In 1954 the government entered into negotiations with Marquette County for Sawyer's lease. After several months of meetings and negotiations a 99 year lease was signed on January 24, 1955. Construction started almost immediately. Approximately 850 people were employed during the construction and several local contractors were involved.
On January 24, 1956 Lt/Col Robert L. Blocklehurst became the first commander of Kl Sawyer AFB. The runway was completed in 1957 and in 1958 25 F-102 Aircraft were sent TDY from Kinross AFB at Sault St. Marie to operate out of Sawyer for several months, while the runways at Kinchelo were being repaired and extended.
Situated on over 5,200 acres of land in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, K.I Sawyer Air Force Base was one of the newest major US bases built by the Air Force. Utilizing the world-class air facilities located at Sawyer, aircraft operators have access to an all weather runway 12,300 feet long and 300 feet wide. Additionally, the region's wide open airspace offers ease of operations for an extremely safe and delay free air traffic setting. From a global perspective, great circle (polar) air routes available from K.I. Sawyer's unique location allowed shorter travel time to targets in the Soviet Union.
The 56th Fighter Wing (Air Defense) was reactivated in 1961 at K.I. Sawyer AFB with an air defense mission. The wing controlled a single tactical unit, the 62 FIS, flying the F-101 Voodoo. From February 1, 1961 to October 1, 1963, the wing was part of the Sault Sainte Marie Air Defense Sector. From October 1, 1963 to January 1, 1964, the wing was an important part of the Duluth Air Defense Sector. Under both sectors, the wing participated in many ADC exercises, tactical evaluations and other air defense operations. The single tactical squadron was placed directly under Duluth Air Defense Sector December 16, 1963, leaving the wing without a tactical mission. On January 1, 1964, the wing was inactivated.
The 62d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron maintained an air defense alert commitment at O'Hare until August 1959 when the squadron moved to K.I. Sawyer AFB, Michigan. At K.I. Sawyer, the squadron converted to F-101B Voodoos in late 1959, and served as the "Defenders of Strategic Air Command" until inactivation in April of 1971
In May 1971 the 87th Fighter Interceptor Squadron moved to K. I. Sawyer AFB, Michigan, where it maintained readiness in all-weather intercept techniques, aerial refueling, and fighter-vs-fighter tactics. The 87th maintained four T-33 Shooting Stars at K. I. Sawyer to provide target support for the squadron interceptors, simulating Soviet bomber tactics. In addition, they flew NORAD radar evaluation and logistic support sorties. The 87th was scheduled to convert to the F-15 Eagle in 1984. Due to budget cuts the conversion was cancelled and the squadron again scheduled for inactivation on 1 October 1985.
Home to the 410th Bomb Wing, K.I. Sawyer AFB closed 30 September 1995. Known as the 410th Bombardment Group during World War II, this unit helped shape the modern world by providing teeth to the 9th Air Force bombing efforts. It earned the title of the world's best bomb unit for combat accuracy and was the first unit trained in both day and night tactics. Among the wing's many accomplishments, it contributed to the U.S. victory in the Cold War, its tankers and crews saw action in Operation Young Tiger in 1965 and bomber crews helped make Operation Arc Light a success in 1968. More recently, the wing sent more than 450 people from all career fields as part of the coalition to turn back a dictator in Southwest Asia during Desert Storm.
In addition to combat victories, the wing developed important tactics as the first to use the Electro-Optical Viewing system, enhancing B-52 capabilities and extending its operational life. The wing was also the first to employ the Advanced Cruise Missile, conduct its follow-on testing and build the Air Force's fleet of this stealthy smart weapon.
The inactivation of the wing facilitated a smooth transition from the wing to the Air Force Base Conversion Agency. The AFBCA oversaw the caretaker agreement, restoration and final transfer to the community of the Air Force assets left on K.I. Sawyer. It continued to provide an Air Force presence at K.I. Sawyer following the wing's official inactivation.
When the Air Force withdrew its 410th Bomb Wing it vacated what had been called the fourth-largest city in the Michigan Upper Peninsula. It had 3,300 military personnel and 1,000 civilian employees before a phaseout began several years ago. The shutdown drained an important financial reservoir for the central Upper Peninsula. The military payroll and purchases totaled $157 million annually -- 20 percent of the economic output within a 50-mile radius.
At K.I.Sawyer AFB, in 1996 the Base Realignment and Closure cleanup teams (BCT) accelerated environmental investigations of 24 identified areas of contamination. Officials said the BCT is taking action to address a fuel recovery system and studying long term ground water remedies. By shortening environmental document development and review time, almost five years of work time was avoided.
Sources: http://www.globalsecurity.org/ http://aeroweb.brooklyn.cuny.edu/