The USAF In France 1950 - 1967

by Jerry McAuliffe

    From 1950 to 1967 the USAF set up and maintained bases in France as part of NATO. This piece of Air Force history is little known, and many errors exist in what has been written. As one who participated in this build up, I hope to remedy both situations by drawing a brief outline of units involved, where they were stationed, their missions, and what conditions were like at the bases in France.

    The Cold War that developed in Europe during 1948 and escalated into the attempted seizure of West Berlin, convinced the western nations to form a common defense organization. Discussions led to a multinational defense agreement that evolved into NATO. A central NATO defense strategy was the use of tactical air power to offset the Soviet Union's numerical superiority of ground forces, but USAF planners did not want any new tactical air units moved into the US "Zone of Occupation" in southern Germany because of their vulnerability. By 1950 USAFE wanted all tactical air units to be located west of the Rhein River to provide greater air defense warning time and France agreed to provide air base sites.

    During 1950 the State Department, HQ USAF teams, and the French Defense Ministry negotiated to select the air bases and determine the amount of construction funding needed to get them operational at the earliest possible date. France gave tentative approval by February 1951 to establish ten main US air bases with all support facilities: Bordeaux-Merignac, Chambley-Bussieres, Chaumont-Somuntiers, Chateauroux-Deols, Dreux-Louvillier, Etain-Rouvres, Evreux-Fauville, Laon-Couvron, Phalsbourg-Bourscheid, and Toul-Rosieres. Two additional bases were selected for RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) fighters, Gros-Tenquin and Marville-Montmedy.

The Buildup 1950 - 1954

    The sites selected for the ten main bases varied from open farmland to commercial airports. Bordeaux-Merignac and Chateauroux-Deols were well developed commercial airports with good runways, taxiways, and roads. Chaumont, Etain, Evreux, Laon and Toul had runways circa 1940-44, limited parking aprons and open space for troop housing. No sites had adequate buildings, hangars, or housing to accommodate a wing. Of serious concern were sources of potable water and electrical power. Major construction would be required at all selected bases to support jet fighters, bombers, and transports. Chaumont, Laon and Toul would be developed in two steps: first a temporary bare base tent camp built in minimum time to support flying missions and completed while the wing operated at its air base. It took twice as long to complete these bases as USAFE had estimated. Chambley, Dreux, Etain, Evreux, and Phalsbourg were planned as one step bases, eliminating the bare base expenses. Though construction began in 1952 at these five sites, they were not ready for wing operations until mid-1955, long after their expected completion. Two major NATO decisions adversely affected the development of base infrastructure: only French contractors could construct the facilities, and only French building materials and equipment could be used. In the early fifties there was neither sufficient heavy equipment nor quality building materials available in France for these large projects.

    An airlift terminal was established in April 1951 at Orly Field, the international airport south of Paris. It was operated by the 1630th Air Base Squadron, a small unit supporting military and commercial air transports moving US officials and high ranking military personnel to NATO offices in Paris and to SHAPE at Fontainebleau. Orly Field was strictly limited to these MATS (Military Air Transport Service) flights; tactical aircraft were not allowed to fly into Paris.

    In June 1951, the 73rd Air Depot Wing was the first large USAF unit to move into France. It was required for USAFE logistical support and MDAP (Mutual Defense Assistance Program) support to all NATO countries and intended to replace the Erding Air Depot in West Germany. This wing was based at the Chateauroux-Doels airport, in central France, and operated the depot until departure of all US forces from France in 1967. The 73rd began immediately as supply center for the new bases though considerable construction was required to provide necessary depot facilities. The 866th US Army Engineer Aviation Battalion, a SCARWAF (Special Category Army Personnel with Air Force) organization, assisted the 73rd to improve existing housing, roads, and storage site drainage. A tent camp for troop housing and a very large warehousing facility was located at La Martinerie, two miles south of the airport. USAFE also required a primary ammunition storage/maintenance depot so a large forested site 15 miles southwest of Niort, "Foret de Chize," was established as the Chize Ammunition Storage Sub-Depot. Another sub-depot using the Bordeaux Ford Bacalan plant near the WWII submarine pens was opened in June 1951 to store supplies moving through this major seaport and later became USAFE's clothing depot.

    The three combat wings hurriedly ordered to France between October 1951 and May 1952 were federalized Air National Guard units activated for 21 months. This action got aircraft, equipment and personnel in place to be easily redesignated regular USAF wings after the end of the guard's tour of active duty. The 126th Bomb Wing (Light) arrived in December 1951, the 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing with RB-26Cs and RF-80As reached France in January 1952, and the 137th Fighter-Bomber Wing in May 1952.

    I was attached to the first flying wing deployed to France, the 126th Bomb Wing (L) with its three squadrons; 108th, 168th and 180th, flying B-26B/Cs. The word was that we were going to an interim base at Bordeaux-Merignac which had World War II hangars and shops ready for our occupancy. We would be permanently based at Laon when the bare base construction was completed there. Our squadron air crews flew the B-26s to Bordeaux in October and November while personnel and equipment proceeded by troop and cargo ship.

    We had a rude awakening upon our arrival in Bordeaux. Living and working conditions were abysmal by USAF standards. The expected hangars and shops had been bombed by the 8th USAAF when the base was occupied by the Luftwaffe in WWII so almost all aircraft maintenance had to be done outdoors. Evidence of the Luftwaffe's presence was found throughout the base; the perimeter was still mined, and aircraft munitions were frequently found in the mud. Our wing was the first to encounter all the problems of being based in France and developed many innovative solutions. Each maintenance section had to set up its own shop tent on the ground. Flooring of pierced steel planking was used to keep the shop equipment from sinking into the mud. Aircraft parking was a serious problem due to limited ramp space. B-26s that had to be parked on the ground would sink into the mud overnight and great effort was required to extract them. Fifteen hundred officers and airmen were housed in 200 tents with canvas over wood frames on wood floors. The tents were heated by two oil burning stoves. Prefabricated portable wooden buildings were erected for three mess halls, six large latrines, a hospital, communications center, and the base exchange.

    Flight operations were often canceled due to bad winter weather, inadequate VHF radio communication sets for civil airport/airways operation, and limited aircraft maintenance facilities. An unusual flying stoppage was the weekly grazing of sheep throughout the aircraft parking area by a local farmer. Flight operations began immediately though, and in February we supported NATO's operation "GRAND SLAM" which involved British, French, and Italian forces. As part of MDAP we began the ground and flight training of French pilots and navigators who would fly B-26s in Indochina.

    When we moved to Laon AB, located seven miles northwest of the old cathedral city of Laon, in May 1952, we found another tent city with prefabricated wood buildings for headquarters, two large mess halls, seven large latrines, a hospital and base exchange. An 8,000 ft runway had been built on high ground with good drainage for all weather operation. Upon arrival each flying squadron built an aircraft maintenance ramp using pierced steel planking. Then the French contractor built six canvas covered tent frames on wood floors for squadron operations, air crew personnel equipment, armament, radio/radar, and aircraft repair shops. By late July 1952 the aircraft maintenance shops at Laon were vastly superior to those used at Bordeaux AB or even Langley AFB.

    The summer weather was excellent, permitting the wing to fly up to 1,200 hours per month. The squadrons began weapons training with air to ground gunnery and bombing missions at Wheelus AB, Tripoli, Libya. Air to ground rocket firings were conducted at ranges off the English coast. Amazingly, napalm training was done by dropping the napalm tanks on Laon AB parallel to the runway; a suitable range could not be found elsewhere. USAF Project 7019 directed that one crew per squadron, consisting of a pilot, navigator, and gunner, began departing every month for a 60-day combat tour in Korea. Training French B-26 crews continued at Laon. Exercises involving US and NATO ground forces, with the 126th supplying close air support, continued at various camps in Belgium, France, and Germany. In addition, radar calibration, MSQ-1 radar directed bombing, and night cross-country navigation training missions added to the busy flying schedule.

    At midnight 31 December 1952, the 126 Bomb Wing (L) was redesignated 38th Bomb Wing, (L) with the same missions, aircraft, equipment, and personnel when the 21 month mobilization of the 126th expired. The 38th's squadrons were designated; 71st, 405th, and 822nd Bomb Sq (L). The wing continued flying gloss black Invaders for the next three years.

    The Toul-Rosieres bare base, located 12 miles north of the city of Toul, presented greater problems. Upon arrival in January of 1952, the 117th Tac Reconnaissance  Wing commander deemed it uninhabitable and the flying squadrons were temporarily deployed to bases in Germany. The base was a sea of mud, and the new runway was breaking up and could not support safe flying. Some personnel remained at Toul, but the base only became truly operational during the summer of 1952 when the flying squadrons returned.

    The 117th TRW was redesignated the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing with the same aircraft, equipment, and personnel at midnight 9 July 1952. The squadrons were redesignated the 1st, 32nd and the 38th. The 10th TRW remained at Toul AB until May 1953, when it moved to Spangdahlem AB, West Germany. After its departure, the base was improved. In April 1954 the 465th Troop Carrier Wing became the new resident of Toul AB. Its three flying squadron were; the 780th TCSq, 781st TCSq and the 782nd TCSq. It flew C-119Cs until its departure in 1955 for Evreux.

    The last of the bare bases, Chaumont, located two miles southwest of the city of Chaumont, was in the best condition of the three. The French contractor had laid a good quality new concrete runway over an old one. It supported the heavy F-84G fighters the 137th Fighter-Bomber Wing flew across the Atlantic to occupy the base in May 1952. The 125th, 127th, and 128th Fighter Squadrons were able to fly at their new field and began immediately supporting NATO exercises. The tent camp was completed and prefabbed wood buildings were erected. At midnight 9 July 1952, the 137th FBW was redesignated the 48th Fighter-Bomber Wing. The 492nd, 493rd, and 494th were the new fighter squadron designations. The 48th wing remained at Chaumont AB until relocated to RAF Lakenheath, UK, in January 1960.

    As the main air bases became operational, the USAFE planners had to decide on the best dispersal of tactical aircraft against enemy counter air strikes using both conventional and nuclear weapons. Their goal was to have no more than one squadron at a single base in the event of war. The 1954 concept would place one squadron forward on alert in West Germany, one squadron at a DOB (Dispersed Operating Base) in France, and one squadron at its main air base. Beginning in 1954, DOBs were constructed at Chalons-Vatry, Luneville-Chenevieres, Vitry-Brienne, and Vouziers-Sechault: all sites in northeast France. The DOB concept was considered by all to be worth the costs and operational hardships. Usually one tactical squadron would fly to a DOB and operate for a week or two while undergoing an operational readiness inspection. The maintenance sections would pack up their shop semitrailers, drive to the DOB, set up the camp site and support a very active flying schedule.

    NATO construction costs had greatly exceeded 1951 estimates; total US construction expenditures in France approached 1 billion dollars by 1954. DOD expenditures were growing too rapidly for the Eisenhower administration and cuts of tactical forces were being forecast. But, as 1954 ended, two more wings arrived in France and within a year all of the main bases were operational except Phalsbourg. Mission Capable 1955 - 1958

    On 12 December 1954, the 21st and 388th Fighter-Bomber Wings, flying F-86Fs, deployed to Chambley and Etain. These were "one step" bases supposedly ready for operations. Chambley AB was constructed on clear farmland located 22 miles southwest of the ancient city of Metz, and Etain AB was a WWII airfield site 20 miles north of Chambley.

    After three years of construction, Chambley's runway was not usable, so the three fighter squadrons of the 21st FB Wing had to deploy elsewhere for the first six months. The 72nd deployed to Chateauroux, the 416th and 531st operated at Toul. Etain's runway was not ready either, resulting in the 388th's squadrons flying in West Germany. All returned to Etain AB in September.

    Evreux AB, 65 miles northwest of Paris, was finally ready to receive the 465th Troop Carrier Wing which transferred from Toul on 23 May 1955. Then, on 22 September 1955, the 60th Troop Carrier Wing with the 10th, 11th, and 12th TC squadrons, flying C-119Fs relocated from Rhein-Main AB, West Germany to set up operations at Dreux AB, 38 miles west of Paris. Both wings provided airlift for all of USAFE, worked with Army paratroopers, and were involved in humanitarian airlift missions.

    By the end of 1955, after overcoming the survival mode, the tactical wings in France settled into their operational missions with good facilities. All bases had identical standard NATO structures to reduce design costs. Three or four large hangars were constructed at every base finally eliminating outdoor winter maintenance. "Project Caravan" provided trailers for on-base family housing. Trailer camp sites were constructed by SCARWAF troops. Commodity credit housing and guaranteed rental income housing units, consisting of single and duplex family homes, were built near every main air base. Chateauroux air depot had a 410 unit apartment complex "Cite de Touvent" and a 507 housing unit "Cite Brassioux" for military and DAF civilian employees.

    Navigation aids were gradually upgraded from on-base low power non-directional beacons to higher powered off base NDBs to improve ADF approaches. Mobile GCA units or RAPCONs were installed at main air bases to improve night and bad weather approaches. Aircraft losses in France were high due to bad winter weather, but by 1957 TACAN (Tactical Air Navigation) ground stations were installed, greatly improving flying safety.

    A radio relay network was constructed to interconnect all USAFE facilities in France. It was operated and maintained by the 7th and 8th Radio Relay Squadrons. This intra-theater system connected France, Germany, and United Kingdom air bases and supplemented the frequently intermittent commercial telephone systems. The network used commercial microwave radio sets providing voice/teletype service. Microwave relay sets were installed at 49 off-base sites.

    During the mid 50s the USAF began flying personnel to and from Europe replacing troop ships. In Paris, the 7113th Personnel Processing Sq was expanded to handle the military personnel rotating to and from the US through Paris and the Orly air terminal. Three hotels were leased in Paris for overnight quarters primarily for dependents.

    The Chateauroux Air Depot was very busy throughout this period procuring supplies and parts, contracting services, and maintaining all USAF equipment. One of their unusual tasks was the support of new aircraft procurement. Two fighters, peculiar to NATO and not flown by the USAF, were purchased with MDAP funds: 221 North American F-86Ks and 225 Dassault Mystere IV-As. The F-86Ks were produced by Fiat in Italy and Chateauroux managed the US government furnished equipment they required. F-86K Sabre interceptors were supplied to France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, and West Germany. The Mystere IV-A, produced by Dassault Aviation at Bordeaux, were only flown by French fighter squadrons as part of 4th ATAF (Allied Tactical Air Force). These aircraft programs helped develop NATO's aircraft manufacturing capacity.

    In addition to its usual maintenance projects the Chateauroux depot established maintenance contracts with many European airlines and aircraft manufacturers. KLM, SABENA, Air France, Air Italia, SAS, CASA, Fiat, Fairy, SNCNF-Marseilles, and SNCASO-Toulouse provided IRAN (inspect and repair as necessary) services on USAFE & NATO aircraft. Contractor maintenance reduced the time and expense of returning aircraft to CONUS depots. Maintenance costs were lower in NATO countries than at US depots.

    Another major economy was project "native son" which employed French workers as widely as possible on all bases to reduce AF personnel. USAFE carefully controlled and limited military manning after 1954.

    There continued to be changes in base occupancy and aircraft conversions through 1956 and 1957. On 17 July 1956, the 50th Fighter Bomber Wing from Hahn AB, West Germany reopened Toul-Rosieres AB. In April 1957 the 317th Troop Carrier Wing transferred from Neubiberg AB, West Germany to Evreux to replace the 465th TCW which was then inactivated. The 388th FBW remained at Etain until it was abruptly redesignated the 49th Fighter Bomber Wing on 10 December 1957. Another airlift unit, the 309th TCG arrived from Sewart AFB, TN, to join the 60th TCW at Dreux on 1 June 1956. They flew their C-123Bs, providing logistical support to all USAFE bases until 10 August 1958, when they returned with their aircraft to Tennessee.

    Finally in November 1957, Phalsbourg received its first flying unit, the 23rd Helicopter Sq, flying eighteen H-21Bs. These Workhorses provided typical helicopter airlift missions such as special air lift, administrative support, and emergency air evacuation. The 23rd was the only helicopter squadron in USAFE and had difficulties operating, because it was not allowed to fly at night in France and had insufficient manning to provide complete base/wing operations. The 23rd remained at Phalsbourg for a year until it was inactivated.

    Two major forces: economic and political, combined in 1958 to suddenly reduce the USAF presence in France. The economic force was a greatly reduced USAF budget. The political force was Gen De Gaulle's pronouncement that all nuclear weapons and delivery aircraft had to be removed from French soil by July 1958. Since NATO strategy had evolved into "massive nuclear retaliation" this meant all tactical fighter wings had to depart France. USAFE implemented Project "Red Richard" the rapid relocation and inactivation of combat wings in France. These wings were either relocated to Germany or the United States and the bases reduced to standby status or returned to the French. The 21st TFW was inactivated at Chambley, 8 February 1958; the 60th TCW was inactivated at Dreux, 25 September 1958; and the 38th TBW was inactivated at Laon, 18 June 1958. The 49th TFW relocated from Etain to Spangdahlem, 25 August 1958. Chateauroux continued to be very busy since it was the only USAF depot in Europe. Expenses for approximately 9,000 military personnel were eliminated by "Red Richard."

    All weather air defense of western Europe, long a concern of USAFE leaders, was upgraded by the addition of three more F-86D squadrons to the 86th Fighter Interceptor Wing. The 513th Fighter Interceptor Squadron occupied Phalsbourg from April 1958 to January 1961. Since the 513th was not nuclear capable it was exempt from De Gaulle's restriction, as was the 66th TRW which moved to Laon AB from Sembach, West Germany 10 July 1958.

    All the efforts of USAFE commanders and troops in France could be considered wasted as 1959 ended, but only a few years later money and effort were again directed to manning and maintaining these bases.

Reactivation and Final Disengagement 1961 - 1967

    In 1961 Berlin became a serious international problem, as Soviet Premier Khrushchev insisted on an East Germany peace settlement and elimination of the four Allied powers within the city. Berlin became a divided city. President Kennedy's response was to expand our conventional military power by mobilizing the Reserves. Forty Air Reserve Forces, flying squadrons and support units were activated for one year on 1 October 1961. During the next month, operation "Stair Step" dispatched 216 ANG fighters across the Atlantic to air bases in France.

    The newly arrived activated ANG wings reopened Chaumont, Chambley, Dreux, Etain, Toul, and Phalsbourg. The 7108th Tactical Fighter Wing, supporting 141st TFSq operations, was based at Chaumont; the 7121st Tactical Fighter Wing and its 166th TFSq was assigned to Etain AB. The 7122nd Tactical Fighter Wing and the 163rd TFSq arrived at Chambley. Toul was reopened for the 7131st Tactical Fighter Wing and 110th TFSq. Dreux was occupied by the 7117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing and its 106th TRSq flying RF-84Fs, but problems developed immediately. French air traffic controllers prevented jet flying from Dreux AB due to high density commercial air traffic in the Paris region. The 106th TRSq had to move to Chaumont to fly but USAFE insisted that the 7117th Wing continue to operate Dreux for airlift traffic. Phalsbourg became home to the 102nd Fighter Wing and its three fighter squadrons, the 101st, 131st, and 138th.

    Concerns by the Kennedy administration with balance of payments "Gold Flow" limited this deployment. Consequently, the 102nd at Phalsbourg was the only complete wing moved to France. The other five had only partial wing headquarters, partial support squadrons and one flying squadron at their new air base; hence the 7000 designator indicating a partial wing.

    Upon arrival in France the wings' missions consisted of theater flying training, command inspections, air-ground operation, gunnery training, photo missions, and alerts. Typical difficulties arose due to lack of aircraft/engine spare parts, special vehicles, shop equipment, and office equipment. Much equipment had been removed from the bases after 1958 to meet other USAFE needs, but the bases were in overall fair condition with minor repairs required to buildings and base utilities. Each Stair Step base required additional permanent construction to meet new 17th Air Force requirements which resulted in $3.5 million expenditure. Overall morale remained high during the eight months these units were in France and good US French relations developed in the small towns surrounding the air bases.

    Our air bases in France were very convenient for this emergency deployment and eliminated vulnerable targets if these aircraft had been added to our air bases in West Germany. Also the four French DOBs were still available for our use if further aircraft dispersement became necessary.

    Unfortunately, the Berlin Wall was completed through the city and a barbed wire fence plus mine fields extended the entire north-south length of a divided Germany. But the American, British, and French Zones still stood in Berlin and access to the city was maintained. It's possible that the sudden appearance of 170 tactical fighters with nuclear weapon delivery capability changed Krushchev's attitude toward his Berlin "settlement."

    By April 1962 with the Berlin crisis subsiding, plans were being made for the departure of the ANG wings from France. Units were to return all personnel, equipment and aircraft back to CONUS for release from active duty by 1 September 1962. Six wings departed France in a timely manner; 130 aircraft made the return flight via the North Atlantic route during June. Plans were altered slightly by the USAF decision to create a new fighter wing by taking F-84Fs from three departing wings. The 366th Tactical Fighter Wing was activated on 8 May 1962 with two squadrons at Chaumont AB, one squadron at Chambley AB, and another at Etain AB. The 366th was the last USAFE tactical fighter wing based in France; it was able to continue operating until July 1963 since it had conventional weapons capability only.

    Three partial wings were activated in France during 1965. On 1 July 1965, the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, flying factory new RF-4C "Phantoms," was activated at Toul AB with the 22nd and 32nd TRSq. The 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was activated on 1 October 1965, flying RB-66B/C/E "Destroyers" at Chambley AB with two squadrons, the 19th and 42nd. The 19th TRSq had day and night photography tasking, while the 42nd TRSq flew tactical electronic warfare missions. The 513th Troop Carrier Wing was activated at Evreux 15 April 1965 and its C-130B squadrons were rotated TDY from CONUS.

    After 15 years of bad and good times of USAFE basing in France, the end was decided by Gen Charles De Gaulle. On 7 March 1966, he announced that France would withdraw from NATO's military structure but not leave the political organization. He gave NATO forces one year (until 1 April 1967) to depart France. This was a giant undertaking for the US and resulted in "Project Freloc," Fast Relocation.

    This eviction notice was a very serious setback for NATO defense strategy, but it came at a fortuitous time for the US. The expenses and manpower required to operate this force structure in France could be readily diverted into the expanding war in Southeast Asia. By 1966 only the Chateauroux depot, three tactical reconnaissance wings, and one partial troop carrier wing remained in France. Most of the main air bases were in standby status. No major construction projects had been approved since 1962. The 25th TRW was inactivated. Its RB-66s were returned to CONUS, and some aircrews sent directly to Vietnam. The 26th TRW relocated to Ramstein AB, West Germany. The 66th TRW moved to Upper Heyford, England, after eight years at Laon AB. The 513th Troop Carrier Wing moved to RAF Mildenhall, England, with minimum problems.

    All NATO, US and RCAF facilities had to be abandoned and turned over to France. The cost of relocating NATO installations exceeded one billion dollars. HQ SHAPE at Fontainebleau had to be moved into completely new facilities at Mons and Brussels, Belgium. USAFE closed seven main operating air bases, one air depot, 70 smaller installations, and over 1,500 family housing units. 33,000 AF personnel and their dependents and 85,000 tons of equipment had to be relocated. Much of this equipment was later used in Europe or transferred to Southeast Asia. The greatest task was removal of property and supplies at the Chateauroux air depot. The Air Force Reserve, flying C-124s, provided extra airlift to remove all "high value" depot property to CONUS; especially aircraft engines, shop machinery, and test equipment. Vast quantities of supplies were moved from Chateauroux to England and West Germany.

    The State Department, Department of Defense, and Air Force carefully managed the news about our departure from France, and the attendant problems of an integrated NATO air defense for western Europe and the decrease in tactical airpower. Negative comments by USAF personnel departing France were not permitted to be released. Relocation costs and lost infrastructure investments were never mentioned in press briefings. Fortunately for State and DOD, the media was focusing on Vietnam, so the removal of our forces from France went virtually unreported in the US. Finally on 23 October 1967, our flags were furled and after 17 years all US forces departed France.

    Today most of the old USAF air bases in France are being used and are not accessible to tourists. The French Air Force is currently flying from Evreux, Toul, and the Sechault DOB. The French Army uses Chaumont, Etain, Laon, Phalsbourg, Chenevieres DOB and RCAF Grostenqiun. Chateauroux-Deols air depot complex is used as a regional airport. Portions of the old aircraft factory are used as a commercial aircraft overhaul facility. The adjacent large La Martinerie depot storage and administrative area is operated by the French Air Force. Dreux AB is not active but not abandoned and is secured; all buildings plus four large hangars are still standing. Brienne la Chateau DOB is a commercial business park; the airfield is used for sport aviation, an aviation museum and has a campground. Chalons-Vatry DOB renamed Vatry-Sommesous is being expanded into the largest air cargo terminal in Europe. Chambley AB and RCAF Marville are being developed into commercial business parks; many old buildings and hangars exist, and runways and aprons at these sites are usable.

    Large hot air balloon contests have been held at Chambley over the past five years. Bordeaux-Merignac continues as a busy international airport for the Bordeaux region; a large new air cargo terminal is located in the old USAF area. No trace of the US air base remains at the airport. The Bordeaux-Bacalan port depot buildings are now commercial business sites and the old submarine pens may remain forever. The submarine pen structure was used as a maritime museum and is now being remodeled into a theater.

    Please contact me for any further information by e-mail at I wish to correspond with anyone having more information about our French bases and aircraft/base photos. A book on the "History of the USAF in France" is now in preparation.

This article appeared in the Friends Journal, Volume 24, No. 4, published by the Air Force Museum Foundation. It is published here with permission of the author -- Lt. Col. Jerome (Jerry) J. McAuliffe, USAF Ret.; 2522 Cowley Way; San Diego CA 92110-1135; Phone/Fax 619-275-0229.

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