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Looking Back At Shaw Air Force Base's Seven Decades
by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kathryn Reaves
February 4, 2017

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Less than six and a half years after Shaw Field was officially activated, it was redesignated as Shaw Air Force Base, January 14, 1948.

During those first years, the U.S. Army installation was very different than the Air Force base it is today.

The site was officially approved for the construction of a U.S. Army Air Corps basic flying school by the secretary of war May 15, 1941. By May 17, the city of Sumter and Sumter County leased the land to the War Department. The term agreement was set to expire in 2040, costing the department $1 per year. By comparison, the lease payment in 2016 would have calculated to be approximately $16.42 per year according to the Consumer Price Index inflation calculator.

On Aug. 7, 1941, the base was officially renamed for Sumter County native 1st Lt. Ervin David Shaw, a World War I pilot who died in action.

U.S. Army Air Corps cadets pose for a photo after arriving at a railroad station in Sumter, South Carolina on December 10, 1941. The cadets were members of one of the first aviation classes at the basic flying school at Shaw Field, S.C., now known as Shaw Air Force Base. (Courtesy photo)
U.S. Army Air Corps cadets pose for a photo after arriving at a railroad station in Sumter, South Carolina on December 10, 1941. The cadets were members of one of the first aviation classes at the basic flying school at Shaw Field, S.C., now known as Shaw Air Force Base. (Courtesy photo)

Shaw Field's first cadets arrived mid-December 1941, just one week after the U.S. declared war on the Axis powers. Despite the field being incomplete, the students quickly began training to fly the BT-13 Valiant aircrafts.

These cadets were the first U.S. basic flying school students to receive training to perform night landings without the use of lights. The skill was vital for the success of U.S. and Allied air powers during the war.

On Feb. 19, 1942, the school's first 130 students graduated. They led the way for the more than 2,450 cadets who graduated from Shaw Field the same year.

During the next few years, the base's size expanded to accommodate thousands of officer and enlisted service members. Before the basic flying school closed in March 1945, more than 8,600 U.S. and Allied pilots trained at Shaw Field.

The renaming of Shaw Field to Shaw AFB followed four months after the Air Force became an independent military branch on Sept. 18, 1947.

Today, after 75 years as a military installation, Shaw has changed drastically.

Approximately 8,200 military members are currently assigned here, compared to nearly 2,400 at the beginning of 1942. br>
SShaw's mission has also experienced many changes alongside its expanding installation. Instead of focusing on training new pilots, the base's primary function now is to prepare, employ and sustain combat ready F-16CM Fighting Falcons to aid in the suppression of enemy air defense.

Aerial view of Shaw Air Force Base in 2015. (Courtesy photo)
Aerial view of Shaw Air Force Base in 2015. (Courtesy photo)

Despite the changes, one priority has remained constant; the innovative education and training of military members to keep the country ready for the next fight.

Throughout its history, Shaw has experienced significant changes in aviation technology and assigned mission sets.

Shaw and the Airmen assigned here continue to play a valuable role in the accomplishment of the Air Force mission and ensuring superiority in air, space and cyberspace.

By U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kathryn Reaves
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2017

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