Established in May 1946, U.S. Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA) Cape Chiniak, Alaska relocated to Elmendorf AFB, near Anchorage on April 11, 1966 establishing NSGA Anchorage. The communications facility located included an operations building located outside of the the AN/FLR-9 Circularly Disposed Antenna Array (CDAA), also known as a Wullenweber antenna array. NSGA Anchorage continued operations for the next 32 years and on February 28, 1998 the command was disestablished.
Anchorage is located in south-central Alaska. To the east, the Chugach Mountains serve as the backdrop for the city’s magnificent skyline. To the west are the expansive, steel-colored waters of Cook Inlet, named after the explorer Captain James Cook, who sailed into the area in 1778. Anchorage was founded in 1915, as a port for the Alaska railroad, whose headquarters were there. Row upon row of tents popped up in the Ship Creek area as the construction of Alaska’s railroad got under way. Anchorage was incorporated as a city in 1920. The number of people living in Anchorage by 1929 had grown to 2,736. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Anchorage found itself on the front lines of the conflict. Airfields, roads and other infrastructure were hastily constructed during the war. Concrete and steel buildings crowded out the frontier shacks. The arrival of troops to Anchorage in 1940 marked a decade of growth based on military expansion.
By the outbreak of World War II (WWII), the threat of Japanese invasion prompted a continuous influx of military personnel, aircraft and equipment. During the war, Anchorage’s population exploded from around 8,000 to more than 43,000. After WWII the pressures of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union ensured a continued heavy military investment in the Anchorage area. Another benefit after WWII was the boom of aviation that spread throughout Alaska. Along with the construction of many airfields during the war, the military equipped its pilots with the finest in electronic equipment and devices for flying safely. These enhanced facilities made life easier for the bush pilots who, beginning in the 1920s, had become a critical part of life in Alaska. By 1964, Anchorage had become a regular stop on the Seattle-Tokyo transpolar air routes, and air, rail and truck transportation provided a basic civilian industry.
Oil was discovered on the Kenai Peninsula in 1957. Seventeen oil companies set up headquarters in Anchorage and spent more than $30 million dollars on exploration.
On January 3, 1959, Congress voted Alaska into statehood. Anchorage again experienced tremendous change when the earth cracked open on Good Friday, March 27, 1964. The strongest earthquake ever to hit North America, measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale, ripped through Anchorage. In 1968, oil was discovered on the Arctic Slope, north of the Brooks Mountain Range. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) was proposed in 1969. It met with tremendous opposition from environmentalists and other groups. On September 26-27, 1971, a particularly unique moment in history occurred at Elmendorf Air Force Base, when then President Richard Nixon met with Emperor Hirohito of Japan. This remarkable meeting marked the first time in Japan’s 2,000 year old history that their reigning monarch set foot on foreign soil. Today a monument on the site commemorates the event. In May of 1972, Congress granted authorization for construction of the oil pipeline. Construction began in 1974, with oil flowing from the North Slope to the ice-free port of Valdez in 1977. Today, Anchorage is a thriving city with more than 260,000 residents.
Elmendorf Air Force Base, located adjacent to Anchorage, is the largest Air Force installation in Alaska and home of the Headquarters, Alaskan Command (ALCOM), Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR), Eleventh Air Force (11th AF) and the 3rd Wing. Construction on Elmendorf Field began on June 8, 1940. The first Air Corps personnel arrived on August 12, 1940. On November 12, 1940, the War Department formally designated what had been popularly referred to as Elmendorf Field as Fort Richardson. The air facilities on the post were named Elmendorf Field in honor of Capt Hugh M. Elmendorf, killed in 1933 while flight testing an experimental fighter near Wright Field, Ohio. After WWII, the Army moved its operations to the new Fort Richardson and the Air Force assumed control of the original Fort Richardson and renamed it Elmendorf Air Force Base. The first Air Force unit to be assigned to Alaska, the 18th Pursuit Squadron, arrived in February 1941. The 23d Air Base Group was assigned shortly afterwards to provide base support. Other Air Force units poured into Alaska as the Japanese threat developed into WWII. The 11th Air Force was formed at Elmendorf AFB in early 1942. The field played a vital role as the main air logistics center and staging area during the Aleutian Campaign and later air operations against the Kurile Islands.
Following WWII, Elmendorf assumed an increasing role in the defense of North America as the uncertain wartime relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union deteriorated into the Cold War. The 11th Air Force was redesignated as the Alaskan Air Command (AAC) on December 18, 1945. The Alaskan Command was established on January 1, 1947, also headquartered at Elmendorf. The late 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s brought about a gradual, but significant decline in air defense forces in Alaska due to mission changes and the demands of the Vietnam War. The Alaskan Command was disestablished in 1975. Alaska’s air defense force was further enhanced with the assignment of two E-3As to Elmendorf AFB in 1986. The Alaskan Command was reestablished at Elmendorf in 1989. The F-15E Strike Eagle equipped 90th Tactical Fighter was reassigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base from Clark Air Base in the Philippines, in May 1991.
The 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) Report to the president directed the relocation of installation management functions from both the Air Force and Army to a new joint base unit, and established Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The decision listed the Air Force as the supporting agency, implementing and providing the funding vehicle for support to the entire joint base.
On July 30, 2010, the 673d Air Base Wing activated as the host wing combining installation management functions of Elmendorf Air Force Base’s 3rd Wing and U.S. Army Garrison Fort Richardson and became Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER).