June 21, 1940: Muroc Gunnery Range Officially Activated

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  • U.S. Army Air Corps

The Muroc Bombing and Gunnery Range was officially activated, although it had been in continuous use since September, 1933. At that time, the Army facility was concentrated on the eastern shore of the lakebed. It consisted solely of a wooden building, several tents, and a wooden water tower. It was manned by a detachment of approximately 20 men from March Field.

On the afternoon of December 7, 1941, the 41st Bombardment Group and the 6th Reconnaissance Squadron moved to Muroc from Davis-Monthan Army Airfield, Arizona, with a collection of B-18 Bolos, B-25 Mitchells, and an A-29 Hudson. On Christmas Eve, the 30th Bombardment Group and the 2d Reconnaissance Squadron arrived from New Orleans Army Airbase, Louisiana, for crew training.  On July 23, 1942, the Muroc Bombing and Gunnery Range, Muroc Lake, California, was designated as a separate post.  The name of the facility at the time was "Army Air Base, Muroc Lake".

In July 1942, Muroc Army Airfield became a separate airfield from March Field and was placed under the jurisdiction of Fourth Air Force.  Throughout the war years, the primary mission at Muroc was providing final combat training for bomber and fighter aircrews just before overseas deployment. 

Muroc was initially used for IV Bomber Command Operational Unit training. The Mitchell and the A-20 Havoc trained at the station in early 1942.  The training provided newly graduated pilots eight to 12 weeks of training as a team using the same aircraft they would use in combat.  In 1942, the training mission was transferred to IV Fighter Command, with P-38 Lightning training for the 78th and 81st Fighter Groups. In 1943, the 360th Fighter Group and 382d Bombardment Groups were assigned permanently to Muroc for Lightning and B-24 Liberator Replacement Training of personnel.

In spring 1942, the Mojave Desert station was chosen as a secluded site for testing America's first jet, the super-secret Bell Aircraft P-59 Airacomet jet fighter.  The immense volume of flight test being conducted at Wright Field, in Ohio, helped drive a search for a new, isolated site where a "Top Secret" airplane could undergo tests "away from prying eyes."  The urgent need to complete the P-59 program without delay dictated a location with good, year-round flying weather, and the risks inherent in the radical new technology to be demonstrated on the aircraft dictated a spacious landing field.  After examining a number of locations around the country, they selected a site along the north shore of the enormous, flat surface of Rogers Dry Lake about six miles away from the training base at Muroc.

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