Laughlin Air Force Base

By: Art Leatherwood

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: March 1, 1995

Laughlin Air Force Base is seven miles east of Del Rio. It was named Laughlin Army Air Field on March 3, 1943, Laughlin Field on November 11, 1943, and Laughlin Air Force Auxiliary Field on January 13, 1943. The base was closed in October 1945 and reopened as Laughlin Air Force Base on May 1, 1952. It is named for Lt. Jack T. Laughlin, the first casualty of World War II from Del Rio, who was killed in the crash of his B-17 in Java on January 29, 1942. The facility was opened on July 2, 1942, as a bombardment school, but its mission was changed in December. It was closed in October 1945, and the land was leased to local ranchers as sheep pasture. When the base was reopened in May 1952 its mission was to train F-84 fighter pilots. By 1957 the base had been assigned to the Strategic Air Command and provided a home for RB-57 and U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. Laughlin-based U-2s provided the first conclusive evidence of the Soviet missile build-up in Cuba, and Major Rudolph Anderson, a U-2 pilot from Laughlin, was the only casualty of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Air Training Command returned to Laughlin in April 1952; in 1991 the base continued to provide flight training for air force and foreign pilots. During the fiscal year 1989 Laughlin AFB supplied $65.5 million and 363 jobs to the Del Rio area.

Robert Mueller, Air Force Bases, Vol. 1 (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Simpson Historical Research Center, 1982). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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

Art Leatherwood, “Laughlin Air Force Base,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 1, 1995

Laughlin Air Force Base
Currently Exists
Place Type
Town Fields
  • Has post office: No
  • Is Incorporated: No
Belongs to
  • Val Verde County
  • Latitude: 29.35663390°
  • Longitude: -100.78353000°
Population Counts
People Year
2,556 1990
2,225 2000
1,569 2010
1,561 2019
Great Texas Land Rush logo
Adoption Status: ⭐
This place has been adopted and will not be available until August 26, 2022
Adopted by:
Arrowhead Treazures, LLC
Dedication Message:
In honor of Angela Ann Stark