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History > Base History

Permission for use granted by the McClung Historical CollectionIn the 1920's the family of Lieutenant (JG) Charles McGhee Tyson donated land to the City of Knoxville for an airfield with the stipulation that the facility bear the name of the naval aviator killed in action during World War I. Lieutenant Tyson's airplane was lost during a raid on a German submarine base at Zeebrugge, Belgium. Tyson Airport was originally located on Sutherland Ave in Knoxville, the current site of West High School. In 1936 the city leased the present site and opened two runways. In 1942 the Army bought the airport, built the first control tower and a 4500 foot long runway. At the end of the war, the Army sold the facility back to the city, which later leased part of it back to the military in 1951.

Concerned with the defense of Alcoa, Oak Ridge's secretive nuclear facilities and TVA dams, military planners deployed the first operational Air Force units to McGhee Tyson Municipal Airport on 01 April 1950. On 26 January 1951 an official announcement was made that a new $5.5 million Air Force Base was to be built as a home for 30-50 jet fighters. The property purchased was a piece farm land which included a three acre, three million gallon pond where hanger 113 now stands. On 09 August 1952 McGhee Tyson Air Force Base was officially opened and subsequently closed on 08 January 1958. After the announcement of the base closure, the National Guard Bureau announced the constitution of a new Air National Guard flying unit - the 134th Fighter Interceptor Group which would inherit all facilities including aircraft and the mission. Federal recognition of the 134th came on 15 December 1957 and all on-base Air Force operations ceased on 08 January 1958. Ten months later five pilots and their F-86D jet fighters were placed on daytime readiness alert, a status that was estimated to take two years - thus beginning the 134th Volunteer Legacy.

Since then this legacy has continued to grow. In 1961 the 151st Fighter Squadron and their F-104 "Starfighter" jets were deployed in support of the Berlin Airlift. In May 1962 while still deployed to Ramstein AB, the unit set an All-Time US Air Force jet fighter flying record of 836 hours 5 minutes. In addition, the unit had the highest flying time per aircraft assigned ever recorded in the Air Force for a jet fighter in any one month to that date. To honor the outstanding achievements during the crisis the 151st was chosen by the National Guard Bureau to be the subject for the painting "Watch Over the Rhine", the fifth in the Nation Guard series and the first painting to hang in the Pentagon depicting Air Guard activities.

The Volunteer's of the 134th would continue to set a blinding pace for reaching operational status during other aircraft conversions; in 1963 the 134th's F-104's were transferred to Homestead AFB, Florida and replaced with F-102's, keeping with tradition, the unit was certified combat ready within a record breaking 6 months. April 1964 brought another change in aircraft with the Boeing KC-97G "Stratolifter" and a change of major commands from Air Defense Command to Tactical Air Command. With no previously qualified aircrew or maintenance personnel assigned, the 134th was still the first National Guard flying unit equipped with KC-97's to achieve operational status. They did so in eight months, the previous "normal" time for the conversion was two years!

1966 saw the unit deploy on their longest deployment commitment to date; a ten year rotation in support of Operation Creek Party. This ten year rotation saw millions of pounds of jet fuel off-loaded and millions of miles flown, all accident free!

The last new airframe arrived in 1976 with the Boeing KC-135A along with another major command change to the Strategic Air Command. Once again the 134th achieved combat operational status in record time. These aircraft were later upgraded to "E" models in 1982 and finally replaced with "R" models in 2006.

The Volunteer spirit has always been alive and well in east Tennessee. This spirit was highlighted by former base commander Gen. Frederick H. Forster (Ret.) when he noted that at the beginning of the call up for Operation Desert Shield we had more volunteers than we needed. The unit has also played an enormous part in Operations Nobel Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom by deploying numerous times to several CONUS and Middle East locations including a deployment for the 572nd Band. This deployment marks the first time a Traditional Air Guard band has been tasked to deploy.
 
 
 
 

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