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Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base
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Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base

Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base is a closed United States Air Force base. It is located south of Kansas City, Missouri. It was closed in 1994.

Opened in 1941 as a civil airport, Grandview Airport was used by both the Army Air Forces and the United States Navy during World War II as an overflow training airfield for Sedalia Army Airfield and Naval Air Station Olathe beginning in March 1944. The airport was acquired by the Army Air Forces Continental Air Forces, becoming an entirely military installation in February 1945. It later became a major United States Air Force base during the Cold War.



Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base was named on 27 April 1957 in honor of Kansas City natives 1st Lieutenant John Francisco Richards II (1894 1918) and Lieutenant Colonel Arthur William Gebaur Jr. (1919 1952). Lieutenant Richards's Nieuport was shot down on 26 September 1918 during an artillery surveillance mission on the first day of the World War I Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Prior to its renaming in 1957, the facility was designated Grandview Airport from the date of its acquisition by the Army Air Forces in March 1944, then Grandview Air Force Base beginning on 1 October 1942.

World War II

The City of Kansas City built Grandview Airport (IATA code GVW) in 1941. During World War II, the United States Army Air Forces I Troop Carrier Command built a facility on part of the airfield in 1944 which was used as a sub-base for Sedalia AAF (later Whiteman Air Force Base) for overflow traffic and training uses. The United States Navy also used the airport as an Outlying Landing Field (OLF) to Nas Olathe, Kansas where aviators were trained for carrier operations.

The main USAAF unit at Grandview Airport was the 813th AAF Base Unit. After the war, the AAF facility was turned over to Continental Air Forces with C-46 Commandos occasionally using the field until it was closed in November 1945. The airfield was declared surplus on 13 December 1945 and was transferred to Army Division Engineers on 1 March 1946 for disposal.

United States Air Force

As a result of the Cold War military buildup, Grandview Airport was leased by the United States Air Force on 1 January 1952. After some construction and upgrading of facilities, Grandview Air Force Base was opened on 1 October 1952, with the 4610th Air Base Squadron being the base operating unit (operating from Fairfax Field in Kansas City, Kansas). No military personnel were assigned prior to 1954 while major construction took place of runways, taxiways, aprons and support facilities.

Air Defense Command

Beneficial occupancy of Grandview AFB began on 16 February 1954 when the provisional 4676th Air Defense Group was activated by Air Defense Command on the new base. The 4676th ADG's mission was the management of the station facilities, commanding the Air Base squadron, Material and Supply squadrons, Infirmary and other support units. Shortly afterwards, in March 1954 the first operational flying unit arrived, the 326th Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons, assigned to the 33d Air Division and equipped with F-86D Sabre interceptors. The 326th upgraded to the F-102 Delta Dagger in 1957, and inactivated on 2 January 1967. Also in March 1954, the ADC Central Air Defense Force (CADF), a command and control organization established its headquarters at Grandview AFB, and the 20th Air Division activated its headquarters on 8 October. 326th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron Convair F-102A-80-CO Delta Dagger 56-1444 about 1960 Early in 1955, additional units were stationed at Grandview. The 442d Air Base Group assumed the base support function of the provisional 4767th ADG; the 328th FIS came under the command of the 328th Fighter Group, which controlled the interceptor squadrons at the base until inactivating in July 1968. The 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron arrived January 1967 from Selfridge AFB, Michigan with the F-106 Delta Dart, also inactivating in July 1968.

The C-46 Commando-equipped 442d Troop Carrier Wing was activated as a reserve unit under Continental Air Command Tenth Air Force. The 442d provided logistical support for CADF and later ADC units at Grandview (later Richards-Gebaur) Air Force Base for the next 25 years, upgrading to C-119 Flying Boxcars in 1957; C-123 Providers in 1961 and C-130 Hercules transports in 1971 until its inactivation in 1982. The ADC provisional 4650th Air Transport Squadron (later designated 4650th Combat Support Squadron) was established on 1 September 1959, providing active-duty personnel to the logistics mission for ADC at Richards-Gebaur. The 4650th operated the C-118 Liftmasters for personnel transport as well as C-123 Providers and C-119 Flying Boxcars from Detachments located at Stewart AFB, New York and Hamilton AFB, California. The 4650th inactivated on 31 July 1972.

In 1957, the next major organization to activate at Richards-Gebaur was the 4620th Air Defense Group. This was a training organization for the forthcoming ADC Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, to train operators and command personnel. Between May 1957 and June 1962, the 4620th ADG trained over 7,000 personnel in the use of SAGE system gear in all 22 ADC sectors planned in the United States and Canada. Its mission was completed with the last sector going operational and each sector assuming the training mission. The manual control center (MCC-2) used operators in the control center. They used the information to move markers on a large operational map, representing aircraft MCC-2 was commanded by the Kansas City Air Defense Sector (Manual) (KCADS) until its inactivation on 1 January 1962

The SAGE environment expanded in 1961 with the transfer from Malmstrom AFB, Montana of the 29th Air Division (SAGE), and the activation of the computerized SAGE Data Center DC-08. SAGE used massive AN/FSQ-7 computers to combine reports sent in via teletype linked radar stations to produce a picture of all of the air traffic in a particular "sector"s area. The information was then displayed on terminals in the building, allowing operators to pick defensive assets (fighters and missiles) to be directed onto the target simply by selecting them on the terminal. In addition to the Data Center, Richards-Gebaur, Combat Center (CC-06) operated from the SAGE blockhouse.

The 29th AD was moved to Duluth AFS, Minnesota on 1 April 1966, SAGE operations remained under Tenth Air Force/Headquarters Central NORAD Region until being inactivated on 31 December 1969 when technology advances allowed the Air Force to shut down many SAGE Data Centers.

As the threat of Soviet air attack diminished during the 1960s, the Air Defense presence at Richards-Gebaur was reduced. The inactivation of the 328th Fighter Group in July 1968 and the closure of DC-08/CC-06 in 1969 effectively ended the use of the base by the re-designated Aerospace Defense Command.

Air Force Communications Service

On 1 July 1970, the base was transferred over to the Air Force Communications Service (AFCS), with HQ AFCS establishing its headquarters on the base. On that same date, AFCS was merged with the Air Force Ground Equipment Engineering and Installation Agency (GEEIA).

At Richards-Gebaur, HQ AFCS established directorates to undertake hundreds of communications projects. These included microwave and cable modernization programs; improved tropospheric scatter transmission systems; high frequency transmission upgrades; solid-state electronics equipment renewal and upgrading of satellite communications equipment. In 1977, the first operational use was made of the global Air Force Satellite Communications System, designed to carry all Air Force communications via satellite links to and from anywhere in the world.

Beginning in 1978, HQ AFCS was given responsibility for the design, operation and maintenance of Air Force automated data processing systems. The Air Force Chief of Staff directed the integration of the communications, data automation and office automation disciplines Air Force-wide to take advantage of the then-emerging technologies. AFCS undertook major efforts to plan replacement of older early 1960s computer systems in base support functions such as supply, maintenance, personnel and finance.

During the 1970s, the 1801st Air Base Wing was the non-flying host unit at Richards-Gebaur. Established on 1 October 1970, it was inactivated and replaced on 1 October 1977. Military Airlift Command established a presence on the base with the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing in 1970; the 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Flight in 1974, and several Mobile Aerial Port Squadrons for deployment around the world.

Operational control of the base was turned over to the Air Force Reserve 1607th Air Base Group on 1 October 1977. HQ AFCS moved to Scott Air Force Base, Illinois on 1 October 1980, with jurisdictional control being turned over to AFRES.

Military Airlift Command

Along with the Air Defense and Communications mission, the Military Air Transport Service (MATS), later Military Airlift Command (MAC), begin using the base in 1955 as a reserve troop carrier unit facility under the auspices of the 2472nd Air Force Reserve Training Wing. C-119 Flying Boxcars and later C-124 Globemaster cargo and transport aircraft were flown by the 442d Troop Carrier (Later: the 442d Air Transport Wing / Military Airlift Wing / Tactical Airlift Wing)and assigned 935th Troop Carrier / Air Transport / Military Airlift / Tactical Airlift Group / 303d Troop Carrier / Air Transport / Military Airlift / Tactical Airlift Squadron and 936th Air Transport / Military Airlift / Tactical Airlift Group / 304th Troop Carrier / Air Transport / Military Airlift / Tactical Airlift Squadron until being transitioned to a fighter unit. MAC assumed control of the base in 1977 442nd TAW / 935th TAG - 303d TAS and the 936th TAG - 304th TAS to the base for training in flying C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Air Force Reserve

On 1 October 1980, MAC turned over Richards-Gebaur to the Air Force Reserve (AFRES) and its 442d Tactical Airlift Wing (442 TAW) tactical airlift mission, transitioned to the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft and became operationally-gained by Tactical Air Command (TAC) as the 442d Tactical Fighter Wing (442 TFW). Prior to the 442d's transition to the A-10, the wing also supported the 901st Tactical Airlift Group, which later moved to Peterson Air Force Base, being re-designated as the 302d Tactical Airlift Wing in 1985. In 1992, as part of an Air Force-wide reorganization, the 442d was renamed the 442d Fighter Wing (442 FW) and became operationally gained by the Air Combat Command (ACC).United States Air Force Reserve Colonel Garey M. Reeves, most recently the Commander of Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base and the 442nd Combat Support Group located there. Colonel Reeves became Commander of Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base on October 1, 1980. Under his command Richards-Gebaur was extensively remodeled and upgraded, modified for use as a shared facility with the Kansas City, Missouri Aviation Department and hosted numerous highly successful "Operation Handshake" programs, all while maintaining the combat readiness status of his command. As part of a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decision to close Richards-Gebaur ARS, the 442 FW began transferring to its current home of Whiteman AFB, Missouri in 1993 and the last military aircraft departed Richards-Gebaur ARS on 12 June 1994, ending military use of Richards-Gebaur.

Major commands to which assigned

Redesignated : Aerospace Defense Command, 15 January 1968

Major units assigned

Redesignated: 1840th Air Base Wing, 1 July 1970 - 31 December 1978
  • 1607th Air Base Group, 1 October 1977 - 9 October 1978
Redesignated: 1607th Air Base Squadron, 9 October 1978 - 1 October 1980
326th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (1954-1967) (F-86D, F-102)
65th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (1957-1958)
326th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (1961-1967) (F-102)
71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (1967-1968) (F-106)
  • Previously designated as 442d Tactical Fighter Wing (A-10), 442d Tactical Airlift Wing (C-130), 442d Military Airlift Wing (C-124) and 442d Air Transport Wing (C-124), 442d Troop Carrier Wing (C-119)

Civil use after 1994

The former Richards-Gebaur AFB about 2003 Today, many of the remaining buildings of the former Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base are occupied by private companies and some of the former Officer's Housing areas are being utilized by the Marine Corps. The former Base Exchange building is now an Army Reserve Center.

After a Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) memo in the early 1960s declared that the city's Kansas City Downtown Airport was the most unsafe major airport in the country, the city considered relocating its main airport to Richards-Gebaur. However, the city government ended up relocating the facility north of the city at Kansas City International Airport.

Between 1983 and 1997 the city of Kansas City lost $18 million operating Richards-Gebaur Memorial airport and in 1998, the Federal Aviation Authority approved a plan to close the airport. In 2001 the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision to close the airport in a suit brought by Friends of Richards-Gebaur Airport of Grandview, Missouri.

The former airport is now used as the Kansas City SmartPort for Kansas City Southern Railroad to ship cargo to and from Mexico. Several businesses, in major agreement with the City of Kansas City and the State of Missouri, are removing the old runway and facilities and building a large truck-to-rail freight center, with above-ground and underground storage. The CenterPoint-Kansas City Southern Intermodal Center will cover of rail and industrial space. Phase I of the project will include of covered industrial warehouses and distribution centers. Developer CenterPoint Properties of Chicago bought the property from the Port Authority of Kansas City, which still owns and with Hunt Midwest Enterprises, Inc., will mine limestone and create underground storage spaces. Major transportation companies include Kansas City Southern railway and Schneider National, Inc., a truck line. Kansas City Southern's main line runs from the intermodal center at Richards-Gebaur all the way to a deep-sea Pacific port at Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico. The first phase is expected to cost $250M and when complete will be able to handle up to 250,000 shipping containers per year.

The main user of the base is the United States Army Reserve's 308th Tactical Psychological Operations Company, the Army Reserve Center, as well as the United States Marine Corps' Mobilization Command. The Army and Marines have upgraded the buildings they use, as well as constructing new facilities. The Army Reserve Center occupied the building that was the brand new Base Exchange (BX), which was only open for military personnel for a very short time before the base lost its primary active duty status.

Richards-Gebaur AFB was a very nice well kept facility with modern updates including new Base Exchange prior to 1976. The golf course had been expanded and was top grade. The base even had a saddle club that included the best arena in the southern KC area. The RG Saddle Club was host to many horse shows and events including the Golden Circle Horse Show circuit. With a youth center and even an airman's club the base had a lot to offer to the active duty personnel their families and the retired that lived in the area.

Today the facility is essentially abandoned, with the buildings and flightline in a deteriorating state. Many of the Air Force buildings such as the Officers and NCO Clubs, the Commissary, Hospital, Base Theater, Wing Headquarters buildings and some housing units have been completely demolished and removed.

Most of the old ADC facilities still exist (including the SAGE block-house), the alert hangars and pads remain, although the runway and taxiways are deteriorating. Many of the old hangars have been torn down for the new rail-to-truck freight center, and portions of the runway are slowly being removed as rails are installed.

See also


  • Mueller, Robert (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-912799-53-6, ISBN 0-16-002261-4
  • Aerospace Defense Command publication, The Interceptor, January 1979 (Volume 21, Number 1).
  • A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980, by Lloyd H. Cornett and Mildred W. Johnson, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
  • Winkler, David F. (1997), Searching the skies: the legacy of the United States Cold War defense radar program. Prepared for United States Air Force Headquarters Air Combat Command.
  • Information for Richards-Gebaur AFB, MO

External links

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