Spokane Army Air Depot

The Birth of Fairchild

What is now Fairchild Airforce Base originated as an Army Air Supply and Repair Depot to service the other airfields around Spokane and in the Pacific Northwest.

The United States military acquisition of McChord Field near Tacoma in 1937 created an additional need for military supply depots in the pacific northwest, and as the likelihood of US participation in the second world war increased it became a more pressing matter to ensure that the bases along the pacific were well supplied. Spokane was chosen over other cities competing for the new supply depot like Everett, Washington and Salt Lake City, Utah due to having the most strategically sound location, being far enough inland to protect against potential Japanese attacks, yet close enough to McChord and other Pacific coast bases to quickly and efficiently deliver supplies.

In September of 1941 when the Army announced that it had hoped to build in Spokane the residents of the city were eager to support the military and donated over $120,000 in less than one week to help the city purchase the land needed to build the new base to donate to the US Government. In November the military was presented the deed for 2400 acres of land twelve miles west of the city, and construction began at the site on January 19, 1942. By March the first large building was complete and the Spokane Army Air Depot was activated. Construction lasted another year costing $25 million and employing 2500 construction workers to lay over 8 miles of railroad track and build 262 buildings including a 12-acre repair hanger, and 12 city block-sized warehouses.

The primary purpose of the base once operational was to repair aircraft and aircraft parts, in particular, the site focused on the repair and maintenance of B-17 engines. Over 5000 mechanics, 25 percent of which were women, worked 24 hours a day on aircraft repair. In the first month of operation, the depot repaired 50 engines but by July 1944 between the B-17s, B-24s, B-25s, P-38s, and P-51 over 1250 airplanes had been repaired at the depot and the average engine repair rate was at 500 per month. With three women repairing the 10,000th engine at the depot in June 1945 by the end of the war the Spokane Army Air Depot had set a new record for aircraft engine repairs.

Following the end of World War II, the Spokane Army Air Depot was transferred to Strategic Air Command assigned to the 15th Air Force, and maintenance functions ceased. In 1948 The Spokane Army Air Depot was renamed the Spokane Airforce Base after the 92nd and 98th Bombardment wings were assigned to the base the previous year, bringing 60 Boeing B-29 Superfortress Bombers with them making it the largest B-29 base in Strategic Air Command. The new name wasn’t in place long as in 1950 the base was renamed again to Fairchild Airforce Base which it remains to this day.