Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany
Origin of current name: Named after the confluence of the Rhine and Main rivers to the west of Frankfurt am Main and Rhein-Main Air Base, in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Date current name was assigned to base: September 15, 1947
Previous Names: Frankfurt/Rhein-Main Y-73, 26 Apr 1945; Rhein-Main Afld, 14 Nov 1945; Rhein/Main AB, 1 Nov 1946.
Date Established: May 9, 1945
Date Occupied: April 8, 1945
Construction Began: May 11, 1945
Base Units: HQ, 826th Engr Avn Bn, 26 Apr 1945; 466th Air Svc Gp, 20 Nov 1945; HQ & Base Svc Sq, 466th Air Svc Gp, 20 Nov 1947; 61st AB Gp, 1 Jul 1948; 60th AB Gp, 2 Jun 1951; 7310th AB Gp, 18 Apr 1955 (rdsgd 7310th Spt Gp, 8 Mar 1958; 7310th AB Wg, 15 May 1960; 7310th AB Gp, 26 Sep 1964; 7310th Tac Alft Wg, 1 Nov 1968); 322d Cmbt Spt Gp, 1 Jan 1970; 435th Cmbt Spt Gp, 1 Jul 1975
Changes in Capability: In 1909 Count von Zeppelin used area as landing site for his dirigible ZóII; planned by Germany to be one of the most important European air terminals, base opened as German commercial field in 1936; northern part of base used as field for airplanes, with extreme southern part near Zeppelinheim serving as a base for rigid airships; that section of Rhein-Main later became port for the Graf Zeppelin, its sister ship LZ-130, and, until 6 May 1937, for the ill-fated Hindenburg; the airships were dismantled and their huge hangars demolished on 6 May 1940 in conversion of base to military use; Luftwaffe engineers subsequently extended the single runway and erected hangars and other facilities for German military aircraft; during World War II the Luftwaffe used field sporadically as fighter base and as experimental station for jet aircraft; U.S. 826th Engr Avn Bn arrived at Rhein-Main in Apr 1945 to begin task of clearing rubble and reconstructing major buildings; Army engineers also built new runways and extended and widened the existing runway, constructed aprons and hardstands as well as taxiways leading to the terminal; new Rhein-Main terminal completed in 1946; air traffic into Rhein-Main increased after the closure of the military passenger terminal at Orly Field, Paris, October 1946; hosted Eastern Air Transport Service in Jan 1947; although envisioned as a bomber base by the Ninth AF, base became a principal European air transport terminal 1947-1959; Rhein-Main was the main western base for the round-the-clock Berlin .Airlift operations from Jun 1948 to Sep 1949; USAFE turned over the northern part of the base to the German government for use as Flughafen Frankfurt am Main, the chief commercial airport for the greater Frankfurt area, in Apr 1959; rest of the base remained in hands of USAFE as principal aerial port for U.S. Forces in Germany; base assigned to MAC on 1 Jul 1975; under terms of an agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany, only transport aircraft have been stationed at Rhein-Main since 1 May 1975.
Changes in Status: None.
Base was Decommissioned on December 30, 2005
Closed at the end of 2005 to make way for a 3rd passenger terminal for the Frankfurt Airport, the second busiest airport in Europe. The airport and the German government agreed to pay nearly $300 million to upgrade two other American bases, Ramstein and Spangdahlem, to take over the airlift operations handled by Rhein-Main.
Established in 1945, Rhein-Main Air Base was the primary airlift and passenger hub for U.S. forces in Europe. It was billed as the "Gateway to Europe".
During its operational lifetime, the base's host airlift wing operated C-130 Hercules and C-9 Nightingale aircraft, as well as supporting a large number of transient C-5 Galaxy, C-141 Starlifter, C-17 Globemaster III, KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender flight operations each day.
In 1909 Count von Zeppelin used Rhein-Main as a landing site for his dirigible Z-II. The facility was planned by Germany to be one of the most important European air terminals,
The base opened as a German commercial airport in 1936, with the northern part of base used as a field for airplanes and the extreme southern part near Zeppelinheim serving as a base for rigid airships. That section of Rhein-Main later became the port for the Graf Zeppelin, its sister ship LZ-130, and, until 6 May 1937, for the ill-fated Hindenburg.
The airships were dismantled and their huge hangars demolished on 6 May 1940 in conversion of the base to military use. Luftwaffe engineers subsequently extended the single runway and erected hangars and other facilities for German military aircraft. During World War II the Luftwaffe used the field sporadically as a fighter base and as an experimental station for jet aircraft.
After the U.S. 7th Army moved through the Frankfurt area, the 826th Engineer Aviation Battalion (EAB), a unit of the IX Engineer Command, arrived at Frankfurt/Rhein-Main Airfield 26 April 1945 It was classified as Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) Y-73. On 11 May 1945, the engineers began the task of clearing rubble and reconstructing major buildings. The Army engineers also built new runways and extended and widened the existing runway, constructed aprons and hardstands as well as taxiways leading to the terminal.
The initial USAAF transport unit at Rhein-Main was the 466th Air Service Group, activated on 20 November 1945. The 466th operated the aerial port, with a mixture of C-47 Skytrain, C-46 Commando, and C-54 Skymaster transport aircraft using the base for transport operations. The Rhein-Main transport passenger and cargo terminal was completed in 1946, and air traffic into Rhein-Main increased after the closure of the military passenger terminal at Orly Air Base France in March 1947, when the USAFE Eastern Air Transport Service opened its hub at Rhein-Main.
Although originally envisioned as a bomber base by USAFE, as a result of the Berlin Airlift, Rhein-Main became a principal European air transport terminal. With the end of the blockade, the 513th TCG was inactivated on 16 October 1949. The 61st TCG returned to routine transport operations until the outbreak of the Korean War for duty with Military Air Transport Service (MATS). The 61st was reassigned to McChord Air Force Base, Washington on 21 July 1950.
In 1955, with the opening of USAFE bases in France, most heavy transport flights were shifted there and Rhein-Main became a passenger and tactical cargo hub. The 60th Troop Carrier Wing relocated to Dreux-Louvillier Air Base, France on 15 October 1955. Rhein-Main was placed under the 7310th Air Base Wing, and for over a decade provided ground service as well as cargo and passenger loading and unloading for USAFE and MATS transports.
The 1966 closure of USAFE bases in France increased cargo traffic at Rhein-Main extensively. On 1 July 1969, MATS transferred the 435th Tactical Airlift Wing from RAF High Wycombe, England, to Rhein-Main as host unit and upgraded its facilities.
The 37th TAS took part in airlift operations during Operations Desert Shield/Storm in Southwest Asia (the Middle East), from 14 August 1990 – 29 March 1991. It also air-dropped humanitarian supplies in Operation Provide Comfort for the relief of fleeing Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq in April–May 1991. It was redesignated as the 37th Airlift Squadron on 1 April 1992 and reassigned to the 435th Operations Group. The 37th AS conducted airlift and airdrop missions to Bosnia and Herzegovina for Operation Provide Promise, starting July 1992.
On 1 April 1992 the 435th TAW was realigned from Military Airlift Command (MAC) to United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and redesignated as the 435th Airlift Wing (435 AW). The 37th Tactical Airlift Squadron (37 TAS) was concurrently redesignated as the 37th Airlift Squadron (37 AS) on the same date. At its peak, Rhein-Main AB had a population of 10,000. However by 1993, USAF officials announced the intent to downsize the base by half.
On 1 April 1995, the 435 AW was inactivated with Col Donald A. Philpitt, USAF as its last commander. The 435 AW was replaced by the 469th Air Base Group (469 ABG) under USAFE and the 726th Air Mobility Squadron (726 AMS) under AMC. The 469 ABG inactivated on 10 October 2005, with the 726th Air Mobility Squadron being the last USAF unit at Rhein-Main Air Base.
From September 2001 until 2005, Rhein-Main continued to provide support for transient C-130, C-141, C-17, C-5, KC-135, KC-10 and AMC-chartered civilian airliners supporting both US military activities throughout Europe, as well as a waypoint for air mobility operations throughout Southwest Asia in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
On 30 December 2005, the 726 AMS transferred to Spangdahlem Air Base and the base was turned over to the German Government.