Williams Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona
Origin of current name: Names in honor of 1st Lt. Charles Linton Williams (1898-1927). Lieutenant Williams died on July 6th 1927 when his Boeing PW-9A pursuit aircraft crashed near Ft. DeRussy, HI.
Date current name was assigned to base: January 13, 1948
Previous Names: Mesa Military Airport, Higley, Arizona, June 19th 1941; Higley Field, October 1941; Williams Field, February 24th 1942.
Date Established: July 1, 1941
Date Occupied: October 16, 1941
Construction Began: July 16, 1941
Changes in Capability: Initial construction completed December 1942; field facilities changed from two-engine to single-engine training late 1943; four-engine transitional training predominated during 1944-1945; primary mission changed to fighter pilot training in 1945; field's facilities also extended to permit radar observer training 1945; 500-unit Wherry housing project completed December 17th 1951; fighter-gunnery school added 1953-1954; exclusively an undergraduate pilot training site from January 1961 to closing; housing improvement project completed fall 1962; third runway added fall 1969; composite medical facility completed September 1972; family housing project completed spring 1973; flight simulator facility completed February 1976.
Base was Decommissioned on September 30, 1993
The former Williams Air Force Base (WAFB) is located in Mesa, Arizona, approximately 30 miles southeast of central Phoenix. It is approximately 4,127 acres in size and the study area includes the entire Base. The site boundaries are Power Road to the west, Ray Road to the north, Pecos Road to the south, and Ellsworth Road to the east. The base was constructed in 1941 and served as a training facility, primarily pilot training. At the time the base was constructed, the WAFB site was surrounded by irrigated farmland and desert. Industrial activities at WAFB included heavy maintenance of aircraft and ground equipment in support of pilot training.
The former WAFB played a strategic role in America's aviation history. Over a span of 52 years, more than 26,500 men and women earned their wings at Williams. Gearing up for the combat pilot demands of World War II, the Army Air Corps broke ground in southeast Mesa for its Advanced Flying School on July 16, 1941. In February 1942, the growing military base's name was changed to Williams Field to honor Charles Linton Williams, an Arizona-born pilot. The facility was redesignated as WAFB in January 1948. WAFB was the U.S. Army Corp's foremost pilot training facility, graduating more student pilots and instructors than any other base in the country and supplying 25 percent of the Air Force's pilots annually.
WAFB was closed in 1993, resulting in a loss of more than 3,800 jobs and $300 million in annual economic activity. After the announcement of closure in 1991, the community immediately began work to redevelop the base. Upon closing, WAFB was transferred to the Air Force Base Conversion Agency (AFBCA). AFBCA assumed responsibilities for the restoration and reuse of the base and worked with the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) and Williams Redevelopment Partnership to maximize reuse of the land.