Schilling Site History
The Smoky Hill Army Air Field was built in 1942. The name of the base was changed to the Smoky Hill Air Force Base in 1946 and to Schilling Air Force Base (SAFB) in 1957. In 1942, the base served as headquarters for the 20th Bomber Command, and became the first operational training base for B-29 bombers. The base remained a bomber base for five years after World War II ended and was deactivated in 1949.
In 1951, the base was reopened for the Korean War. Upon reactivation, several improvements to the facility were made, including a 25-mile long jet fuel pipeline that terminated at a bulk fuel tank farm on the base. Additional improvements were made after the Strategic Air Command took over operational control of the base. These included construction of a training building, a boiler facility, a gas distribution system, and a bulk oil storage system. The base was designated a permanent Air Force installation in July 1953. B-47 bombers were operated from the facility. In 1960, the bombardment wing was transferred to Forbes Air Force Base at Topeka. A squadron of Atlas F intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and Nike surface-to-air missiles was deployed to twelve sites around SAFB and attached to SAFB for support. The SAFB was also upgraded to receive B-52 bombers and KC-135 tankers.
The closure of SAFB was announced in 1964. By 1967, most of the property was transferred to the Salina Airport Authority (SAA). SAA has since used much of the property in operating the airfield, renamed the Salina Municipal Airport. The remainder of the former SAFB was transferred to various state and local agencies for educational purposes.
Gas Instruction Area
The Gas Instruction Area is an 8.8-acre site in the southwestern portion of the former Schilling AFB within the fence line of the Salina Municipal Airport. The Gas Instruction Area incorporates the former locations of the gas instruction building and the decontamination area. Historic records indicate that an approximately 100-square-yard area was used for decontamination exercises involving liquid mustard on ground, equipment, and building surfaces. These records indicate that it is presumed that the building decontaminated was the gas instruction building itself, since the only other building in the area was a radio transmission building that was not erected until the late 1940’s.
The gas instruction building no longer exists while the radio transmission building remained standing until it was demolished in April 2010. An aerial photograph taken in 1954 shows the location of the radio transmission building, gas instruction building, and an area cleared of vegetation that may have been an area used for decontamination exercises.