Dyess Air Force Base

By: Art Leatherwood

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: September 5, 2019

Dyess Air Force Base, four miles west of Abilene, was named after William Edwin Dyess, a distinguished World War II pilot who died in 1943. The base, an adjunct of Camp Barkeley, was initially known as Tye Army Air Field when it was established in December 1942. It was deactivated after the end of the war, and in 1947 it was deeded to the city of Abilene as surplus and was briefly used as a municipal airport in the early 1950s. As part of the renewed buildup of American forces during the Korean War, appropriations were voted in 1952 to reopen and expand the airfield. Ground was broken in September 1953, and the base was completed and dedicated on April 15, 1956, as Abilene Air Force Base, under the Strategic Air Command. In December 1956 it became Dyess Air Force Base. The 341st Bombardment Wing was the first SAC wing assigned to Dyess. It was equipped with B-47 aircraft, and they were supported by KC-97s. The Ninety-sixth Bomb Wing was activated at the base on September 8, 1957, and began its long history at Dyess. By 1961 the army had installed Nike Hercules missiles, and SAC had Atlas F ICBMs installed in nearby silos. Both missile units were deactivated by the mid-1960s. In 1965 Dyess AFB came under the control of the Second Air Force, which renamed the Ninety-sixth Bomb Wing the Ninety-sixth Strategic Aerospace Wing in 1967. The wing was equipped with B-52 aircraft and was supported by the 917th Air Refueling Squadron, using KC-135 aerial tankers. Between 1965 and 1973 both B-52s and KC-135s from Dyess were engaged in combat activities over Southeast Asia. The Ninety-sixth was reequipped with supersonic B-1B aircraft in June 1985. In 1993 the Ninety-sixth was replaced by the Seventh Wing (renamed the Seventh Bomb Wing in 1997) from Carswell Air Force Base. Through the years improvements and modernization have continued. The influence of the base on the Abilene area has been considerable; in 1989 Dyess contributed $239,229,745 and 1,563 off-base jobs to the local economy, and in 2001 the base contributed $307.1 million in economic impact and had a total of 5,918 civilian employees.

Abilene Remembered: Our Centennial Treasury Book, 1881–1981 (Abilene Reporter-News, 1981). John H. Hatcher, "The Founding of Dyess Air Force Base," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 39 (1963).

Time Periods:
  • World War II

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Art Leatherwood, “Dyess Air Force Base,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/dyess-air-force-base.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 5, 2019