A look back at fighter county – 1940s

A view to the east from the control tower Feb. 9, 1943, at Luke Field, revealed completed construction. Photos courtesy of 56th Fighter Wing History office

Construction began in March 1941 at Litchfield Park Air Base. The base was later renamed Luke Field. In December 1941, Luke Field’s military population was 3,434, including 308 permanently assigned officers, 322 cadet or officer student pilots, and 2,804 enlisted personnel. It peaked in 1942 when 6,255 were assigned. By the end of 1944, the officers and cadet/officer students outnumbered enlisted men. Thereafter, decreases occurred each year, and only a handful of people remained at Luke when the base closed on Nov. 30, 1946.


President Franklin Roosevelt’s call for increased pilot production resulted in the establishment of Luke Field. At its height in 1944, Luke had 444 AT-6 Texan aircraft assigned.
Fighter training in the P-40 Warhawk began at Luke Field on July 14, 1942. Lt. Col. Ennis Whitehead was Luke Field’s first commander. He arrived at Luke June 6, 1941.

The majority of heavy maintenance for Luke Field’s aircraft was performed by civilians.
Civilian women maintainers played a key role at Luke Field.