Holloman has roots in Easter holiday

  • Published
  • By Mr. Rick Shea
  • 49th Fighter Wing historian
Few Airmen here may not realize that the Easter holiday marks a birthday of sorts for what is now Holloman Air Force Base. 

On Easter Sunday, April 13, 1941, Maj. Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold, Chief of the United States Army Air Corps, met with Air Vice Marshal Sir A.G.R. "Guy" Garrod, at the American Embassy in London, England, to discuss the possibility of a British Overseas Training Program and facilities within the United States. 

General Arnold presented Air Vice Marshal Garrod with several options that allowed the U.S. to provide maximum aid to the British. For many reasons, one of Garrod's choices was the great state of New Mexico, specifically the Tularosa Basin. 

The basin offered the British flyers good, year-round weather, sparse habitation, flat terrain and the relative isolation from large cities. 

Although Britain soon abandoned its initial plans to use the Tularosa Basin for pilot training, after the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian Islands, the U.S. government let its intentions be known that its interest in continuing the base development for use as a bombing range still existed. 

In October 1941, area ranchers from Otero to Lincoln and Doña Ana to Socorro counties received notification that their public land leases had been terminated and livestock was to be removed from those lands to make way for the new Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range, today known as the White Sands Missile Range. By November, planning for an air base began when officials from the Air Corps Fourth Air Force headquarters arrived in Alamogordo to determine the feasibility of creating an air base associated with the bombing range. 

Holloman still retains the influence of the Royal Air Force's characteristic three-runway configuration. Also characteristic of the British military design is the distinct three-part cantonment system, whereby mission-related operations are carried-out in the north and west areas of the cantonment configuration while the base's operational and support units operate on the south end of the system. 

The contributions of the thousands of individuals assigned to ABGR, later renamed Alamogordo Army Air Field and then later Holloman Air Force Base are extensive. The list of their accomplishments reads like a novel: the preparation of World War II bomber crews; the first atomic detonation; America's entry into the space race with the V-2 rocket; Dr. Stapp's sled speed experiments and the G-forces involved with speed; Capt. Joseph Kittinger's Man High Project and the employment of first generation stealth technology. 

Today we prepare for the arrival of the Tularosa Basin's latest contribution to our nation's defense. The upcoming arrival of the F-22A Raptor provides all of us the opportunity to continue the legacy set before us; an opportunity to even create our own legacy.