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For people who’s lives, whether personally or professionally, revolved around NATO and it’s military headquarters aboard SHAPE, Belgium, Chievres was mostly seen as support facility.  Sure, the base had an airstrip and a contingent of planes, but many people saw it as a place where they could spend their pay checks.  It had a PX — a department store — as well as a commisary for groceries, a Aafes snack bar, and Stars and Stripes bookstore.   Sure, there probably were other things, like a Class 6 liquor store, but at the time I was too young to have patronized it.   At anyrate, there’s a history of the installation here.  Some of the interesting paragraphs there are as follows:

The first time an airplane landed in Chièvres was during World War I. Germany had invaded Belgium and with its expansive farmlands, Chièvres had become one of Germany’s prime locations for establishing a military air base. A photograph dated 1917, depicting a captured British aircraft on the grassy fields of Chièvres, is the first historical indication of what would soon become a vital and strategical base point for many battles. The Germans, however, would not have time to build this air base as the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, terminating World War I. Chièvres “airfield” thus returned to a peaceful agricultural landuntil after the late 1930’s.

[snip]

In early 1941, the German ground staff was composed of 2,000 men. In 1942, it reached a maximum of 7,000 men and in 1944, it fell to 5,000. The strength was constantly changing depending on the number of fighter and bomber squadrons assigned. The technical sections (weather station, air control, administration, radio,etc.) employed 620 airmen from the Luftwaffe. About 150 stayed at Chièvres throughout the war, while the others were often transferred to various locations.

The first unit to occupy Chièvres in 1940 was one of the most famous Luftwaffe fighter wings – the “Jagdegeschwader 26” equipped with Messerschmitt 109 E fighters. Their main mission was to attack the beachhead of Dunkirk, France, and to bomb airfield and airplane factories in the neighborhood of Paris. Because of the lack of ground support installations, the Germanfighter left Chièvres. It was to become a bomber base.

Planes from here likely killed Allied troops:

On the 14th of June 1944, approximately thirty German aircraft from Chièvres bombed the landing beaches in Normandy. Later that month, K.G. 6 moved its aircraft to an airfield near Paris but soon returned to Chièvres after the bombing of Normandy. The Germans stayed in Chièvres until the end of August but were forced to retreat to a Dutch airfield on the 1st of September 1944. Before leaving, the Germans destroyed all the airfield’s installations. Moreover, the staff of the German military administration brought more than 27.5 tons of base documents and records to the Chièvres Grand’Place. Soaker in gas, the papers and records were burned.. The entire history of Chièvres air base over the last years had disappeared in smoke.

American forces ended up liberating the base by force:

On the 3rd of September 1944, motorized and armored units of the 1st U.S. Infantry Division, coming from Beloeil, entered Chièvres. Chièvres was liberated. Within a week of the liberation, the Army engineers of the USAAF established a camp at Chièvres and began to rebuild the destroyed airfield. They started by filling in bomb craters. On the 1st of October 1944, the air base was once again fully operational and became Air Base A 84 of the 9th U.S. Army Air Force. The first to set up at Chièvres was the 365th Fighter Group commanded by Colonel Ray Stecker. It was composed of the 386th, 387th and 388th Fighter Squadrons on P47 Republic Thunderbolts. They were succeeded by the 368th Fighter Group, the 361st Fighter Group, and the 352nd Fighter Group.

The US Military returned the base back to Belgium authorities, but they eventually returned:

Chièvres air base was then given to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe [SHAPE.] The Americans established on January 1st 1968 the “NATO SHAPE Support Group (U.S.), a U.S. Army unit. Chièvres air base was operated by a US Air Force unit to provide logistic support to NATO and SHAPE, and welcome its distinguished visitors. The first U.S. Air Force unit was Det 4, 7104 Air Base Wing which became the 7104 Air Base Squadron, then Det 1, 52nd Tactical Fighter Wing Det 1, 86 Operations Group. In May 2002 Det 1 was redesignated the 309th Airlift Squadron. The 309th traces it’s history back to the 309th Troop Transport Squadron – an Army Air Corps unit which participated in airdrops for the Normandy invasion and Operation Market Garden. The 309th operates a C-37 Gulfstream 5 providing distinguished visitor support for SHAPE. Additionally, the Army’s SHAPE Flight Detachment moved from France with SHAPE and currently operates two Blackhawk aircraft from Chievres.

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