Eielson AFB, AK HistoryEielson AFB began as a satellite field for Ladd Army Airfield, the airfield of Fort Wainwright Army Base. This small airfield was called Mile 26, as it was near the 26 mile marker of nearby Richardson Highway. Mile 26 airfield was constructed in 1943, to support Fort Wainwright. The field was not often used, and not used for combat operations, but was occasionally used for Lend-Lease aircraft and carriers on the way to support the then-US ally, the Soviet Union. The airfield closed at the end of the war.
The Cold War created a rapid demand for forward air bases close to the Soviet Union. In 1946 Mile 26 Airfield reopened, and was soon assigned a fighter group, and shortly after a very heavy bomber bomber wing. The important strategic location of Mile 26 field led to explosive growth, and runways and hangars were added, along with housing, fuelling, administration, and other facilities, and the once tiny field was designated Eielson Air Force Base, after Carl Ben Eielson, an Alaskan aviation pioneer. The ongoing Cold War continued to fuel expansion; many of the site buildings still in use date to the 1950s, including Amber Hall (originally Ptarmigan Hall), the Thunderdome, gymnasium, the Ernie Walker Theater, school, and much of the housing. Many units rotated through Eielson, hosted by Eielson's own, the 5010th Wing, including a large number of bomber, fighter-interceptor, fighter-bomber, reconnaissance, air fueling, and weather units.
The large area of Eilson's base territory has made it an excellent location for cold weather exercises, maneuvers, and field problems, and the base has hosted units from the US Army and Marines, and Canadian Army.
The end of the Cold War reduced, but did not eliminate, the need for Eielson ABF's service, and the base weathered the general military drawdown in the 1990s. In the 2000s a new reassessment of Eilson's role led to the base reducing its population, but remaining open to the present.