CLINTON-SHERMAN AIR FORCE BASE
Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base (AFB), located seventeen miles southwest of Clinton, was established in October 1943 during World War II as Clinton Naval Air Station and served as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base from September 1954 through December 1969 during the Cold War. The installation subsequently housed the Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airport, the Midwestern Oklahoma Development Authority, the South Western Oklahoma Development Authority, and the Western Vocational-Technology School.
The beginnings of Clinton-Sherman came in 1942 when the War Department acquired approximately five thousand acres of Washita County farm land by condemnation for a naval air station. Four six-thousand-foot-long runways, three hangars, twenty-four barracks, and numerous temporary facilities soon appeared next to the town of Burns Flat. More than thirty-five hundred officers and enlisted men served with the Special Task Air Groups in the operation of aircraft drones and glider bombs.
After World War II the station closed, and all facilities transferred to the War Assets Administration. On January 27, 1949, the federal agency conveyed ownership of the entire installation to the city of Clinton, with a recapture clause in case of national emergency. Soon thereafter, the Sherman Iron Works rented space for the salvaging of more than nine thousand surplus aircraft.
On September 15, 1954, the federal government leased the site from the city of Clinton and began extending one runway that eventually reached a length of 13,502 feet, constructing new facilities, and building nine hundred military family housing units. Reactivated as Clinton-Sherman AFB, the mission of the new SAC airfield was pilot training and developing of specialized aircraft equipment. During the next ten years the Air Force acquired 528 more acres and an additional 3,580 acres of easements.
In March 1959, with a new assignment of B-52s, the 4123d Strategic Wing and its Ninety-eighth Bombardment Squadron arrived at Clinton-Sherman to conduct a nine-month test of the SAC airborne alert program. The Seventieth Bombardment Wing, along with its Sixth Bombardment Squadron and 902d Air Refueling Squadron replaced the 4123d on February 1, 1963. With B-52s and KC-135s, the new units conducted strategic bombardment training and air refueling to meet air force global commitments. For several months in both 1968 and 1969, all wing aircraft, most aircrew and maintenance personnel, and some support personnel were loaned to other SAC units engaged in combat operations in the Far East and Southeast Asia. The Seventieth Bomb Wing and its components ceased operations and inactivated on December 31, 1969.
Between July 1971 and October 1989 the City of Clinton granted the Midwestern Oklahoma Development Authority leasehold interest in the facility. In 1993 the South Western Oklahoma Development Authority gained control of the Clinton-Sherman Industrial Air Park, and transient training aircraft from Altus and Vance AFBs were still using the airfield ten years later. As its 13,502-foot runway was one of the longest in the world, the air park was considered aN alternate landing site for the Space Shuttle program. Boosters touted it as a future spaceport for the United States.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Mauer Mauer, Combat Squadrons of the Air Force: World War II ([Maxwell AFB, Ala.]: USAF Historical Division, Department of the Air Force, 1969). Charles A. Ravenstein, Air Force Combat Wings: Lineage and Honors Histories, 1947-1977 (Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, U.S. Air Force, 1984). M. L. Shettle, United States Naval Air Stations of World War II, Vol 2., Western States (St. Paul, Minn.: Motorbooks International, 1997).
James L. Crowder
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