JB Elmendorf-Richardson, AK Image 1
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    JB Elmendorf-Richardson, AK History

    Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was created in 2010 from the merger of Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base.

    Richardson was the older command, originally located on the site of later Elmendorf AFB. Richardson had been created to headquarter the Army's defensive command in Alaska, which in the days before World War Two was relatively undefended against possible Japanese attack. The airfield was ideally located for transporting material from the US to the USSR during World War Two, under the Allied Lend-Lease program. Richardson was one of only a handful of Army bases in the Alaska territory, and sure enough, one of the first Imperial Japanese operations against the US was to attack the Aleutian Islands. The Japanese attack came in the summer of 1942, at about the same time as the more famous Battle of Midway. The goal of the attack was to block US Army Air and Navy routes to Japan, and to threaten the Alaska mainland. The only thing standing between a stronger attack on the Alaska coast were the Navy and Army Air Force, staged out of bases in Anchorage, Seward, and Fairbanks. The Aleutian Islands Campaign lasted from the early summer of 1942 to the late summer of 1943, partially staged out of Elmendorf Field.

    1947 saw the relocation of Richardson, in advance of the independence of the Air Force; the Air Force assumed control of the base and named it Elmendorf Air Force Base. Richardson shifted to a new brigade facility with housing for 500 soldiers,bachelor officer quarters, a rifle range, warehouses, and a hospital. Family housing came later; the base expanded over the decades to headquarter the 6th Infantry Division, and later the 4th Brigade Combat Team. In the event of war with the Soviet Union or China, this base would have been either a first defense point or an early deployment point. Richardson units were unusually well qualified for rugged terrain, cold weather condition fighting, given their Alaska terrain. That war never happened, fortunately, and in the post Cold War world, Fort Richardson was (re)merged with Elmendorf AFB in 2010.

    Elmendorf Air Force Base was created from Richardson in 1947, as it was in an excellent strategic position to guard against expected Soviet attack. The exact nature of the Air Force's defense changed over time, as technology changed, but the forward position of Elmendorf gave it high value for interception and reconnaissance. With the end of the Cold War, Elmendorf and Fort Richardson adapted, still having a vital role in forward staging for deployment to Asia. Indeed, in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom units from these bases were deployed to service.

    In 2010 the bases were merged to save budget.