INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
September 18, 1947, marked a monumental occasion in U.S. history when a new branch of military service was born, the United States Air Force. Four years later, while Airmen were still wearing surplus Army clothing, the first groundbreaking construction project took place marking the beginning of a 51-year bilateral relationship between the Turkish Air Force and the U.S. Air Force.
In the Spring of 1951, the U.S. Engineering Group began construction of a 10,000-foot runway at a new base located seven miles east of Adana, Turkey's fifth largest city. While work on the runway progressed, an American company, Metcalfe, Hamilton and Grove, began constructing base facilities and other support infrastructure.
The USAF initially planned to use the base as an emergency staging and recovery site for medium and heavy bombers. In the years to follow, Incirlik proved to be a valuable location for responding to crises in the Middle East.
Turkey entered the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Feb. 18, 1952, and sought American assistance to ensure its military equipment and facilities met NATO standards. As a member of NATO, Turkey would strive to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area for the preservation of peace and security.
The Turkish General Staff spent months negotiating an agreement with the USAF concerning joint use of the base and signed it on Dec. 6, 1954. Two months later, in February 1955, the base received its first official name, Adana Air Base. The United States Air Forces in Europe activated a Support Group in Ankara, Turkey, and designated Diyarbakir Air Base as the primary installation for the country.
The same month Adana Air Base was named, Strategic Air Command conducted a small exercise requiring the Airmen here to refuel B-47s and KC-97s. Shortly after this exercise, the 7216th Air Base Squadron from Wheelus Field, Libya, began transferring people and equipment to the base on C-119 Flying Boxcars.
USAFE activated the 7216th to operate Adana AB, and they were known as Detachment 10, The United States Logistics Group. Incirlik maintained the airfield for a wartime role while making it available as a peacetime training site for rotational air units. They added the following missions; peacetime support of all U.S. Air Force activities in southern Turkey, tactical aircraft operations and airlift missions.
Project 119L, a USAF meteorological balloon launching activity, operated out of Adana AB in 1955. Following the termination of the balloon mission, the base commander was notified that another tenant unit, Detachment 10-10 or Project TL-10, would soon arrive.
: Over the next 11 months leading up to the AF's 60th birthday, monumental milestones in Incirlik's history will be uncovered. You can read about Incirlik's coming of age during the last week each month either in the new Incirlik Express
newsletter or on Incirlik Now
(The 39th Air Base Wing historian office contributed to this story.)