Laughlin Heritage Corner: September

  • Published
  • By Robert Marcell
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

September brings with it a change of seasons—summer’s heat reluctantly withdraws at the behest of burgeoning fall. With the shift in weather, we can also observe a number of important historical anniversaries this month.

First, on 6 September, we remember the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s setting sail from England. The mission of this merchant ship-turned-passenger ship was to bring the Pilgrims to the shores of what would one day become the United States of America. These early English colonizers would eventually arrive on 9 November 1620. Although they were not the first Europeans to colonize North American shores—or even the first English colonizers, as the settlers at Jamestown were before them—this event features prominently in American folklore and tradition all the same, and represents a key historical touchstone in the lead up to the foundation of our country.

This month we also pause to recall that it has been 19 years since the terrorist attack on America remembered as “9/11,” so-called for having occurred on 11 September 2001. This attack against multiple American symbolic and strategic targets, perpetrated by an extremist group called al-Qaeda, had a tremendous impact on our country. It would lead to significant changes in American law, culture, and worldview, take us into the ongoing fighting in the Middle East, and inspire the creation of the Department of Homeland Security—the largest reorganization of the federal government since the creation of our own Department of Defense on 18 September 1947.

This month, also on 18 September, we have National POW/MIA Recognition Day as well. On this day, we remember all those missing in action, or taken from us as prisoners of war. The United States Congress and President Jimmy Carter first established this day of remembrance in 1979, and it has been proclaimed every year since then by the sitting U.S. President. From 1986 onwards, it has been proclaimed for every third Friday of September. (The earlier observances were mostly in July, with one exception where the day was observed on 9 April in 1983.)

Lastly, in terms of national anniversaries worth remembering this year, football fans may be pleased to know that this month we celebrate the 50th year of “Monday Night Football.” The program (originally aired on ABC, from 1970 to 2005, but now aired on ESPN) premiered on 21 September 1970, with the first game broadcast featuring the Cleveland Browns beating the New York Jets, 31 to 21.

In addition to these anniversaries, we remember a number of important events that happened here at Laughlin this month as well:

  • Birthday of the 47 FTW at Laughlin AFB

When: 1 September 1972

What: The 3646th Pilot Training Wing deactivated and the 47th Flying Training Wing activated at Laughlin AFB on this date. With Headquarters, 47th Flying Training Wing, the Air Force also activated the 85th Flying Training Squadron, the 86th Flying Training Squadron, and the 47th Student Squadron on this day.

  • Laughlin Fully Commits to the T-38C

When: 2 September 2005

What: 15 years ago this month, the last of Laughlin’s T-38As (#62-9654) departed for the modification line at Randolph AFB. Since then, we’ve only flown the upgraded T-38C!

  • President Nixon Visits Laughlin

When: 8 September 1969

What: President Richard M. Nixon visited Laughlin AFB and Del Rio when he arrived to dedicate the completed Amistad Dam with his Mexican counterpart, President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz.

  • Laughlin Flood Relief Efforts

When: 24 September 1964

What: Laughlin assisted with local flood relief efforts after a slow moving storm system inundated the area with up to ten inches of rain in spots. Helicopters out of Laughlin rescued 33 civilians from floodwaters, and the base supplied medical care, food, and blankets for the relief of townspeople rendered homeless by the floods.

  • UPT is replaced by SUPT

When: 28 September 1994

What: Laughlin’s last pilot class under the “Undergraduate Pilot Training” program graduated on 28 September 1994. It was class 94-15, and it was comprised of 20 students, including 4 Turkish Air Force pilots. All classes after 94-15 have been trained using the track-based “Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training” program that we still use today.

  • Last of Laughlin Field’s Personnel Depart

When: 30 September 1945

What: After World War 2 ended, Laughlin Field (now Laughlin AFB) was inactivated. On 30 September 1945, the last 300 personnel assigned to the base departed. The land would become grazing land after that, until, seven years later, it reopened again as Laughlin AFB in 1952!

As always, check back next month for more: We’ll highlight new Laughlin history, new Laughlin stories, and new Laughlin anniversaries in October!