Barksdale Air Force Base
This postcard, part of the collection at the Eighth Air Force Museum, shows an aerial view of Barksdale Air Force Base in its early years.
By TAMMY SHARP
“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” - Colin Powell
BOSSIER CITY—The impact of Barksdale Air Force Base on the local and state economy is an enviable reality, according to a recent study by Louisiana Economic Development. The base contributes more than 12,000 jobs and nearly $500 million in payroll to Louisiana’s economy.
But that impact didn’t sprout from a Bossier City cotton field by magic. BAFB is proof that sweat, determination and hard work, as well as lots of planning and looking for opportunity, is what brought the vision of a number of prominent Shreveport citizens to fruition in a 20,000-acre cotton field beginning in 1924. An unforeseen byproduct of that hard work has been the creation of a platform from which the United States of America has launched a fierce and enduring defense of democracy for more than 80 years.
“(Barksdale Air Force Base) has a long and distinguished history supporting numerous aircraft platforms and conflicts,” according to the LED report. “It plays a pivotal role in the nation’s nuclear deterrent force.”
In 1924, Shreveport citizens decided the area should host a military flying field. Two years later, they learned of the impending enlargement of the 3rd Attack Wing stationed at Fort Crocket, Texas, and hired a local crop duster, an Air Corps captain named Harold Ross Harris, to fly over the Shreveport area and find a suitable site for an airfield. Harris returned with good news: a Bossier City cotton plantation would make the ideal location. A local delegation presented the idea to the War Department in Washington, which led to a visit from an Army board that reported the location met all requirements of the Air Corps.
Shreveport was selected Dec. 5, 1928, and beginning in 1931, construction of the world’s largest airfield at the time, 23,000 acres, began, bringing with it dramatic and significant changes to the cotton plantation area. About 150 men and 350 mules were used to grade the new landing field. On Feb. 2, 1933, Barksdale Field was dedicated.
But the impact of Barksdale Air Force Base goes well beyond the landscape of a 22,000-acre cotton plantation in Bossier City. In fact, the impact goes well beyond Bossier City.
The estimated total spending at Barksdale Air Force Base in fiscal year 2012 exceeded $711 million, which is a very, very large drop in the bucket that is Louisiana’s economy. In fact, Barksdale Air Force Base is the second largest military installation in the state, behind Fort Polk, in terms of employment and spending.
But the impact is greater still on the world. As a key Air Force Global Strike Command base, Barksdale provides a large part of the nation’s deterrent force. AFGSC, activated August 2009, is responsible for the nation’s three intercontinental Ballistic Missile Wings, two B-52 Stratofortress Wings and the only B-2 Spirit Wing. The “Mighty Eighth” Air Force, of World War II fame, is also headquartered at the base.
In the 1930s, Barksdale’s immense acreage provided the maneuver space necessary for honing gunnery and bombing skills. In the 1940s, Barksdale provided training for bomber crews and hosted simulated European combat operations. In 1948, Barksdale Field was renamed Barksdale Air Force Base, not long after the U.S. Air Force became its own branch of military service.
From 1965 and into the 1970s, the 2nd Bomb Wing supported the war in Vietnam, while in 1978 the Eighth Air Force Museum was established with the arrival of a B-17 Flying Fortress. Twice Barksdale has hosted the space shuttle Columbia on its way back to Cape Kennedy atop its Boeing 747 carrier.
Barksdale has also played significant roles in half a dozen operations in the past two decades and provided a safe haven for President George Bush on his return flight to the nation’s capital following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Shortly thereafter, Barksdale spearheaded the Global War on Terrorism and Operation Enduring Freedom.
In March 2003, Barksdale B-52s flew more than 150 combat sorties in Operation Iraqi Freedom, helping to oust Saddam Hussein and paving the way for democracy in Iraq. Today, the men and women of Barksdale continue to serve at both home and abroad in support of the Global War on Terrorism, proof that great things grow in Northwest Louisiana.
Tammy Sharp is a freelance writer living in Florien, La. She can be reached at email@example.com.