Offutt AFB, NE HistoryOffutt AFB started as the airfield for Fort Crook army base in 1918, the home field for the 61st Balloon Company, an aerial observation unit, and soon after the 74th and 60th Balloon Companies, making the early aircraft at what would later (in 1924) be Offutt Field a starting total of three balloons. This light start did not last, and soon the US Army Air Service was using the field for transcontinental aviation and mail flights, both military and civilian. In 1924 the Fort Crook field was dedicated and named for 1st Lt. Jarvis Offutt, killed by injuries in wartime duty in France, 1918.
Military use of Fort Crook's Offutt Field was fairly light until 1940, when the site was chosen to house a new aircraft production plant operated by the Glenn L. Martin Company. The very large plant was to produce B-26 Marauders, which it did in great numbers, churning out over 1,500 of the medium bomber from 1942 to 1944, when production switched to the new B-29 Superfortress. Both B-29s used in the atomic bomb missions that ended World War Two, the Enola Gay and the Bockscar, were Offutt-Martin planes.
After the war, Fort Crook became a military separation and demobilization center; in June 1946 Fort Crook, Offutt Field, and the Martin facility were all transferred to the US Army Air Force and named Offutt Field; in 1947 Offutt became Offutt Air Force Base. In November 1948 Offutt became the headquarters for Strategic Air Command; the base was very well located for a strategic command control facility, being relatively centrally located in the continental US, deep in US airspace, and away from the largest strategic populations and targets on the east and west coasts. SAC had overall command control of the US Air Force's nuclear strike detection and counter-strike forces.
Operational activities at the base in the Cold War included air refuelling for strategic bombers, and surface-to-air missiles unit operation in defense of the base. Offutt was also the home base of Operation Looking Glass, the constantly flying mobile command post intended to be the command center of last resort after a nuclear first strike. In the early 1960s Offutt also housed and controlled a number of Atlas ICBMs, which were deactivated by 1965.
Offutt rapidly expanded its facilities in the early days of the Cold War, improving housing and adding both dormitories and family housing units, and adding a hospital, library, exchange, and commissary. Significant secure, hardened buildings and bunkers were added to hopefully withstand a nuclear strike.The Air Force Weather Agency, vital to Air Force operation, was reassigned to Offutt in 1997.
The end of the Cold War brought organizational changes to Offutt, with the consolidation of several commands under US Strategic Command, but the mission remains essentially the same. In September 2001 Offutt's command bunkers hosted President George Bush and critical administration staff after the 9/11 attacks.
Naturally, given its important military role, Offutt has appeared in many works of fiction, including Strategic Air Command, A Gathering of Eagles, Fail-Safe, Dr. Strangelove, and various TV shows (including Star Trek's Tomorrow is Yesterday) and novels.
Offutt continues to act as the central strategic command headquarters for the US Air Force.