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LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE. 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.

Art Leatherwood

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Art Leatherwood, "LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed December 01, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.