TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
As the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor assaulted the minds of the American people, the U.S. Army Air Corps was already preparing for war. Approximately 2,000 troops arrived to Tyndall Field that day to prepare for a critical new career -- aerial gunnery. And as people in America remembered this somber moment in history, Airmen of Tyndall reflect on the heritage of the base that claims the same date, Dec. 7, 1941.
In December 1940, a site board determined the area located 12 miles southeast of Panama City, Florida’s East Peninsula, would be the best location for a new base. The official ground-breaking, held by the U.S. Army and local dignitaries, occurred May 6, 1941. At the ceremony, Harry Fannin, then-Panama City mayor, dug the first hole, and Col. Warren Maxwell, Tyndall’s first commander, swung the first ax against one of many stubborn palmetto plants.
The first spade of dirt moved, and the first axe was sung, but the base sought an identity.
“Although construction was well underway, the base lacked a name,” said Ted Roberts, 325th Fighter Wing historian. “Congressman Bob Sikes put forth the idea of naming the school in memory of Lt. Francis B. Tyndall. A Sewall Point, Florida native, Lieutenant Tyndall was a fighter pilot during World War I and was credited with shooting down four German planes during 1918.”
Years later, while inspecting Army fields near Mooresville, North Carolina, July 15, 1930, Tyndall’s plane became lost in the clouds and crashed, killing him instantly. Congressman Sikes felt that this war hero represented his nation well, and proposed to name the new installation Tyndall Field June 13, 1941,” Roberts added.
As the airfield and schoolhouse became operational, thousands of troops passed through Tyndall Field, usually by railroad. Such personalities as Clark Gable, an actor famous for his character in “Gone With the Wind,” attended gunnery training at Tyndall.
Throughout Tyndall’s history, it has had numerous designations, missions and assigned units, and has been home to more than 65 types of aircraft.
Bringing Tyndall into the modern era, the base reorganized in 1991 to streamline defense management. The U.S. Air Force Air Defense Weapons Center inactivated while Headquarters, First Air Force, moved from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, to Tyndall AFB, Roberts said.
“The newly re-designated 325th Fighter Wing became the installation host unit Sept. 1, 1991,” Roberts said. “Additionally, the unit transferred from being an Air Combat Command wing to focus solely on training within the Air Education and Training Command and assigned it to 19th Air Force. Training became Tyndall’s primary focus.”
After the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001, Tyndall evolved as a key force in the War on Terror, when the 43rd Fighter Squadron, activated in 2002, prepared the F-22 Raptor to take the fight to the enemy.
“In December 2005, the Raptor was designated as the F-22A and became an operational platform,” Roberts said. “March 17, 2008, the first F-22 Basic Course commenced with four students constituting a small group try out. All four students graduated October, 31 2008, and became the first pilots trained specifically for the F-22 rather than transferring from other aircraft to the Raptor.”
When USAF decided to retire the F-15 C/D models because of age and structural issues, Tyndall sought an expanded role beyond training F-22 pilots. Senior Air Force leaders acknowledged Tyndall’s superior geographical position and superb ranges and decided to reinstate the combat coded 95th Fighter Squadron, stock it with a full complement of 24 F-22 Raptors, and return the base to Air Combat Command.
“The rest as they say, is history. Happy birthday Tyndall,” Roberts added.