Travis AFB, CA HistoryTravis AFB was founded in 1942, originally named Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base, intended as a medium bomber station. In practice the more immediate need in the first year of World War Two was for a major aerial logistical base, and Fairfield-Suisun was assigned to Air Transport Command, channelling aircraft and supplies from the San Francisco Bay Area to Hawaii and the Pacific Theater.
Before the ATC mission, once the runways were established but as the rest of the base buildings were being constructed, the US Navy used the runways for practice landings, using an aircraft carrier mockup line painting for short takeoff and landing practice - much safer than practicing on the real things, which were in active service anyway.
Fairfield-Suisun was named for two nearby twin towns, Fairfield and Suisun, which share a border, and was then, as now, on a major rail line, making the base perfect for receiving and dispatching all manner of supplies. Instead of becoming a bomber station, Fairfield-Suisun became the primary West Coast air transport center for the Army Air Corps. Thousands of aircraft and millions of tons of materiel flowed through the Field going out until the war's end. At the end of the war Fairfield-Suisun became a primary receiving center for returning service personnel. Reception, and ongoing supply of occupation troops, kept the field fully occupied after the war, and unlike many Army Air Fields Fairfield-Suisun was not inactivated after the war.
In 1948 units from the newly redesignated Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base were dispatched to support the Berlin Airlift. In 1949 the base was transferred to Strategic Air Command, and was upgraded with longer, wider runways, additional ground support facilities, permanent barracks, and family housing. The base was now what it had originally been intended; a bomber base. The logistic mission continued in a secondary role, but an influx of B-29 Superfortress, B-36 Peacemaker, and B-52 Stratofortress bombers gave the base a new role.
In 1950, a B-29 carrying Brigadier General Robert F. Travis, one unarmed Mark 4 nuclear bomb, and 5,000 pounds of fusing explosive charge crashed five minutes after takeoff. General Travis and the crew were killed in the following conventional explosion (the arming core was on another plane, as a safety measure, so there was no nuclear explosion). In 1951, Fairfield-Suisun was renamed Travis Air Force Base to honor the General.
Travis AFB continued its bomber base mission until 1958, when new strategic policy led to the relocation of bomber wings. Travis returned to a logistical role, under Military Air Transport Service command (renamed Military Airlift Command in 1966, and Air Mobility Command in 1992), and continued its role as a perfectly placed airlift center. In 1986 Travis became home of the Jimmy Doolittle Air & Space Museum, an extensive museum featuring exhibits from the earliest days of flight to modern space exploration.
The force adjustments of the 1990s led to consolidation of airlift units to Travis AFB, and the base continues to keep the Air Force moving.