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The History of Travis Air Force Base Exhibit

Travis AFB History Exhibit
Travis Air Force Base History Exhibit

The History of Travis Air Force Base Exhibit contains a wide variety of photographs, documents and artifacts presented in a professional and easy to follow progression. The time period covered is from 1940 thru 1999.

A Short History of Travis Air Force Base

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Fairfield, California. President George W. Bush visited the base enroute to China on October 17, 2001. Here he stresses to the crowd that America “will not fail” against the war on terrorism. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Verchio).

Failure Not An Option

Travis AFB is named in honor of Brigadier General Robert F. Travis, who was killed in a B-29 crash at the installation on 5 August 1950. At the time of his death, the general was commander of the 9th Heavy Bombardment Wing and was the base's commanding general. Formal dedication ceremonies were held on 20 April 1951.

Although today Travis is the home of the largest airlift organization in the Air Force, it began as an isolated airstrip with a few tar paper shacks set in the middle of a wind-swept prairie during World War II. Activated on 11 May 1943, the field was named Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base, after the two closest--mostly agricultural--towns. Planned shortly after Pearl Harbor, the base served as home for medium bombers and fighters assigned to defend the West Coast. The first runway and temporary buildings were constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the summer of 1942. They were used initially by army and navy fighter planes for takeoff and landing practice. For a few months, the outline of an aircraft carrier's deck was painted on the runway to help newly-commissioned navy pilots practice maneuvers. The strong local prevailing winds nearly duplicated those at sea.

Shortly after construction began, however, the base's potential as a major aerial port and supply transfer point for the Pacific theater led the Army Air Corps to assign it to the newly-designated Air Transport Command. The base officially opened 1 June 1943, with a primary mission of servicing and ferrying tactical aircraft from California across the Pacific to the war zone. By 1945, the base had become the West Coast's largest aerial port. The airlift of troops and supplies to occupied Japan and Korea, and the processing of war-weary returning GIs, had become the primary mission. On 1 June 1948, the Military Air Transport Service assumed jurisdiction. In July, two of the base's air transport squadrons left for Europe to assist in the Berlin Airlift.

On 1 May 1949, the Strategic Air Command became the major command of the base, turning it into a major long-range reconnaissance and intercontinental bombing installation. For the next nine years, airlift operations became secondary while the base served as home for SAC bombers such as the B-29, B-36, and eventually, the B-52. During this period, new hangers appeared, runways were added and widened, and permanent barracks and family living quarters were built. The base grew to its present size which encompasses 6,258 acres.

MATS resumed command of Travis AFB on 1 July 1958, after SAC's new dispersal policy led to the transfer of the 14th Air Division to Beale AFB, California. The base became headquarters for the 1501st Air Transport Wing--1955; for MATS's Western Transport Air Force (later Twenty-Second Air Force)--1958; and the 60th Military Airlift Wing (later the 60th Airlift Wing, later the 60th Air Mobility Wing)--1966. The 60th replaced the 1501st as the host unit on Travis on 8 January 1966. The 349 MAW (USAF Reserve) joined with the 60th when it moved from Hamilton AFB, California, in 1969.

Travis became part of the Air Mobility Command on 1 June 1992, when assets from MAC and SAC were fused into a single team. AMC's primary mission is mobility for America's armed forces. Travis supports this capability by deploying air and air mobile forces anywhere in the world, and sustains them in a conflict. The base has become the largest in AMC in terms of aircraft and personnel. The only wing to fly both the C-5 "Galaxy" and the C-141 "Starlifter," the base added the KC-10 "Extender" to its inventory in 1994. The C-17 Globemaster III arrived the summer of 2006.


With the addition of the KC-10 community, and with other force structure changes, Travis AFB's construction budget for Fiscal Years 1993 through 1997 totaled nearly $1 billion. Two major facilities completed in 1995 included a new Child Development Center and the largest Base Exchange in the Army and Air Force Exchange System.

Known as the "Gateway to the Pacific," Travis handles more cargo and passenger traffic through its aerial port than any other military air terminal in the United States. Additionally, the base has had a long and proud history of supporting humanitarian airlift at home and around the world. Today, the Travis Team includes approximately 7,260 active military, 3,770 civilians, and 4,250 reservists.

The following photographic collage and article is available for download as a PDF document.
Click on the image or click here to download.

The Origin and History of Travis AFB

Travis Air Force Base Today

“Team Travis” includes host unit 60th Air Mobility Wing, as well as the 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force, 615th Contingency Response Wing, 349th Air Mobility Wing (AFRC), and 52 additional partner organizations, including the Navy’s VQ-3 Detachment. With at least 13,900 Travis active duty, reservists and civilian employees, and over 110,000 retirees and their families within a 50 mile radius, Team Travis encompasses over 133,000 family members. Together, Team Travis is the only organization that can organically deliver full spectrum global mobility to include Airlift, Air Refueling, Aero-medical Evacuation and Global Reach Laydown for America.

Travis maintains a work force of approximately 6,976 active-duty military and 3,577 civilians to support its global mission. In addition, the more than 3,100 reservists assigned to the associate 349th Air Mobility Wing combine with their active duty and civilian counterparts to form a fully integrated Total Force team. The massive Travis work force makes an economic impact in the local community of more than $1.5 billion annually.

For current information about Travis Air Force Base click here.



History of Travis AFB








Basic Trainers
   BT-13 “Valiant”
   T-37 Simulator
   F-100 Cockpit Trainer








Early Years
   Wright Brothers








World War I
   94th Aero Squadron
   Stars and Stripes








Inter War Years
   Spirit of St. Louis
   Cessna AT-17 Bobcat








World War II
   Flying Tigers
   “The Hump”
   Piper L-4 “Grasshopper”
   CG-4 Combat Glider
   Tuskegee Airmen
   Doolittle Raid
   “Fat Man” Nuclear Bomb








Cold War
   Berlin Airlift
   The “Candy Bomber”
   Candy Bomber Honored








Korean War
   Korean War Gallery
   Korean War: “In Field”
   Korean War: “On Base”
   Korean War Stories
   Truman’s Secret Visit
   Flying Cheetahs
   Rescue Mission
   SAC Air Crews
   Travis Crash
   Operation Starlift








Vietnam War
   Vietnam Exhibit
   The Nurses
   Bringing Them Home
   Operation Homecoming








Modern Flight
   Strategic Airlift
   C-141 “Starlifter”
   Lockheed C-5 “Galaxy”
   Aerial Refueling








Space Exploration
   Aerojet General XLR73
   Mercury Spacecraft
   Project Gemini








Humanitarian Missions
   Stinson L-5 “Sentinel”
   EMEDS Unit
   Operation Babylift








   AGM-28 Hound Dog Missile
   PB4Y-2 Bow Turret
   Engine: R-2600-13
   Nose Art
   Military Coins
   Military Uniform Collection












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