Larson Air Force Base
Moses Lake Air Force Base
Part of Strategic Air Command
Air Defense Command
Grant County, near Moses Lake, Washington
2006 USGS Orthophoto
Larson AFB is located in Washington (state)
Larson AFB
Larson AFB
Coordinates47°12′28″N 119°19′13″W / 47.20778°N 119.32028°W / 47.20778; -119.32028 (Larson AFB)
TypeMilitary airbase - U.S. Air Force
Site history
Built byU.S. Government
In use1942–1966
Battles/warsWorld War II (training),
Cold War

Larson Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base located five miles (8 km) northwest of the central business district (CBD) of Moses Lake, in Grant County, Washington. After its closure in 1966, the airport facility became Grant County International Airport.


World War II

Originally named Moses Lake Army Air Base, the airfield was activated on 24 November 1942 as a temporary World War II training center. Moses Lake AAB was a sub-base of Spokane Air Technical Service Command, headquartered at Spokane Army Airfield.[1]

The first operational training unit (OTU) at the base was the 482d Fighter Squadron, which conducted twin-engine fighter training for P-38 Lightning fighters. On 5 April 1943, the 396th Bombardment Group became a second OTU at the base, providing first phase heavy bomber training for the B-17 Flying Fortress with its 592d Bombardment Squadron, 593d Bombardment Squadron, 594th Bombardment Squadron and 595th Bombardment Squadrons.[2][3]

The first flight of the XB-47 took place on 17 Dec. 1947, originating at Boeing Field and terminating at Moses Lake Air Force Base. In Feb. 1949, a B-47 took off from Larson, headed east and "broke all coast-to-coast speed records" with an average speed of 607.8 miles per hour.[4]

Air Defense Command

Moses Lake AFB reopened as a permanent installation on 26 August 1948, being transferred from Air Materiel Command to the Air Defense Command (ADC). The initial ADC base operating unit was the 2755th Air Base Squadron. Under ADC, the base came under the Western Air Defense Force, headquartered at Hamilton AFB, California.

The base was renamed Larson Air Force Base was named in honor of Major Donald A. Larson, USAAF, in May 1950.[5][6] Born and raised in Yakima, Washington, Larson was a fighter pilot and ace[7] who flew 57 combat missions in Europe during World War II. He was killed in action while assigned to the VIII Fighter Command 505th Fighter Squadron. Larson's P-51D Mustang (AAF Ser. No. 44-13881, nose-name "Mary, Queen of Scotts") was shot down and crashed on 4 August 1944 near Uelzen, Germany.


The primary mission of Larson-based ADC aircraft was to protect the secret Hanford Atomic Works and the Grand Coulee Dam.

The first ADC flying unit to arrive was the 325th Fighter-Interceptor Group, which arrived on 26 November 1948. The mission of the 325th FIG was to conduct ADC's All Weather Combat Crew Training School. Its operational component, the 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, initially flew Northrop P-61 Black Widows, almost immediately transitioning to the North American F-82 Twin Mustang. A second squadron, the 319th Fighter Interceptor Squadron arrived on 2 September 1949, being reassigned from McChord AFB. The 319th also flew the F-82 Twin Mustang.[8][9] The 325th FIG remained at Moses Lake until being reassigned to McChord AFB on 23 April 1950, along with the 317th FIS. The 319th remained until 9 February 1952 when it was reassigned to Suwon Air Base, South Korea flying F-94 Starfires.[8]

The next ADC unit was the 81st Fighter-Interceptor Wing which arrived from 10 November 1949. The 81st FIW flew F-51D/H Mustangs, F-80C Shooting Stars and North American F-86 Sabres from the base. The 81st remained until 5 September 1951 when it was reassigned to NATO and deployed to RAF Shepherds Grove in the United Kingdom.[10][11] During the Korean War, the 116th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Washington Air National Guard was called to active duty and activated at Moses Lake. The 116th FIS was deployed as part of the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing to RAF Shepherds Grove.

Tactical Air Command

On 21 April 1952, Larson AFB was assigned to the Tactical Air Command (TAC) under TAC's Eighteenth Air Force, which reassigned the 62nd Troop Carrier Wing from McChord AFB, Washington to the base.

On 15 April 1952, the YB-52 made its initial flight from Boeing Field to Larson Air Force Base, piloted by Tex Johnston and Col. Townsend. Johnston noted, "At three hours and eight minutes, the flight in the YB-52 was the longest-duration maiden flight in the history of aviation and introduced one of the world's great airplanes."[12]

Strategic Air Command

On May 25, 1959, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) issued General Order 38, which established the 4170th Strategic Wing (later renamed the 462nd Strategic Aerospace Wing) at Larson AFB effective July 1, 1959. On January 1, 1960, the 4170th SW took over Larson AFB.[13] In 1963, the 4170th was redesignated as the 462d Strategic Aerospace Wing. The SAC wing at Larson AFB was equipped with B-52E Stratofortress bomber, KC-135A Stratotanker mid-air refueling aircraft, and Titan I ICBMs located at three underground complexes surrounding the base.

In the SAC era at Larson AFB, the 4170th SW/462nd SAW had five commanders:

Under SAC, Larson AFB was commanded by four men who each held a dual role as base commander and commander of the Combat Support Group:

SAC's 568th Strategic Missile Squadron (SMS) headquartered at Larson AFB operated the three Titan I missile sites that surrounded Moses Lake. The 568th SMS was led by three commanders:

Civil use

With the closure of the Larson AFB in 1966, Colonel Owen retired from the Air Force and became the first director of the Port of Moses Lake, overseeing the transfer of the property from the U.S. Government to Grant County International Airport.[26][27][28]

Following the Air Force's departure in 1966, the airfield has continued to support operations from McChord's 62d Airlift Wing over the years, as the wing's Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, Lockheed C-130 Hercules, and currently Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft have practiced approaches and both normal landings and tactical assault landings on a regular basis.

The 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane temporarily moved its KC-135 R/T fleet and operations to Moses Lake in 2011 while Fairchild's runway underwent reconstruction and other infrastructure improvements, to include an upgrade to the base's aviation fuel distribution system.[29][30]

For over four decades, Japan Air Lines trained its 747 crews at the facility, until 2009.[26][28][31][32][33]

Previous names

Major commands to which assigned

Major units assigned

Redesignated 462d Strategic Aerospace Wing, 1963–1966.

Air Defense Command units

Known ADC units and squadrons assigned to Larson were:[8][10]

Intercontinental ballistic missile facilities

568th Strategic Missile Squadron – HGM-25A Titan I Missile Sites

The 568th Strategic Missile Squadron Operated three HGM-25A Titan I ICBM sites: (1 Apr 1961 – 25 Mar 1965)[34]

The Titan I ICBM program at Larson was initiated in 1959 when the Walla Walla District of the Army Corps of Engineers set up an area office in October. The contractor broke ground on 1 December 1959 and the sites were turned over to SAC in early April 1961. In May 1964 Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara directed that the phase-out of the Atlas and Titan I missiles be accelerated, and in January 1965 the missiles of the 568th were taken off operational alert. The squadron was inactivated 2 months later.

Today, site "A" appears to be largely intact, the owner has the facility for sale. Photos of the interior show it to be in good condition. Site "B" appears to be largely cleared, the silo launch doors of two pads appear to be open, and is also apparently also for sale. Site "C" appears to be a scrap site, filled with clutter; its underground facilities apparently are flooded by groundwater.

See also


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency

  1. ^ USAFHRA Document 00175897
  2. ^ USAFHRA Document 00089349
  3. ^ USAFHRA Document 00060713
  4. ^ Mark Natola, ed. (2002). Boeing B-47 Stratojet. Schiffer Publishing Ltd. pp. 17–24, 34–36. ISBN 0764316702.
  5. ^ "Base at Moses Lake may honor memory of Yakima war hero". Spokane Daily Chronicle. 19 April 1950. p. 3.
  6. ^ "Base to be named for Yakima airman". Spokane Daily Chronicle. 23 May 1950. p. 1.
  7. ^ "Yakima flier's squadron tops". Ellensburg Daily Record. Associated Press. 7 August 1944. p. 5.
  8. ^ a b c Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) [1969]. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556.
  9. ^ USAFHRA Organizational Records Branch, 325th Operations Group Archived 7 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ a b USAF Aerospace Defense Command publication, The Interceptor, January 1979 (Volume 21, Number 1)
  11. ^ USAFHRA Organizational Records Branch, 81st Training Wing Archived 27 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine and USAFHRA Document 00175901
  12. ^ Johnston, A.M. "Tex" (1992). Tex Johnston, Jet-Age Test Pilot. New York: Bantam. pp. 173–175. ISBN 9780553295870.
  13. ^ George F. Hassinger, “History 4170th Strategic Wing (Heavy), 1 January–30 June 1960, Larson AFB, Wash.,” ca. June 1960, 2-3, microfilm roll no. P0064, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Maxwell, Alabama.
  14. ^ “Colonel Assigned,” Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), 31 July 1959.
  15. ^ “Colonel Best to Command Larson Wing,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, 11 Jan 1960
  16. ^ “AF Shifts 2 Officers,” Spokesman-Review (Spokane), 22 November 1961.
  17. ^ “Retirement Ceremony Fetes Larson Colonel,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, 2 August 1965
  18. ^ Bill Gasman, “First Larson Units Transfer April 1,” Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), 10 March 1966.
  19. ^ George F. Hassinger, “History 4170th Strategic Wing (Heavy), 1 January–30 June 1960, Larson AFB, Wash.,” ca. June 1960, 4, microfilm roll no. P0064, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Maxwell, Alabama.
  20. ^ George F. Hassinger, “History 4170th Strategic Wing (Heavy), 1–31 December 1960, Larson AFB, Wash.,” ca. December 1960, iv and 2, microfilm roll no. P0065, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
  21. ^ “Corsicanan Is Commander of Washington Base,” Corsicana Semi-Weekly Light (Corsicana, Texas), 21 November 1961.
  22. ^ “Col. Owen Takes Over,” Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.), 27 April 1963.
  23. ^ “Larson Titan Sites Readied for Combat,” Columbia Basin Herald (Moses Lake, Washington), 17 July 1962.
  24. ^ “Officer Is Going to Arizona Base,” Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), 10 December 1964.
  25. ^ Richard L. Mayer, “462d Strategic Aerospace Wing (Heavy): October–December 1964,” ca. December 1964, 12, microfilm roll no. N0750, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Maxwell, Alabama.
  26. ^ a b "Japan Air Lines welcomed". Spokane Daily Chronicle. 22 November 1968. p. 5.
  27. ^ Geranios, Nicholas K. (26 December 1988). "Baseless existence". Spokane Chronicle. Associated Press. p. A3.
  28. ^ a b Lynch, Lynne (10 November 2008). "JAL marks 40th anniversary". Columbia Basin Herald. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  29. ^ Wasson, David (20 January 2011). "Work relocates Fairchild tankers". Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  30. ^ King, Scott (24 January 2011). "Fairchild relocates KC-135 flying OPS". United States Air Force. 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 17 April 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  31. ^ Crowell, Todd (4 February 1980). "An honorable match". Spokesman-Review. p. 9.
  32. ^ "Japan Air Lines trains 747 pilots at U.S. facility". Pittsburgh Press. United Press International. 10 August 1982. p. C-10.
  33. ^ Hansen, Dan (23 November 2008). "JAL ends Moses Lake stay". The Seattle Times. (Spokesman-Review). Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  34. ^ Alexander, Kristin (22 March 1998). "Basin missile silos curious Cold War relics" (PDF). Tri-City Herald.