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Column for 3.14.12
People who know of my interest in Griffiss Air Force Base are nice enough to send me things. In the mail recently came the appropriately named book “Griffiss Air Force Base,” subtitled “Welcome to the Mohawk Valley.” The book was given to Air Force personnel newly arriving at Griffiss.
Alas, there is no date of publication in the book. But judging from some of the information it contains, I’m guessing the book was published about 30 years ago.
From the book I learned some details about the history of Griffiss Air Force Base, including this:
“On April 3, 1941, the War Department sent a survey team to Rome, New York, to investigate building an air depot in the strategic northeastern area of the United States. The City of Rome provided office space to the engineers, and the Common Council voted to provide free to the proposed air depot, 1,000,000 gallons of water a day, sewage disposal and street expansion.”
About that time the United States, of course, was gearing up the military as war was being waged in Europe, and things in Rome moved quickly.
The book states: “One month later (May of 1941), after a favorable site survey, the War Department awarded a $13,123,600 contract to begin construction of Rome Air Depot. The original land parcel covered 2,488 acres, 228 of which had been donated by Oneida County.”
What with all the time it takes to get things done these days, it’s hard to believe that the official ground breaking at Griffiss took place just about 90 days after that initial survey team’s first visit to Rome.
And by October of 1941, “despite heavy rains and snow, construction workers had finished the first runway. The day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, December 8, 1941, the Under Secretary of War initiated a stepped up work program at the depot. During the construction, the depot was pouring $10,000 a day into the local economy. By February 1, 1942, the Rome Air Depot became operational — less than one year after the survey team had visited the area!”
Here’s some other things that new arrivals at Griffiss Air Force Base (GAFB) learned from the book they were handed upon arrival:
- At the time of the book’s printing, GAFB had a fleet of about 1,000 vehicles and there were 3,896 acres of property, 231 buildings, 60 miles of roads.
- “In May 1979, Congress announced that Griffiss was to be the first base to receive the Air Launched Cruise Missile.”
- “With over 8,000 employees, the base is the largest employer in Oneida County and one of the largest in central New York. The base’s economic impact on the local area is over $650,000,000 each year.
- “Many aircraft landed at Griffiss during the war effort, but it wasn’t until October 3, 1950, that the first flying unit, the 1st Fighter Interceptor Group, was established here.”
- At the peak of the war effort in 1944, some 19,000 people were assigned to the Rome Air Depot, and just before Germany surrendered in 1945, 14,000 aircraft engines destined for Europe were in storage at the Depot.
- In late 1968, the 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, which was headquartered at GAFB, replaced their old McDonnell F-101 Voodoo jets with Convair F-106 Delta Dart jets.