“The US Army Air Corps established the Spokane Air Depot on Sunday, March 1, 1942. The location was selected because Spokane businessmen donated $101,078.66 worth of land and standing crops to the Army for its construction. (Which was hardly as charitable as it sounds, as the post soon employed 15,500 civilians, and had a payroll of nearly a million dollars a month.) The post was 95% complete by July 1943, and served throughout World War II. Although deactivated in 1947, it was reactivated in January 1948 as Spokane Air Force Base, and given to the newly organized Strategic Air Command (SAC) as a bomber base.
SAC of 1948 was more bark than bite, and planes and crews were not in the best of shape, as was proven when its B-29s deployed to Japan for missions over Korea in 1950. The new commander of SAC, Lt. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, decided that if SAC was to be America’s nuclear deterrent, its men and equipment should be the best available. Therefore he started a slew of new programs.
For Spokane Air Force Base, the first action was to change its name to Fairchild Air Force Base. (The name honored a recently deceased Air Force general named Muir S. Fairchild.) The second was to start a major upgrade of training and readiness. To support SAC’s now much harder working airmen in their off-duty hours, LeMay ordered significant improvements in their living conditions. Thus the base’s first true gymnasium, complete with basketball court, lockers, and bleachers for 550 spectators, was contracted in November 1950, and opened a month later.”
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