Plattsburgh has hosted military activities throughout much of the nation's history. An Army Barracks during World War II, the Air Force reclaimed the land in the early 1950s to host an Air Force Base for the Strategic Air Command. After extensive construction, the base received its first B-47 bombers in 1956.
During the 1960s the base hosted the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron (Atlas F). Initial plans called for three complexes with three Atlas F missiles per complex. Later, a fourth complex was added to the plans. Eventually "lift-launch" silos were placed at Champlain; Alburg, VT, Swanton, VT, Millsboro; Lewis; Au Sable Forks; Riverview; Redford; Dannemora; Brainardsville; Ellenburg Depot; and Moeers.
Construction began in June 1960, when groundbreaking occurred at a site near Champlain. Throughout the next year, hundreds of workers dug the 12 174-foot-deep, 54-foot-wide holes into the solid rock. In addition to the three launchers, each complex had an underground launch control facility.
The Air Force conducted "missile briefings" to educate area leaders and residents on safety measures, environmental impact, and the need for the missile program. As with other construction sites around the nation, Plattsburgh suffered its share of fatalities. Seven men died in accidents and many more were injured. Despite the dangerous work, management-labor relations were amicable. As of March 1962 only 98 man-days had been lost due to work stoppages and that did not delay construction.
The first missile arrived in April 1962, and the silos were declared operational in December. As a result of Defense Secretary McNamara's 1964 directive to decommission Atlas and Titan I missile squadrons, the Atlas F missiles were removed and the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron was deactivated on June 25, 1965.
In 1968, plans were initiated to bring the Air Force's newest strategic aircraft to Plattsburgh AFB, the FB-111A. By the end of 1970 the last B-52G left Plattsburgh AFB. On July 10, 1991, Strategic Air Command and the 380th Bomber Wing said goodbye to the FB-111A when the last 4 operational aircraft left Plattsburgh AFB.
The longest active military installation in the United States, Plattsburgh AFB, officially closed its doors on 25 September 1995, the result of the 1993 Defense Base Closure and Realignment actions. Plattsburgh AFB closed pursuant to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990 (10 U.S.C. Sec. 2687 note) and the recommendations of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. The 310th and 380th Air Refueling squadrons were deactivated in a ceremony Sept. 26, 1994. Plattsburgh's tankers were assigned to Grand Forks AFB, N.D., McConnell AFB, Kan., Niagara Falls Air National Guard, N.Y., and Birmingham ANG in Ala. The 380th ARW also controlled the 42nd Air Refueling Squadron, Loring AFB, Maine; the 509th ARS from Griffiss AFB, N.Y.; and the European Tanker Task Force, which provided operational refueling to England and Saudi Arabia. The squadrons at Loring and Griffiss have since deactivated.
Plattsburgh has been connected with the military in one form or another for more than 400 years. In colonial times, Lake Champlain was part of the "path of empire" in northern New York and Canada. It was used by the French and British and later by the Americans, to move men and supplies. One of the first battles of the American Revolution took place off Valcour Island, south of Plattsburgh, in 1776. The area was also the scene of a major battle during the War of 1812. After that war, 200 acres were sold to the U.S. government to keep the military there. In February 1944, the Army turned Plattsburgh Barracks over to the U.S. Navy. Jan. 29, 1954, ground was broken to start construction of the base.
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