Goose Air Base, Labrador

Goose Bay, located in Canada's far north, has filled a variety of roles since it opened in 1941, but Goose Air Base always enjoyed an international flavor. From the early 1950's until 1976, Goose Bay was home to the US Air Force's 95th Strategic Wing, with some 12,000 American military personnel and family members living on the base. The Americans maintained a detachment at Goose Bay until 1991.

At the outset of World War II, the "Lend-Lease" agreement between Great Britain and the United States gave the US eight strategic military locations in the Atlantic and Caribbean, in exchange for fifty WWI destroyers. One of these locations became Goose Air Base in Labrador. Labrador is the largest geographical portion of the province of Newfoundland, Canada covering 294,330 square kilometers with a population of just over 30,000. The Goose Bay Air Force was built on a large sandy plateau near the mouth of the Goose River. Goose Bay's role has evolved from a wartime Trans-Atlantic ferry and maritime patrol base, through American strategic base and NORAD radar site to it's present roles as a low-level tactical flying training centre, NORAD deployed operating base for CF-18 Hornet fighter-bombers and airfield supporting a variety of aviation activities, military and civilian, in north-eastern Canada.

In addition to Canadian Forces personnel, 5 Wing Goose Bay is home to permanent detachments from Britain's Royal Air Force, the German Luftwaffe, the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Italian Aeronautic Militare. More than 8,000 Allied personnel train at 5 Wing annually, accounting for more than 40% of the total annual number of foreign military personnel trained in Canada. Central Labrador's forest is regularly disturbed by low-level flight exercises conducted by NATO air forces at the Goose Bay air base. The Europeans train at Goose Bay because there is no suitably unpopulated territory in their own lands.

The town of Happy Valley developed in 1943 to house the workers who came to build the Air Base. The two settlements of Happy Valley and Goose Bay were amalgamated into a single town in 1974 and together the residents in this wage-based economy have faced hard times as the management of the base changed hands. The town has grown to be the largest centre in Labrador with over 8,600 resident. The majority of retail and service businesses in this area support the operation of the Air Base.

Even though the economy of HV-GB has always been based on earned wages, many residents with Innu, Inuit, Metis and settler heritage still live the traditional Labrador lifestyle using their knowledge of living "off the land." Many families depend on the caribou hunt, fishing and trapping of small game to supplement their diets. A small manufacturing sector is developing in Central Labrador, along with a few small agricultural initiatives in the past 10 years. The future holds tremendous employment potential for this region as a result of the Voisey's Bay Nickel Mega-Project, the development of the hydro potential in the Lower Churchill, and the Trans-Labrador Highway Project.

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