Historic postcard of the Barksdale Air Force Base Main Gate (circa 1958)
As early as 1924 the citizens of Shreveport became interested in hosting a military flying field. Construction began on Barksdale Field in 1931, and the facility was dedicated on February 2, 1933, becoming the world's largest airfield at the time, covering 22,000 acres.
Barksdale Air Force Base is named in honor of Lt. Eugene Hoy Barksdale, Air Corps, U.S. Army, who lost his life in August 1926, while flight testing Douglas O-2 observation airplane over McCook Field, in Dayton, Ohio.
During World War II, the base supported B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-29 Superfortress, B-26 Marauders, and other aircraft.
After the U.S. Air Force became an independent branch of service, Barksdale Field was renamed Barksdale Air Force Base January 13, 1948.
In 1949 Barksdale became the home of the first Air Force all-jet strategic reconnaissance/bomber aircraft, the North American RB-45 Tornado and home to the Second Air Force Headquarters, bringing Barksdale into the Strategic Air Command.
The Boeing Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber and Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter aerial tanker were assigned to the base during the 1950s under the 301st and 376th Bomb Wings.
The first B-52 Stratofortress arrived at Barksdale in August of 1958 , followed by the first KC-135 Stratotanker shortly afterwards. Although not stationed at Barksdale, the other major SAC bomber and Cold War deterrent of the time was the Convair B-36 Peacemaker.
Boeing B-47 Stratojets - Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
Today, Barksdale AFB, located in northwest Louisiana in Bossier City, continues to be a major active military facility and a major contributor to the economy of the Shreveport area.
The base has hosted a number of key operational and training elements of the Air Force. Headquarters Eighth Air Force was installed on Barksdale after being located on Guam for five years in charge of strategic operations for the Vietnam War. Today, it continues as Headquarters of the Eighth Air Force, among other units.
The 2d Bomb Wing conducts the primary mission of Barksdale Air Force Base, La., with three squadrons of B-52H Stratofortress bombers - the 11th Bomb Squadron, which is the training squadron, the 20th Bomb Squadron and the 96th Bomb Squadron.
B-52 Stratofortress - Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
Barksdale received the first operational KC-10A Extender aerial tanker in March of 1981. The base's fleet of KC-135s and KC-10s remained at Barksdale through 1994, when the Air Mobility Command consolidated its tanker fleet. Barksdale's last KC-135 was placed in the 8th Air Force Museum after its final flight in March, and the last KC-10 departed in October.
In April 1992, 265 buildings on Barkdale's main base were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The area from the Shreveport Gate to the flightline and from the Bossier Gate to Hoban Hall makes up the Barksdale Field Historic District. See the series of historic postcards below which show many of the original Barksdale buildings.
The 8th Air Force Museum is located at Barksdale and is a major national repository of historic Air Force airplanes. It is free and open to the public, accessible via the Barksdale north gate.
Among the aircraft on display are the B-29 Superfortress, B-47E Stratojet, B-52 Stratofortress, B-17G Flying Fortress, KC-135A Stratotanker, F-84F Thunderstreak, FB-111A, Lockheed SR-71A and other aircraft and related equipment.
Scene from the 8th Air Force Museum - Courtesy of Barksdale AFB
The 8th Air Force Museum Association is not part of Barksdale AFB and is in fact a separate organization that operates independently and supports the 8th Air Force Museum.
A Government issued ID, (Drivers License, Passport etc.) is required to gain entry at the museum entrance. Parking is free, but all vehicles are subject to search. No backpacks, briefcases or large bags are allowed in any buildings, and visitors must sign in upon entering the museum.
The museum's normal opening hours are 9:30am to 4:00pm daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.
Dedicated in 1979, the museum is visited by 50,000 visitors annually. We have visited the museum, and highly recommended it.
The 8th Air Force Museum is located at 88 Shreveport Road, accessible via the North Gate Road. For more information, contact the museum at (318) 456-5553 or (318) 752-0055.
A highlight of the spring calendar at Barksdale AFB is the annual Defenders of Liberty Air Show. The next air show is scheduled for May 4- 5, 2013. Among the performers will be the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
Scene from the Defenders of Liberty Air Show 2012 - Courtesy of Barksdale AFB
A number of aircraft will be on static display, such as the B-52, B-1, A-10, KC-135, B-25, C-130, KC-10, F/A-18, B-2 and others.
Visitors may purchase food and beverages at the show.
Parking and admission is free, but visitors are subject to base security procedures. Due to heightened security requirements, containers such as backpacks and coolers are will be prohibited on the airfield. Some exceptions will be made for items such as diaper bags, purses and folding lawn chairs, but visitors must submit them to security personnel for an inspection. Weapons are strictly prohibited.
Other military installations in Louisiana have in the past, and some still do today, play key roles in the defense of the United States.
Louisiana World War II military bases such as Chennault Air Force Base in Lake Charles, Fort Polk in Leesville, Selman Army Airfield in Monroe, Harding Army Airfield in Baton Rouge, Pollock Army Air Field, and others have storied pasts.
Alexandria and Central Louisiana were the site of the massive Louisiana Maneuvers staged before World War II, supported by Camp Livingston, Camp Claiborne, Camp Beauregard, Esler Field and Alexandria Army Air Base.