Dow Air Force Base

Dow Air Force Base

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Part of Air Defense Command  Strategic Air Command
Bangor, Maine
USGS 1996 Aerial Photo
Type Air Force Base
Coordinates 44°48′51″N 068°49′51″W / 44.81417°N 68.83083°W / 44.81417; -68.83083
Built 1927
In use 1941-1968
Dow AFB is located in Maine
Location of Dow Air Force Base, Maine
Dow Army Airfield, July 1944. Note the former station facilities are on the south side of the airfield. These facilities were razed and a new Air Force Base built on the north side of the main runway (also rebuilt) about 1950.
37th Fighter Squadron Republic F-47N-25-RE Thunderbolt, 44-89416, Dow AFB, 1948. This aircraft was part of the Last Thunderbolt production block manufactured at Farmingdale NY
F-84G Thunderjets from the 14th Fighter Group
For the civil use of this facility and airport information, see Bangor International Airport
For the Air National Guard base, see Bangor Air National Guard Base

Dow Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base. It was closed as an active base in 1968. Most of the facility was turned over to civil use and is now Bangor International Airport. The Maine Air National Guard uses part of the former base as Bangor Air National Guard Base.



Dow Air Force Base began as "Godfrey Field" in 1927, on land owned by local attorney Edward Rawson Godfrey (1877–1958). Commercial flights began at the field in 1931 under Northeast Airlines. Just prior to the Second World War Godfrey Field was taken over by the US Army Air Corps and was named "Godfrey Army Airfield" (Godfrey AAF).

World War II

Under USAAF control, Godfrey AAF was initially placed under the jurisdiction of the 8th Service Group, Air Service Command. Its initial mission was the maintenance and preparation of Lend-Lease aircraft bound for Great Britain, being transported by AAC Ferrying Command to RCAF Stations in Newfoundland. The civil airport was greatly expanded to include three hard-surfaced 7000-foot runways, aligned 01/10 (N/S), 08/26 (NE/SW) and a main (NW/SE) runway aligned 14/32 being constructed along with many hardstands and taxiways for the temporary parking of large numbers of aircraft during their stay at the airfield.

The name was changed to Dow Army Airfield in 1942. It was named after James Frederick Dow of Houlton, Maine who joined the Army Air Corps and was killed on June 17, 1940 in a training accident when the bomber he was piloting collided with another near Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York.

On 28 February 1942, with the United States entering World War II, Dow Field's mission was upgraded to that of being a springboard for the ferrying of B-17 Flying Fortress and, later, B-24 Liberator heavy bombers and other combat aircraft to the European Theater of Operations flying on the Great Circle Route. In addition, beginning in early 1943, it acquired the additional mission of training engineer aviation personnel and staging hundreds of 4-engined heavy bombers which arrived from throughout the United States and preparing them for the overseas flight to European and Mediterranean combat theaters.

On 5 March 1944, jurisdiction of Dow AAF was transferred from Air Service Command to Air Transport Command, being placed under its North Atlantic Wing. Over 8,400 aircraft passed though Dow in 1944, and approximately 2,150 in the last five months of the European conflict in 1945. After the end of the European war in May 1945, Dow was a stop on the return leg for aircraft returning to the United States, and remained part of ATC's North Atlantic Transport route for strategic air transportation between the United States and the United Kingdom.

The base was drawn down during the demobilization in late 1945, and placed in a standby status on 7 May 1946, being made a satellite base of Westover Field, Massachusetts.

Cold War

Air Defense Command

Although placed in standby status in 1946, Dow Field never was inactivated and the airfield continued to see ATC aircraft transit the field occasionally. First Air Force, Air Defense Command acquired jurisdiction from ATC in November 1946 and it activated the 14th Fighter Group at Dow, stationing P-47N Thunderbolts at the airfield. Assigned squadrons were 37th, 48th and 49th Fighter Squadrons. The 14th Fighter Group (later wing in August 1947) was one of the first USAAF groups assigned to Air Defense Command. The unit was responsible for the air defense of the Northeastern United States.

In July 1947 the group deployed to Muroc AFB, California to conduct accelerated service tests with new F-84B Thunderjets prior to acceptance. First operational production USAF F-84Bs arrived at Dow AFB on 7 November; the last P-84B was delivered in February 1948. Throughout the winter of 1947/48 the 14th Fighter Group lost three F-84s at Dow. Findings indicated that the extreme cold weather at the base enhanced aircraft performance over what was found during testing in California, however as the temperatures moderated in the spring of 1948, accident rate remained high.

Dow Air Force Base was assigned to ADC's 26th Air Division on 25 August 1948 with the creation of ADC's first Air Divisions. Mission was daylight and fair weather defense of northeast United States from New York City north to Maine/New Brunswick border, shared with 52d Fighter Group (All-Weather) at Mitchel AFB, New York which flew F-82 Twin Mustangs for night and inclement weather operations.

In July 1949, the 14th Fighter Group sent sixteen F-84Bs to New York City for flyover display at newly-opened Idlewild Airport, however it was inactivated on 2 October 1949 due to budget cutbacks.

With the activation of the 14th FW in late 1949, the facilities at Dow AFB were greatly expanded and completely rebuilt. A long jet runway was laid down parallel to the wartime main NW/SE main runway, and a permanent Air Force Base was built on the north side of the World War II and prewar facility. The former World War II base facilities were abandoned and later were torn down. Today they are a wooded area on the southwest side of the airport.

The new Dow Air Force Base was activated on 1 January 1951. The 4009th Air Base Squadron was assigned to the base to support the existing base facilities, and supervise the ongoing construction of the base facilities still not yet complete.

The first use of the new Dow AFB was during the Korean War, as the Maine Air National Guard was federalized and brought to active service at the base. The 101st Fighter-Interceptor Wing activated two F-80C Shooting Star interceptor squadrons (101st FIS, 132d FIS) which were placed under ADC's Eastern Air Defense Force. In 1952 with the ANG squadrons being returned to state control, ADC activated the 49th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Dow.

The ADC 32d AD also activated several Aircraft Control and Warning Squadrons (128th (WI ANG), 679th, 765th), which were Ground Intercept Radar units. These squadrons were formed at Dow, and later deployed to new radar stations being constructed in Maine which were equipped with long-range radars and then directed the interceptor aircraft at Dow to unknown aircraft which entered their coverage.

On 9 September 1952, Military Air Transport Service Atlantic Division at Westover AFB activated 83d Air Transport Squadron (1600th Air Transport Wing) to Dow AFB as a tenant unit. This was done primarily to relieve overcrowding. The 83d ATS operated C-54 Skymasters from Dow, and its primary mission was to support Northeast Air Command bases and radar stations in Newfoundland and Labrador, Baffin Island, and Greenland. It was reassigned to the 1610th Air Transport Group at Grenier AFB, New Hampshire effective 1 July 1953, however, on 29 May 1953, the eight C-54s of the 83rd ATS departed in a permanent change of station.

In November 1952, jurisdiction of Dow AFB was officially transferred from ADC to Strategic Air Command (SAC). The ADC units remained at the base in a tenant status for a few years, until the 49th FIS was moved and placed under the 4707th Air Defense Wing at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts in November 1955.

ADC returned to on 1 June 1959, when the 30th Air Defense Missile Squadron was activated 4 miles north-northeast of the base, equipped with 28 CIM-10 Bomarc-A liquid-fuled surface-to-air missiles. Also that month, the 75th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron which was moved from the closing Presque Isle AFB, Maine to Dow to keep interceptors in Maine. The Bomarc missiles remained active until 15 December 1964 when they were inactivated due to limited funding The 75th FIS remained until April 1968 when Dow was inactivated.

Strategic Air Command

The SAC 506th Strategic Fighter Wing was activated at Dow on 20 November 1952 and was assigned to SAC's Eighth Air Force. The wing composed of the 457th, 458th and 462d Strategic Fighter Squadrons and was equipped with F-84G Thunderjets. SAC was founded by men who had flown bomb raids against Germany during World War II. They usually encountered swarms of enemy fighters and knew the importance of having fighter escorts, so they had fighter wings placed under their own operational control. Although assigned to SAC, the group was associated with the ADC units at Dow.

The wing was deployed to Misawa Air Base, Japan between 13 August and 7 November 1953 to support SAC's rotational deployment of fighter units to northern Japan to perform air defense duties, relieving the 12th Strategic Fighter Wing. Under the self-supporting concept, the 506th SFW gained the KB-29P Superfortress 506th Air Refueling Squadron on 23 September 1953. The 506th ARS remained with the wing until 1 March 1955. Upon the wing's return to the United States, the 508th was re-equipped with new F-84F Thunderstreaks, in January 1954 becoming the first SAC fighter wing to be equipped with the swept-wing Thunderjet model. The wing remained at Dow for just over a year until being reassigned to Second Air Force and was transferred to Tinker AFB, Oklahoma on 20 March 1955.

The escort fighters were replaced by the SAC Eighth Air Force 4060th Air Refueling Wing, activated on 8 March 1955. Equipped with KC-97 Stratotankers, the 4060th was a provisional organization with a mission to support B-47 Stratojet deployments to Europe and Morocco, with air refueling taking place over the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, during the late 1950s, SAC extended the runway at Dow to 11,000' and alert pads were constructed at the 15 (Southeast) end. The runway became the longest east of the Mississippi River and was designed for use by B-52s.

On 15 February 1960, SAC established the 4038th Strategic Wing at Dow as part of SAC's plan to disburse its B-52 Stratofortress heavy bombers over a larger number of bases, thus making it more difficult for the Soviet Union to knock out the entire fleet with a surprise first strike. The wing consisted of the 341st Bombardment Squadron, consisting of 15 B-52Gs, and the KC-135-equipped 71st Air Refueling Squadron. Half of the aircraft were maintained on fifteen minute alert, fully fueled, armed, and ready for combat. SAC Strategic Wings were considered a provisional unit by HQ, USAF and could not carry a permanent history or lineage.

The 4038th SW was redesignated as the 397th Bombardment Wing (397th BW) on 1 February 1963 in a name-only redesigation and was assigned to SAC's Eighth Air Force, 6th Air Division. The 341st BS was also redesignated as the 864th Bombardment Squadron, one of the unit's World War II historical bomb squadrons. The 71st ARS designation was unchanged, and component support units were also redesignated to the 410th numerical designation of the newly-established wing.

The 397th Bomb Wing continued to conduct strategic bombardment training and air refueling operations to meet operational commitments of Strategic Air Command, including deployments to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. By 1968, Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) had been deployed and become operational as part of the United States' strategic triad, and the need for B-52s had been reduced. In addition, funds were also needed to cover the costs of combat operations in Indochina.

The 397th Bombardment Wing was inactivated on 25 April 1968 and its aircraft were reassigned to other SAC units. As part of the inactivation, Dow AFB was closed, with most of the base was purchased by the city of Bangor and reopened the following year as Bangor International Airport. That portion of Dow AFB not turned over to the city became the basis for the current Bangor Air National Guard Base and the Maine Army National Guard's Army Aviation Support Facility.

Previous names

  • Godfrey Army Airfield, 1941
  • Dow Army Airfield, 1942
  • Dow Air Force Base, 1947–1968

Major commands to which assigned

  • Air Service Command, 1941
  • Air Transport Command, 1944
On standby status, May–November 1946
Air Defense Command controlled tenant units, 1952-1968

Major units assigned

  • 92d Reconnaissance Squadron (45th Bombardment Group), 3 February-7 April 1942
Attached to Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command, operated B-18 Bolos on antisubmarine patrols over the Atlantic Ocean
  • 451st Bombardment Group, 19 June-26 September 1945
724th, 725th, 726th 727th Bombardment Squadrons
Reassigned from Fifteenth Air Force, Castelltuccio Airfield, Italy. Unit spent the summer of 1945 demobilizing at Dow Field, it's B-24 Liberators sent to reclamation at depots in western United States.
  • 14th Fighter Group, 20 November 1946-2 October 1949
  • 14th Fighter Wing, 15 August 1947-2 October 1949
  • 506th Strategic Fighter Wing, 20 January 1953-20 March 1955
  • 4060th Air Refueling Wing, 8 March 1955-1 February 1960
  • 820th Air Division, 1 February 1956-1 April 1961
  • 4038th Strategic Wing, 15 February 1960-1 February 1963
  • 6th Air Division, 1 April 1961-1 February 1963
  • 397th Bombardment Wing, 1 February 1963-25 April 1968
  • 83d Air Transport Squadron. 9 September 1952-29 May 1953
  • 71st Air Refueling Squadron, 15 August 1955=25 April 1968
  • 506th Air Refueling Squadron, 25 September 1953–1 March 1955
  • 341st Air Refueling Squadron, 15 August 1955-1 Sep 1963
  • 37th Fighter Squadron, 20 November 1946-2 October 1949
  • 48th Fighter Squadron, 20 November 1946-2 October 1949
  • 49th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 20 November 1946-2 October 1949; 1 November 1952-5 November 1955
  • 75th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 25 June 1959-30 June 1968
  • 132d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, (Federalized ME ANG), 10 February 1951-1 November 1952
  • 457th Strategic Fighter Squadron, 20 January 1953-20 March 1955
  • 458th Strategic Fighter Squadron, 20 January 1953-20 March 1955
  • 462d Strategic Fighter Squadron, 20 January 1953-20 March 1955
  • 341st Bombardment Squadron, 15 February 1960-1 February 1963
  • 596th Bombardment Squadron, 1 February 1963-25 April 1968
  • 490th Bombardment Squadron (Light), 4 April 1947-27 June 1949 (USAFR)
  • 128th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, (Federalized WI ANG), 16 September 1951-1 September 1953
  • 679th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, 1 September-24 December 1953
  • 765th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, 1 January-1 August 1951
  • 30th Air Defense Missile Squadron, 1 June 1959-15 December 1964

Assigned aircraft

  • P-47N Thunderbolt, 1946–1947
  • F-84B Thunderjet, 1947–1949
  • F-84G Thunderjet, 1952–1954
  • F-84F Thunderstreak, 1954–1955
  • KB-29P Superfortress (Tanker), 1953–1955
  • KC-97 Stratotanker, 1955–1963
  • F-80C Shooting Star, 1952–1953
  • F-86F Sabre, 1953–1954
  • F-86D Sabre, 1954–1955
  • F-101B Voodoo, 1959–1968
  • B-52G Stratofortress, 1960–1968
  • KC-135 Stratotanker, 1960–1968
  • HH-43 Huskie 1951-1958

Missiles based here


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office 1961 (republished 1983, Office of Air Force History, ISBN 0-912799-02-1).
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980, by Lloyd H. Cornett and Mildred W. Johnson, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
  • Winkler, David F. (1997), Searching the skies: the legacy of the United States Cold War defense radar program. Prepared for United States Air Force Headquarters Air Combat Command.

External links

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