The History of Kindley Air Force Base
In September 1939 World War II started to heat up in Europe and as a result British and American leaders began to feel it was necessary to protect countries in the Western Hemisphere.
By September 1940, negotiations were made between Britian and the United States to acquire certain air and navy bases on a 99 year lease.
Bermuda was one of these areas.
In October 1940, an American Naval mission under Rear Admiral John W. Greenslade arrived in Bermuda to survey possible sites and, eventually, the eastern end of Bermuda and two islands in the Great Sound were chosen for two bases.
Long Bird Island and Cooper's Island, part of St David's Island, were developed into an air strip by dredging the ocean and using the fill to create an extra 750 acres of land. It wasn't until August 11, 1943 that all construction was considered complete.
The base was originally occupied by the U.S. Army on April 16, 1941 and named Fort Bell. However, the airfield area was refered to as Kindley Air Field.
The maintenance and operation of the entire base was handled by U.S. Army Ground Forces, while Army Coast Artillery units were responsible for defense. The U.S. Army Air Force operated the air traffic section of the base.
The Bermuda base became a vital link in air and sea traffic between the United States and Europe both during and after the war as a 'stop off place.' Troops were able to rest, recover and receive medical treatment, while military personel used the facilities to hold conferences. (see more photos)
Towards the end of 1945, a desicion was made to terminate ground force activities in Bermuda and on January 1, 1946 the Air Transport Command took control of the base. The name Fort Bell was discontinued and the entire base became known as Kindley Field and later as Kindley Air Force Base
Other than military purposes, Kindley Field has been used for regular commercial flights since Jan 1946. In that year, 559 civilian aircraft landed at Kindley; by the end of 1969, arrivals had increased to 6,256. Over the years, flight activity has steadily increased to thousands of flights both, commercial and military, on an annual basis.
The mission of Kindley remained essentially the same, but due to technological advances in airlift systems and relocations of some basic missions, Kindley's role gradually shifted to activites such as rescue and recovery, associated with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) , Air Force space programs and U.S. Navy anti-submarine warfare activities. These changes resulted in adjustments being made to the types of operational units stationed on the base.
Since World War II, Kindley has hosted different tenants: an air transport squadron, an aerial weather reconnaissance squadron, a Coast Guard air station, an aerospace rescue and recovery squadron, Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command aeriel refueling squadrons and, lastly, Navy anti-submarine patrol squadrons.
As technology continued to change, it became evident that long-range combat airlift aircraft decreased the importance of having Bermuda as a staging and refueling stop for trans-Atlantic air traffic. Nevertheless, because of the buildup of Soviet submarine forces in the Atlantic, Bermuda became the ideal place for having a U.S. Navy base.
Thus a decision was made by the U.S. Department of Defense that Kindley AFB would be transferred from the U.S. Air Force to the U.S. Navy, effective July 1, 1970
As it has from the time of its activation in 1941 - first as Fort Bell, then as Kindley Air Force Base, next as Naval Air Station and presently as Bermuda International Airport - the base has played a significant role in the development of Bermuda's destiny.
Source: Transfer of Command Ceremony 1/7/70