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Wurtsmith Air Force Base

A Brief History

In 1923, a chance meeting of two men who were fishing on Lake St. Clair was the nucleus for the establishment of Wurtsmith Air Force Base near Oscoda, Michigan.

One of the men, in the banking business, invited the other man, a lieutenant in the then - infant Air Corps, to Oscoda to do some fishing up here.

Photo General Paul B. WurtsmithLt. Whitehead (later General) was much impressed with the country and from a military point of view he and his associates pressed Congress to appropriate funds to establish an aerial gunnery range here, providing opportunities to acquaint flyers from Selfridge Air Force Base with the tricky maneuvers required to take off and land their DeHaviland biplanes on the ice of Van Ettan Lake.  Wurtsmith was born.

Through the years many events and changes occurred - Charles Lindbergh was here in 1927 on an unofficial visit after his flight across the Atlantic Ocean.  "Free French" pilots-in-training, black fighter squadrons - many housing, recreational, office, logistic, communications and hangar buildings were erected - winter maneuvers and summer bombing and gunnery training - Warner Brothers in 1948 shot scenes for their picture "Fighter Squadron" and in 1953 the name Wurtsmith was officially recognized, the name honoring the life of a Michigan native, General Paul B. Wurtsmith, killed when his plane, a b-25, crashed into a North Carolina mountain.

1955 marked the year that the base became a permanent Air Force installation and many new services were implemented.  Delivery of the B-52H operational bomber named "State of Michigan" in 1960 marked the redesignation to the base from and fighter-interceptor training base to the Strategic Air Command and its long range B-52's, which played an important part in "Desert Storm", in the Persian Gulf.

In July 1993, having determined that the country did not need the number of bases which they were supporting due to new weapons development and long-range satellite surveillance, Wurtsmith AFB was deemed one of the unnecessary military bases around the United States and was closed.

Several years ago a tiny landing strip and shivering maintenance personnel stood around a big fire, built to afford them some comfort and keep their airplanes' oil from congealing had, with its sister bases around the United States, hung on and become the nucleus of our country's awesome air power.

"Old Crow", Wurtsmith's last B-52, left Michigan skies that day in 1993 and, after it thunderous departure, three small biplanes flew in formation, a salute to the men and planes who had served their country and made Michigan proud to have been host to Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

Mary Jane Hennigar

 

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The Magic and Wonder of Flight

The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine,  bracing and delicious. And why shouldn't it be? - it is the same the  angels breathe.

- Mark Twain, Roughing  It, Chapter XXII, 1886.

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