Walker Air Force Base
Roswell, New Mexico

Walker AFB main gate circa 1960
The Main gate in the 1950s.

      Walker Air Force Base was located South of Roswell, New Mexico and started life as Roswell Army Air Field in 1941.  During World War Two.  The base was home to Military Flying Training Center and Bombardier School, with several auxiliary fields in the outlying area.   The area was spotted with training bases, including Hobbs and Carlsbad.  Roswell AAF became Walker AFB on January 13, 1948 and was deactivated on June 30, 1967.  After closure Walker was taken over by the city of Roswell and became the Roswell Industrial Air Center.

    Walker AFB was named after General Kenneth Newton Walker, who was killed during a bombing mission over Rabaul on January 5, 1943.  During the post war period, Walker was a Strategic Air Command Base.  From February 1, 1951 until June 30, 1963 the  the units at Walker reported to the 47th Air Division. On July 1, 1963 That responsibility transferred to the 22nd Strategic Aerospace Division.  From July 1, 1965 until March 25, 1967 the 18th Strategic Aerospace Division was in charge.

    There seems to have been only three bomb units at Walker during its existence:  The 6th Bombardment Wing, 468th Bombardment Group and 509th BW.

    The 6th BW was activated at Walker on January 2, 1951, equipped with B-29s.  During its stay, the 6th would also go on to fly B-36s, B-52s, KB-29s, KC and RC-135s and the Atlas F missile.

    The 468th BG's tenure was short, from January 12, 1946 until deactivation on March 31, 1946, when the base was still Roswell AAF.  During the stay the unit was equipped with B-29s.  This was also in the era before Groups became Wings.

    The most notable unit stationed at Walker was the 509th Composite Group, later redesignated the 509th Bombardment Wing.  This was Paul Tibbets' unit tasked with delivering the Atomic Bomb over Japan.  The unit arrived at Roswell on November 6, 1945 and stayed until June 30, 1958 when it was re-assigned to Pease AFB, New Hampshire.  Being one of the "founding fathers" of SAC, the 509th flew a mixture of aircraft: B-29s, P-51s (F-51 after 1947), F-84s and C-54s.  Later going into B-50s, KB-29s, B-47s and KC-97s.  After its departure from Walker the 509th later flew B-52s, KC-135s and FB-111s.
An Atlas F missile complex was added in the early 1960s, comprising twelve silos and a launch complex, but after several explosions of Atlas' (including three at Walker) the missiles were removed in 1965.

   As with many SAC bases there were probably also alert fighter detachments provided by the Air Defense Command.  The only ADC fighter squadron that I have identified to have been based at Walker is the 58th FIS, but the alert sheds on the northeast part of the field indicate that some unit had Dets standing alert.  This might have possibly been fulfilled by active  Air Force units, or maybe  Air National Guard  squadrons.  During much  of the  history of Walker the Texas ANG and the Arizona ANG  had ADC duties.  For many years the 111th FIS (TXANG) stood alert at Holloman AFB.  I would like to imagine Texas F-101s and F-102s standing alert during the 1950s and 60s.   Another possibility is that units like the 331st FIS at Webb AFB could have stood alert as well.  During the tenure of Walker's existence as an Air Force Base the 331st was variously equipped with F-86Ls, F-102As and finally F-104As. 

    Two Nike Hercules sites were activated in April, 1960 to protect Walker.  Site WA-50 is about thirteen miles south of Roswell in Hagerman, NM.  Site WA-10 is about fourteen miles east off of US380.  Both sites exist to a point.  These two sites were both deactivated in June, 1960, so both are almost a postscript to the history of the area.

    As already mentioned, Walker became the Roswell Industrial Air Center.  The city took over mostly intact facilities and many structures remain.  Eastern New Mexico University has a campus located there, Novabus Inc. had a bus factory and a great many airliners are stored on site.  There is also a museum highlighting the history of  Walker AFB.


47th Air Division

47th Air Division emblem

6th Bomb Wing
6th BW
January 2, 1951 -  April 30, 1962

6th Strategic Aerospace Wing

May 1, 1962 -  March 24, 1967

33rd Fighter Wing

33rd FW

November 17, 1947 - November 15, 1948

58th Fighter Interceptor Squadron

58th FIS

August 2, 1959 - December 25, 1960

2nd Strategic Support Squadron

April 25, 1950 - May 17, 1951

509th Bomb Wing

509th BW
November 17, 1947 - June 30, 1958

                                  Industrial Airpark
The main gate present day.

Walker AFB 1960s Walker map RIAC 1997

    The photos and map above show the layout of the base.  The first photo is during the 1960s era and looks over the base towards the west.  B-52s and KC-135s are present on the flight line.  The map shows the layout about 1963 and the overhead view from 1997 shows the present appearance.

The following photos were taken during several visits to the former Walker Air Force Base.

    As with many former military bases taken over for civilian use many of the former structures remain.  In the case of the base hospital, the structure is now used to house the New Mexico Rehabilitation Center.

B-52 Hangar

    The massive B-52 hangar used to house Novabus' bus factory.  After Novabus' demise the hangar was taken over by Dean Baldwin Aircraft Painting, the current tenant as of January, 2011.  This massive hangar sits on the west end of the flight line and is separated from the majority of hangars on the east side.

    Most (if not all) of the hangars still stand.  In the case of the one on the left, it is one of several similar hangars.  While I believe that it is from the days of Walker AFB, I can not be sure.  It has the appearance of the half hangars that an aircraft like a B-29 (or B-50, KC-97, etc.) would be partially pulled into to allow work on the engines in a somewhat protected environment.   There are several engine less DC-8s in the background.  The hangar in the center photo and on the right are used by current tenants in refurbishing and junking airliners.  They appear to date from the era of the B-29.  Notice the cut-out for a vertical tail just above the doors.

    Various other hangars that along with the ones illustrated above run down the east end of the flight line.

An ever present water tower...

    The building to the left looks like maybe it was Base Ops, or possibly Transient Alert, though it is somewhat set back from the flight line.  There are still many workshops on the East side of the base and the Fire Station is still in use.

Alert Hangars Alert Hangars

    The former alert sheds are still in use for storage.  The photo on the left was taken in April, 2008 and the one on the right in February, 2009.   After ADC units ceased being based at Walker these buildings doubled as Alert Quarters for B-52 crews standing nuclear alert. 
MSgt Carl Combs (Ret) states:  "The alert ‘sheds’ were alert quarters for the crew of at least three B-52s that were on constant alert (served the best chow in the Air Force)."

Anno Bunker

    I originally misidentified this structure as a warhead assembly building.  It is actually an engine test cell.  These photos were taken in February, 2009 and interestingly after forty two years a SAC band is still visible on the concrete side!

Continental Express ATRs in
                                    July, 2003

    One of RIAC's major uses is for the storage of airliners.  The Continental Express ATRs were in storage in July, 2003 before being sold off to other operators.  The DC-8s and B727s are in storage as of March, 2009, but will more than likely be broken up due to their age and inability to meet noise abatement standards.

Pronghorn Antelope

    Parts of the surrounding area is still sparsely settled and wildlife is common in the area.  These Pronghorn Antelope were not the least bit impressed by my presence on a nice day in February, 2009.

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6th Bomb Wing link
509th Bomb Wing

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Page created 11-27-04
Modified  01-02-14
Clifford Bossie