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FACTSHEET | Sept. 21, 2012

Joint Base Andrews History

 

 

Joint Base Andrews History
The history of Andrews Air Force Base dates back to the Civil War when the Union occupied a small country church as its headquarters for soldiers camped nearby. Today, that church is known as Chapel Two, and the base community still uses it for worship services. 

In the early part of the 20th century, the present site of Andrews was often discussed for a potential civilian airfield. In August 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Secretary of War to acquire the land and to build a military airfield. Construction began later that year. On April 19, 1943, the first permanent unit, the 463rd Base Headquarters and Air Base Squadron, arrived from Westover Field, Mass., with 105 enlisted men and five officers. 

Camp Springs Army Air Field became operational on May 2, 1943, when the first Republic P-47 Thunderbolt arrived; 75 other P-47s arrived during the first month. The field's early mission was to train fighter pilots for overseas combat duty. 

Camp Springs became Andrews Field on May 2, 1945 to honor of one of the Air Force's founding fathers, Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews. He died in an aircraft accident on May 3, 1943.  Shortly after the Air Force became a separate service in 1947, the base's name changed to Andrews Air Force Base. 

In the years following World War II, Andrews served as headquarters for Continental Air Command, Strategic Air Command and the Military Air Transport Service. It was also headquarters to the Air Research and Development Command and its successor, the Air Force Systems Command, from 1950 to 1992. 

The year 1947 marked the arrival of the first permanently assigned jet-powered aircraft, an F-80 Shooting Star, at Andrews. With the onset of the Korean War in June 1950, Andrews became involved in combat readiness training for B-25 medium bomber crews. 

However, Andrews has been best known for its special air mission--the transportation of senior government and military leaders. President Harry S. Truman was the first to fly a presidential flight out of Andrews on Nov. 24, 1946. The port of entry and departure for dignitaries transferred to Andrews Air Force Base in 1959 after the completion of a 14 million dollar upgrade to the existing runway and the addition of a new parallel runway.  Also in 1959, Detachment 1, 1254th Air Transport Group received its first jet aircraft, a VC-137. While the president's official aircraft, a C-121 (Columbine III), remained at Washington National Airport, the president often used the new VC-137 for longer trips. President John F. Kennedy's official aircraft, a C-118, permanently transferred from Washington National in March 1962, and Andrews officially became the "Home of Air Force One. " 

Andrews has since been the scene of many joyful returns and reunions. Among the many occasions, Andrews welcomed the first prisoners of war back from Vietnam in 1973, saw the return of the U.S. hostages from Iran in 1981, and welcomed former POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch home from Iraq in 2003. 

Known as "The President's Wing," the 89th Airlift Wing continues to contribute to Andrews' rich history as the elite Air Mobility Command wing for transporting VIPs around the world. Not only does Andrews provide service for America's senior officials, but also kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers, popes, and local and foreign military leaders make Andrews their first stop in the United States. 

On Jan. 5, 2005 the Air Force reactivated the Air Force District of Washington (AFDW) as the single Air Force voice for planning and implementing Air Force and joint solutions within the National Capital Region (NCR). This event brought with it significant changes at Andrews.  On May 12, 2006, the 89th Medical Group at Andrews and the 11th Medical Group, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C. combined into the 79th Medical Wing where it established its headquarters here at Andrews. In June 2006, the 316th Wing stood up under the command of AFDW as the new host unit for Andrews Air Force Base and its nearly 50 tenant units to include organizations from the Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Civil Air Patrol, and the United States Navy. The activation of the 316th prompted the transfer of the 1st Helicopter Squadron from the 89th Airlift Wing to the 316th Operations Group. Finally, in May of 2007 the AFDW, as well as the 844th Communications Group, transferred from Bolling AFB to Andrews. 

Significant events occurred here, including the annual Joint Service Open House aerial and ground demonstrations, and the April 5, 2008 reception of Pope Benedict XVI by President George W. Bush. That event marked the first time a U.S. President has traveled to Andrews to meet a head of state since September 1959 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower greeted Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev. Premier Khrushchev was also the first foreign head of state to fly into Andrews.

On Oct. 1, 2009, Andrews Air Force Base, along with Naval Air Facility Washington, became a joint base known as Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility Washington, or Joint Base Andrews. In October 2010, the 316th Wing was inactivated and the 11th Wing, formerly the host wing at Bolling Air Force Base, was activated and served as the host wing at Andrews until June 2020, when the 316th Wing was activated.

The "Chief's Own" 11th Wing, while adopting the missions of Andrews, continued to oversee all operations of the Air Force Band, Honor Guard, and Chaplaincy which are  located at now Joint Base Anacostia - Bolling. For a decade, the 11th Wing was proud to be host of the base bearing the name of one of the true founding fathers of today's most powerful air and space force.

In June 2020, the 316th Wing was reactivated as the 11th Wing was inactivated. In late July, the flag-draped casket of the American civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis arrived at Joint Base Andrews en route to lie in state on the East Front Steps of the Capitol for a public viewing. Lewis served as U.S. Representative of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District from his election in November 1986 until his death in 2020.

Joint Base Andrews plays a dynamic and critical part in the defense of our nation. It has evolved from the muddy fields and wooden buildings of the 1940s supporting the P-47 Thunderbolt and F-80 Shooting Star, to a modern airfield supporting multi-million dollar nationally significant mission assets including Air Force One, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the KC-135 Stratotanker, and the UH-1N Huey, solidifying itself as "America's Airfield."