A Short History of Hill Air Force Base

Hill Air Force Base has enjoyed a long and colorful history. The base traces its origins back to the ill-fated Army Air Mail "experiment" of 1934, during which time the idea originated for a permanent air depot in the Salt Lake City area. In the years that followed, the Army Air Corps searched the region for an ideal location for its permanent western terminus. Several sites in Utah were considered, with the present site near Ogden emerging as the clear favorite.

In July 1939 Congress appropriated $8 million for the establishment and construction of the Ogden Air Depot. In December of that year the War Department named the site "Hill Field," in honor of Major Ployer Peter Hill, Chief of the Flying Branch of the Air Corps Material Division at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. Major Hill had died as a result of injuries received from the crash of the Boeing experimental aircraft Model 299 at Wright Field, the prototype of what would later become the famous B-17 Flying Fortress.

The official groundbreaking ceremonies for Hill Field were held on January 12, 1940, although actual construction of the base had already begun. The first Commander of the Ogden Air Depot, Colonel Morris Berman, arrived at Hill Field on November 7, 1940, marking the beginning of official operations at the field.

During World War II Hill Field was a vital maintenance and supply base, with round-the-clock operations geared to supporting the war effort. Battle weary A-26, B-17, B-24, B-29, P-40, P-47, P-61, and many other types of aircraft depended on the men and women of Hill Field for structural repair, engine overhaul, and spare parts. Peak wartime employment at Hill was reached in 1943 with a total of over 22,000 military and civilian personnel. These dedicated men and women rehabilitated and returned thousands of warbirds to combat.

In 1944 Hill Field became responsible for the long-term storage of surplus aircraft and support equipment. PT-17, B-24, P-40, P-47, B-29, and many other types of aircraft were eventually prepared and stored at the base. By the end of 1947 more than $200 million worth of aircraft had been preserved in near perfect condition for possible future use. During the massive demobilization that followed World War II, Hill Field also reclaimed scores of surplus aircraft, which were disassembled and some parts put back into the supply system.

On September 26, 1947 the Army Air Corps became the United States Air Force, ending an association with the Army that had lasted 40 years. Following an Air Force-wide pattern of renaming "fields" as "bases," Hill Field became Hill Air Force Base on February 5, 1948.

When North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, Hill AFB was assigned a major share of Project Holdoff, the Air Materiel Command's logistical effort to support the war. Hill personnel quickly removed needed B-26s and B-29s from storage, renovated, and added them to the active Air Force inventory.

Also in the 1950s, the Ogden Air Materiel Area, the ranking activity at Hill, began support of jet aircraft, such as the F-84F Thunderstreak, F-84G Thunderjet, RF-84J Thunderflash, F-89 Scorpion, F/RF-101 Voodoo, F-102 Delta Dagger, B-47 Stratojet, and B-57 Night Intruder. OOAMA also assumed prime maintenance responsibilities for the SM-62 Snark, IM-99 Bomarc, SM-73 Goose, and SM-64 Navaho missile systems, as well as the MB-1 Genie rocket system. OOAMA entered into ballistic missile support with the SM-65 Atlas ICBM in 1958 and the SM-80 Minuteman ICBM in 1959.

In the 1960s, OOAMA was assigned support and system management duties for the USAF F-4 Phantom II, Titan II/Titan III missiles, and the AGM-65A Maverick missile. Hill AFB also supported the war in Southeast Asia by direct airlifts of hundreds of tons of airmunitions via C-124, C-130, C-133, and C-141 aircraft. The base also picked up maintenance responsibilities for B-58 Hustler and F/RF/FB-111A Aardvark landing gear components.

Hill began managing certain components of the F-15 Eagle in 1971. That same year field testing began at Hill on the UH-1H Iroquois helicopter. The following year saw the production of the first version of the Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM), delivered from Boeing Air Force Plant 77 at Hill AFB. 

The Ogden Air Logistics Center also became system manager of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Advanced Intercontinental Ballistic (M-X) Missile System, and the A-10 Thunderbolt II in the 1970s. OOALC had logistics responsibility for Alaska, western Canada, Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

The 1980s saw the assignment of repair responsibilities for the BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) to Hill. During Fiscal Year 1980 Hill AFB also had the busiest single runway of any airfield in the free world. Airfield traffic totaled 145,243 takeoffs and landings. The OO-ALC Directorate of Distribution then managed an inventory valued at $2,039,195,215. The base was also assigned repair projects for the OV-10A Bronco and C-130 Hercules aircraft.

In August 1990 OOALC and Hill began support of Operation Desert Shield by helping to sustain the U.S. deployment to Southwest Asia. All shifts and work hours were extended to support the various aircraft involved in the mission. The 388th Fighter Wing, a Hill tenant, also deployed its 4th and 421st Fighter Squadrons to Southwest Asia. 

When Desert Shield became Desert Storm in 1991 Hill AFB personnel at home and abroad continued to support the mission in Southwest Asia. In 1993 Hill was awarded contracts for the modification, corrosion control, and painting of 244 Navy F/A-18 Hornet fighters and the maintenance and repair of landing gear on various USAF, DoD, and allied aircraft.

From modest beginnings, Hill AFB now ranks as Utah's largest employer. The $960 million payroll and presence of the installation injects tremendous growth into the Utah economy. The current value of the base acreage, buildings, equipment, and inventories exceeds $4.5 billion.