Wendover Field - Salt Lake City, UT - 445BG

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Wendover Field - Salt Lake City, UT

History > Training

Wendover Air Force Base's history began in 1940, when the United States Army began looking for additional bombing ranges. The area near the town of Wendover was well-suited to these needs; the land was virtually uninhabited, had generally excellent flying weather, and the nearest large city (Salt Lake City) was 100 miles away (Wendover had around 100 citizens at the time). Though isolated, the area was served by the Western Pacific Railroad, and many of its citizens were employed by the railroad.

Construction of the base and ranges began in September–November 1940. The first military personnel arrived in August 1941. Facilities were Spartan, with a few barracks, officer quarters, and a mess hall. There were also some warehouses, a theater, a medical facility, and a few other buildings located on the airfield. By the end of 1941, Wendover airfield had been expanded with additional buildings and paved runways.

Wendover Air Base became a subpost of Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City on 29 July 1941. By that time a total of 1,822,000 acres (737,300 hectare) had been acquired for the base and associated gunnery/bombing range. The gunnery range was 86 miles long and 18–36 miles wide. To provide water, a pipeline was run (1943) from a spring on Pilot Peak (Nevada) to the base.  The first military contingent arrived on 12 August 1941, to construct targets on the gunnery range.

With the entrance of the United States into World War II, Wendover Field took on greater importance. For much of the war the installation was the Army Air Force's only bombing and gunnery range.

In March 1942 the Army Air Force activated Wendover Army Air Field and also assigned the research and development of guided missiles, pilotless aircraft, and remotely-controlled bombs to the site. The new base was supplied and serviced by the Ogden Air Depot at Hill Field.

In April 1942, the Wendover Sub-Depot was activated and assumed technical and administrative control of the field, under the Ogden Air Depot. The Wendover Sub-Depot was tasked to requisition, store, and issue all Army Air Forces property for organizations stationed at Wendover Field for training.

By late 1943 there were some 2,000 civilian employees and 17,500 military personnel at Wendover. Construction at the base continued for most of the war, including three 8,100' paved runways, taxiways, a 300,000-square-foot ramp, and seven hangars. By May 1945 the base consisted of 668 buildings, including a 300-bed hospital, gymnasium, swimming pool, library, chapel, cafeteria, bowling alley, two movie theatres, and 361 housing units for married officers and civilians.

Wendover's mission was to train heavy bomb groups. The training of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator groups began in April 1942, with the arrival of the 306th Bomb Group flying B-17s.  From March 1942 through April 1944 Wendover AAF hosted twenty newly-formed B-17 and B-24 groups during one phase of their group training. In March 1942, heavy bomber training was a two-phase program, with each phase being six weeks. Later, the training was changed to a three-phase program, and each stage lasted four weeks. Wendover would do the second-phase training.

445th Bomb Group

During the first few days of June, 1943, all Group personnel from Orlando and Boise proceeded to Wendover, Utah.  Here the Group took up training in earnest.  At first, the Group and Squadron headquarters consisted of a few tents along the concrete ramp area where the aircraft were parked.  Every time the engines of the B-24's were started up, the papers in the tents were scattered in every direction.  Everyone concerned was glad when another Bomb Group moved out of Wendover and they were able to move into their offices.

Life at Wendover was hardly exciting.  The field was just a collection of flimsy huts and some concrete runways located in the salt flats of western Utah on the Nevada border.  Civilization was far removed from this forsaken spot.  A hotel or two, a sprinkling of homes and a few trees, plus several gambling casinos and cafes made up the tiny settlement outside the airfield.  From a military viewpoint, the isolation was an incentive to put in more working hours since there was little to do in the way of leisure.

On June 25th they officially began Operational training.  Two days later, the Group learned that they would be moving to Sioux City, Iowa for further training.  Everyone was glad to hear about the move as it meant the end of their desert exile.  On July 5th the Group departed Wendover with a limited number of officers and men flying the few planes assigned to the unit and the rest proceeding by troop train.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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