A Brief History of Gowen Field
In early December of 1940, Adjutant General Adams of the United States Army wired Boise Mayor James Straight that construction of the Boise Air Base had been authorized. Boise was chosen for the erection of an Air Force training center because of its climatic and physical conditions. The original project called for the construction of temporary standard cantonment type buildings to house a wing of medium bombers. The base was to consist of approximately 120 buildings, providing facilities for housing, messing, administration, recreation and warehousing of a troop garrison of 2,500 officers and men, at an authorized cost of $2,115,130.00.
On Jan. 21, 1941, equipment was moved to the desolate sagebrush-covered site and the task of clearing the ground for construction was started. In March of that year, the first spade full of dusty soil was turned by Governor Chase Clark.
The first Commanding Officer of the new base was Col. Robin A. Day who took command on March
12, 1941. Under him as executive officer served Col. Arthur J. Melanson and Capt. John R. Bollinger as adjutant. On Easter Sunday, April 15, 1941, the first original cadre of twenty Soldiers arrived from Salt Lake City to form the 39th Air Base group.
The change of name was made under General Order No. 8, on July 29, 1941 and Boise Air Base officially became Gowen Field. This was in honor of Paul Gowen, a West Point graduate and pilot from Caldwell, Idaho, who was killed in a plane crash in 1938. The choice of name was popular with the local citizens and further solidified the good relations between the military and community. By August of 1941, construction had reached the stage where it was felt that development was adequate to begin operation of the field as an Army Air Corps Base.
Gowen Field remained as an active Army Air Corps Base during WWII, serving as a medium bomber training base. Gowen Field was first home to six B-18 Bolo bombers. However, these aircraft were soon replaced by the faster B-26 Marauders.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor sent Gowen Field into high alert. As with the rest of the nation, activities ramped up. In a short period of time, Gowen Field saw other types of aircraft circulate through its facilities and runways. In January of 1942 Gowen Field received the latest and greatest B-17 Flying Fortress. Soon after, Gowen Field became a combat crew training school for the B-24 Liberator. This would continue throughout the duration of the war.
Soon after the end of the war, the Army locked its gates and returned Gowen Field back over to Boise by the early part of 1946. The gates did not remain locked for long, however.
Idaho’s adjutant general, Gen. Harry Abendroth, requested that Lt. Col. Thomas G. Lanphier establish an Idaho Air National Guard that would lease land from the city. That same year, the Idaho National Guard was born.
Although Idaho’s Air National Guard was established in 1946, it would not move onto Gowen until later that next year. Since then, it has quietly celebrated more than a half century of volun¬teer service to Idaho and the nation by thousands of Citizen-Airmen, sharing the runways with Boise and the community ever since.
Gowen Field in 1940
B-17's on the ramp in 1942