October 22, 1935: Formation of Muroc Bombing and Gunnery Range

  • Published
  • US Army Air Forces

General Henry Arnold, United States Army, commanding the 1st Wing of the General Headquarters Air Force at March Field (defending the West Coast and Alaska), outlined to the House Military Committee the additional land and resources needed to complete the Muroc Bombing and Gunnery Range. In addition to the 38,720 acres of land presently owned by the federal government, 30,000 acres of Southern Pacific Railroad land and 12,526 acres of privately owned land were necessary for full use and safety of the range facility. Total cost of the additional land would be $130,000. A further $50,000 of physical improvements were also required, including a railroad siding, gasoline storage facilities, permanent quarters for range personnel, and triangulation stations to measure bombing accuracy.

n 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".

n 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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