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MacDill Air Force Base

As we pay tribute to the great aircraft of the past, many personal memories come to mind, like ...

My Connections with MacDill

Greetings from MacDill Field ... "Keep 'em Flying" ... with B-47
Greetings from MacDill Field - "Keep 'em Flying," with B-47

MacDill Air Force Base, where I served with the U.S. Strike Command from 1969-1971 in the Command and Control Division, is located in Tampa on the west coast of Florida.

It is situated 8 miles south of downtown Tampa, on the Southwestern tip of the Interbay Peninsula in Hillsborough County.

MacDill had a long history before I arrived, and today continues to serve the defense needs of the United States. A brief history of the base is included below.

MacDill Army Air Field: The Early Years

The land at the south tip of Interbay Peninsula was given to the War Department in 1939 by the State of Florida and Hillsborough County. The air field was originally known as Southeast Air Base, Tampa, and later dedicated as MacDill Army Air Field on April 16, 1941. It was named in honor of Colonel Leslie MacDill, a World War I aviator killed in the line of duty.

Shield of the Strategic Air Command
Shield of the Strategic Air Command

Among the original roles of the air field was anti-submarine surveillance, a mission later reassigned to the Navy. A major mission for MacDill was the training of aircrews for overseas deployments, with the first units trained at the base being Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber groups. MacDill also served as a Prisoner of War (POW) camp, holding as many as 488 German POWs.

The facility was renamed MacDill Air Force Base on January 13, 1948.

MacDill Air Force Base in the Post-War Era

After the war, B-17 training ended, and in April of 1945 MacDill was assigned to the Continental Air Command, renamed the Strategic Air Command in 1946. MacDill became the primary training facility for aircrew assigned to the B-29 Superfortress.

KC-135 tankers ready for takeoff from MacDill Air Force Base
KC-135 tankers ready for takeoff from MacDill Air Force Base

Early in the 1950s, the B-29s at MacDill began to be replaced by the newer and more powerful B-50 Superfortress. In September of 1950 the 306th Bombardment Wing was activated at MacDill and became SAC's first operational Boeing B-47 Stratojet jet bomber wing. Boeing KC-97 tankers were also stationed at MacDill about this time.

During 1954-55, MacDill became a setting for the Paramount Pictures film Strategic Air Command starring James Stewart and June Allyson, with other parts of the movie filed at Carswell AFB in Fort Worth.

In 1962 MacDill was transferred from SAC to the Tactical Air Command (TAC), and became a fighter base for the next 30 years. In 1964 McDonnell-Douglas Phantom F4C fighters were introduced at MacDill.

The first attempt to close MacDill was made in 1960, when the base was slated for closure.

However, the close proximity of the base to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which erupted in 1962, occurring just off the Florida coast, kept the base open. As part of the air build up, 60 F-100 Super Sabre fighters were stationed at MacDill along with RF-101 reconnaisance planes and RB-66 aircraft. In addition, the 622d Air Refueling Squadron deployed 20 KB-50J aerial tankers from England AFB, Louisiana.

Patch of the Tactical Air Command
Patch of the Tactical Air Command

In the early 1980s, F-16 Fighting Falcon groups were stationed at MacDill. But military downsizing, and the amount of commercial air traffic in the Tampa Bay area, resulted in the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission ordering in 1991 that all flightline activities be terminated at MacDill AFB by 1993. The order was subsequently reversed in 1993, and the base remained open.

NOAA began weather-related operations about that same time at MacDill, and KC-135 tankers arrived in 1996.

U.S. Strike Command

In response to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States Strike Command was established at MacDill as a crisis response force, one of the first "unified commands", a command that draws manpower and equipment from all branches of the U.S. military.

Read more about the U.S. Strike Command on this website

MacDill Air Force Base Today

Today, MacDill AFB continues to support a number of Air Force, Navy and joint command activities. MacDill AFB is an Air Mobility Command (AMC) base capable of rapidly projecting air-refueling power anywhere in the world. Organized into four groups to carry out a two-fold mission of air refueling and airlift support to the two Unified Commands based at MacDill.

MacDill is home to the United States Central Command and United States Special Operations Command and 51 other tenant units.

The base also supports a large military retiree community who live in the Tampa Bay area.

Historic Images of MacDill Field and MacDill Air Force Base

Greetings from MacDill Field ... "Keep 'em Flying" ... with a B-47 overhead
Greetings from MacDill Field ... "Keep 'em Flying" ... with B-47
Aerial view of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida
Aerial view of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida
Aerial view of MacDill Field Hospital, Tampa, Florida
Aerial view of MacDill Field Hospital, Tampa, Florida
Officers Club at MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida
Officers Club at MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida
One of the Huge Hangars at MacDill Field, U.S. Army Air Base
One of the Huge Hangars at MacDill Field, U.S. Army Air Base
Potato peeling at Boom Town, Corner Sand Avenue and Dust Blvd.
MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida
Potato peeling at Boom Town, Corner Sand Avenue and Dust Blvd., MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida
B-17 Flying Fortresses from MacDill Field Army Base
over the Lafayette Street Bridge, downtown in Tampa, Florida
B-17 Flying Fortresses from MacDill Field Army Base over the Lafayette Street Bridge, downtown in Tampa, Florida