Presque Isle Air Force Base, Maine
In the 1930s the 1670th Company of the Civilian Conservation Corps was located at Presque Isle, in Aroostook County, Maine. The 23d Fighter Wing flew F-86 Sabres from Presque Isle as part of Eastern Air Defense Force from 12 January 1951 to 06 February 1952 with a mission to maintain a high degree of operational proficiency so that it might repel any possible enemy air attack. The subordinate 23d Fighter Group was based at Presque Isle Air Force Base from 12 January 1951 to 06 February 1952.
During the years 1951-1954, the 74th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron flew the F-86 and F-94 at Presque Isle AFB, Maine. The 74th then moved to Thule AB, Greenland in 1954. In the mid-1950s the 76th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was based at Presque Isle. On 12 January 1951 the 75th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was activated at Presque Isle. During this period, the 75th served under the Air Defense Command and flew the F-86. The squadron left Presque Isle on 16 October 1952 and was reassigned to Suffolk County Air Force Base, New York, where the squadron remained for three years before returning to Presque Isle. The squadron continued to fly the F-86 until 1955 when it converted to the F-89. It continued operations out of Presque Isle until later moving to Dow Air Force Base, Maine. The 318th Fighter Interceptor Squadron came back under ADC in August 1954 when it was moved from Thule to Presque Isle AFB with F-89Ds. In August 1955 the squadron moved to McChord AFB. In the fall of 1954, the 57th FIS, then based at Presque Isle AFB, Maine, replaced the 82nd FIS at Keflavik, Iceland.
On 21 March 1957, the Air Force, acting on the recommendation of the Strategic Missile Site Selection Panel, designated Presque Isle AFB, Maine, as the site for the first Snark missile base. But in November 1959, within a year of Power's request for a program evaluation, SAC recommended cancellation of Snark (the recommendation was endorsed by ARDC). Headquarters USAF, however, rejected that proposal. Despite General Power's recommendation, the Air Force and the Department of Defense decided to continue a limited program for the operational deployment of one Snark squadron to acquire some missile capability until ballistic missiles became available in quantity. On 1 January 1959, SAC activated the 702nd Strategic Missile Wing (ICM-Snark) at Presque Isle AFB, Maine, and assigned it to the Eighth Air Force, thus making it the first SAC missile wing to be assigned to a numbered air force.
The 556th SMS at Patrick AFB was assigned to the 702d SMW on 1 April 1959 and was scheduled to move to Presque Isle in July, but SAC inactivated the squadron on 15 July 1959 before the move could be consummated. As a result of this action and the subsequent cancellation of the programmed activation of the 702nd Missile Maintenance Squadron, the 702nd SMW was put in the unique position of having no assigned subordinate units. All operational and maintenance functions associated with the Snark ICM were handled by the 702nd SMW's deputy commander for missiles.
The 702d SMW placed the first Snark ICM on alert on 18 March 1960 and by the end of fiscal year 1960, a total of four Snark missiles were on strategic alert. Yet, it was not until 28 February 1961 that SAC was able to declare the 702d SMW operational. But the Snark was living on borrowed time. Shortly after taking office in 1961, John F. Kennedy scrapped the project. The Strategic Air Command's negative evaluation of the Snark's potential was reinforced on 28 March 1961 when President John F. Kennedy, in a special defense budget message, directed the phase out of the missile because it was "obsolete and of marginal military value" relative to ballistic missiles. The President cited the weapon's low reliability (a particularly sore point to his Secretary of Defense), inability to penetrate, lack of positive control, and vulnerable, unprotected launch sites. Accordingly, in June 1961 [various sources report either 2 June or 25 June], SAC inactivated the 702d Strategic Missile Wing at Presque Isle AFB less than four months after it had been declared operational.
Presque Isle AFB was subsequently redesignated Presque Isle Air National Guard Facility [ANG FAC].
During World War II, the federal government appropriated the local airport, establishing an air base for planes bound to and from Great Britain. Almost overnight, the Presque Isle base became a vital air transport installation and the City found itself a busy war center. Following the War, the base experienced ups and downs before its final closure in 1961. The city of Presque Isle, with a population of 10,500, is the heart of Aroostook, the largest county east of the Mississippi and a stone's throw away from Canada. Presque Isle is home the University of Maine at Presque Isle, as well as the Northern Main Technical College. Scheduled commercial air service is available through Northern Maine Regional Airport in Presque Isle. General aviation services are available through both Northern Maine Regional Airport and Caribou Municipal Airport.
The Skyway Industrial Park sits adjacent to Northern Maine Regional Airport which offers commercial airline as well as general aviation services to the entire region. Federal Express and United Parcel Service augment park accessibility by air to and from major markets. Skyway Industrial Park, owned by the City of Presque Isle and administered by the Presque Isle Industrial Council, has been attractive to a variety of new businesses. To date, over 40 companies have located on the Park. The Park consists of 440 acres, of which 175 is prime industrial land served by all utilities, streets, subdivided and available for further development. Located adjacent to the airport and within 1.5 miles of downtown, the park has become a dominant feature in the local and regional economy.
Click here for more information on the Snark Missile.