Many political and military leaders advocated building military bases in Alaska several years prior to World War II. Finally, when war threatened in 1939, Congress granted $4 million to construct an Army cold-weather experimental station at Fairbanks.
The purpose of the station, named Ladd Field, was to test aircraft operations in arctic conditions. However, when war broke out with Japan in late 1941, Ladd Field became a critical link in the Alaska-Siberia Lend Lease route. From 1942 until the fall of 1945, American crews flew almost 8,000 aircraft to Ladd Field, where the planes were turned over to Soviet aircrews for the continued flight to the East. The planes were eventually used by the Soviets against Germany.
Eielson Air Force Base was built shortly after the Army Air Corps separated from the Army and became the US Air Force by act of Congress in 1947. At that time, Ladd Field was also under Air Force control. Eielson today is home to the 354th Fighter Wing, which supports USARAK with close air support, theater airlift, reconnaissance missions and weather analysis.
On January 1, 1961, the Army assumed control of Ladd Field and renamed the installation Fort Wainwright, after General Jonathan M. Wainwright. General Wainwright and his men conducted a gallant defense of the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island in the Philippines during the early months of World War II.
Fort Wainwright has been home to several units, including the 171st Infantry Brigade (Mechanized), a Nike-Hercules Battalion, the 172nd Infantry Brigade, and the 6th Infantry Division (Light). The 6th ID (L) was inactivated in July 1994 and replaced by the US Army Alaska, with headquarters moving to Fort Richardson. Fort Wainwright is currently the home of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25yth Infantry Division, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade Alaska and other supporting units.
Fort Wainwright has a commitment to excellence in efforts to make the post a better place to live and work. With the move of 6th ID (L) headquarters to Fort Wainwright in 1990, many new sets of Family quarters were built, as well as a PX/Commissary mall, physical fitness center and maintenance facilities. Older Family quarters, barracks and offices were renovated.