Air Force Bases

Kadena Air Base, Japan

Location: Located immediately adjacent to and southeast of the town of Kadena, 1 mile south of Koza, and 12 miles north-northeast of Naha, Okinawa, Japan.

Origin of current name: Named after a town on the island of Okinawa.

Date current name was assigned to base: November 1, 1949

Previous Names: Kadena Afid (aka Afld #5, AAB, APO 953), c. Apr 1945; Kadena AAB, 20 Nov 1945; Kadena AFB, 8 Mar 1948.

Date Established: April 1, 1945

Date Occupied: September 5, 1945

Construction Began: April 6, 1945

Base Units: 13th Cmbt Bn, 7th U.S. Inf Div, 2 Apr 1945; 807th Engr Avn Bn, 23 May 1945; 316th Bomb Wg, 5 Sep 1945; 71st AB Gp, 18 Aug 1948; 32d AB Gp, 21 Sep 1948; 6332d Stn Wg, 1 Apr 1949 (rdsgd 6332d AB Wg, 25 Jan 1950); 18th Ftr-Bmbr Wg, 1 May 1955; 18th AB Gp, 1 Feb 1957; 6313th AB Wg, 1 Oct 1957; 824th Cmbt Spt Gp, 8 Dec 1964; 18th Cmbt Spt Gp, 1 Oct 1974.

Changes in Capability: U.S. 7th Inf Div captured Kadena Afld on 1 Apr 1945, and artillery spotting aircraft began to use the field when the runway became serviceable on 6 Apr 1945; Army Air Forces engineers constructed new fuel tank farms, a new 6,500-ft bituminous runway, and a 7,500-ft runway for bomber aircraft by Aug 1945; Japanese forces in the Kadena area surrendered at the field to Lt Gen James H. Doolittle on 7 Sep 1945; field closed for resurfacing of runways, SepĆ³Oct 1945; in Oct 1945 the base suffered severe hurricane damage with some amphibious aircraft lying offshore destroyed; 100 hardstands completed for B-29 operations, late 1945; base improvements allowed for the support of tactical air units between 1945 and 1949 and instrument flying programs in 1950; base roads, quarters, runways, and base operations facilities renovated and enlarged, and the main runway lengthened to 12,000 ft, 1951-1953; Kadena became a fighter base in Nov 1954 with assignment of the 18th Ftr-Bmbr Wg; four hardened eight-bay Mace missile launch sites installed, 1961-1968; engineers completed first increment of a 500-unit family housing project in Aug 1964; base dedicated its largest housing project to date, Sebille Manor, in Sep 1965; 14 major construction projects, including hangar installations, dining halls, ammunition maintenance facilities, and an extensive arresting barrier system completed by mid-1967; base hosted a SAC refueling wing and several large tenant units from other MAJCOMs during late 1960s; U.S.-Japanese Reversion Agreement of 15 May 1972 returned the Ryukyus Islands to Japan and transferred several Kadena off-base installations to Japanese jurisdiction; responsibility for air defense of the Okinawa Air Defense Sector transferred to the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force on 1 Jul 1973; the USAF undertook a vast construction program of operational facilities under the Japanese Facilities Adjustment Program, including a taxiway, ground equipment building, and two hangars for the USN between 1973-1975; the Japanese Facilities Adjustment program also reduced U.S. presence on Okinawa, beginning 27 Jul 1973; other U.S.-Japanese agreements permitted Oldnawans to farm unused portions of Kadena AB and some parts of its off-base installations beginning in Jul 1973; several operational facilities were shared with or transferred to the USN and USMC in 1975; the POL pipe line project from Chimuwan Bay completed in the fall of 1976; a 200-unit family housing facility for U.S. Navy families, several BOQs, EM quarters, and the expanded medical facility also accepted in 1976; functions performed by the U.S. Army, including the milk plant, laundry plant, all family housing on the island, the telephone exchanges, and consolidated servicing for civilian personnel transferred to the base during 1977; Okuma Recreation Center transferred from the Army in 1978; a number of older structures, including school buildings and warehouses returned to Japanese control 1979-1980; F-15 engine test stand and maintenance facilities for supporting F-15 operations completed 1980; the base converted from F-4D to F-15 aircraft and added an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) squadron of E-3As during 1980; new facilities, including a commissary and primary school, 50 aircraft weather shelters, a large number of family housing units, and the first of many programmed hardened aircraft shelters completed 1981-1982.


Kadena history dates back to just before the April 1945 invasion of Okinawa when a local construction firm completed a small airfield named Yara Hikojo near the village of Kadena.

The airfield, used by Japanese warplanes, was one of the first U.S. 10th Army targets and was captured just hours after American troops stormed the island beaches April 1. Americans captured a 5,000-foot strip of badly-damaged coral runway. Army engineers quickly made repairs and by nightfall the runway could accept emergency landings. After adding six inches of coral, the airfield was declared operational eight days later. By August 1945, an additional runway was built and the original runway lengthened and improved to accommodate bombers.

Although originally a fighter base, a B-29 organization -- the 316th Bombardment Wing -- was the first element responsible for base operations. The 316th was preparing to fly combat missions against Japan. However, President Harry Truman announced the end of offensive action against Japan on August 15,1945, before bombers could take to the skies. The surrender of the Ryukyus-deployed Japanese forces occurred Sept. 7 when Gen. Joseph Stilwell accepted the surrender at a location which later became Kadena's Stearley Heights housing.

The 316th BMW remained at Kadena until inactivation in 1948. An advanced element of the 316th returned to Kadena in June 1950 when the 19th Bomb Group arrived from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to fight the Korean War. In August 1950, the 307th Bomb Group arrived from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., adding to the base's growing bomber force.

When the Korean War ended in 1953, the B-29s departed and in 1954 were replaced with F-86 Sabrejets from the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing (from Korea). In March 1955, the 313th Air Division was activated at Kadena, replacing 20th Air Force as the senior U.S. Air Force organization in the Ryukyu Islands.

The 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, as the wing came to be known, exchanged its F-86F Sabre Jets for supersonic F-100D Super Sabres in 1957. The wing converted to F-105D Thunderchiefs in 1962. In the early '70s, the wing traded its Thunderchiefs for F-4C/D Phantoms. We received our latest fighters, the F-15 Eagle, in 1979.

Then, in 1991, the largest reorganization the base had ever seen took place when many units realigned, redesignated or inactivated. The 313th AD deactivated Sept. 30 and one day later Kadena combined three wings -- the 376th Strategic Wing, 18th Combat Support Wing and the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing -- into one, thus incorporating the E-3 Sentry (Airborne Warning and Control System), KC-135 Stratotanker and the F-15s all under one wing -- the 18th Wing. Since then, the 33rd Rescue Squadron and its HH-60G helicopters have also realigned under the 18th. Additional unit restructuring has followed, making Kadena one of the most complex and certainly the largest operational combat wing overseas in terms of the number of aircraft assigned.