Army Bases

Biggs Army Airfield, Texas

Military aviation began at Fort Bliss in 1916 when the First Aero Squadron was attached to General Pershing’s Punitive Expedition in pursuit of Poncho Villa. They were equipped with Curtiss JN-2 "Jenny’s", and their mission included scouting, observation and courier service for the cavalry and infantry units on the ground. The first air field was located in the middle of the present day post.

In June of 1919, two squadrons of DeHavilland DH-4 Bombers, known affectionately as "Flying Coffins" replaced the frail Jennies and the Border Air Patrol was born. For the next few years, "Bliss Field", as it was called, supported the mission of the patrol and welcomed aviation personalities such as General Billy Mitchell and Eddie Rickenbacker as well as military figures such as General of the Armies John J. Pershing.

In 1920, the Eighth Airship Company was activated at Camp Owen Bierne, about a mile north and east of Bliss Field near the present intersections were constantly hampered by high and gusty winds, and the units was deactivated in 1922.

On January 25th 1925 the War Department officially named the field for LT. James Berthes "Buster" Biggs. Biggs was a native El Paso aviator who had been killed in 1918 when his plane crashed at Belrain, France.

The remainder of the twenties and thirties were quiet years. Biggs field served Fort Bliss as a transient terminal until the establishment of the 20th Observation Squadron and a Tow Target Squadron in 1939.

With World War II imminent, a massive construction effort was begun at Biggs Army Airfield between 1942-1945. The field itself was moved north and east of the old balloon hanger to its present location. Huge hangars and longer concrete runways were built to accommodate Army Air Corps bombers and other aircraft as Biggs was assigned to Second Air Force in 1942. Biggs field functioned as a training and transient base though out the war.

In 1947, the United States Air Force came into existence. Assigned to the strategic Air Command, Biggs Air Force Base would serve as home base for heavy bombers such as the B-36 Peacemaker, the B-47 Stratojet and the B-52 Stratofortress for the next 19 years.

In 1966, the Air Force moved off of Biggs and released the base for Army use. In 1973, Biggs was reactivated as a permanent US Army Airfield, making it the largest active Army Airfield in the world.

Air Force aircraft such as the B-52 and C-5 return to Biggs Field periodically for joint forces training exercises such as Roving Sands and Border Star.

In 1990-91, Biggs Army Airfield supported the large-scale airlift of forces and equipment deployed for Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Biggs Airfield continues to host C-5A Galaxies and other Air Force airlift aircraft which transport personnel and equipment on rotation to Southwest Asia and other theaters of operation. Because of its heavy-duty and extra-long runway, Biggs occasionally accommodates a specially equipped Boeing 747 as it carries a space shuttle to Kennedy space Center in Florida from Edwards Air Force Base in California.

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