Air Force Base
Roswell, New Mexico
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.
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
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.
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
Center. The city took over mostly intact facilities and many
structures remain. Eastern New Mexico University has a campus located there, Novabus
had a bus factory and a great many airliners are stored on site.
There is also a museum
highlighting the history of Walker AFB.
November 17, 1947 - June 30, 1958
47th Air Division
6th Bomb Wing
January 2, 1951
- April 30, 1962
6th Strategic Aerospace Wing
May 1, 1962 - March 24, 1967
33rd Fighter Wing
1947 - November 15, 1948
58th Fighter Interceptor Squadron
August 2, 1959 - December 25, 1960
509th Bomb Wing
The main gate present day.
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.
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.
(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.
ever present water tower...
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 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)."
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!
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.
Parts of the surrounding area is
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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Page created 11-27-04