Tonopah Air Force Base

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Tonopah Air Force Base (1942-1948) - A United States Air Force Base first established in 1942 as Tonopah Army Airfield at Tonopah, Nye County, Nevada. Renamed Tonopah Air Force Base in 1948. It closed in 1948.

Former Tonopah AAF Ammunition Bunkers.
Tonopah Municipal Airport Operations.
Former Tonopah AAF World War II Hanger.

Pre-World War II Activities

Three million acres of public domain land in Nevada were transferred from the U.S. Department of the Interior to the War Department in 1940. This land was set aside as the Tonopah Bombing and Gunnery Range (TB&GR). At the northwest edge of the range, near the town of Tonopah, construction began in 1941 on a U.S. Army airfield to conduct training at the range. The airfield was a part of the range until 1944 when it became the separate Tonopah Army Airfield (TAAF).

World War II

Tonopah AAF Aerial 1944.

In July 1942 the first military personnel arrived at the new airfield. Initial training was in Bell P-39 Airacobras and 12 fighter squadrons were trained in 1943 for overseas combat.

In September 1943 the base was shut down for a $3 million dollar expansion project for Consolidated B-24 Liberator training. Construction was complete by the beginning of November 1943 and training activities resumed.

In the summer of 1944, a Field Test Unit of Wright Field's Special Weapons Branch tested guided glide bombs including television-equipped versions. Models tested included the GB-4, GB-6, and GB-8 versions. These guided glide bombs were the predecessors of today's smart bombs.

At its peak in October 1944, there were 66 B-24 training aircraft with 1,264 officers and 5,273 enlisted men assigned to the base. By March 1945 as the war wound down there were 437 officers, 3,707 enlisted men, and 184 civilians at the base.

Post World War II

On 23 Aug 1945, Tonopah AAF was placed on inactive status and all training classes were stopped. By 15 Sep 1945 just four aircraft remained at the airfield.

On 21 Mar 1946, Tonopah was a sub-base of Castle Field and transferred with Castle to Strategic Air Command by August 1946, with just a few assigned personnel. On 1 Oct 1946 jurisdiction was transferred to Clovis Army Airfield. In June 1947 Tonopah AAF was declared excess along with its 3 auxiliary areas.

U.S. Air Force

The United States Air Force (USAF) was formed as a separate branch of the military on 18 Sep 1947 under the National Security Act of 1947. The majority of the Army Air Force bases were transferred to the new USAF jurisdiction and became Air Force Bases. Tonopah Air Force Base was transferred to the U.S. Corps of Engineers on 21 Aug 1948 as surplus property. Parts of the former base were later turned over to the town of Tonopah as the Tonopah Municipal Airport.

Tonopah Army Air Field Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1942-07 1942-12 Colonel Gore, Frank D. N/A
1942-12 1944-05 Colonel McCrillis, Jacob N/A
1944-05 1944-06 Colonel Patterson, Elder N/A
1944-06 1944-12 Colonel Smith, Stanton T. N/A
1944-12 1946 Colonel Faegin, John A. N/A
Dates are formatted in yyyy-mm-dd to sort correctly.
The Cullum Number is the graduation order from the United States Military Academy by year and class rank and links to a page for the officer on the website version of the Cullum Register. Listings without a Cullum Number indicate that the person was not a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Current Status

Now Tonopah Municipal Airport with scattered remnants of the former base buildings including several hangers and ammunition bunkers. The Central Nevada Museum in Tonopah has significant displays and archives concerning the Tonapah AAF.

Location: Near Tonopah, Nye County, Nevada.

Maps & Images

Lat: 38.05528 Long: -117.08861

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 5,407'

GPS Locations:

See Also:



Fortification ID:

  • NV0103 - Tonopah Air Force Base
  • NV0105 - Tonopah Army Airfield

Visited: 3 Apr 2017

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