Offutt AFB through the years

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  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

In February 1924, the Douglas County Reserve Officers Association proposed the Fort Crook landing field be named in honor of 1st Lt. Jarvis Offutt. Offutt was Omaha’s first World War I air casualty, who as a U.S. Army Air Service pilot, was killed in 1918 flying with the Royal Air Force in France.

May 6, 1924, the airfield at Fort Crook was officially named Offutt Field. The ceremony was attended by Lt. Jarvis Offutt’s mother, Bertha, and his younger brother, Casper, and included an aerial salute from 19 planes, which flew in from Fort Riley, Kansas.

Summer 1925, the U.S. Postal Service completed a 10-plane hangar at Offutt Field. Airmail service for Omaha and the surrounding area was flown in and out of the base for more than five years. In 1930, the airmail service moved to Omaha Municipal Airport, which is now Eppley Airfield, while Offutt Field focused more on military cross-country flights.

September 1940, the U.S. War Department announced a bomber factory would be built on Offutt Field and operated by the Glenn L. Martin Company. The Army leased 503 acres and added an additional 96 acres later, constructing 10 structures total. In the end, the plant produced 1,585 B-26s and 402 B-29s Superfortress, including the Enola Gay and Bockscar, which dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In 1947, the National Security Act established the Department of the Air Force as a separate service and on January 13, 1948, Fort Crook was transferred to the new service and christened Offutt Air Force Base. 

Strategic Air Command moved its headquarters here in 1948 from Andrews Air Force Base, Md. SAC was responsible for command and control of the strategic bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile components for the U.S. military from 1946 to 1992. That same year U.S. Strategic Command was established, unifying all strategic forces under one unified command.  

During the late 1950s Offutt AFB was home to the Royal Air Force and its Avro Vulcan aircraft. The Avro Vulcan was a strategic bomber from 1956 to 1984, which exercised with SAC through much of the Cold War.

The current RC-135 fleet is the latest iteration of modifications to this pool of -135 aircraft going back to 1962. Initially employed by SAC, the entire fleet is operated today by the 55th Wing. The venerable aircraft have participated in every sizable armed conflict involving U.S. assets during its tenure. 

In 1966, after nearly two years of planning, the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing moved here from Forbes Field, Kansas. For more than 50 years, the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth has been a proud member of the Omaha community.

In 1975, the 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron and its E-4A aircraft, transferred to Offutt AFB and the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth. The aircraft and its National Airborne Operations Center mission would remain with the wing until October 6, 2016, when the 595th Command & Control Group was activated at Offutt, taking ownership of the nuclear command and control unit.

Col. Regis F.A. Urschler, 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing commander, held the first 55th Wing Birthday Ball in the late 70s. He wanted to start an event that would tie the current crop of active-duty members to the wing’s long and storied history. The event is still held today, nearly 50 years later.

In 1986, the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing assumed host-unit responsibilities for Offutt AFB. The Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth moved to Offutt from Forbes Field, Kansas, in August 1966, and was renamed the 55th Wing on September 1, 1991.

The wing deployed to the Persian Gulf, August 8, 1990, and began 24-hour-a-day reconnaissance of the region for Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Central Command commander under Operation Desert Shield. At the start of Operation Desert Storm, January 18, 1991, the wing continued to provide real-time information to theater commanders and remains there yet today.

In 1992, the 55th Wing transitioned to Air Combat Command after Strategic Air Command was deactivated. Today, the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth is the largest wing in ACC and the second largest in the Air Force. 

The 55th Wing transferred control of the EC-135 Looking Glass mission to the U.S. Navy’s E-6B TACAMO aircraft in October 1998. The Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth continuously executed the airborne mission for nearly 25 years before transitioning to a modified alert posture in 1990.

March 2019, a 100-year flood decimated Offutt AFB, flooding one-third of the base displacing more than 3,200 personnel. The water covered a quarter of the 12,000-foot runway.

U.S. Strategic Command dedicated their new Command and Control Facility November 19, 2029. The $1.3 billion facility is named in honor of Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, who led Strategic Air Command from 1948 to 1957. More than 3,200 active duty and civilians work at the C2F.

September 30, 2022, Offutt AFB reopened the runway after an 18-month replacement project. The $227 million effort saw all of Offutt’s flying operations shift to the Lincoln Airport, which resulted in more than 1,800 sorites being flown with more than 9,000 flying hours.

The 2024 Defenders of Freedom Air & Space Show returns to Offutt Air Force Base on August 24-25. It was in the Summer of 1972 that air shows on the installation became an annual event and were held each year until 2013, when it was cancelled due to budget constraints. The 2024 show is the first since 2018 due to a flood, COVID pandemic and a runway replacement project.

Team Offutt would like to thank the Omaha community for their support of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Guardians for the past 100 years. We look forward to the next 100!