McClellan Air Force Base

McClellan Air Force Base (HM12RX)

Location: McClellan Park, CA 95652 Sacramento County
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 39.773', W 121° 23.095'

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[Panel 1a:]
The 1930s
With war clouds gathering over the Pacific, in 1936 Congress authorized the construction of the Sacramento Air Depot. The Army Air Corp envisioned that the new depot would support operations on the West Coast, as well as provide a staging area for aircraft and material bound for the Pacific.

Built under the supervision of the Army Quartermaster Corps, construction of the Sacramento Air Depot began in late 1936. The depot took shape rapidly, and the construction of the runway and most of the facilities was completed by the fall of 1938 at a cost of approximately six million dollars. In 1939 the base was formally named McClellan Field in honor of Major Hezekiah McClellan, an Army test pilot killed in an aircraft accident in 1936.

Looking west, this 1938 photograph shows the depot's supply warehouses and aircraft hangers nearing completion.

[Panel 1b:]
The 1930s
In May 1936 the Army announced plans to close the Rockwell Air Depot, San Diego, California, and move its West Coast aircraft maintenance and supply facility to Sacramento. The transfer began in October 1938, and over the next four months the Army moved 357 Rockwell workers, along with four million pounds of parts and equipment, to the new Sacramento Air Depot.

During the fall and winter of 1938-1939 workers stocked the depot's fourteen large warehouses and readied its maintenance facilities. The Sacramento Air Depot began repairing aircraft in March 1939, at which time the depot's work force numbered 21 officers, 115 enlisted men, and 623 civilians.

This photograph, taken in March 1939, shows technicians repairing a Wright Cyclone engine on a B-17 bomber.

[Panel 2a:]
The 1940s
During World War II the workers at McClellan repaired thousands of aircraft, most destined for duty in the Pacific. After the aircraft were overhauled, many were wrapped with a protective covering and towed to the depot's loading dock on the nearby Sacramento River. There they were loaded onto barges and transported to waiting cargo ships in the ports of Oakland and San Francisco.

The depot's output increased significantly as the war progressed, and its aircraft production lines operated continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During the war the depot repaired P-38, P-39, P-40, P-47, and P-51 fighters, B-17, B-24, B-25, and B-29 bombers; and C-47 and C-54 transports.

In this 1944 photograph, the night shift workers in the foreground are repairing P-39 Airacobras; the production line in the background is for P-40 Warhawks. The production lines were housed in Butler Hangar, now Building 360.

[Panel 2b:]
The 1940s
McClellan grew rapidly during the 1940s. Employment at the base jumped from 760 people in September 1939 to 17,652 civilians and 4,350 military personnel in June 1943. Indicative of the pace of the expansion, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in a massive wave of new hiring—within three weeks of the attack the depot hired 2,500 new workers.

Despite an ever increasing workload, in September 1943 a nationwide manpower shortage prompted the depot to begin releasing its workers to the military and by June 1945 the depot's workforce had shrunk to 11,680. Although new production techniques had actually enabled the depot to increase production by 25 percent during that period, by 1945 the strain of unlimited overtime began to show and workforce efficiently began to decline.

This 1943 photograph shows McClellan maintenance division personnel posing with the first C-47 transport overhauled at the base.

[Panel 3a:]
The 1950s
In January 1950, McClellan began a high priority program to overhaul 158 B-29 bombers. The project was completed in 1953, and with the departure of the heavy bombers the focus of repair and maintenance activities at the base shifted primarily to fighter aircraft.

During the mid-1950s, McClellan's aircraft maintenance personnel completed one of the largest aircraft modification programs ever undertaken by the Air Force - the installation of new fire-control systems, automatic pilots and engines in 648 F-86D Sabre jet fighters. Later in the decade the base also overhauled fighters such as the F-100 Super Sabre and the F-104 Starfighter.

In this photograph from the early 1950s, workers overhaul B-29 bombers in the Directorate of Maintenance facility in Building 251.

[Panel 3b:]
The 1950s
The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 sparked a resurgence of activities at McClellan. The Air Force launched a massive rearmament program, and the number of military and civilian personnel assigned to the base increased from 7,504 in 1950 to 17,720 in 1953. The rapid influx of new workers resulted in massive traffic jams and a shortage of parking on base, problems later resolved through the use of staggered work schedules and off-base parking.

McClellan Air Force Base played a key role in handling the flood of equipment and spare parts needed to support combat operations in Korea. To meet the increased operational demands of the Cold War, and to provide logistics support for the Air Force's increasingly sophisticated weapons systems, during the 1950s McClellan built two huge new warehouses—Buildings 783 and 786—containing 1.5 million square feet of storage space, and also automated many of its supply management functions.

In this picture from the mid-1950s, workers package parts and supplies destined for shipments to Air Force facilities around the world.

Panel 4a:]
The 1960s
The early years of the missile age found McClellan Air Force Base poised to undertake new missions. During the 1960s the base began to diversify its workload. Although aircraft repair and maintenance remained McClellan's signature activity, during the 1960s the base began developing new capabilities, including the repair of sophisticated ground communications-electronics equipment and electrical generators.

During the 1960s McClellan also began supporting the nation's space programs, and also helped maintain the United States missile and air defense radar systems.

In this photograph a technician adjusts an AN/APS-95 airborne search radar in an EC-121 Warning Star aircraft. Based at McClellan, the aircraft belonged to the 552nd Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing.

[Panel 4b:]
The 1960s
As the pace of combat operations in Vietnam intensified, in 1965 McClellan began sending Rapid Area Maintenance (RAM) teams, composed of skilled Air Force and civilian personnel, to Southeast Asia to repair crash and battle damaged aircraft.

RAM team duty was difficult often hazardous, and all of the team members were volunteers. Working under primitive conditions, and frequently coming under enemy fire, over a ten-year period Air Force RAM teams repaired over 1,000 aircraft. In June 1965 four McClellan RAM team members—Leon Forcum, John Kilzer, Floyd McKinney and Leo Nelson—were killed during a terrorist attack in Saigon. They were the only McClellan employees ever to be killed in a combat zone.

In this June 1965 photograph a McClellan repair team stands in front of an AE-1 Skyraider that they repaired at the Bien Hoa airfield, Republic of Vietnam.

Panel 5a:]
The 1970's
The evolution of aircraft technology, coupled with the end of America's involvement in Vietnam, brought widespread changes to McClellan's aircraft production lines during the 1970s.

Over the course of the decade the Air Force's famed Century Series aircraft-the F-100 Super Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief, and F-106 Delta Dart-largely disappeared from McClellan's maintenance hangars. They were replaced by the new sweep-wing F-111 fighter-bomber and the rugged A-10 Thunderbolt II, the Air Force aircraft designed expressly for close air support.

In this photograph F-111s undergo repair in Building 251. Each F-111 overhaul took approximately 20,000 labor hours.

[Panel 5b:]
The 1970s
The 1970s witnessed the continued diversification of McClellan's workload. In 1976 the Air Force reorganized many of its maintenance functions, and in the process designated McClellan as the technology repair center for all of the service's ground communications-electronics equipment, flight control accessories, and hydraulics. As a part of the same reorganization, the Air Force also directed that McClellan transfer its aircraft engine repair activity, a function the base had performed since 1938, to another air logistics center.

To handle the new workloads, during the 1970s the base built several new facilities. Between 1972 and 1979 construction crews completed work on McClellan's industrial Product Facility. Located in Building 243, the facility contained a new hydraulic and pneumatic components repair shop, aircraft component repair facilities, and a plating shop.

Reflecting the expanded scope of McClellan's mission, this photograph shows a technician repairing electrical equipment at one of McClellan's repair shops.

[Panel 6a:]
The 1980s
During the 1980s McClellan overhauled and repaired thousands of aircraft including F-111 and F-4 Phantom II fighter-bombers and A-10 and A-7 Corsair II attack aircraft. But away from the din of the production line, McClellan was also helping shape the Air Force of tomorrow. The base served as the logistics support manager for the F-117 Nighthawk fighter-bomber, and also played an integral role in the development of the Air Force's newest fighter, the F-22 Raptor.

To keep pace with the changing needs of the Air Force, McClellan also developed capabilities in new areas including cutting-edge technologies such as advanced composite materials, fiber optics, and very high-speed integrated circuits.

In this photograph, technicians overhaul an A-7 in Building 360. McClellan began performing A-7 depot maintenance in late 1987, and two years later became the A-7 system program manager.

[Panel 6b:]
The 1980s
During the 1980s McClellan's new high technology workloads, coupled with the Reagan defense buildup and escalating Cold War tensions, led to a steady increase in the base's work force. The number of military and civilian personnel employed at the base increased from 16,409 in 1980 to 22,011 by the middle of the decade.

Representative of the base's new capabilities was the nondestructive inspection facility that opened in Building 248 in 1988. The facility used sophisticated robotic X-ray and neutron ray inspection systems to detect hidden structural flaws and corrosion in a variety of military aircraft.

McClellan's ground communications-electronics workload also expanded in size and complexity throughout the decade. One of the systems repaired at the base, the AN/MPS-T1 Electronic Warfare Range System. is pictured above.

[Panel 7a:]
The 1990s
In August 1990 Iraqi forces invaded and occupied Kuwait. In response, the United States and its allies rushed military forces to the region to protect Saudi Arabia and expel the Iraqis from Kuwait.

McClellan's personnel played a vital role in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War. During the conflict the base worked around-the-clock to accelerate the repair of aircraft, command and control systems, and thousands of commodity items. The base also served as a staging area for parts and supplies destined for Saudi Arabia, while approximately 300 of McClellan's military personnel served in the Gulf during the war.

Following the Gulf War the Air Force continued to respond to regional conflicts around the globe, including combat operations in the Balkans, and ongoing skirmishes with Irag. Although the pace of Air Force operations increased dramatically throughout the 1990s, its resources did not. Despite the austere environment, throughout the 1990s McClellan continued to meet the operational requirements of the Air Force.

Managed and repaired at McClellan, the A-10 aircraft proved to be devastatingly effective during the Gulf War and in operations over the Balkans. In this photograph an A-10 undergoes analytical condition inspection and repair at McClellan Air Force Base.

[Panel 7b:]
The 1990s
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. defense spending declined throughout the 1990s. In an effort to trim defense spending, in June 1995 the independent Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended the closure McClellan Air Force Base by July 2001.

Despite the efforts of their allies in the White House and in Congress, McClellan's supporters could not stave off closure. Within weeks of the closure announcement the Air Force began making plans for closing the base and transferring the workload to other facilities. At the same time the Air Force began working with Sacramento County's Local Redevelopment Authority to facilitate the conversion of McClellan from military to civilian use.

The decision to close the base placed new demands on McClellan's work force. In addition to the base's traditional maintenance and repair workload, McClellan's personnel now had to perform the manual tasks necessary to ready the installation for closure.

[Panel 8a:]
Base Closure - 2001
On July 13, 2001, the Air Force will close McClellan Air Force Base and transfer control of the property to Sacramento County. Preparing the base for closure, and converting it from military to civilian use, required years of planning by the Air Force, various federal agencies, and Sacramento's Local Redevelopment Authority.

Starting in 1998, the Air Force began to transfer McClellan's workload to other military and commercial facilities, a process that was scheduled to be completed by October 2000. At the same time the Air Force was preparing to leave, it was also working aggressively to ready the base's facilities and equipment for transfer to the Local Redevelopment Authority.

Although McClellan Air Force Base will cease to exist in July 2001, a number of government organizations will remain on the installation after closure including, the Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, the Defense Microelectronics Activity, and Headquarters of the Defense Commissary Agency's Pacific/Western Region. Their presence will help facilitate the conversion of the base from military to civilian use, and will also serve as a tangible reminder of McClellan's long and illustrious military heritage.

[Panel 8b:]
McClellan Air Force Base
1936 - 2001
On July 13, 2001, the Air Force will officially close McClellan Air Force Base after 65 years of operation. For its employees, and the people in the surrounding communities, the event will mark the end of an era.

Over the decades, the evolution of McClellan mirrored the changing requirements of national defense and the rabidly evolving mission of the Air Force. Over the course of more than 60 years the base expanded from 1,100 to nearly 3,000 acres, and the value of its land and facilities grew from $6 million to over $3 billion dollars. McClellan's increasingly sophisticated infrastructure reflected the

McClellan's work force also changed over time. Numbering less than 1,000 in 1939, at the height of World War II employment at the base swelled to nearly 22,000 people. Employment at McClellan remained high throughout the Cold War, and in 1967 it peaked at 26,326 military and civilian personnel.

When viewed against the rapidly changing backdrop of international affairs and military technology, throughout McClellan's long and distinguished history the base's most enduring constant was the dedication of its military and civilian personnel. For 65 years their skill, courage, and dedication was a vital component in the defense of the United States.
HM NumberHM12RX
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Saturday, October 11th, 2014 at 11:19pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)10S E 640518 N 4280604
Decimal Degrees38.66288333, -121.38491667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 39.773', W 121° 23.095'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 39' 46.38" N, 121° 23' 5.70" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)916, 805
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 3400-3426 McClellan Mall, McClellan Park CA 95652, US
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