Kincheloe AFB, MI
The former Kincheloe Air Force Base consisted of 7,265 acres located 20 miles southwest of Sault Ste. Marie and 37 miles north of Ste. Ignace at Kinross, Michigan, Chippewa County, Michigan. The base is directly east of Interstate 75. Other names for the base were Kinross Municipal Airport, Kinross Army Air Field, Kinross Air Field, Kinross Air Force Auxiliary Field, and Kinross Air Force Base.
Kincheloe Air Force Base, which eventually turned into a 12,000-foot runway, all its support elements and a small city for its personnel, was merely a a blueberry patch at the outset. By 1970 the base population was placed at about 10,000, of whom 9,500 lived in Chippewa County and comprised about 27 per cent of the County's population. The breakdown was 7,655 military and dependents, 2,162 civilian and dependents, for a total of 3,679 employed personnel and 6,138 dependents. Contracts awarded through the procurement office at Kincheloe AFB totaled $6,321,619 and the base operations and maintenance expense (not including civilian pay ) were $8,156,999. All of the figures indicate that Kincheloe was an almost $55,000,000 a year operation. A significant portion of this money was spent in the local area.
The airport at Kinross was first formally designated in June 1941. The former Kincheloe Air Force Base was acquired by the US Government through lease, license, easements and by fee of different tracts and was built and established in 1941 as a refueling base for Alaska-bound aircraft throughout World War II. Construction began in 1943, and the base was first known as Kinross Auxiliary Air Field. Its purpose was to serve as a refueling stop for aircraft headed for Alaska and as a base for defense of the Locks at Sault Ste. Marie. However, no tactical units were assigned there during the war. The base was under the jurisdiction of the 4250th Army Air Force Base Unit, which was the operator of Alpena, Michigan, Army Air Force Field. This designation was from the middle of 1941 to April 24, 1945.
The base was inactive in the last year of World War II. In 1945 the airfield was leased to the City of Sault Ste. Marie for a civilian airport and was maintained in that status until 1952.
With the outbreak of hostilities in the Korean Peninsula in June, 1950. Army troops returned to the Sault and in 1951 the 63rd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, operating the F-86 Sabrejet, was based at Oscodo (now Kincheloe) Air Force Base, Michigan. In October, 1952, the 4685th Air Base Squadron was assigned to the reactivated Kinross Auxiliary Airfield. A month later the unit was redesignated as the 91st Air Base Squadron. On February 16, 1953, the 534th Air Defense Group was activated with the 438th Fighter Squadron following on April 27, 1953. That same month, the base was closed to private noncommercial aviation because F-94B's were being flown off the field by the pilots of the 438th.
The 507th Fighter Group (FG) was activated on Aug. 18, 1955 at Kinross AFB (later Kincheloe AFB, named after Capt. Ivan C. Kincheloe), Michigan, as the 507th Fighter Group under Air Defense Command. Its single subordinate operational flying squadron, activated on the same date, was the 438th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, which initially employed Northrop F-89H "Scorpion" aircraft.
The 507th Fighter Group was subsequently re-equipped with Convair F-102A "Delta Dagger" aircraft in 1957, followed by Convair F-106 "Delta Dart" aircraft in 1960. The 507th Fighter Group was superseded by the 507th Fighter Wing at Kincheloe AFB on Feb. 1, 1961. The 507th Fighter Wing continued to employ F-106 aircraft at Kincheloe AFB until its inactivation on Sep. 30, 1968.
In September, 1959, Kinross AFB was officially renamed Kincheloe AFB in honor of the late Capt. Ivan C. Kincheloe Jr., a native of Cassopoplis, MI. On 07 September 1956, Capt. Iven C. Kincheloe became the first pilot to climb above 100,000 ft as he rocketed to a peak altitude of 126,200 ft in the Bell X-2 rocket-powered research airplane. . For this spectacular flight, he was awarded the Mackay Trophy and nicknamed "America's No. 1 Spaceman". Kincheloe was killed in the crash of an F-104 on July 26, 1958.
In the 1950s the Air Force adopted a policy of dispersing Strategic Air Command bombers and tankers. At Kincheloe the runway was extended to 12,000 feet to accommodate 15 B-52H bombers and ten KC-135 tankers. The original cost of the undertaking was estimated at $30 million. In May 1958 the 438th Fighter Squadron was temporarily transferred to Sawyer AFB near Marquette, while the massive runway construction project was under way at Kincheloe. The squadron returned in October, 1958.
In November, 1961, following two years of construction, the 4239th Strategic Wing of the Strategic Air Command arrived with B-52 bombers. On May 1, 1962 the SAC Wing at Kincheloe was declared operationally ready, and was designated the 449th Bomb Wing on 1 February 1963. The 449th Bomb Wing shared the base with the 507th Fighter Wing. By fall of 1963, the 908th Air Refueling Squadron was present with KC-135 tankers.
In December 1965 the Department of Defense announced its decision to close Kincheloe by October, 1971. The 507th Fighter Group was deactivated in October 1968, the 438th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was relocated to Griffiss AFB, New York, and the 4609th Air Base Group was activated to support the 449th Bomb Wing. In May, 1971, the decision to close the base was reversed. In an Air Force-wide realignment program, Kincheloe would be kept open and come under the control of the Strategic Air Command. On 01 July 1971, the 449th Bombardment Wing (SAC) assumed command of the base. That 1971 reversal proved to be only a six-year reprieve.
The base was inactivated on September 30, 1977, and declared excess on November 15, 1977.
With the closing of the base in 1977, 887 acres fee, 2,817 acres lease, 3.65 acres license, and 1,951 acres easement, for a total of 5,658 acres, was excessed to GSA by SF-118 dated 2 September 1977. Prior to the closing, 1.05 acres lease, 1.10 acres license and 1,639 acres easement had been terminated at various dates, of which 28.75 acres lease and 5 acres easement had been reacquired for a net of 1,607 acres. Of the 5,658 acres excessed to GSA, 3.65 acres were retained by GSA, 2,817 acres were conveyed to the State Base Closure Authority, and the remaining 2,834 acres were conveyed directly to Chippewa County (1,014 acres), the State Department of Corrections (13.8 acres), Pickford Township (127 acres), American Kinross, Inc. (424 acres - previously owned by Nevis - Pauly - Hauss until bankruptcy and foreclosure proceedings occurred in March 1986), and the State of Michigan (1,259 acres).
The deed conveying the airport property to Chippewa County reserved the Government right to have exclusive or non-exclusive use of the airport facilities during a declared emergency. The Government was released from liability for restoration or other damage under any lease or agreement involving the airport. Restoration clauses contained in leases between the Government and the State of Michigan were waived.
Success stories abound at vacated base sites, like in Kinross Township on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The closing of Kincheloe AFB removed 10,000 military personnel and dependents, 700 civilian jobs and a total payroll of $28 million. Within 12 years after the closing, however, four prisons and one work camp were installed at the base, along with 12 industrial companies and 15 retail businesses. In all, the local tax base had doubled, and the civilian payroll created by the new ventures had reached $110 million.
Chippewa County International Airport, Kinross Correctional Facility, Kinross Manufacturing, American Kinross, Inc. and Pickford Township Schools are now located on the property. Additional portions of the site are owned by the State of Michigan and Kinross Township. Usage of the land is for public housing, businesses and the airport. During the winter months, General Motors leases a portion of the airport to test automobiles.
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