MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Plans are in the works for an open house event at Minot Air Force Base this summer. Nearly 53 years ago the first open house was held there.
The air base open house on Sunday, May 17, 1959, drew 25,000 to 30,000 people to see this new Air Force installation.
Ground was broken for the new air base in 1955 and in 1957, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers turned over the "key" of the base to Maj. Joe Roberts, the first base commander.
A two-day Armed Forces Day event called "Power For Peace," saluting the armed forces and the readiness of this nation, included an open house at the new base. The Armed Forces Day events started Saturday, May 16, 1959, with an open house at the radar station south of Minot and a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored "Air Fair" at the Minot International Airport.
"It was the air base, however, where upwards of $100 million already has been spent on construction, that attracted the most attention," The Minot Daily News reported in its May 18, 1959, edition.
Cars by the thousands were bumper to bumper, jamming the 13 miles of U.S. Highway 83 between the base and Minot and roads leading into the base during the open house hours, "causing many a driver to silently join those who have publicly on previous occasions urged the state highway department to undertake construction of a four-lane road between Minot and the base," the newspaper said.
"It was a tremendous display of interest on the part of citizens of this area in the armed forces and in their own Air Force base," said Capt. Frank J. Kramer in the newspaper story. Kramer was the unit adviser for the Army Reserve in Minot who headed the event as Armed Forces Day project officer.
"What the mammoth crowd saw were such sleek craft as the F-102, F-89, F-86, T-33, Navy S2F, and the B-52 parked and in action plus the base itself, a cornerstone in the nation's defense," the newspaper reported.
Other activities included Tech. Sgt. Robert R. Anderson named "Airman of the Year," a Cub Scout kite-flying demonstration, displays of National Guard, Army Reserve, Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force equipment, films in a hangar, a ground approach control portable tower similar to one used in the Berlin Airlift and tours of many of the buildings.
Visitors heard Rear Adm. Walter F. Rodee, one of the top men in this nation's defense in his role as Navy commander for North American Defense Command, speak at the 4 p.m. retreat ceremony.
All airmen and officers at the new installation, now more than 500 strong, were on duty to aid the thousands of spectators and explain various details, The Minot Daily News reported.
The open house at Minot AFB is now known as Northern Neighbors Day. The next one is being planned for Aug. 25.