The aerodrome was created by German military during World War II. Melsbroek also was operated by the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) and the RAF during World War II (after the 1944 liberation).
Operation Bodenplatte, the German aerial attack of 1 January 1945, hit Melsbroek hard. According to Emil Clade (leading III./JG 27), the AAA positions were not manned, and aircraft were bunched together or in lines, which made perfect targets. The attack caused considerable damage among the units based there and was a great success. The Recce Wings had lost two entire squadrons worth of machines. No. 69 Squadron RAF lost 11 Vickers Wellingtons and two damaged. Possibly all No. 140 Squadron RAF′s Mosquitoes were lost. At least five Spitfires from No. 16 Squadron RAF were destroyed. No. 271 Squadron RAF lost at least seven Harrow transports "out of action". A further 15 other aircraft were destroyed. 139 Wing reported five B-25s destroyed and five damaged. Some 15 to 20 USAAF bombers were also destroyed. Another source states that that 13 Wellingtons were destroyed, as were five Mosquitoes, four Auster and five Avro Ansons from the Tactical Air Forces 2nd Communications Squadron. Three Spitfires were also lost and two damaged. At least one RAF Transport CommandDouglas Dakota was destroyed.
After the war, Melsbroek replaced Haren Airfield as the Belgian national airport. That title is now carried by the Zaventem terminal on the same aerodrome, built for the 1958 world exposition. At that time, the existing terminal was taken over by the then Belgian Air Force.