Westover History & Present Mission

1939 - Present

Westover Field was created by a war-readiness appropriation signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 and opened on April 6, 1940. It was assigned to the United States Army Corps Northeast Air District. Later, as part of the First Air Force 1 Bomber Command and later Army Air Forces Anti-submarine Command, Westover was a base for anti-submarine operations against German U-Boats in the early years of World War II. Westover served as a bomber training base and port of embarkation/ debarkation during World War II

During the course of the war, it became the largest military air facility in the Northeast. In the early years of the Cold War, Westover became a major support base during the Berlin Airlift.

It was named Westover Air Force Base in June of 1949 after that Air Force's creation as a separate service and became instrumental in waging the Cold War. As a Military Air Transport Service (MATS) base, Westover was home to the Atlantic Division and a large air transport wing of C-124 and C-54 transports.

On 1 April 1955, the 4050th Air Refueling Wing, flying KC-97 tankers, took over operations of the base from the Military Air Transport Service. The next year, SAC's 99th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, (99 BMW) took up residence at Westover, operating the B-52C and D Stratofortress bombers. In August 1957, the first of 20 KC-135A Stratotankers joined the Westover flight line. The 99th BMW would continue as the host wing at Westover until its deactivation on 31 March 1974.

Eighth Air Force (8 AF) was headquartered at Westover from 13 June 1955 until 31 March 1970, when it relocated to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, replacing SAC's Second Air Force (2 AF).

As a former Strategic Air Command (SAC) B-52 and KC-135 base and former home to Headquarters, 8th Air Force, Westover was one of the Soviet Union's top targets during the Cold War. SAC constructed a secret underground bunker several miles away in Amherst, Massachusetts to support 8 AF and coordinate Westover's operations during a nuclear war. The command post was linked to the main base by buried cables and microwave antennae. U-2 spy plane film used during the Cuban Missile Crisis was also developed at Westover.

While SAC operations were the primary Air Force operations, the Air Defense Command (ADC) had a large presence on the base. As many as three fighter interceptor squadrons were housed at the base. The last fighter unit left Westover in 1963.

Westover was a base of operations for the Air Force during the Korean Conflict, Vietnam War and Cold War. An armada of bombers and tankers stood ready in "Christmas Tree" formation at the base's Alert Facility to scramble if a conflict broke out with the Soviet Union. In 1973, the last Vietnam War veterans stepped onto Westover's tarmac. The base was turned over to the Air Force Reserve in 1974.

Since May 19, 1974 Westover has been an Air Force Reserve Command base. From that time until October, 1987 the 439th Tactical Airlift Wing operated C-130 Hercules and C-123 Provider aircraft. The wing converted to C-5As in 1987 and the unit eventually became designated as the 439th Airlift Wing.

In 1988, a wing C-5A airlifted Canadian soldiers and equipment to Turkey, from where they deployed to the Iran-Iraq border as United Nations peacekeeping forces. A Galaxy from Westover also transported firefighters and equipment for battling fires in Yellowstone National Park in September 1988.

When Saddam Hussein ordered Iraqi troops to invade the neighboring country of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, C-5A aircrews from Westover immediately volunteered to rush troops and supplies to the region. On Aug. 22, the 337th Military Airlift Squadron was officially activated and proceeded to fly hundreds of missions in support of Operations Desert Shield and Storm.

Following Desert Storm, the Patriot Wing remained busy flying relief missions for Operation Provide Comfort.

Westover personnel supported Operation Joint Endeavor, the UN effort in Bosnia, through the end of 1995 and into 1996. In March, 1996, medics from the 439th Medical Squadron deployed to Honduras to provide much-needed medical care for the poverty-stricken villagers. Throughout 1996, Westover crews continued operational and humanitarian missions all over the world.

Between April 16 and May 16, 1999, Westover C-5 aircrews from the 337th Airlift Squadron completed five missions in support of Operation Allied Force--the air war in Kosovo--to various sites in Europe. Members of the 439th Airlift Wing participated in Aerospace Expeditionary Force missions during the final quarter of 1999. In October, 15 reservists deployed to Southwest Asia while five more went to sites in Europe. In November, 11 went to Southwest Asia and three to Europe while in December 13 were dispatched to Southwest Asia. The dawn of the new millennium kept Westover's aircrews busy flying all over the globe.

Since 2001, thousands of Airmen from Westover have deployed to support The Global War on Terrorism. At the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the base had more than 1,200 people deployed in the theater. Today, hundreds of Westover Airmen are deployed throughout the world as part of the Air Force's Total Force, defending the nation's interests.

In December 2006, the Air Force selected Westover as one-of-three military bases to operate a regional isochronal maintenance inspection area for the C-5s. The inspection involves an extensive nose-to-tail review.

Current military operations at Westover Air Reserve Base are centered around its exceptionally long runways. The Air Force Reserve Command uses Westover for its largest cargo aircraft. It maintains a fleet of 16 assigned C-5 Galaxy aircraft operated by the 439th Airlift Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit that is operationally gained by the Air Mobility Command (AMC).
As part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decisions, Westover expanded signficantly over the last decade. The expansion included approximately 1,000 Soldiers assigned to an Army Reserve Training Batallion made up of Army units scattered across Massachusetts as well as approximately 450 Navy Seabees. The addition of these two tenant units added a 40 percent increase in the total assigned population.

The 439th Airlift Wing is a unit of the Air Force Reserve Command and is commanded by Col. Steven Vautrain. The wing is assigned to Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. and operates 16 C-5B airlifters. The 439th reports to 4th Air Force headquartered at March ARB, Calif.

Westover is the nation's largest Air Force Reserve base. Currently, 2,500 reservists are assigned to the wing at Westover. They train one weekend each month and also serve a 15-day annual tour of duty each year. The 337th Airlift Squadron is the wing's flying unit at Westover.

The 439th Airlift Wing is a subordinate unit of Headquarters, 4th Air Force. It is organized under the objective wing structure with group commanders for operations, maintenance and mission support. The wing consists of headquarters staff, three groups, 16 squadrons and one flight. The wing is authorized 2342 personnel - 11 percent officers and 89 percent enlisted and a support staff of about 314 civilians. These figures include the 410 Air Reserve Technicians who manage reserve issues between unit training assemblies. Westover also has over 71 Active Guard/Reserves (AGRs) assigned to support security forces, maintenance and EOD specialties.