|SAC Bases: Francis E. Warren
Air Force Base
Francis E. Warren AFB near Cheyenne Wyoming is one
of four strategic missile bases in the United States. The base has the
distinction of evolving from a noteworthy frontier infantry and cavalry post
into the largest, most modern strategic missile facility in the United
States. It's motto is "From Muskets to Missiles." The 90th Space
Wing is the nation's largest and most modern strategic missile unit.
Today, the wing maintains 150 Minuteman III missiles and 50 Peacekeeper
missiles over a 12,600-square mile area in Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado.
The history of the base dates back to the Railroad Act of 1862, when
President Lincoln and Congress set plans for the transcontinental railroad,
including a military installation on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains in
the Wyoming Territory, to protect Union Pacific workers from hostile Indians.
On July 4, 1876, the railroad established its mountain region headquarters at
Crow Creek Crossing, later known as Cheyenne. A few weeks later, the U.S.
Cavalry moved from temporary headquarters in Cheyenne to a point three miles
west and established Fort D. A. Russell. The Fort was named after a Civil War
hero killed in action at Chantilly, VA. Thus, 1867 was the beginning of a city
and a fort, and both have grown together over the years. The new fort was built next to Crow Creek and was strategically located
halfway between Mexico and Canada - only a few hundred miles closer to Los
Angeles than to New York.
of the 30th Infantry and 2nd Cavalry formed the first garrison, under the
command of Col. John D. Stevenson. For a brief time, the troops lived in
tents, but during the winter of 1867-68 they moved into wood frame
quarters. The dwellings were set in the shape of a diamond, instead of a
rectangle, to protect against harsh winter winds that howled across the
then-treeless plains. The diamond opened to the east and measured 800X1040
feet. The entrance to the original fort was at a point next to present day
The first troops stationed here lived rough frontier
life, which meant coping with the rigors of weather in winter and with
Indians in spring and summer. In 1876, troops from Fort Russell
participated in the Great Sioux Indian Wars, the same in which Lt. Col.
Custer’s forces were defeated.
Fort Russell was made a permanent post in 1884 because of it’s strategic
location. In 1885, the War Department ordered the post be rebuilt to serve eight
infantry companies. The Army built 27 red brick buildings for $100,000, to
replace the older wood frame structures and planted thousands of trees.
Construction of new brick buildings continued into the 1920’s and helped
establish a military construction pattern at posts throughout the nation.
Congress formed four black regiments: the 9th and 10th Cavalry and 24th
and 25th Infantry. The 25th Infantry was the only unit that did not serve
at Fort Russell. Black Soldiers were called "Buffalo Soldiers", a title
originating from their Indian opponents, who credited the black soldier
with the courage and strength of the wary bison. The fort
ultimately became the largest cavalry post in the United States. Many
former stables still exist on base and are testimony to the thousands of
horses and mules stationed here.
In 1898, the Spanish-American War
brought renewed importance to the post. Soon after President McKinley sent
a message to congress, the 8th Infantry left Fort D.A. Russell for Cuba.
Later, the Wyoming National Guard mustered into service at the post and
departed for duty in the Philippines. In the battle for Manila, the
Wyoming Guard was the first battalion to reach the walls of the city and
to raise the flag. In 1901, troops from Fort Russell again went to the
Philippines to help put down the an insurrection and bring peace to the
Pacific. They returned with the Queen Mary Tudor cannon, forged in 1557
and the Bells of Balangiga. The seven-foot cannon, the only one of it’s
kind in America, and the bells, which had been used by insurrectionists to
launch an ambush on American troops, are on
display near the base flag
In 1906, Secretary of War William H. Taft recommended For
Russell be expanded to a brigade-size post. By 1910, the construction of
red brick quarters, two-story barracks, offices and stables had tripled
the area of the post. During this era, artillery units were assigned to
the post, and the size of the facility increased in size to accommodate
the area needed to train soldiers with the latest 20th century weapons.
From 1913 to 1916, during the Mexican Revolution, post artillery
units were stationed along the border to prevent the struggle from coming
on to American soil. During World War I, the post served as a mobilization
point and training facility for artillery and cavalry groups. As World War
I began, Fort Russell had become one of the largest military posts in the
The post airfield was first used in 1919 by the
"Western Flying Circus" led by-then Major Carl "Tooey" Spaatz (later
promoted to general and the first Air Force Chief of Staff). Later that
year, 125 aircraft used the field, located in today’s Wherry housing area,
to determine the feasibility of transcontinental air service and air mail
delivery. The success of these tests led to the development of the
Cheyenne airfield in 1920 and the abandonment of the post’s airfield.
In 1927, the last cavalry units left, ending 60 years of cavalry
history at Fort Russell. In 1930, President Hoover issued a proclamation
changing the name to Fort Francis E. Warren, honoring Wyoming’s
territorial governer and first state governor. Warren was a U.S. Senator
for 37 years. Senator Warren received the Medal of Honor when he was 19
for heroism during the Civil War. Senator Warren’s daughter married Capt.
John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, who later commanded the U.S. forces in
World War I and was promoted to General of the Armies. Only one other man,
George Washington, served in that capacity. General Pershing’s family
lived at the fort, in a home still in use today. Other distinguished
residents over the years were Gen. "Billy" Mitchell, Dr. Walter Reed and
Gen. Mark Clark.
During World War II, Fort Warren again grew in
size and 282 temporary buildings were added for training up to 20,000 U.S.
Army Quartermaster Corps soldiers. A prisoner of war camp was also
Air Force Base
In 1949, 80 years after its founding, the fort became Francis E. Warren Air
Force Base. The Air Force assumed command in1947 and in 1949 the fort was renamed F.E.
Warren AFB. During the first ten years as an Air Force base, the installation
was used as a training facility.
In 1958 the 4320 Strategic Missile Wing was
established with responsibility for the first twenty-four Atlas missile sites
under Strategic Air Command (SAC). Atlas D and E missile sites in eastern
Wyoming, western Nebraska, and northern Colorado were placed under the command
and control of F.E. Warren. On 2 Sep 1960 the 564th Strategic Missile Squadron F.E. Warren AFB was declared the first fully operational ICBM squadron. Two years later the new ICBM Minuteman replaced the Atlas. On 1 July 1963,
the 90th Strategic Missile Wing was activated. The wing was redesignated the
90th Space Wing on 4 Sep 1997.
Soon the unit became the 90th Missile Strategic Missile Wing. On July 1,
1963, the wing became the free world’s largest ICBM unit. It controlled 200
Minuteman I missiles in the tri-state, 12,600 square-mile area. The Minuteman I
sites were converted to Minuteman IIIs in 1975, and in 1986 F.E. Warren AFB
became the only base in the nation to deploy the Peacekeeper missile. By the end
of 1988, deployment was complete with 50 Peacekeepers replacing 50 Minuteman
After an Air Force restructure in June 1992, the 90th dropped its "strategic"
designation and became the 90th Missile Wing. SAC was inactivated and Warren
belonged to Air Combat Command, headquartered at Langley AFB, VA. On July 1993,
the realignment of the Twentieth Air Force from ACC to Air Force Space Command
moved the responsibility of ICBM operations to AFSPC, headquartered at Peterson
AFB, CO. The realignment was designed to take advantage of the similarities
between missile launch and space launch operations. Twentieth Air Force, headquarters for the nation’s ICBM wings, relocated at
Warren Oct. 1, 1993. These changes have kept F.E. Warren at the forefront of our
nation’s defense and made the wing the most powerful combat unit in the
Francis E. Warren AFB is one of four strategic missile bases in the
United States. The base has the distinction of evolving from a noteworthy
frontier infantry and cavalry post into the largest, most modern strategic
missile facility in the United States. Since Plattsburgh AFB closed
in 1993, Francis E. Warren AFB has had the distinction of being the longest continuously active base in the USAF
inventory; it is also home to the most powerful missile
wing in the free world.
Warren was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The
red brick buildings, built between 1885 and 1930, remain structurally unchanged
and are currently occupied by members of the Air Force. The Base Cemetery is the final resting place of more than 850 deceased
military personnel and dependents. Burials date from November 1867 and include
an Italian and 8 German POWs who died here during WWII
The Warren ICBM/Heritage Museum, and the Warren Military Historical
Association take this opportunity to invite you and your family to visit the
museum and to become a member of the association. The museum is located in historic Building 210 which was the Army
commander’s headquarters at the turn of the century. You will find exhibits in
the first floor rooms, as well as building 211 which is an annex to the museum,
depicting the history of missiles and that of the 90th Space
Wing. On the second floor are uniforms of the past and displays which depict the
life of officers and their families at the turn of the century.