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Eglin Air Force Base - 10 Interesting Facts

The Air Force is one of the oldest and longest-standing institutions in America. As an independent service, it came into being on the 18th of September, 1947, and each base has a unique history that reflects the rich culture of the U.S. military. Now, let’s talk about the Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), a military training base that’s older than the U.S. Air Force.

Here are some facts about Eglin Air Force Base that make for a great dinner conversation.

1.  Eglin AFB was established just a few years before the onset of World War II

Eglin started life as the Valparaiso Bombing & Gunnery Base in June of 1935. See, the U.S. Army Air Corps was looking to establish an aerial bombing and gunnery school, and the sparsely populated forests Valparaiso, Florida, were just perfect for this need.

Much of the base remained forested and under the care of the U.S. Forest Service until the flare-up of war in Europe when Eglin was established as a testing ground for aircraft armament. Up until this point, only 137 out of 464,000 acres were in use as an airdrome.

A US Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet at MacDill Air Force Base

2.  The Air Force Base was named after a martyr

Eglin gets its name from Lt Col Frederick Irvin Eglin, who was a first-rate military aviator during World War I. He was killed in a crash of his Northrop A-17 attack aircraft in 1937, and the base was named Eglin Field in his honor.

It was later renamed Eglin Air Force Base in June 1948.

3.  Eglin played a prominent role in WWII

Eglin will always be revered for its role in World War II as a testing and evaluation site for non-nuclear munitions and electronic combat systems. What was once a primitive airport was expanded to become the premier testing site for warcraft that would have a significant role in the War, including night fighting paint schemes and flying bomb drone systems.

It was also the primary training center for the Doolittle Raid on the Japanese mainland.

4.  It was one of the few Air Bases that weren’t inactivated after the War

After the War, Eglin was still in use as a testing center pioneering the missile launching and handling techniques that are still in use today. Many radar detection improvements and bombsite systems were tested at Eglin, making it one of the most innovative military bases in the world.

But perhaps one of the most distinguishing characteristics is that Eglin's history spans a total of six wars if you include the Cold War, that is.

5.  Eglin is a protected area that helps endangered wildlife thrive

When people think of the Air Force, they picture jet fighters and secret missions overseas. But as most veterans know, there are some soft, cool parts to military life. And at Eglin, that involves protecting the natural beauty and incredible biodiversity that this side of the Atlantic has to offer.

Eglin is home to over 100 rare or listed plant and animal species, 63 of which are considered rare worldwide. Included in this list are the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and the threatened Okaloosa darter.

Eglin AFB is a wonder to behold with an ecosystem that supports everything from sea turtles to freshwater salamanders. A recreational permit is required to enjoy the 250,000 acres that support wildlife and the natural longleaf ecosystem.

6.  It’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts

Eglin has numerous natural features that offer bountiful outdoor recreational activities ranging from deer, turkey, and feral hog hunting to fishing. The base also offers hunting for the mobility impaired, making it a haven for all veterans.

Other activities you can partake in include primitive camping, mountain biking in the Timberlake Recreational Area, canoeing, and hiking. Eglin is also a site on the Great Florida Birding trail offering countless birding opportunities for twitchers and ornithologists.

7.  Eglin AFB in Hollywood

Well, here's a fun fact: Eglin AFB has appeared in several major motion pictures, including Air Force One, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, and Twelve O’Clock High. Plus, several airmen played a part in the James Bond movie Thunderball. All highly trained paratroopers, these airmen assisted in the iconic sky diving scene that was filmed in Miami Beach.

Another thing: Tom Clancy has featured Eglin AFB in several of his novels.

8.  Eglin has some famous residents

Some notable residents include the author Hunter S Thompson who was stationed at Eglin between 1956 and 1958 during his enlistment with the U.S. Air Force. Aric Almirola, a NASCAR Cup Series driver was born on the base in 1984.

9.  Eglin also served as a launching site for civil rockets

NASA rockets launched on Eglin include the Arcas, Nike Cajun, Nike Apaches, plus Nike Iroquis. Eglin was used for 441 launches between 1959 and 1980, with the highest launch reaching 686 kilometers in altitude.

A launch ramp is still in place at Auxiliary Field 1.

10.  You can never run out of things to do near Eglin AFB

The Eglin AFB is located north of the Choctawhatchee Bay, an incredibly popular tourist locale. A day trip to the area will find you exploring cultural institutions surrounding the base and the numerous trails that blaze through the Florida wetlands.

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