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Laughlin Heritage Corner: June

Pressure suits like the one pictured here help protect pilots at high altitudes. When U-2 pilots flew at Laughlin (1957-1963) they would have worn suits like these. You can see one up close at the entrance to the Anderson Hall auditorium in building 320! (Courtesy photo by Robert Marcell)

Pressure suits like the one pictured here help protect pilots at high altitudes. When U-2 pilots flew at Laughlin (1957-1963) they would have worn suits like these. You can see one up close at the entrance to the Anderson Hall auditorium in building 320! (Courtesy photo by Robert Marcell)

Ricks Hall, built in 1984, was dedicated in honor of Laughlin lifelong supporter Philip A. Ricks. It originally served as an enlisted dormitory. Renovation plans are currently underway to reopen it again for dormitory living! (Courtesy photo by Robert Marcell)

Ricks Hall, built in 1984, was dedicated in honor of Laughlin lifelong supporter Philip A. Ricks. It originally served as an enlisted dormitory. Renovation plans are currently underway to reopen it again for dormitory living! (Courtesy photo by Robert Marcell)

Seventy years ago this month—on 25 June 1950—North Korea invaded South Korea, beginning the Korean War. The Korean War lasted from 1950 to 1953, and it is notable for us here at Laughlin Air Force Base for two reasons in particular:

First, the Korean War was the first war fought by the “United States Air Force.” The Air Force was established as an independent branch of the military in 1947, shortly after the end of World War II, and it was in Korea that it was first tested in combat.

Second, the Korean War is especially important here at Laughlin because Laughlin might not have ever been reopened without it. After World War II ended, Laughlin Field—like many Army bases across the country at the time—was closed down. The people of Del Rio fought hard to get Laughlin reopened as an Air Force Base, however, and they succeeded in 1952: In large part due to the ongoing war in Korea. From 1952 until the end of the war, we trained fighter pilots here at Laughlin under the 3645th Pilot Training Wing (PTW). We became a permanent installation shortly after the war ended, in 1954, and our training mission continued until 1957—at which point Strategic Air Command was given control of the base (with the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing flying from Laughlin until 1963). We picked up our pilot training mission again in 1961, however, and we’ve been training pilots at Laughlin ever since.

Some other historical events at Laughlin worth remembering this month include:

  • The 1st “Grow Your Own” Class Graduated

When?: June 1992

What?: Twenty Del Rio high school students graduated from the first class under the then-new “Grow Your Own” program this month in 1992; 14 were hired at Laughlin as permanent civil service workers. The “Grow Your Own” program has been in operation ever since, training local students for proud and successful careers in aircraft maintenance.

 

  • Arrival of the U-2 to Laughlin AFB

When?: 11 June 1957

What?: Laughlin AFB’s first U-2 landed on the 11th of June, 1957. It was to be one of the many used by the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing during their six years at Laughlin (1957-1963) performing reconnaissance and meteorological missions.

 

  • Laughlin Provides Flood Relief

When?: June 1954 and June 1965

What?: Over the years, Laughlin’s personnel have stood up and stepped forward to assist the local community whenever there is trouble. This month in 1954 and 1965 both, Laughlin’s Airmen provided relief and assistance to area communities after devastating floods.

 

  • Ricks Hall Dedication Ceremony

When?: 15 June 1984

What?: Dedication ceremonies were held for the then-new enlisted dormitory, Ricks Hall. The wing dedicated the new structure to the memory of Army Air Corps veteran Philip A. Ricks—one of Laughlin’s most devoted supporters. Today, the wing is working to renovate this building for future use as a new and improved dormitory!

Every month, we’ll continue to highlight Laughlin history, Laughlin stories, and Laughlin anniversaries, so be sure to check back again for more this July!