tenant activities at Griffiss AFB, the base was also home to the aviation brigade of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division from 1988 to 1992.[citation needed]

BRAC Realignment[edit]

Griffiss AFB was selected for realignment by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 1993.[8]

The facility is now[when?] home to the Griffiss Business and Technology Park, and it is still home to the Rome Research Site of the Air Force Research Lab as well as the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS) of North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Rome Location.[citation needed]

At its peak, the base was the largest employer in Oneida County, New York.[citation needed] Griffiss was the site of the Woodstock 1999 concert festival.[citation needed]

Environmental contamination[edit]

The base was designated a superfund site in 1984.[9] Solvents, lead and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) had been disposed in landfills and dry wells. This contaminated Three Mile Creek and Sixmile Creek, and ground water beneath portions of the base, and led to accumulation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Leaking underground storage tanks and soil contamination were dug out. People affected by contaminated well water received bottled water until in 1991 everyone was connected to the municipal water supply. By 2013, 27 of the 31 "areas of concern" identified in 1995 had been cleaned up or addressed otherwise, and did not need "further action" per EPA.[1]


The base closure on September 30, 1995, meant that 5,000 jobs or 30 percent of the city’s economic base were lost. The population decreased by 10,000, from 44,350 in 1990 to 34,950 in 2000. The Air Force Research Laboratory had not been closed, and became core of the redevelopment plan, of making it part of a corporate business and to build a technology park around it. In 2004, a new $24 million facility opened.[10]

Major Commands[edit]

Major units assigned[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Griffiss Air Force Base New York EPA ID#: NY4571924451" (factsheet). EPA Region 2. 25 October 2013. p. 3. Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Stephen Mulvey (14 February 2012). "Townsend Griffiss, forgotten hero of World War II". BBC News. 
  3. ^ Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) [1961]. Air Force Combat Units of World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 21–24. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. 
  4. ^ a b Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) [1969]. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 138–139. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. 
  5. ^ Maurer, Combat Squadronspp. 571-572
  6. ^ a b Cornett, Lloyd H; Johnson, Mildred W (1980). A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization, 1946–1980 (PDF). Peterson AFB, CO: Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center. p. 89. 
  7. ^ Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 213-214
  8. ^ "Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission - 1993 Report to the President" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. 1993-07-01. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  9. ^ Griffiss Air Force Base Region 2 Superfund, 6 May 2015, US EPA, retrieved 21 September 2015
  10. ^ "Former Air Force base gaining altitude as business park". Elizabeth Cooper (Gatehouse Media, LLC). 20 September 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  11. ^ This unit is not related to the previous one

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

Further reading[edit]

  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • Mueller, Robert (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-912799-53-6, ISBN 0-16-002261-4
  • Aerospace Defense Command publication, The Interceptor, January 1979 (Volume 21, Number 1).

External links[edit]