Among the numerous Route 66 artifacts that can be viewed at the California Route 66 Museum, there is a special wall that is dedicated to those who have served at a local military base, known as George Air Force Base. The museum’s exhibit showcases numerous historical items that reflect life on the base and that of the military operations.
George Air Force Base was established by the United States Army Air Corps as an Advanced Flying School in June 1941 and was officially decommissioned in December 1992. It is located about 5 miles west of the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville. One can still drive into the abandoned air base and view the remains of what was once a busy community and military installation.
During World War II the air base was an Advanced Flying School. The flying school trained pilots on flying planes such as the Curtiss AT-9, T-6 Texan, and the AT-17. The school also trained bombardiers on the AT-11 and BT-13 Valiant.
A little unknown fact on the school’s bombing instructors is that one would later go on to become a well known American recording artist and television host. First Lieutenant Ernest J. Ford became known as Tennessee Ernie Ford; his photo is on display in an Air Corps yearbook within the George Air Force Base exhibit.
In post years times the air base continued its operations as a training facility and it became a valuable asset to the communities within the High Desert. Cities such as Adelanto, Hesperia, Apple Valley, and Victorville all benefited economically from military personnel who lived and made the High Desert their home. It was commonplace to see Air Force personnel within the community in uniform. They were a large part of the community. Many of today’s residents can still recall the days when not only was the sight of an Air Force uniform was common place, but also viewing jet planes flying over the city at rapid speeds.
Many who called George Air Force Base home later became permanent residents within the cities of the High Desert. A few can be found at the California Route 66 Museum as volunteer docents. These retired Air Force veterans love to share their stories about life on the base, of the community, and of course Route 66.
George Air Force Base was officially decommissioned in December 1992. Today the area is still in use. The airfield is part of the Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) which is operated by the City of Victorville. Its primary runway length is 15,050 feet and is able to handle large aircraft. Commercial operators such as Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, and G.E. now conduct their business at SCLA.
While military housing can still be seen within the original grounds of George Air Force Base, it has become a destroyed community and is seen as a ghost town. Seeing the decay within the old military base can be a bit sad, but it actually has been put into good use. Urban military training exercises are sometimes conducted on the decayed buildings. Other parts of the old base have been transformed as recreational facilities to use by area residents.
Today what was once an important part of the High Desert Communities stills remains as such.
Past names of air base:
- Air Corps Advanced Flying School
- Victorville Army Flying School
- Victorville Army Air Field
- Victorville Air Force Base
- George Air Force Base
Images of George Air Force Base – Click on photo for large image