Elmendorf Field: Supporting US Operations in the Asian Pacific

By Phineas Upham

Today, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson hosts the United States Alaskan Command. This unit is responsible for expediting the deployment of units worldwide, supporting a force of 21,000 service members. Although it sees less action, it once played a pivotal roel in United States military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. The base was erected as a response to the growing Japanese threat and became a response to Russian aggression.

Elmendorf is named after Captain Hugh M. Elmendorf, who was killed in an accident where he was flying an early version of the P-30. The YIP-25 was the first version of the plane to actually fly. It showed great promise, maxing out at a then-breakneck 247 miles per hour. Unfortunately, the two-seat attack craft crashed in Ohio, killing Elmendorf and forcing engineers to begin the project anew.

During the late 1930s and early 1940s, the base played an important role as an air logistics center for the Kurile Islands. Alaska has been called one of the most strategic locations in the world, and the gradual build up of Elmendorf reflects that viewpoint. During World War II, Elmendorf suffered from a lack of unified command. With orders coming from all directions the base was unable to operate efficiently and the potential of the base went unrealized.

As American conflicts transitioned into the Cold War, Elmendorf became a tense space. Growing conflict with Russia caused a massive defense build up in Alaska. This time the forces from Elmendorf fell under the command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the height of the Cold War, Elmendorf housed over 200 fighter craft and six interceptor squads.

Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Twitter page.

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