Eglin AFB, FL Image 1
    Eglin AFB, FL Image 2

    Eglin AFB, FL History

    Eglin AFB is one of the oldest bases in Air Force service, dating to the middle 1930s. It was originally Valparaiso Airport, but was acquired by the Army Air Corps after a local land deal arranged to attract military payroll. First known as Valparaiso Bombing and Gunnery Range, in 1935 the site was only two unpaved runways and a supply house, used by nearby Maxwell Field. Pre-World War Two tensions had not yet begun to build, and progress to improve the facility was slow. By 1937 the field had been improved to include paved runways, an office, a 30 foot by 120 foot barracks, a mess hall and kitchen, and an oil storage building. It was soon renamed Eglin Field, for the recently deceased Lt. Col. Frederick I. Eglin. As war clouds gathered, Eglin soon became busy as a gunnery proving ground, and the field rapidly expanded. The Choctawhatchee National Forest was ceded to the Army for range expansion, to the displeasure of local hunters, who were often found hunting in the gunnery range in 1941-1942.

    What had six years earlier been a primitive air field quickly expanded with additional runways, offices, roads, fences, housing, hangars, power lines, and fuel depots. In 1942 Eglin was the primary training center for the Doolittle Raid, a reprisal and morale attack against the Empire of Japan. A great many World War Two era aircraft, gunnery, and bombing systems were tested at Eglin, including bombsites; night fighting paint schemes; flying bomb drone systems, an early version of unmanned air vehicles; and an early cruise missile system, the Jet Bomb.

    Eglin was one of few Air Bases to not be inactivated after the War. Weapons testing was slowed, but continued, and facilities improved to include a climate-controlled laboratory for testing effect of cold temperatures on aircraft and weapons systems. Missile systems were clearly a wave of the future, and the 1st Experimental Guided Missiles Group was stationed to Eglin. Many site systems and radar detection improvements were put through their paces at Eglin, as were more advanced bombsite systems.

    In the 1980s Eglin AFB became the site of the Bob Hope Village, the only retirement facility catering to enlisted personnel retirees. In 2003, Eglin was the test site of the MOAB detonation, and the CBU-107 penetrator. Since the end of the Cold War, Eglin has contracted in personnel, but remains a vital and active test facility for missile systems, kinetic energy weapon systems, and explosives, and has taken in units from other branches of service, including such poor, unfortunate units as the 7th Special Forces Group.