Hard to believe that just over a century ago flying was a novelty. In fact World War One was really the first occasion when flying played a role. Then really airplanes were only used as reconnaissance. By the mid century mark, jets could be seen across the skies. The army air force pilots changed the course of World War 2. On September 16th, 1947, the Air Force branch of the armed services officially began. Nebraska would play a part in the beginning operations of this branch of service.
A series of transitions would occur for this involvement to take place. According to Nebraska State Historical Society Air Force Records, the area now near Bellevue played many roles in United States military history.
This plant was formerly the main assembly building of the
Glenn L. Martin-Nebraska Bomber Plant, 10 miles south of Omaha.
Air Defense Command assumed command of Fort Crook in 1946 and
merged with Offutt Air Force Base. The aircraft plant was re-activated in Oct. 1946 and production started in March, 1947.
So, Fort Crook went from a bomber plant to an extensive air force base.
Within a year of becoming a base, on November 9th, 1947, Offutt Air Force base found itself with a new title: headquarters for the Strategic Air Command. This was a new era in fighting – the cold war and potential for nuclear bombs. To keep operations safe from long range missiles, the location needed to be in the central part of the continent. Protected from potential dangers. (Bombers had a shorter reach back then.)
The strategic air command was primarily was responsible for deliberate (strategic) land bombing. Showing enough force to keep the threatening forces away. One man had the most influence toward the direction that the S.A.C. would take. General Curtis LeMay oversaw the Berlin Airlift, the initial step in halting the progress of communism. He was a natural fit to lead the relatively new organization for nine years and transformed the soldiers into trained men. Initially they were a bit rough around the edges, for example, missing their targets by a few miles during a mock nuclear test. LeMay’s goal to build up the men and the bases into a viable threat kept communism and Stalin on the defensive, instead of the offensive.
LeMay also did his part to transform the town of Bellevue. With only 1500 residents and one paved street at last mid-century, today the town boasts almost 50,000 people (and a network of maintained roads 🙂 ) General LeMay was known to be demanding, but it was his fierce love for those under his command that motivated progress.
LeMay also is the one who started the first Strategic Air and Space Museum, locating the displays at the Offutt Air Force Base. He wanted the public to be able to view that airplanes that helped to maintain peace during the uncertainty during the 1950’s Cold War period. In 1998, the airplanes and artifacts moved to a new location halfway between Lincoln and Omaha. Allowing airplanes to be displayed and restored, this new location has encouraged new heights for all of the aircraft of this conflicted era. (Plus if you read, my blog posts from yesterday, you know how many additional purposes this museum provides!)
You can see the Mahoney State Park tower and flag just over the hill from the Strategic Air and Space Museum. Their site halfway between Lincoln and Omaha is easily accessible.
If you are interested in learning more about the Strategic Air Command program or about General LeMay, please click on one of the many links that are below or are mentioned in this article.
Strategic Air Command – the classic movie starring Jimmy Stewart (based on true events)