Hanscom Air Force Base (AFB) is a United States Air Force facility which is located close to the Massachusetts National Guard barracks. Established in 1942, it was named after Laurence G. Hanscom, a local aviator and journalist who died in an accident the year before.
Origins & History
Hanscom AFB is named for a man who had lobbied extensively for an airfield in the town of Bedford prior to his death in an air crash in 1941 at Saugas, Massachusetts.
A keen pilot and aviation enthusiast, Laurence G. Hanscom, born in 1906, was also a State House reporter and also founded the Massachusetts Civil Air Reserve. Established as the United States entered the Second World War, the focus of the base had shifted to radar operations from combat missions by the time hostilities ceases in 1945. The first unit to deploy to the base was the US Army Air Force 85th Fighter Squadron.
Equipped with Curitss P-40 fighters, this unit prepared for its later deployment in combat operations in North Africa and Europe.
Several fighter squadrons would train at the base, in readiness for their assignment to European bases such as, for example, Lakenheath, an RAF AFB in England. Ninety-five US Army and Navy planes were housed at the base by the end of World War Two, although the focus had shifted by 1944 away from combat preparation and more towards radar, with the base working more closely with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on radar systems. Recent additions
The most recent addition to the facilities at Hanscom AFB was established in 2001, with the completion of the new Base Exchange and Commissary.
Radar Work & Tragedy
In September 1945, the Army Air Force had set up Cambrdge Field Station, adjacent to MIT.
This facility's purpose was to continue the AAF's research programmes in the areas of radar, radio and electronic research.
This followed the dissolution of the wartime laboratories of both Harvard University and MIT.
MIT's experimental test facilities at Hanscom were taken over by the new facility, which recruited scientists and engineers from the dissolved labs, with their work including the Microwave Early Warning ground radar. However, tragedy struck the base in July 1945, when a plane which had departed from Hanscom crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building, New York City.
The aircraft was a Mitchell B-25 bomber, bound for Newark, New Jersey, which became lose in fog over New York. Sixteen people died and 32 were injured in the disaster.