contentsBlytheville AR Chamberads

Eaker Air Force Base

Eaker Air Force Base, which officially closed in 1992 and was formerly known as Blytheville Air Force Base, comprised some 3,778 acres of land on the north side of Blytheville. Originally an army air field installation used by the US military during World War II, the base eventually became a Strategic Air Command base as part of the US Air Force.

In 1959, the Ninety-seventh Bombardment Wing took control of the base, bringing in the historic B-52 bomber, along with the KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft. Blytheville Air Force Base held a significant standing during the Cold War. In 1962, the base was place on airborne alert when the U.S. discovered that with the aid of Russia, Cuba was building nuclear missile silos. A dramatic stand-off ended, but for its historic readiness, the wing was named Air Force Outstanding Unit. The Ninety-seventh continued an alert process throughout the years of the Cold War, with crews ready to be airborne in a matter of minutes. As Cold War history earns its way into the history books, BAFB gains significance as a historic site.

The Ninety-seventh was also involved in the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1965, the wing participated as refuelers in Operation Young Tiger, with pilots stationed at Guam. Years later the wing practiced overseas in the Middle East as they began working in the last war the base was to serve, Operation Desert Storm.

Blytheville Air Force Base was a major economic resource for the communities of Blytheville and Gosnell, not only contributing some 5,000 people to the population base, but also fostering healthy churches, schools and civic organizations through involvement of an eclectic and diverse group of military personnel. The professional scientists, engineers, pilot and other personnel who relocated to Blytheville brought an enhanced dynamic to this predominantly agricultural delta community.

Today, Eaker is home to a number of industries and houses numerous small businesses. A retirement village — Westminster — utilizes former base housing, providing a home ground for over 300 families. A section of the base becomes the holiday light display, Lights of the Delta, during the Christmas season. Also on the property is the Blytheville Youth Sports Complex, a state-of-the-art facility for baseball, softball and soccer and one that attracts nationwide tournaments. A variety of other tourist-related activities take place on the base, from car races to car shows to air shows to model airplane meets. The vast space of the “old” base lends Blytheville a unique venue for an array of activities.

And not to be forgotten, the runways are still active. The 11,000-foot main runway has even been the landing spot for Air Force I.

previous topic
next topic
Town Square Publications