Elmendorf AFB, AK HistoryWhat is now Elmendorf Field began as the original site of Fort Richardson Army Base, and Elmendorf Field itself was the Army support airfield. Elmendorf was named for Captain Hugh M. Elmendorf, an Army test pilot killed flying the early model of the Consolidated P-30 fighter plane, one of the most advanced fighter planes of the 1930s. Elmendorf Field and Fort Richardson were build as a general upgrade of US Armed Services facilities in the days before World War Two. The field played an important role as a logistical link for units deployed to the defense of the Alaskan territory, and served as a staging field for the Aleutian Islands Campaign and attacks on the Kurile Islands.
After World War II, Elmendorf Field, soon Elmendorf Air Force Base, became increasingly important as a first line of detection and defense against expected Soviet attack. Elmendorf was well positioned for this role, and was designated Alaskan Air Command, unifying command and control for widely separated early detection systems and housing interception squadrons for rapid response to threats. The rapid increase in Elmendorf's air defense capability prompted Fort Richardson to relocated in 1950.
Elmendorf's mission also included signals interception and intelligence and power projection over the North American section of the Great Circle and into the northern Far East. This capability was demonstrated most clearly in the early 1980s as fighters from Elmendorf flew from base to participate in Team Spirit, a joint US-South Korea military exercise.
Elmendorf's key strategic position has not diminished with the end of the Cold War, and although Elmendorf has reduced its force in the last twenty years, it remains an important link to US deployments and allies in northern and eastern Asia. The base realignments of the 2000s led to an administrative force adjustment, and Elmendorf Air Force Base was joined with its former home base, Fort Richardson in 2010, forming Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.