Wurtsmith Air Force Base
A Brief History
In 1923, a chance meeting of two men who were fishing on Lake St. Clair was the nucleus for the establishment of Wurtsmith Air
Force Base near Oscoda, Michigan.
One of the men, in the banking business, invited the other man, a lieutenant in the then - infant Air Corps, to Oscoda to do
some fishing up here.
Lt. Whitehead (later General) was much impressed with the country and from a military point of view
he and his associates pressed Congress to appropriate funds to establish an aerial gunnery range here,
providing opportunities to acquaint flyers from Selfridge Air Force Base with the tricky maneuvers
required to take off and land their DeHaviland biplanes on the ice of Van Ettan Lake. Wurtsmith was born.
Through the years many events and changes occurred - Charles Lindbergh was here in 1927 on an
unofficial visit after his flight across the Atlantic Ocean. "Free French" pilots-in-training, black fighter
squadrons - many housing, recreational, office, logistic, communications and hangar buildings were erected - winter maneuvers and summer bombing and gunnery training - Warner Brothers in 1948
shot scenes for their picture "Fighter Squadron" and in 1953 the name Wurtsmith was officially recognized, the name honoring the life of a Michigan native, General Paul B. Wurtsmith, killed when his
plane, a b-25, crashed into a North Carolina mountain.
1955 marked the year that the base became a permanent Air Force installation and many new services
were implemented. Delivery of the B-52H operational bomber named "State of Michigan" in 1960 marked the redesignation to the base from and fighter-interceptor training base to the Strategic Air
Command and its long range B-52's, which played an important part in "Desert Storm", in the Persian Gulf.
In July 1993, having determined that the country did not need the number of bases which they were supporting due to new weapons
development and long-range satellite surveillance, Wurtsmith AFB was deemed one of the unnecessary military bases around the United States and was closed.
Several years ago a tiny landing strip and shivering maintenance personnel stood around a big fire, built to afford them some comfort and
keep their airplanes' oil from congealing had, with its sister bases around the United States, hung on and become the nucleus of our country's awesome air power.
"Old Crow Express", Wurtsmith's last B-52, left Michigan skies on 15 Dec. 1992. The closing ceremony was held 30 June 1993. One that day, a B
-52 from KI Sawyer and then three small planes from Tawas flew over as a salute to the men and planes who had served their country and made
Michigan proud to have been host to Wurtsmith Air Force Base.
Mary Jane Hennigar