History of Nellis Air Force Base
started about eight miles north of Las Vegas in a small operations shack next to a dirt
runway. This was the original site of today's Nellis Air Force Base.
January 25, 1941
Las Vegas mayor, John L. Russell, transferred the property to the U.S. Army
Quartermaster Corps for development of a flexible gunnery school for the Army Air Corps.
The Las Vegas Army Air Corps Gunner School, renamed later to the Las Vegas Army Air Field,
purpose was to achieve "training of aerial gunners to the degree of proficiency that
will qualify them for combat duty."
Five officers began residency in a small basement room in the Las Vegas Post Office
building. They were staff officers of the 79th Air Base Group, commanded by then Lt.
Colonel Martinus Stenseth. Within a month, the military population of Las Vegas Army Air
Field more than doubled when five administrative NCO and other enlisted men arrived.
First months of the Air Field
produced no services or facilities. Enlisted men were quartered in the Work Project
Administration barracks in Las Vegas.
Motor pool consisted of six aging
trucks and a semi-trailer. A skeleton crew was the real beginnings, mechanics had to
borrow nuts, bolts, and old parts from service stations in Las Vegas. They borrowed
gasoline and oil from the Civilian Conservation Corps. Supply and Logistics had not yet
At this time, Las Vegas had a
population of approximately 9,000. The weather was idea for flying, year-round pilots
enjoyed above average conditions. A sparsely populated area with more than 90% area to the
north was public domain wasteland. Thus, eliminates the normal residential restrictions.
The inland strategic location was excellent, rocky hills found six miles from the base
afforded a natural backdrop for cannon and machine gun practice. Additionally, many
surrounding dry lake beds were available for emergency landings.
Constructions neared completion of permanent base facilitys barracks to house
The Las Vegas Army Air Field (LVAAF) received the first B-17s. Thus giving
students, their first chance to train in the gun turret of an actual combat plane. These
planes also provided training of co-pilots in ground and transition school.
Every five weeks, at the height of World War II, 600 gunnery students and 215
co-pilots graduated from LVAAF.
First aircraft hangar was completed at a cost of $190,000. They extended the
3,425-foot runway the same year in anticipation of the soon-to-arrive B-10 bombers and
The base converted from B-17s to the B-29 Gunnery School. The base population
reached its peak in early 1945 with nearly 11,000 officers and enlisted people. More
than 4,700 members or the 11,000 populations were students.
At this time, thousands of soldiers received their separation physicals and final
pay at the LVAAF on their return to civilian life.
January 31, 1947
LVAAF was winding down after World War II, until an order put the field on standby
They reactivated the base as Las Vegas Air Force Base and held a pilot training
wing. With the beginning of the Korean War, Las Vegas Air Force Base changed from advanced
single-engine school to training jet fighter pilots for the then Far East Air Forces.
They renamed the base in honor of 1st Lieutenant William Harrell Nellis, a young
man, 28-years of age, from southern Nevada, killed in action over Luxembourg December 27,
1944. A fighter pilot, Nellis had sixty-nine missions to his credit.
Virtually every fighter pilot and
every "ace" of the Korean War received final combat training at Nellis. The
famous Korean air space called "Mig Alley" helped prove the value of Nellis
training, they establish a kill ratio of 14 to 1.
To contact Nellis Air
Force Base, call: 702-652-1110