About Great Bend Army Airfield
Great Bend Army Air Field is a closed United States Air Force base. It is located 5.6 miles (9.0 km) west-southwest of Great Bend, Kansas, and was closed in 1946. Today it is used as Great Bend Municipal Airport.
Great Bend Army Air Field (AAF) is significantly historic as it was in the first group United States Army Air Forces B-29 Superfortress bases for initial training on the aircraft in the summer of 1943. Along with Walker Army Air Field near Victoria, Pratt Army Air Field near Pratt and Smoky Hill Army Air Feld near Salina the initial cadre of the 58th Bombardment Wing was formed. The 58th Bomb Wing was the first B-29 combat wing of World War II and engaged in the first long-range strategic bombardment of theJapanese Home Islands beginning in March 1944 from bases in India.
The first public announcement of intentions to build an airfield at Great Bend, Kansas on the Arkansas River in Barton county, came in the form of a telegram from Sen. Arthur Capper of Kansas to the secretary of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce on 30 September 1942. But, of course, by then all the preliminary work had been done. In July of that year the site at Great Bend had been chosen. Nor was all the initiative left to the Army. A committee of leading citizens from Great Bend and Hoisington had made the original proposal. Originally, plans called for the Civil Aeronautics Administration to supply the funds, and, with war's end, Barton county and Great Bend would acquire ownership. However, this tentative arrangement was subsequently changed so that the field was built under the auspices of the Air Force.
Originally intended to serve merely as a satellite base of Smoky Hill Army Air Field at Salina, Kansas, the physical plant at Great Bend was initially decidedly limited in its functional utility and in size. Most of the construction work was done by Patti-McDonald Construction Company of Kansas City, but the concrete work on runways and taxiways was undertaken by the W.L. Johnson Construction company. Essentials were completed first. Three 8'000-foot concrete runways were constructed to accommodate B-29s, each 150 feet wide. Most of the buildings were Theater of Operations construction while some were of the Mobilization type. The Mobilization type buildings included the station hospital, theater, chapel, and Link training buildings. There were three hangars with a parking apron a mile long and 450 feet wide were constructed. Where before there had been only open farm land, this new city now contained over 200 buildings, a water storage and distribution system, sewage system and treatment plant, electric transmission lines. These were followed in time by facilities for recreation and services. During the summer and fall of 1943 a service club, theater, and bowling alley were completed.