Tonopah Army Air Field

Following the Invasion of Poland in 1939, Tonopah was selected to become home to a bombing and gunnery practice range. On October 29, 1940, some 3 million acres of public land southeast of town was transferred to the War Department, and construction began. On July 1, 1942, the first military personnel arrived: the Bombing and Gunnery Range Detachment from Muroc Lake, California. At that time, the base consisted of runways, barracks, mess halls and a hospital, but it quickly ran out of housing causing several soldiers to live in tents (during this time, the famed Goldfield Hotel in Goldfield was also used to house soldiers). The aircraft flown in these early days was the Bell P-39 Airacobra, and in 1943 twelve squadrons were training at the base.

In September 1943, a $3 million expansion began to transform the base into a Consolidated B-24 Liberator training ground. About half of the personnel were relocated to the Bishop Army Air Field during construction, but they returned on November 1, by which time it was mostly complete. By late in the next year, 66 B-24 aircraft were used for training at the Tonopah AAF, and crews would thereafter be assigned to bases in Europe or the Pacific. It also became a testing ground for guided bombs that year, and reached a peak of over 6,000 personnel. Unfortunately, during this time as a training base, the Tonopah AAF was the site of 58 serious crashes, with a loss of 134 lives.

In 1945, World War II came to an end and the Tonopah AAF was deactivated on August 23. Training ceased three days later, and by September only four aircraft remained. In June 1947, the base was declared excess property and over the next few years was designated the Tonopah Air Force Base, transferred to the Army Corp of Engineers, and finally to the town of Tonopah for use as an airport. An ordnance disposal team cleared the land in 1949, and in the years since most buildings have been removed and/or relocated. Four impressive wooden hangars were left following the base's closure, but unfortunately in the decades since one has burned and one has collapsed.

TonopahMines & Mills
Tonopah Historic Mining Park
Tonopah Army Air Field