Ellsworth Air Force Base, 1942-1957

Last Updated by Brian Gevik on
The airfield control tower under construction, 1942.

Construction of the airfield and facilities that would eventually be known as Ellsworth Air Force Base began in January 1942 on the site of what had been the Rapid City Regional Airport. It was originally known as the Rapid City Army Airbase. In 1953, it was renamed in honor of base commander Brig. Gen. Richard E. Ellsworth, who was killed in the crash of an RB-36 bomber in Newfoundland.

Brig. Gen. Richard E. EllsworthBrig. Gen. Richard E. Ellsworth

The film clip below provides an overview of the base's construction and its evolving mission from the end of World War II to the middle of the Cold War.

Images of the Past Ellsworth Air Force Base - 1942-1957 How a small regional airport became an important hub of the Strategic Air Command.
The film and images in the above clip were provided by Historical Footprints, Inc. of Lead, South Dakota. The clip is a segment of a longer program written and directed by Lt. Robert Carver and Sgt. David Hancock, "Ellsworth Air Force Base: A Proud History."


Images of the Past President Dwight D. Eisenhower - Ellsworth AFB Dedication Dwight Eisenhower speaks at the dedication of Ellsworth Air Force Base. June 13, 1953.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially dedicated Ellsworth Air Force Base on June 13, 1953. The clip below, part of a 1967 documentary, contains Eisenhower's remarks and shows some of the military parade and other pageantry on display that day.

Other highlights:

-- The first B-52 bombers arrived at Ellsworth AFB in 1957.

-- The first intercontinental ballistic missle squadron was assigned to Ellsworth AFB in 1960. The 44th Missile Wing was attached to Ellsworth between 1962 and 1994.

--The first B-1B bombers arrived in 1987.

For Teachers: Related Activities

Learn more about the history of Ellsworth AFB on the base's official Web site.

Learn more about the history of the 28th Bomb Wing (.pdf)

Learn about the 44th Strategic Missile Wing and visit the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

Visit the South Dakota Air and Space Museum.

Related entry: "Ellsworth AFB - 44th Missile Wing, 1962-1982"

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