4WD or high clearance desired
  Tonopah Army Air Field

38°03'19.0"N 117°05'19.0"W

VISITED 6/7/2020
DIRECTIONS From Tonopah take US 6 east for 6.8 miles, turn right on Airport Road for 0.6 miles.
WHAT WAS Hitler was running amok in Europe and had already invaded Poland when the U.S. Government decided it had better start preparing.

In 1940 Congress withdrew three million acres of public land for exclusive military pilot training. Concurrently, an Army official landed at the airport in Las Vegas to discuss the creation of a gunnery school and military post. In 1941, Nevada Senator McCarran successfully supported the construction of the Tonopah Army Air Field, 200 miles north of Las Vegas. The Tonopah and Las Vegas installations were at the north and south borders of the landscape named the Tonopah Bombing and Gunnery Range.
-The History of the World War II Tonopah Army Air Field

Six thousand staff trained pilots on the Bell P-39 fighter and the Consolidated B-24 bomber. They also worked on the development of secret glide bombs, notably the 2,000 lb. GB-8 Radio-controlled glide bomb, the 1,000 lb. VB-6 “Felix” Heat-seeking High-angle glide bomb, the 2,000 lb GB-6 Heat-seeking glide bomb, and the 2,000 lb. GB-4 TV-controlled glide bomb.

The Bell P-39 Airacobra
Unusual in that this fighter plane had a V-12 engine roughly amidships and behind the pilot, it also had a 20mm or 37 mm cannon and two .50 caliber machine guns in the nose, and four wing mounted .30 caliber machine guns, depending on the variation, of which there were many. Lacking a supercharger, it did not perform well at high altitudes, but found much success in the hands of Soviets against the Nazis. More info here.

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator
Developed after its more famous cousin the B-17, the B-24 enjoyed a long range and a large capacity for bombs. More info here.

During 1943, 12 fighter squadrons trained in Bell P-39 Airacobras for overseas combat. Later that year, the P-39 aircraft were replaced with B-24 Liberator bombers. In 1944 the manned compound was separated in title from the TB&GR (Tonopah Bombing & Gunnery Range) and named Tonopah Army AIr Field (TAAF) TAAF was home to WWII personnel from 1942 to 946. At its maximum in 1944, 1,264 officers and 5,273 enlisted personnel were assigned to the installation. The nearby town of Tonopah had a population of 2,500 and Goldfield, 20 miles south of Tonopah hosted 200 residents.
-The History of the World War II Tonopah Army Air Field

The first load of heavy equipment for use on the WPA national defense airport at Tonopah arrived here Wednesday and was followed by a second load. The equipment, which is part of the contract awarded to the Isbell Construction Company of Reno, consisted of two RD-7 caterpillars with bulldozers. Several more caterpillars and graders arrived Thursday and all heavy machines are expected to be in Tonopah in the near future. A total of 31 men all of them from this district are at work on the project constructing the one half mile roadway from the Tonopah-Ely highway tot he airport site, and clearing sagebrush from the number one runway.
-Nevada State Journal, December 22, 1940

TONOPAH -- The army air force heavy bombardment base at Tonopah has been opened and is being staffed with officers and man, according to Col. F. D. Gore, commanding officer.
-Reno Evening Gazette, July 6, 1942

Being situated in such a remote location had its challenges. When the base was first built it lacked sufficient housing for personnel and many had to live in tents. Tonopah and Goldfield enjoyed increased business from base staff. Even the Goldfield Hotel was used to house staff and as late as January 1944 was filled with 150 officers and enlisted men and their families.

It was dangerous work.

Captain Charles C. Johnson Jr., 23, holder of two decorations for bravery in action over Australia and New Guinea, was killed instantly Saturday when a pursuit plane he was testing crashed five miles east of Tonopah Army air bas, it was announced today by Lieutenant Colonel McCrillis, commanding officer. Johnson, commanding officer of his squadron at the base, held the Silver Star and Purple Heart won in action in the South Pacific war zone. He was a native of Fort Worth, Texas, where his parents, Mr. and Mrs. C. C. Johnson, reside. Col. McCrillis also announced today the finding of the body of Lieutenant Gordon W. Champan, 22, Spokane, Wash., in the wreckage of his plane 40 miles southeast of the Tonopah base. Champan had been missing since Friday.
-The Long Beach Sun, February 8, 1943

The main base was supported by several outlying, smaller emergency air strips: Tonopah Aux #1 AAF; Tonopah Aux #2 AAF; Tonopah Aux #3 AAF; Tonopah Aux #4 AAF; and Tonopah Aux AAF #5. There was also the remote Cactus Camp, which was used to maintain targets and light them for night time bombing.

The base personnel participated in many sports with the locals during the base's operation. Baseball, (both an African-American team and an Anglo team) boxing and basketball were played with surrounding towns and schools.

With the defeat of Japan in August of 1945, the base was no longer required. On 23 August, Fourth Air Force General Order 110 placed the installation on a temporary inactive status and three days later a subsequent order suspended all training classes. Plans were quickly initiated to meet the order to close the installation. In September, personanel were assigned to ferry B-24 aircraft to Mountain Home Air Field, Idaho, and by September 15 all but four of the 75 TAAF aircraft had been reassigned. The newspaper ceased publication, and by July of 1946 only 9 officers, nine enlisted men, and 47 civilians remained. In 1948, bids were invited by the War Assets Administration to purchase and remove aporximately 540 buildings and structures, including barracks, latrines, mess halls, housing units, hangers, warehouses, shops and shed. The base and surrounding areas were combed by metal salvagers. In 1949, ownership of the airport was transferred to Nye county.


POST OFFICE December 15, 1942 - April 30, 1949
NEWSPAPER The Desert Bomber

Now the Tonopah Airport. Many ruins still standing, some you can get to, others behind a fence and which you could probably get to if you asked someone in charge. We were just passing by so didn't really plan the trip. There is a lot to see here, and nearby.

Most if not all the black and white photos were taken from a publication called The History of the World War II Tonopah Army Air Field which was meticulously researched and published by the United States Air Force
Air Combat Command in general and by Tracy Henderson-Elder, Archaeologist; Keith Myhrer, Archaeologist; and Allen Metscher, Director, Central Nevada Museum, Technical Advisor in particular.



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