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LORING AIR FORCE BASE Limestone V4c4n4ty Aroostook County Maine
HAER No. ME-64
WRITTEN HISTORICAL AND DESCRIPTIVE DATA PIIOTOCRAPIIO
HISTORIC AMERICAN ENGINEERING RECORD National Park Service Northeast Region
Philadelphia Support Office U.S. Custom House 200 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
HISTORIC AMERICAN ENGINEERING RECORD LORING AIR FORCE BASE
? ME P-L|fl?.V
Limestone Vicinity Aroostook County, Maine
HAER NO. ME-64
USGS 7.5-minute Fort Fairfield NW Quadrangle Universal Transverse Mercator Coordinates 1) 19:587117.5203693; 2) 19:584862.5196492 3) 19:580034.5199310:4) 19:583140.5203679
Date(s) of Construction:
Engineer/Architect: Present Owner(s):
United States Air Force Air Force Base Conversion Agency (AFBCA) - Loring RR1, Box 1719 Limestone, Maine 04750-7943
Present Occupants: Present Use:
Loring Air Force Base (AFB) closed in September 1994. Most of the facilities and areas at the installation are temporarily unoccupied. Except where noted, individual Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) records will indicate "Vacant."
Most of the facilities and areas at the installation are temporarily unoccupied. Except where noted, individual HAER records will indicate "Vacant."
The built environment of Loring AFB demonstrates the military, technological, and economic complexity of the Cold War. Once one of the most heavily armed of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) bases, it stands as a visible representation of the policies that shaped the political, economic, and military history of the world in the last half century. The period of significance begins in November 1948 with the completion of the airfield. Although the importance of the base declined by 1964 with the advent of large numbers of aerially refuelable B-52 bombers and a significant number of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), Loring AFB remained a significant national asset until the end of the Cold War in 1991. The specific buildings and areas on Loring AFB that display
Loring Air Force Base HAER No. ME-64 (page 2)
exceptional significance on a national, state, and local level are the airfield, the Arch Hangar, the Double Cantilever Hangar, the Weapons Storage Area, and the Alert Area.
Pursuant to the recommendations of the 1990 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, Loring AFB was closed in September 1994. In order to mitigate adverse effects to historic properties that may occur with conveyance of property to a non-federal agency, mitigation measures were recommended in the Loring AFB Historic Building Inventory and Evaluation. The Maine State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) has concurred with the Air Force's recommendation of Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)/HAER recordation of National Register-eligible properties in lieu of nomination to the National Register.
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Loring Air Force Base HAER No. ME-64 (page 3)
Loring Air Force Base Overview
Loring Air Force Base (AFB) is located in the northeastern corner of Maine, in Aroostook County, approximately 5 miles west and south of the international border at New Brunswick, Canada, and 400 miles north of Boston. The on-site property totals 8,317 acres and is located 5 miles northeast of Caribou, Maine, and 18 miles north of Presque Isle, Maine. Major components of the base include the airfield, the Alert Area, and the Weapons Storage Area (WSA). The airfield is situated in the center of the base and is oriented in a north-south direction. The WSA is located east of the airfield in the northeastern portion of the base; the Alert Area is located immediately east of the airfield, at the southern end of the runway. A large industrial area, which includes the Arch Hangar and the Double Cantilever (DC) Hangar, is located immediately west of the airfield. Administrative, institutional, recreational, and residential areas are situated in the southwestern portion of the base. Pursuant to the recommendation of the 1990 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, Loring AFB was closed in September 1994, and currently is in caretaker status. The Air Force Base Conversion Agency (AFBCA) - Loring and the Loring Development Authority (LDA) are located on the base.
The Cold War
The period immediately following World War II marked the start of the Cold War. The term Cold War described the state of hostile relations that developed primarily between the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union) and the United States at the end of the war. Often viewed as an ideological confrontation between communist and noncommunist governments, this hostility was manifested in economic pressure, propaganda, the arms race, and other covert activities. Although varying dates for the beginning and end of the Cold War can be given, Winston Churchill's 1946 Iron Curtain speech is often considered the opening event, and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 are seen as closing events.
Tensions between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies had become evident during World War II based on differences in strategy that ultimately forced the Soviet Union to bear the brunt of German aggression. The Soviet Union, then led by Josef Stalin, emerged at the end of World War II with the most powerful army in Europe and with its borders extended farther west than had ever been achieved by Imperial Russia under any Tsar. Stalin had begun his control in the 1920s by crushing the independently-minded rural peasantry through the forced collectivization of agriculture. In the 1930s, Stalin's purge of his own party resulted in the deaths of thousands of leading Communist Party members and led to the rise of Stalinism. The desire to contain Stalinist Communism was the primary force behind the West's first involvement in the Cold War. In 1947, President Harry S Truman urged Congress to provide economic and military support to anti-communist forces in Greece and Turkey who were battling communist insurrections backed by the Soviet Union. This funding established the basis for "containment", the foreign policy that would dominate American politics for the next 40 years. In 1949, the Soviet Union detonated their first atomic device and the Tu-4 became operational in 1950. The
Loring Air Force Base HAER No. ME-64 (page 4)
realization that the Soviet Union had the capability to develop and deliver nuclear weapons further fueled American fears and led the United States government to reexamine national security policy.
Soviet foreign policy remained one of expansion into the rapidly decolonizing regions of the world, while retaining control over Eastern Europe. The United States' policy during the 1950s was to maintain a retaliatory capability in the event of a Soviet attack into Western Europe. Implicit in this capability was the policy of maintaining peace by preparing for war. The Soviet threat to use nuclear force to apply pressure to Western Europe was seen as nuclear blackmail by the United States. In 1962, it was discovered that sites for offensive, nuclear-capable missiles were being constructed in Cuba that would threaten Unites States military installations. In response, naval blockades and air surveillance were ordered, and the Strategic Air Command's (SAC) airborne alert force was increased. SAC's capabilities were demonstrated during the crisis, and were considered a major factor in its peaceful resolution.
Motivated by the reverse suffered during the Cuban Missile Crisis, due in large part to the United States' advantage in nuclear weapons and delivery systems, the Soviet Union strove towards nuclear parity with the United States. Meanwhile, United States' military expenditures were reduced following the Vietnam Conflict and the political turmoil of Watergate. By the mid1970s, the Soviet Union had achieved rough parity with the United States in nuclear weapons and was fielding additional weapons system. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was the peak of Soviet expansionism.
In the early 1980s, the United States began to rebuild American forces and improve overall military balance. During this same time, the Soviet Union entered a period of domestic economic crisis coinciding with a rapid turnover of political leadership. Containment and deterrence had largely succeeded in checking Soviet power through several decades. Now with the arrival of new Soviet leaders and policies, steps toward resolution of the Cold War were achieved. Soviet Union President Gorbachev stated that the Soviet Union would no longer intervene in Eastern Europe to maintain its authority, and a summit between Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1985 signaled a further step toward the resolution of the Cold War. In 1989, free elections were held in Poland and communist governments were replaced in Hungary, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia. In December 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist as an independent nation and the Commonwealth of Independent States became its constitutional heir.
Strategic Air Command
SAC was activated at Boiling Field on 21 March 1946 under the command of General George C. Kenney. Headquarters SAC officially opened on 21 October 1946 at Andrews Army Air Field, Maryland. SAC's mission, as proclaimed by General Carl "Tooey" Spaaz, was:
To conduct long range offensive operations in any part of the world ... to conduct maximum range reconnaissance over land or sea... to provide combat units capable of
Loring Air Force Base HAER No. ME-64 (page 5)
intense and sustained combat operations employing the latest and most advanced weapons; to train units and personnel for the maintenance of the Strategic Forces in all parts of the world; to perform such special missions as the Commanding General, Army Air Force may direct (Casey and Baker n.d.:12).
General Curtis LeMay assumed command of SAC on 19 October 1948. Initially, he faced serious problems including the short range of the B-29 and B-50 bombers, poorly trained combat crews, and inadequate base facilities. In response to these problems, General LeMay acquired B-36 bombers, with a greater unrefueled flight radius than the B-29s and B-50s. The B-36s provided a means of striking targets in the Soviet Union without having to locate aircraft at vulnerable forward bases overseas. He addressed the problem of poorly trained troops by implementing more realistic training methods and developing an attack plan against the probable enemy. He also instituted the lead-crew concept, a concept where each wing placed its most highly qualified fliers together to form crews whose performance standards would become the goals for other crews. Lead crews instructed the other fliers on techniques and procedures, and were responsible for upgrading the proficiency of the entire wing.
By late 1949, General LeMay had crafted SAC into an atomic deterrence force prepared for immediate combat. This force was greatly expanded during the 1950s, as the B-47 and B-52 alljet bombers and the KC-135 all-jet tanker came into production. Many of the practices instilled by General LeMay, such as realistic training missions and constant readiness, were used by SAC throughout the Cold War. While many things changed through the years, one factor remained constant: SAC continually maintained its readiness to respond to challenges by remaining prepared to go to war at a moment's notice.
SAC Alert. When SAC was first organized, it was able to station aircraft at bases within the United States, which during the late 1940s were largely immune from destruction. By the late 1950s, though, the Soviet Union had made great advances in the fields of long-range bombers and atomic weapons. The Air Force recognized the need to be prepared for an unexpected attack against SAC forces. Bomber alert began in 1958 as a means to defend against a surprise attack. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, facilities were constructed that collocated the aircraft and crews into a highly secure compound with direct access to the runway. These compounds became known as SAC Alert Facilities. Using a procedure known as Minimum Interval Takeoff (MITO), in which aircraft took off in 15 second intervals, five aircraft standing alert could become airborne and egress an area in under 3 minutes.
In 1960, as the threat from Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) became more significant, an additional bomber alert mission began. In a practice known as Airborne Alert, SAC placed armed bombers in an airborne alert status. The practice of having armed bombers airborne 24-hours a day was maintained until 1968, when it was finally phased out due to the increased capability of the ICBM alert force and the high cost of maintaining the airborne alert mission.
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