Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
The year 1941 brought with it the beginnings of unprecedented change to California's picturesque Central Coast. Once a haven for wild game and cattle grazing, some 86,000 acres of open lands in the Lompoc-Guadalupe-Santa Maria triangle passed to the United States Army, and practically overnight became the site of a huge military encampment called Camp Cooke. As a training center for armored and infantry troops, young recruits assigned to Cooke were forged into combat-ready soldiers and shipped overseas for duty against German and Japanese forces. After the war and a short period of inactivation, the installation was called up again for the Korean War in 1950.
Between the wars and as late as January 1957, the military reservation had reverted to its previous use for cattle and sheep grazing. Transformation of Camp Cooke into the nation's first space and ballistic missile operational and training base began in 1957 when it was transferred to the United States Air Force. In the proceeding year it was renamed Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The installation is about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles, and is presently operated by Air Force Space Command's 30th Space Wing. Vandenberg AFB is the only military base in the United States from which unmanned government and commercial satellites are launched into polar orbit. It is also the only site from which intercontinental ballistic missiles are test fired into the Pacific Ocean, and splash down at the Kwajalein Atoll within the Marshall Islands.
The Army at Camp Cooke
The year 1941 was a pivotal time in world history. The Nazi blitzkrieg had overrun most of Europe, while large areas of the Pacific region had fallen to Japanese occupation.
With the war spreading to other areas soon it would be America's turn to take up the battle. As the nation began its rearmament program, the Army sought more and better training centers for the rapid development of its armored and infantry forces. In March 1941, the Army acquired approximately 86,000 acres of open ranch lands along the Central Coast of California between Lompoc and Santa Maria. Most of the land was purchased. Smaller parcels were obtained either by lease, license, or as easements. With its flat plateau, surrounding hills, numerous canyons, and relative remoteness from populated areas, the Army was convinced it had found the ideal training location.
Construction of the Army camp began in September 1941. Although its completion was still months away, the Army activated the camp on October 5, and named it Camp Cooke in honor of Major General Phillip St. George Cooke.
General Cooke was a cavalry officer whose military career spanned almost half a century, beginning with his graduation from West Point in 1827 to his retirement in 1873. He participated in the Mexican War, the Indian Wars, and the Civil War. A native of Virginia, General Cooke remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War. Perhaps his most enduring achievement came when as a colonel during the Mexican War, he led a battalion of Mormons from Missouri to California. The route led by Colonel Cooke in 1847 opened the first wagon route to California, and today the railroad follows much of the early wagon trails.
Although the construction of Camp Cooke continued well into 1942, troop training did not wait. The 5th Armored Division rolled into camp in February and March, and the steady roar of its tanks and artillery soon became part of the daily scene. From then until the end of the war, other armored and infantry divisions kept up the din before they too left for overseas duty.
Besides the 5th Division, the 6th, 11th, 13th, and 20th Armored Divisions as well as the 86th and 97th Infantry Divisions, and the 2d Filipino Infantry Regiment were all stationed at Cooke at varying times during the war. Also trained at Cooke were an assortment of anti-aircraft artillery, combat engineer, ordnance, and hospital units. Over 400 separate and distinct outfits passed through Camp Cooke.
As the war progressed, German and Italian prisoners of war (the latter organized into Italian Service Units) were quartered at Camp Cooke. Both groups were kept separate from each other in accordance with the Geneva Convention, and worked on the post at various jobs including mechanical and civil engineering services, clerical positions, food service, and the main laundry. To help relieve the severe labor shortage in the commercial market created by wartime exigencies, the Germans also worked in local communities - mostly in agricultural jobs.
A maximum security army disciplinary barracks was constructed on post property in 1946. Confined to the facility were military prisoners from throughout the Army. When Camp Cooke closed in June 1946, personnel at the disciplinary barracks received the additional duty as installation caretakers. Practically the entire camp was then leased for agriculture and grazing.
From August 1950 to February 1953, Camp Cooke served as a training installation for units slated for combat in Korea, and as a summer training base for many other reserve units. On February 1, 1953, the camp was again inactivated. Four years later the military would return to Camp Cooke, but this time the Air Force was here to stay.
The disciplinary barracks, meanwhile, was transferred to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to house civilian offenders in August 1959. Today it is known as the United States Penitentiary at Lompoc.
The Air Force Takes Charge
With the advent of the missile age in the 1950s, an urgent need arose for an adequate training site that could also serve as America's first combat ready missile base. In January 1956, a select committee was formed that examined more than 200 potential sites before Camp Cooke was chosen, essentially for the same characteristics the Army found desirable in 1941. Besides its size, remoteness from heavily populated areas, and having a moderate climate that afforded year-round operations, most importantly, Cooke's coastal location allowed missiles to be launched into the Pacific Ocean without population overflights. This same geographic feature also enabled satellites to be launched into polar orbit directly toward the South Pole without overflying any land mass until reaching Antarctica.
In September 1956, Secretary of the Air Force, Donald Quarles accepted the committee's recommendation. A few weeks later, on November 16, 1956, Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson directed the Army to transfer 64,000 acres of North Camp Cooke to the Air Force for use as a missile launch and training base. In June 1957, North Camp Cooke was renamed Cooke Air Force Base, and on the 21st was transferred to the Air Force. In January, however, the Air Force, had received access to the camp, and with the arrival of the first airman in February, established on the 15th the 6591st Support Squadron.
The scene that met the first airmen to the base was a cluttered mass of dilapidated World War II buildings amid weeds and brush growing everywhere. Roads-mostly gravel and dirt trails-were in need of extensive repair. In late April 1957, parallel renovation and construction programs started. Over the next two years, missile launch and control facilities began to appear as tons of concrete and steel transformed the landscape. Old buildings were renovated and new ones built, including Capehart military family housing. The work was already in process when the Air Force hosted the official ground breaking ceremonies on May 8, 1957.
To operate Cooke AFB, the 392d Air Base Group was activated, replacing the 6591st Support Squadron on April 15, 1957. With the activation of the 704th Strategic Missile Wing (Atlas) at Cooke on July 1, the 392d was assigned to the wing. On July 16, the 1st Missile Division, activated three months earlier in Inglewood, California, relocated to Cooke AFB to supervise wing operations. During this formative period, the work of these latter two organizations involved planning for missile operations and training. The Division was assigned to Air Force Ballistic Missile Division (AFBMD) in Inglewood, which in turn reported to Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) at Andrews AFB, Maryland.
The launching of the Russian Sputnik satellite into orbit on October 4, 1957, followed a month later by Sputnik 2 that carried a dog into space, had military implications and caused an immediate acceleration of the United States Air Force's missile program. As part of the acceleration, the Air Force transferred management responsibilities for Cooke AFB from ARDC to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) on January 1, 1958. Along with the transfer, SAC acquired the three ARDC base organizations and responsibility for attaining initial operational capability (IOC) for the nascent U.S. missile force. Their mission also included training missile launch crews.
The reorganization allowed ARDC to retain responsibility for site activation as well as research and development testing of ballistic missiles, also known as Category II testing. These activities were carried out by an AFBMD field office established at Cooke shortly after the transfers of January 1958. Space launches were to be conducted by ARDC and SAC. However, the vast majority of these operations were later handled by ARDC. Sharing the mission at Cooke, the two commands cultivated a close relationship that was to flourish for the next 35 years.
On October 4, 1958, Cooke AFB was renamed Vandenberg AFB in honor of the late General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, the Air Force's second Chief of Staff.
Launch Vehicles and Programs
The transition from Army camp to missile base solidified on December 16, 1958 when Vandenberg successfully launched its first missile, a Thor IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile). Vandenberg set another record on February 28, 1959, when it launched the world's first polar orbiting satellite, Discoverer I. The launch vehicle for this mission consisted of a Thor/Agena combination.
The Discoverer series of satellites provided other significant firsts for Vandenberg. For instance, in August 1960, the data capsule was ejected from Discoverer XIII in orbit and recovered from the Pacific Ocean to become the first man-made object ever retrieved from space. A week later, on August 19th, the descending capsule from Discoverer XIV was snared by an aircraft in flight for the first air recovery in history.
Shrouded in a cover story of scientific research, Discoverer was actually the cover name for Corona, America's first photo reconnaissance satellite program. The publicized Discoverer series came to an end on January 13, 1962. After 37 launches or launch attempts, the cover story for Discoverer had simply worn out.
The first intercontinental ballistic missile, the Atlas ICBM, flew from Vandenberg on September 9, 1959. The following month, equipped with a nuclear warhead, the Atlas at Vandenberg became the first ICBM to be placed on alert in the United States. As a space booster, the Atlas was also configured with an Agena upper stage and carried many different types of satellites. In 1961, the Titan I entered the inventory at Vandenberg AFB, but was soon replaced by the more advanced Titan II with storable propellants, all inertial guidance, and in-silo launch capability. Like its predecessor the Atlas ICBM, the Titan II also serves as a space booster.
The advent of solid-propellant gave the three-stage Minuteman ICBM a major advantage over earlier liquid propellant ICBMs. Minuteman I flight tests began at Vandenberg in September 1962.
Beginning in June 1983, the first Peacekeeper (MX) ICBM was launched from Vandenberg. In additional to having a longer range than earlier ICBMs, the Peacekeeper could deliver up to 10 reentry vehicles to separate targets.
The latest missile deployed at Vandenberg in 2005 is the Ground-based Interceptor (GBI). It is part of a Missile Defense System advocated by President George W. Bush.
Over the years, unmanned satellites of every description and purpose, including international satellites, were placed in orbit from Vandenberg by a widening variety of boosters. Among the parade of newer space boosters are the Titan IV (March 1991), Taurus (March 1994), Pegasus (April 1995), Delta II (February 1996), Atlas IIAS (December 1999), Minotaur (2000), and beginning in late 2005, the Falcon 1, the Delta IV, and Atlas V vehicles.
The most ambitious Air Force endeavors at Vandenberg were the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) and the Space Shuttle programs. The MOL vehicle consisted of a Titan III booster carrying a modified Gemini B capsule attached to a space laboratory. Construction work for MOL began at Space Launch Complex 6 (SLC-6) on South Vandenberg in March 1966. President Richard Nixon canceled the estimated $3 billion program in June 1969, as a result of cost overruns, completion delays, emerging new technologies, and the expense of fighting the Vietnam War. SLC-6 remained closed for the next decade.
Beginning in January 1979, SLC-6 underwent an estimated $4 billion modification program in preparation for the Space Shuttle. Persistent site technical problems, however, and a joint decision by the Air Force and NASA to consolidate Shuttle operations at Cape Canaveral in Florida, following the Challenger tragedy in 1986, resulted in the official termination of the Shuttle program at Vandenberg on December 26, 1989.
Lockheed Martin modified SLC-6, and between 1995 an 1999 launched three commercial space satellites from the facility. The Boeing Company replaced Lockheed Martin at SLC-6, and began retrofitting the site for its Delta IV vehicle.
As of November 2005, 1,858 orbital and ballistic missiles had lifted off from Vandenberg AFB.
As mentioned in the section, "The Air Force Takes Charge," the Air Force acquired the northern half of Camp Cooke from the Army in June 1957. The southern portion, consisting of more than 19,800 acres, was transferred to the U.S. Navy in May 1958. The Navy was in the process of establishing a Pacific Missile Range (PMR) with a headquarters 100 miles south of Cooke at Point Mugu, and instrumentation sites along the California coast and at various islands down range in the Pacific Ocean. The property it acquired from Camp Cooke was renamed the Naval Missile Facility at Point Arguello. It became a major launch head and range safety center for all missile and satellite launch operations conducted within the PMR.
On November 16, 1963, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara ordered a restructuring in the way the Department of Defense managed and operated its missile ranges and flight test facilities across the nation. Part of the force restructuring had the Navy transfer major sections of its Pacific Missile Range, including its Point Arguello installation, to the Air Force in two parts. The first transfer occurred on July 1, 1964. In the second part of the transfer, remote properties and mobile resources, explained in detail in the next section, were handed over to Vandenberg on February 1, 1965.
With the Navy's missile program and range authorities scaled back to the area around Point Mugu, the Air Force now assumed full responsibility for missile range safety at Vandenberg and over much of the Pacific Ocean. The Air Force renamed this geographical area the Air Force Western Test Range. The designation remained until 1979 when it was shortened to the Western Test Range.
The final land acquisition at Vandenberg occurred on March 1, 1966, after the Air Force had announced plans to construct Space Launch Complex 6 for its Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program. Flight safety corridors for the Titan III MOL vehicle reportedly extended south of Point Arguello and inland to an area known as Sudden Ranch. The Air Force sought to purchase this property, but when negotiations with the Sudden Estate Company failed to reach a compromise purchase price, the government turned to condemnation proceedings (under the power of eminent domain). By filing a Declaration of Taking with the federal court in Los Angeles, it obtained almost 15,000 acres of Sudden Ranch. Finalized on December 20, 1968, the federal court established $9,002,500 as the purchase price for the land. The total amount paid to the company with interest was $9,842,700.
The annexation of Sudden Ranch increased the size of the base to its present 99,099 acres (154.84 square miles). Today, Vandenberg stands as the third largest Air Force base after Eglin AFB in Florida, and Edwards AFB in California.
As discussed earlier, a new chapter in the Cooke-to-Vandenberg story opened with the establishment of a field office in July 1958. Created by Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) through its Air Force Ballistic Missile Division (AFBMD), the office replaced the three organizations that ARDC had transferred to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in January 1958. Placed under the command of Colonel Joseph J. Cody, Jr., it continued the work of managing launch facility construction. It also conducted research and development flight tests of Thor and Atlas missiles; supported SAC's deployment of operational versions of these missiles; and launched unmanned space vehicles into polar orbit around the earth.
By 1960, the launch rate at Vandenberg had increased four-fold since the first launch in December 1958. To keep pace with this growing momentum, AFBMD enlarged its field office into the 6565th Test Wing (Ballistic Missiles and Space Systems) in October 1960. In December, the parenthetical designator was changed to "(Development)," though the unit remained the 6565th Test Wing. When ARDC was restructured and redesignated as Air Force Systems Command on April 1, 1961, that same order also reassigned the wing to Space Systems Division in Los Angeles. In November 1961, the wing was redesignated the 6595th Aerospace Test Wing.
On November 16, 1963, Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, issued a memorandum that significantly altered operations and responsibilities. In one part of the memorandum, he directed tighter authorities on the ways the Department of Defense managed and operated its missile ranges and flight test facilities across the nation. The other part of the memorandum affirmed the Air Force as the lead service for launch operations over the Pacific Ocean.
The effect of this memorandum was first felt on January 2, 1964, when HQ AFSC organized two provisional field components: a Headquarters National Range Division (NRD) at Patrick AFB, Florida; and a Headquarters Air Force Space Test Center at Vandenberg AFB. The test center and the existing Headquarters Air Force Missile Test Center at Patrick were assigned to NRD. As the Overseer of both centers, the NRD became the central authority for all coordinated planning of ICBM and space vehicle launches and tracking networks on a worldwide basis.
The Air Force refined the organizational structure on the east and west coasts by replacing the two provisional organizations on May 15, 1964. At Vandenberg, Headquarters Air Force Western Test Range (AFWTR) was established; and at Patrick, the Air Force Missile Test Center was redesignated Headquarters Air Force Eastern Test Range. Both ranges were assigned to a new National Range Division, organized at Andrews AFB, Maryland.
Meanwhile, in the other part of McNamara's memorandum, the U.S. Navy was instructed to turn over most of its Pacific Missile Range to Vandenberg AFB. On July 1, 1964, the Navy lost the southern half of Camp Cooke that it had acquired in 1958 and renamed the Naval Missile Facility at Point Arguello. Additional transfers on February 1, 1965, involved fixed and mobile range sites at Pillar Point, California; Kokee Park, Hawaii; South Point, Hawaii; Canton, Midway, and Wake Islands in the mid-Pacific; Eniwetok and Bikini Atolls in the Marshall Islands; and six range instrumented ships (Huntsville, Longview, Range Tracker, Richfield, Sunnyvale, and Watertown). At the conclusion of these transfers, HQ AFWTR received full responsibility for all ICBM and space support functions, previously assigned to the Navy's Pacific Missile Range. By 1968, the AFWTR fleet had increased to eleven ships and was also supporting NASA's manned space program at Cape Canaveral, Florida. As land-based tracking and monitoring systems became more accurate and reliable, the need for costly range ships diminished. In January 1975, AFWTR decommissioned its last ship, the USNS Sunnyvale. For similar reasons, most of the island instrumentation sites were also transferred to other agencies.
Starting in 1970, Air Force System Command (AFSC) and the Strategic Air Command (SAC) organizations at Vandenberg underwent numerous reorganizations and realignments. The first of these major changes involving AFSC units occurred on April 1, 1970. HQ AFWTR, the 6595th Aerospace Test Wing, and the 6555th Aerospace Test Wing at Patrick AFB, Florida, were realigned under a new organization at Vandenberg called the Space and Missile Test Center (SAMTEC). SAMTEC was assigned to the Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO) in Los Angeles.
In the SAMTEC reorganization, Headquarters AFWTR was inactivated; the 6595th Aerospace Test Wing was restructured by transferring its support elements to the staff of the new organization, and redesignating its primary mission elements from program divisions to 6595th space and missile test groups. The National Range Division which had coordinated Eastern and Western Range activities since 1964, was abolished on February 1, 1972, two years after the reorganization.
On October 1, 1979, HQ SAMTEC was redesignated Headquarters Space and Missile Test Organization (SAMTO). At the same time, the 6595th Aerospace Test Wing was inactivated and two reporting organizations were established: the Western Space and Missile Center (collocated with SAMTO) at Vandenberg AFB, and the Eastern Space and Missile Center (ESMC) at Patrick AFB. WSMC assumed the lineage from Headquarters Air Force Western Test Range, inactivated since April 1, 1970. WSMC consisted of staff agencies, the Western Test Range (WTR) organization, and the 6595th missile and space test groups. The 6555th Aerospace Test Group was reassigned to HQ ESMC.
On October 1, 1990, most of WSMC was reassigned from Air Force Systems Command to Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). Simultaneously, the 2d Space Launch Squadron (Atlas) was activated. Together with the WTR and a support staff, all three organizations comprised the new AFSPC WSMC. Other elements of the original WSMC involved in research and development launch programs remained with AFSC as separate entities at Vandenberg. They were later consolidated as Detachment 9, Space and Missile Systems Center, headquartered in Los Angeles, California.
In 1990, the main two Strategic Air Command units at Vandenberg were the 4392d Aerospace Support Wing which operated the base, and its immediate headquarters, the 1st Strategic Aerospace Division (1 STRAD). When 1 STRAD moved to Vandenberg (then Cooke AFB) on July 16, 1957, it was known as the 1st Missile Division. Its name was changed to 1 STRAD on July 21, 1961. Thirty years later, on July 31, 1990, it was redesignated the Strategic Missile Center.
The next large organizational change occurred on January 15, 1991, when host base responsibilities for Vandenberg AFB transferred from the Strategic Air Command (SAC) to AFSPC's WSMC. Also transferred to WSMC were the 4392d Aerospace Support Wing, the 392d Communications Group, the hospital, and various staff functions. The transfer increased the manning at WSMC from about 500 people before the realignment to approximately 3,300 after the change. For the time being, the remaining SAC organizations at Vandenberg continued their mission of launching Peacekeeper and Minuteman III ICBMs as part of the Follow-on Test and Evaluation program. They also continued combat crew training.
Changes at Vandenberg continued with the inactivation of the Strategic Missile Center, and the reactivation of the famed World War II Twentieth Air Force on 1 September 1991. The new organization remained a SAC unit, until June 1, 1992, when SAC was inactivated, and replaced by Air Combat Command (ACC). The Twentieth Air Force remained at Vandenberg until 1 October 1993 when it relocated to F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, and set up a new headquarters seven days later.
Meanwhile, on November 19, 1991, WSMC was redesignated the 30th Space Wing. In actuality, its Operations Group assumed the lineage and history of the 30th Bombardment Group (Heavy), and shared the number designation with its reporting unit, the former WSMC. The Bombardment Group flew combat missions in the Pacific Theater during World War II. It was inactivated in June 1946. Also occurring on November 19th, the 30th Space Wing's Western Test Range organization deleted the word "Test" from its name, but without change of mission.
On July 1, 1993, exactly one month after the Strategic Air Command was inactivated and replaced by Air Combat Command, ACC's 310th Training and Test Wing at Vandenberg was also inactivated. Its Peacekeeper and Minuteman III launch elements along with its missile maintenance and support squadrons, and rescue flight (helicopters) were realigned to the 30th Space Wing. Only the 4315th Combat Crew Training Squadron did not go to the wing. It transferred to the newly established 392d Space and Missile Training Squadron, Air Education and Training Command at Vandenberg.
With the activation of Headquarters Fourteenth Air Force at Vandenberg on July 1, 1993, the 30th Space Wing which had reported directly to HQ AFSPC was reassigned to the numbered Air Force.
A series of operational squadron-level changes occurred within the 30th Space Wing beginning with the 4th Space Launch Squadron (4 SLS). Elements of Detachment 9, mentioned earlier, transferred to the wing and were activated into a squadron on April 15, 1994. Four years later, on May 18, 1998, the squadron was inactivated. Its Titan mission was merged into the 2d Space Launch Squadron which together with its contractor team, launched Atlas heritage systems. Meanwhile, on February 22, 1996, the 576th Flight Test Squadron (Peacekeeper and Minuteman III missiles) was realigned from the 30th Space Wing to the Space Warfare Center at Falcon AFB, Colorado. More recently, on 1 December 2003, the 4 SLS was reactivated to oversee preparations for the contractor-operated Delta IV (Boeing) and Atlas V (Lockheed-Martin) Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles. At the same time, another part of Detachment 9 was assigned to the 30th Space Wing and reorganized into the 1st Air and Space Test Squadron.
As depicted in the image below, the Air Force term "Western Range" refers to the geographic area that extended west from the coast of California to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. Within this zone were instrumentation stations along the California coast and in the Hawaiian Islands. The Army's missile range, as also known as the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, at the Kwajalein Atoll provides terminal range support for missiles launched from Vandenberg. This large network of instrumentation sites monitor space boosters, ballistic missiles, and a host of aeronautical vehicles launched or supported from Vandenberg AFB.
General Hoyt Sanford Vandenberg's Biography
Vandenberg Air Force Base is named in honor of the late General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, second Air Force Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force and chief architect of today's modern Air Force.
Hoyt Vandenberg was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on January 24, 1899. In 1923, he graduated from West Point Academy, ranking 240 in a class of 261. Vandenberg excelled in pilot training at both Brooks and Kelly Field in Texas. He flew attack and fighter aircraft and served two tours as an instructor pilot. His reputation as an outstanding pilot enabled him to obtain a series of education assignments at the Air Corps Tactical School, Maxwell AFB, Alabama; the Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and the Army War College, Washington, D.C.
In June 1939, he was assigned to the plans division of the office of the chief of the Air Corps. After the United States had entered World War II, he was appointed operations and training officer of the Air Staff under General Henry H. (Hap) Arnold. During the early stages of the war, Vandenberg (then a colonel), was transferred to England and assisted in planning air operations for the invasion of North Africa. He received his first star in December 1942, and became chief of staff of the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa under General James H. Doolittle. During this campaign he flew over two dozen combat missions over Tunisia, Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, and Panteileria to obtain firsthand information.
Returning to the United States in August 1943, General Vandenberg was assigned to Army Air Force Headquarters as deputy chief of the Air Staff. A month later he became head of an Air Mission to Russia under Ambassador W. Averell Harriman, and returned to the United States in January 1944. In March, he was promoted to major general and returned to Europe as deputy air commander-in-chief of the Allied Expeditionary Forces and commanding general of its American air component. He helped plan the Normandy invasion, and in August 1944 took over command of the Ninth Air Force in the European Theater.
In March 1945, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, and full general in 1947. Meanwhile, in January 1946, General Vandenberg was appointed chief of the intelligence division of the General Staff. In June, he was named director of the Central Intelligence Group, predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency formed in 1947.
He returned to duty with the Air Force in May 1947, and became deputy commander and chief of staff of the Army Air Force. With the establishment of a separate Air Force in September 1947, Vandenberg became its first vice chief of staff under General Carl Spaatz, and succeeded him on April 30, 1948. He held that post through the critical periods of the Berlin airlift (1948-1949) and the Korean War (1950-1953).
Weak, exhausted, and in constant pain from cancer, General Vandenberg retired from the Air Force in June 1953. He died in Washington, D.C. on April 2, 1954.
In honor of his service to the nation, the aerospace base at Lompoc, California, formerly Cooke Air Force Base, was renamed Vandenberg Air Force Base on October 4, 1958.
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