United States Air Force in France
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|Former bases of the United States Air Force
|Part of the Cold War|
Map of former NATO air bases in France.
From 1951 to 1966 the United States Air Force deployed thousands of personnel and hundreds of combat aircraft to France to counter the buildup of the Soviet Armed Forces in Eastern Europe. The Cold War escalated into the attempted seizure of West Berlin during 1948. This convinced the western nations to form a common defense organization. Discussions led to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO's defense strategy came to incorporate land, sea, and air forces.
Due to the vulnerability of West Germany to Soviet attack, USAF planners did not want any new tactical air units moved into the U.S. Zone of Occupation there. By 1950, the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) wanted all tactical air units to be located west of the Rhine River to provide greater air defense warning time. France agreed to provide air base sites.
- Bordeaux-Mérignac Air Base (flying units left 1952-53 (12 AF), closed 1958)
- Chambley-Bussières Air Base (12 AF until Feb 1958, 17 AF with 25 TRW until 1967)
- Châteauroux-Déols Air Base (Air Materiel Command assumed control of 73rd Air Depot Wing from January 1956)
- Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base (17 AF)
- Dreux-Louvilliers Air Base
- Étain-Rouvres Air Base
- Évreux-Fauville Air Base (322 AD, USAFE, until 20 June 1964, 7305 CSG until 15 April 1966 and arrival of temporary 513 TCW to move equipment)
- Laon-Couvron Air Base (17 AF until November 1959; 3 AF 1966-70)
- Paris-Orly Air Base
- Phalsbourg-Bourscheid Air Base
- Toul-Rosières Air Base
There were other communications sites, NATO Dispersed Operating Bases, Sub-Depots and minor facilities at several French Airports, such as Orly Airport and Marseille Provence Airport which are not shown on this map. The United States Army also established a significant presence in France, and was responsible for much Air Base construction and maintenance.
The first NATO tenant in France was the 1630th Air Base Squadron of the USAF Military Air Transport Service, activated in June 1950 at Paris - Orly Air Base. On 28 February 1958 the official name of Orly Air Base was changed to Orly Airport and most MATS flights were routed to Chateauroux-Deols Air Base.
After 15 years of USAFE basing, French President Charles De Gaulle decided to evict NATO forces from France. On 7 March 1966, he announced that France would withdraw from NATO's integrated military structure. He gave NATO forces one year to depart France.
The State Department, Department of Defense (DOD), and Air Force carefully managed the news about the American departure from France, and the attendant problems of an integrated NATO air defense for western Europe and the decrease in tactical airpower. Due to the U.S. media focus on the Vietnam War, the removal of NATO forces from France went virtually unreported in the US.
During 1966-67 all USAF offices and facilities in France were closed and personnel and equipment moved. The last USAFE activities were the 1630th Air Base Squadron at Orly Airport and the Paris Administration Office. Both were closed in June 1967. A C-47 variant, the C-117B "Super Skytrain" Serial 45-2549 was the last USAF aircraft to leave France, departing from Orly on 31 May 1967.
On 23 October 1967, all foreign flags were furled and after 17 years the last NATO forces departed France.
Today most of the old USAF air bases in France are being used by the French military and are not accessible to tourists.
- Jerry McAuliffe, The USAF in France 1950-1967
- Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
- McAuliffe, Jerome J. (2005). US Air Force in France 1950-1967. San Diego, California: Milspec Press ISBN 0-9770371-1-8.
- Menard, David W. (1998) Before Centuries: USAFE Fighters, 1948-1959. Howell Press Inc. ISBN 1-57427-079-6
- Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
-  USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers—1908 to Present