March Air Force Base

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March Air Force Base (1918-Active) - A United States Air Force Base first established in 1918 as March Field at Riverside, Riverside County, California. Named for 2nd Lt. Peyton C. March, Jr., who was killed in a flying accident in Texas. He was the son of the then Army Chief of Staff. Renamed March Air Force Base in 1949. Renamed March Air Reserve Base in 1996.

March Air Force Base Old Control Tower. (Demolished in 2015)
March Air Force Base New Control Tower.
March Air Force Base C-17 Cargo Planes on Tarmac.
March Name Chronology
Name From To
March Field 20 Mar 1918 13 Jan 1948
March Air Force Base 13 Jan 1948 31 Mar 1996
March Air Reserve Base 31 Mar 1996 Active

World War I

(Text adapted from USAF Fact Sheet)

In 1917 a group of California citizens gained War Department approval for a military airfield at Alessandro Field located near Riverside, California. The Army wasted no time in establishing the new airfield. On 20 Mar 1918, Alessandro Flying Training Field became March Field. By late April 1918, enough progress had been made in the construction of the new field to allow the arrival of the first troops.

The commander of the 818th Aero Squadron detachment, Captain William Carruthers, took over as the field's first commander. Within a record 60 days, the field was transformed to include twelve hangars, six barracks equipped for 150 men each, mess halls, a machine shop, post exchange, a hospital, a supply depot, an aero repair building, bachelor officer's quarters and a residence for the commanding officer.

On May 15 when the first JN-4D "Jenny" took off, March Field came into its own as a training installation. The signing of the WWI armistice on 11 Nov 1918, did not initially halt training at March Field but by 1921, the decision had been made to phase down all activities at the new base. In April 1923, March Field closed its doors with one sergeant left in charge.

Pre World War II

In July 1926, Congress created the Army Air Corps and approved the Army's five-year plan which called for an expansion in pilot training and the activation of tactical units. Funds were appropriated for the reopening of March Field in March 1927. Colonel William C. Gardenhire, assigned to direct the refurbishment of the base, received word the future construction would be in Spanish Mission architectural design. In time, March Field would receive permanent structures. The rehabilitation effort was nearly complete in August 1927, when Major Millard F. Harmon became base commander and commandant of the flying school.

The base's basic mission changed and March Field became an operational base. Before the end of the year, the 7th Bomb Group, commanded by Major Carl A. Spaatz, brought its Condor B-2 and Keystone B-4 bombers to the field. The activation of the 17th Pursuit Group and several subordinate units along with the arrival of the 1st Bombardment Wing initiated a period where March Field became associated with the Air Corps' heaviest aircraft as well as an assortment of fighters.

March Field 1932 Enlisted Barracks.

March Field took on much of its current appearance before World War II. Lieutenant Colonel Henry H. (Hap) Arnold, the base commander from 1931 to 1936, was responsible for many of the improvements. March Field gained prominence by hosting many distinguished visitors and celebrities.

World War II

The 7 Dec 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor brought March Field back into training aircrews. Throughout the war, many bombardment groups performed their final training at March before embarking for duty in the Pacific. During this period, the base doubled in area and came to support approximately 75,000 troops. At the same time, the government procured a similar-sized tract west of the San Diego highway that bordered the base and established Camp Haan as an anti-aircraft artillery training facility. It supported 85,000 troops at the height of its activity. For a time, March Field remained a bustling place indeed. In 1946, Camp Haan became a part of March's real estate holding when operations at the base returned to a more normal setting.

March Army Airfield Auxillary Airfields
No Name Location State GPS Notes
Buffalo Springs Airport Santa Catalina Island California 33.405, -118.415833
Needles Auxiliary Field Needles California 34.7628, -114.62422
Shavers Summit Army Airfield Chiriaco Summit California 33.6650, -115.7100

Post World War II

After the war, March reverted to its operational role and became a Tactical Air Command base. The main unit, the famed 1st Fighter Wing, brought the first jet aircraft, the F-80, to the base. This deviation from the traditional bombardment training and operations functions did not long endure. In 1949, March became a part of the relatively new Strategic Air Command. Headquarters Fifteenth Air Force along with the 33d Communications Squadron moved to March from Colorado Springs in the same year. Also in 1949, the 22nd Bombardment Wing moved from Smoky Hill Air Force Base, Kansas to March. After that, these three units remained as dominant features of base activities.

March Air Force Base Master plan 1951.

Korean War

From 1949 to 1953, the B-29 Super fortresses dominated the Flightline at March Air Force Base. For four months, from July to October, the 22nd saw action over Korea and in this brief period, contributed to the elimination of all strategic enemy targets. Involvement in the Korean Conflict had no sooner ended when the wing converted from the huge propeller-driven B-29s to the sleek B-47 jet bombers and their supporting tankers, the KC-97s. The KC-97s belonging to the 17th and 22nd Air Refueling Squadrons represented an amazing jump in technology. Planes and crews from March began breaking altitude and distance records. The new refueling planes introduced a significant advance in operational range. The overall operational capability could now be measured in global terms. This had been demonstrated earlier when General Archie Old, the Fifteenth Air Force commander, had led a flight of three B-52s in a non-stop around-the-world flight termed "Power Flight" in just 45 hours and 19 minutes. Ceremonies upon their arrival at March on January 18, 1957, emphasized the global reach of the Strategic Air Command.

Cold War

In 1960, the first Reserve unit was assigned to March, flying C-119s. The end of the 1960s saw March Air Force Base preparing to exchange its B-47s and KC-97s for updated bombers and tankers. Increasing international tensions in Europe and elsewhere by September 16, 1963, brought March its first B-52B bomber, "The City of Riverside." Soon 15 more of the giant bombers appeared on the Flightline along with the new KC-135 jet "Stratotankers." March's first KC-135, "The Mission Bell," arrived on October 4, 1963. For the next twenty years, this venerable team would dominate the skies over what had come to be called the Inland Empire as the 22nd Bombardment Wing played a feature role in the Strategic Air Command's mission.

During this period, both tankers and bombers stood alert at March AFB as part of America's nuclear deterrent force. During the conflict in Southeast Asia, the 22nd Bombardment Wing deployed its planes several times and March crews participated in operations including Young Tiger, Rolling Thunder, Arc Light, and Linebacker II. In these troubled years, the base served as a logistical springboard for supplies and equipment en route to the Pacific. Near the end of the conflict, March operated as one of the reception centers for returning prisoners of war.

Following the end of hostilities in Southeast Asia, the 22nd returned to its duties as an integral part of the Strategic Air Command. For the next eighteen years until 1982, March effectively supported America's defensive posture. This occurred through several post-Vietnam adjustments. One of these brought the retirement of the wing's last B-52 on 9 Nov 1982. This event signaled yet another era for March Air Force Base and for the 22nd. The 22nd Bombardment Wing, so long a key ingredient in March's long history, would become an air refueling wing with the new KC-10 tanker. The new tankers, able to accomplish considerably more than the KC-135s, promised a new tomorrow for the Strategic Air Command. Within months after the first KC-10 arrived at the base on 11 Aug 1982, crews quickly realized the ability of the new aircraft to carry cargo and passengers as well as impressive fuel loads over long distances. The California Air National Guard also arrived in 1982, bringing with them the F-4Cs.

The KC-10s in conventional operations during DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM contributed to the success of American forces in the defense of Saudi Arabia and the liberation of Kuwait.

Realignment and Transition

In August 1993 the 22d Air Refueling Wing was transferred to McConnell AFB, Kansas, and the 722d Air Refueling Wing stood up at March. As part of the Air Force's realignment and transition, March's two Reserve units, the 445th Military Airlift Wing and the 452d Air Refueling Wing were deactivated and their personnel and equipment joined under the 452nd Air Mobility Wing on 1 Apr 1994.

March AFB Property Realignment.

On 1 Apr 1996, March Air Force Base officially became March Air Reserve Base with the size of the base reduced to 2,075 acres (Blue Map Area), and the remainder of the installation (4,533 acres) (Green Map Area) was closed as part of the nationwide Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).

A civilian Joint Powers Authority (JPA) was created to plan and implement the final reuse of the base by leasing and/or eventually transferring parcels of land to private companies, organizations, or government agencies. The Joint Powers Commission (JPC), the governing body of the JPA, includes two representatives from each of the three cities bordering the former base (Riverside, Moreno Valley, and Perris), and two representatives from the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

In 2006, eight C-17 Globemaster IIIs were delivered to March Joint Air Reserve Base, California; controlled by the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC).

Tennant Organizations

Current Status

Active Air Reserve Base.

Location: Riverside, Riverside County, California.

Maps & Images

Lat: 33.89769 Long: -117.25845

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 1,536'

GPS Locations:

See Also:



Fortification ID:

  • CA0671 - March Air Force Base
  • CA0670 - March Air Base
  • CA0672 - March Air Reserve Base
  • CA0673 - March Joint Air Reserve Base
  • CA0674 - March JSS ROCC
  • CA0675 - March SOCC

Visited: 1 Jan 2016, 14 Jan 2014

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