(FOX40.COM) — Today Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield is the largest air mobility organization in the United State Air Force, but its beginnings are a small one an includes the tragic loss of a commander.
Following the attack of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States military began building airfields large and small from coast to coast.
The Early Years of Travis Air Force Base
On May 11, 1943, the Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base became operational and served as a front line defense for the west coast with its squadrons of medium bombers and fighters.
The strong coastal winds that made their way onto the airfield also made it an ideal place to train Navy pilots training for the conditions of an aircraft carrier.
The bases mission would quickly change though. On June 1, 1943, the Army Air Corps would place its newly created Air Transport Command at Fairfield-Suisun.
The Air Transport Command was tasked with bringing tactical aircraft, troops and supplies from California across the Pacific to the frontlines of Japan and Korea.
By 1945, Fairfield-Suisun would become the west coast’s largest aerial port and would send two of it air transport squadrons to assist in the Berlin Airlift in 1948.
The base would see a transition again in May 1949 as the Strategic Air Command became the main priority and the airlift operations became a secondary mission.
The base would now host long-range reconnaissance and intercontinental bombing aircraft like the B-29, B-36 and then the B-52.
The increase range of the bases aircraft also caused an increased scale of the base as it grew to its current size of 6,258 acres to accommodate new hangers, new and larger runways, permanent barracks and family living spaces.
Who was Brigadier General Robert F. Travis?
Born in 1904 in Savannah Georgia, Travis would be appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at the age of 20 in 1924.
He would graduate as a second lieutenant in 1928 and move onto several other military flying schools before he was given his first command in August 1933 as a supply engineering and operations officer for the 59th Service Squadron at Langley Field, Virginia.
Between 1933 and July 1943, Travis was move from New York, to Virginia, onto Hawaii, to Florida, Idaho, Iowa and Texas before finally being sent to the European Theater of Operations in August 1943.
Before his deployment oversees, Travis served as an engineering inspector, armament officer, flight commander, intelligence officer, commanding officer, group executive officer and much more.
While in Europe, Travis would fly in 35 missions over occupied territory with the 41st Combat Bombardment Wing of the Eight Air Force.
One of his missions was to destroy the Foch-Wolfe fighter plant in Oeschersleben, Germnay.
In September 1944, after one year overseas in Europe, Travis would return to the United States and take up the post of Commanding General of the 17th Bomber Operational Training Wing in Grand Island, Nebraska before it moved to Sioux City.
Travis would then graduate from the National War College in June 1947 after entering the previous year. In September 1948, Travis was made Commanding General of the Pacific Air Command.
His final posting would be at the Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base in June 1949 as the Commanding General of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. In November 1949 he was also given command of the 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing and ran both wings.
While taking off in a B-29 from Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base on Aug. 5, 1950, Travis would die in a crash 15-minutes after the plane completed takeoff.
In honor of Travis, the base was renamed after him on Oct. 20, 1950.
From 1928 to 1950, Travis had 26 different assignments with over a dozen different squadrons.
During his time in the Army Air Corps and United States Air Force Travis served in combat as a command pilot, combat observer, expert bombardier, aerial gunner and celestial navigator aboard the B-17 and B-29.
He also received the following awards:
• Distinguished Service Cross
• Silver Star with two oak leaf clusters
• Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters
• Purple Heart
• French Legion of Honor
• Distinguished Flying Gross – Great Britain
• and more
Travis Air Force Base Today
Travis AFB today hosts the 60th Air Mobility Wing, the 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force, 615th Contingency Response Wing, 349th Air Mobility Wing and 52 additional partner organizations.
The base is the only in the United States that can deliver full spectrum global mobility to include airlift, air refueling, aero-medical evacuation and global reach laydown.