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Hurlburt Field Air Force Base in Mary Esther, FL

Hurlburt Field is a U.S Air Force facility located in Okaloosa, Fl, to the west of the modest town of Mary Esther. Hurlburt Field Air Force Base started life as a secondary training field for the Eglin Army Air Base during the Second World War. At the time, Hulburt Field was designated as Eglin Auxiliary Field No. 9, making it part of the extensive Eglin Air Force Base reservation.

The History of Hulburt Field Air Force Base

The Eglin Auxiliary Field No. 9 earned the name Hulburt Field in 1943 when General Grandison Gardiner named it after First Lieutenant Donald Wilson Hulburt. 1st Lt. Hulburt had served with the 258th Bomb Squadron in October 1942, and for his actions overseas, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medial with three oak leaf clusters. He died a year later, on October 1, 1943, when the aircraft he was piloting, and AT-18, crashed on test flight takeoff during a local mission at Eglin.

Hurlburt Air Force Base was used for radar countermeasure trainings and served as the control center for the Electronic Section of the Air Proving Ground Command.

As one of the Eglin Auxiliary Fields, Hulburt Field played a vital role in the training of special operations during World War II and the Vietnam War. But Hulburt Field is, perhaps, more famous for the one mission it actually had no role in.

Missions at the Eglin-Hulburt Airdrome

For those familiar with Air Force history, the Eglin Air Force Base conjures images of the Doolittle Raid, the first air operation to strike the Japanese archipelago during World War II. It was the first mission that would launch U.S. Army Air Force bombers from the deck of an aircraft carrier. Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle (an experienced pilot and aeronautical engineer) and his raiders were tasked with this critical operation.

In 1942, the only aircraft that could be launched from an aircraft carrier were the B-25 Mitchell medium bombers. It's said that the Doolittle raiders practiced takeoffs with their B-25 Mitchell bombers at Eglin Auxiliary Field No. 9. Unfortunately, this is naught but a wild tale perpetuated by a former Hulburt Field base commander in the 1950s.

Still, the rumor lives on. What is now Hulburt Field could not have been used as a training field for the Doolittle Raid because the requisite hard-surfaced runway did not exist until March of 1942. The Eglin fields in use were Auxiliary Field Nos. 1 and 3.

Even then, the role Hulburt Field played in World War II cannot be downplayed. It was one of the early development sites for U.S. drones and missiles. The base was inactivated after the War, only to be reactivated a decade later in 1955 as the Cold War intensified. The cruise missiles developed on Hulburt also served to help develop weapons systems that formed the defense of the U.S. in the Cold War.

The hurlburt air force base remained a key missile testing site during the 1950s and almost started a war at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis when a missile accidentally ventured towards Cuba when it was supposed to circle the Gulf. The crisis was averted when an F-4 aircraft shot down the missile before it could hit the small island nation.

Missile testing ceased on the base in 1974 when Hulburt Field Air Force Base became the only site for training special operations personnel from all military branches.

Hulburt Field Air Force Base Today

Currently, there are several major units headquartered at Hulburt Field Air Force Base. These include:

  • Air Force Special Operations Command—acronym (AFSOC)
  • 1st Special Operations Wing (1 SOW)
  • USAF Special Operations School, and
  • Air Combat Command’s also referred to as (ACC) 505th Command & Control Wing

At Hulburt, there's a memorial airpark dedicated to all air commandos featuring vintage World War II aircraft, including the C-47 Skytrain, the B-25 Mitchell, and the A-26 Invader. However, the Air Commando Air Park has been off-limits to non-military personnel since the events of 9-11 due to security concerns. Any visitors to the facility must be sponsored onto the installation.

Hulburt Field In Pop Culture

Let’s end with some fun facts:

  • Hulburt Field was featured in the Transformers 3 movie, as were the CV-22 Osprey and AC-130U Spooky aircrafts. Plus, a number of Hulburt Airmen got the chance to be extras in the film.

  • The Aderhold Fitness Center on Hulburt was used for a preseason training camp for the NBA Miami Heat in September of 2010.

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