The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Keesler Field Historical Collection
Collection Number: M490
Dates: The materials in the Keesler Field Historical Collection may span the time from 1941, when Biloxi city officials submitted an offer to the U. S. Army Corps to build a base, to the present. Materials currently in the collection are primarily circa World War II, with the exception being a 70th anniversary poster from 2011.
Volume: 1 box (.25 cubic ft.), 1 oversized folder
Provenance: Accessions were given by Diane Ross and Danielle Bishop
Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).
The Keesler Field Historical Collection includes materials related to the history of Keesler Field, which was built in 1941 in Biloxi, Mississippi. In the early – mid1940s, Keesler Field housed a Technical Training School, a Basic Training Center for the Army, and Specialized Flight Training programs. After World War II, the training focus of Keesler Field shifted to teaching radar, radio and electronics repair and maintenance.
In 1947, the United States Air Force, previously a branch of the Army, became an independent branch of the military. On January 13, 1948, Keesler Field officially became Keesler Air Force Base. In the 1950s the base underwent a period of renovation and reorganization.
Technical training offered at Keesler increased rapidly during the 1950s, going from 14 available courses in 1953 to 116 in 1959. In 1956 Keesler added a ground support training program for the SM-65 Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile. By 1958 all control tower operator, radio maintenance, and general radio operator courses for the Air Force were held at Keesler Air Force Base.
The early 1960s brought the transfer of many of the airborne training courses and aircraft previously held at Keesler. However, Keesler remained the largest training base within the Air Technical Command throughout the 1970s, and served as the country’s main training center for electronics technicians. Enrollment dropped in the mid-1970s after the Vietnam War, ushering in another period of reorganization and re-examination of the school’s teaching functions.
In the early 1980s, several new training programs arrived at Keesler including the airborne warning and control system and the BGM-109 ground-launched cruise missile. The air traffic control program also supplied personnel when professional air traffic controller went on strike in 1981.
The late 1980s and early 1990s were a time of budget cuts and downsizing for the Air Force. Technical training programs at several bases were closed, and those programs were transferred to Keesler Air Force Base, and in 1994 flying training returned to Keesler for the first time since 1973.
The restructuring within the Air Force at this time was mirrored by restructuring within the programs and units at Keesler. The Hurricane Hunters of the 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron were transferred to the reserves, and its mission merged with that of the 815th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. Other squadrons were relocated and groups were downsized, reassigned and renumbered.
On July 1, 1993 Keesler Training Center inactivated and its lineage retired. The 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, previously located in the United Kingdom, became the host organization at Keesler Air Force Base. Air Training Command was redesignated as Air Education and Training Command, and was stationed at Keesler.
Keesler went into the 21st Century as one of the largest technical training posts in the U.S. Air Force. Thousands of airmen and hundreds of officers received training at Keesler during the early 21st Century, as did members of the other four branches of the armed forces.
Sources: Case file, History of Keesler Air Force Base: http://www.keesler.af.mil/AboutUs/FactSheets/EnvironmentalInformation.aspx
Scope and Content:
The Keesler Field Historical Collection includes booklets, photographs, posters and personal accounts related to the history of Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi. Materials currently in the collection document life at Keesler Field circa World War II and offer insight into the soldiers’ lives and the history of the base, including its 70th anniversary in 2011.
Series I: Printed materials
Series II: Manuscripts, diaries and correspondence
Series III: Photographs
Series IV: Posters and other oversized items
Related Collections: AM12-75 (unprocessed) Pratt (Ella Fountain Keesler) Collection
M490 Photograph Log