You are here
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
In 2005, the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) recommended the merger of the Elmendorf Air Force Base and the Richardson Army Base to create what is now known as the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER); it was one of twelve military installations to be consolidated. The merger officially occurred in 2010, although the base's mission has remained the same: to support and defend the interests of the United States in Asia and Pacific region. The base is configured to project and stage military power throughout the world in accordance with the United States Indo-Pacific (USINDOPACOM) command structure. JBER hosts the Alaskan Command, the Alaskan NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) Region, the Joint Task Force-Alaska, Eleventh Air Force, the 673d Air Base Wing, the 3rd Wing, the 176th Wing, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, the United States Army Alaska, and seventy-five additional associate and tenant units.
The history of the two bases dates back to World War II. In 1940, the U.S. Army began construction on a permanent air base named Fort Richardson just north of Anchorage, where there was access to the Alaska Railroad and proximity to the port. The base was named after Brigadier General Wilds P. Richardson, an Army veteran who served in Alaska from 1897 through 1917, well before statehood. Richardson was instrumental in the expansion of military posts throughout Alaska during its early territorial days and also led expeditions in Russia and surveyed Alaska for the Army. The base included Elmendorf Field, named after Captain Hugh M. Elmendorf, a fighter pilot who died while testing aircraft in 1933. The Eleventh Air Force was organized here in 1942, and after the war was renamed the Alaskan Air Command; the operations that were based in Adak in the Aleutian Islands during World War II transferred to back the air base in 1947. Three years later, the Army moved to the eastern part of the base, which they continued to call Fort Richardson, and the original site became known as the Elmendorf Air Force Base.
In June 1940 the quartermaster general's office began construction of an airfield and housing for 7,000 men. The constructing quartermaster designed the base in a generally semicircular plan, set in the right angle of intersecting runways. In January 1941 the Corps of Engineers assumed control of all army construction. Housing and support facilities for an additional 7,500 men at Fort Richardson were authorized in December 1941, and the base continued to expand throughout the war. Since that time, the two bases have grown and contracted over the years, depending on the geopolitical needs of the era. Today, JBER hosts 5,500 joint military and civilian personnel, known collectively as America’s Arctic Warriors. Now composed of hundreds of buildings, most of them undistinguished, the base has a few buildings of interest, dating from its first decade.
Chandonnet, Fern, ed. Alaska at War, 1941-1945: The Forgotten War Remembered. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2007.
"Elmendorf Air Force Base History." Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Accessed June 17, 2020. https://www.jber.jb.mil/.
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.