Lt Biggs


  Lt. James Berthea "Buster" Biggs
 

Biggs Air Force Base
El Paso, Texas

Biggs Main gate

     What is now Biggs Army Airfield started life in 1915 as an encampment at Fort Bliss, Texas  for the 82nd Field Artillery.  That location was on what is now Ft Bliss, approximately two miles SSW of Biggs AAF.  The next year aircraft of the 1st Aero Squadron used the field as a stopping point between San Antonio, Texas and Columbus, New Mexico, in response to Pancho Villa's raid on the small town.  The field was referred to as "Fort Bliss Aviation Field".  In 1919, the field was used for "Border Air Patrol".

     On January 5, 1925 the field was officially named "Biggs Field" after Lieutenant James Berthea "Buster" Biggs.  Lt. Biggs was an El Paso native killed in a plane crash October 27, 1918 at Beltran, France.

    On June 30, 1926 the original Biggs Field was closed and Camp Owen Beirne was  renamed Biggs Field on July 1, 1926.  Camp Owen Beirne had been a National Guard post and was the location of the large airship hangar that would be a Biggs landmark for many years.

     Between the two World Wars, Biggs served as a refueling stop for transient aircraft, but during World War Two it became a hub of training activity for B-17, B-24 and B-29 crews.  The base came under the command of the 2nd Air Force and was headquarters for the 20th Bombardment Command.  In 1945 a detachment of B-29s from the 16th Bombardment Operational Training Wing arrived at the base.

    With the end of WW II the 16th BOTW was deactivated and Biggs became home of the 19th Tactical Air Command, with the 20th Fighter Group and the 471st Air service group taking up residence.   These last two units left Biggs for Shaw Field, South Carolina in 1948.  On February 1, Biggs Field became Biggs Air Force Base.  The 47th Bomb Wing and the 544th Air Service group moved from Lake Charles, Louisiana in October of that year.  The 47th only stayed until December, 1949, when it left for Barksdale AFB.

    Biggs AFB became a Strategic Air Command asset when the 97th Bomb Wing moved to the base from Smokey Hill AFB, Kansas, in May 1948.  In 1950, the 1st Strategic Support Squadron was assigned to Biggs, and on June 10, 1952 the 95th Bomb Wing was activated.  To administer the groups the 810th Air Division was also activated in June, 1952.  During this time, the various units operated B-29s, B-50s, B-36s, B-47s, B-52s, C-97s, C-124s, KC-97s and KC-135s to name a few.

   From 1939 until 1966 one unit was based at Biggs, changing designations several times.  That unit was at various times the 1st Tow Target Squadron, 6th TTS and finally the 4758th Defense System Evaluation Squadron.  In its lifetime, the 4758th starting with a lone B-10 in 1939 operated at various times: A-26s (which the USAF redesignated B-26s), C-47s, T-6s, F-80s, B-29s, B-45s, B-57s and F-100s.

   The 1st SSS was deactivated in 1959, the 97th BW moved to Eaker AFB that same year and in 1966 the 95th BW was deactivated and the 4758th DSES moved to Holloman AF, NM.  With that last action Biggs AFB closed and the airfield reverted to the U.S. Army where it once again became Biggs Army Airfield.  USAF aircraft and units are only visitors now, but the U.S. Army maintains a small fleet of former USSR equipment: various helicopters including some Mi-24s and at least one An-2, all part of the Threat Systems Management Office (TSMO).  In 1973 the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment moved to Fort Bliss and for a very brief time UH-34 Choctaw helicopters operated out of Biggs, but it was not too long before they were phased out of service.  From 1973 until 1994 AH-1 Cobra and UH-1 Iroqouis helicopters, along with some fixed wing assets  were based at Biggs to support the 3rd ACR.  When the 3rd ACR moved to Ft Carson, Colorado Biggs was home to only a few UH-1s and later UH-60s in the role of MAST transport.   With the announcement in 2005 that the 1st Armored Division will relocate to Ft Bliss it is very likely that Army aviation will once again have a major presence at Biggs. 

    I have yet to identify what Rescue Squadrons provided search and rescue support at Biggs and what Fighter Interceptor Squadrons provided detachments to stand alert.

    Biggs is also host to the annual Amigo Airshow, which is usually held in October and through the years has boasted some great demonstration teams and displays.  

    All organizations only function due to a number of individuals that provide support.  Airplanes fly because someone maintains them, fuels them and provides various other services.  Jimmy Stewart was only able to climb into his B-47 and deploy to Japan because various ancillary functions were performed by teams of support personnel off camera.  In looking back on history, it is sometimes easy to overlook the fact that military installations are communities unto themselves.  People on base have all the basic needs that anyone else does.  Groceries still have to be bought, cars have to be serviced.  Families go the movies, church, or have picnics.  All sorts of events occur from day to day.  And often forgotten is that children grow up and go to school.  While searching online for information about Biggs, I came across a site for kids (that slang every grade school teacher hates!) that attended Biggs AFB's Ben Milam Elementary School.  It provides a touch of normality that is often missed and helps in its own way to show how Biggs was able to function in an every day manner.
 

   As time goes by, I hope to have histories available for all the flying units at Biggs.  Currently though I only have the 95th BW online.  If anyone that reads this has information and especially photos of aircraft with the 1st SSS, 95th and 97th BWs and the 4758th DSES (and its predecessors) please contact me.

Here is a page with a few Biggs  photos 

A list of units

There are a few aircraft left that flew out of Biggs, with one of the most notable being B-36J serial number 52-2827.  That aircraft was retired to Fort Worth in 1959.  In 2005 she was moved to Tucson, Arizona to become part of the Pima Aerospace Museum.  The link below will take you to the website for the CD on "Saving The Last Peacemaker".

Saving The Last Peacemaker web site


  To go to...


47th Bomb Wing


810th Air Division

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Clifford Bossie
Page started 12-04-01

 Modified       03-03-09