HISTORY OF PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Published March 23, 2011
Portland Air Base, located approximately six miles Northeast of Portland, Oregon, was originally constructed in 1936 as a WPA project. It was officially activated as Portland Army Air Base on 19 April 1941, however, the runways were not completed until October 1941.
In November 1941, the 55th Interceptor Squadron of the Army Air Corps was formed, but the base mission was not clearly defined until the occurrence of Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941. At that time it became a service base for the British Ferry Service.
The mission became training and submarine patrol in 1942 and remained as such until the end of the war. At that time a separation center was activated and maintained until February 28, 1967 when the base was closed.
The Army and Air National Guard began using the base in 1946 and were the sole occupants until October 1949 when the base was reactivated. On 30 May 1948, the Columbia River broke through a dike and flooded the area to an average depth of 18 feet.
In 1950, the government conveyed the land to the Port of Portland. In return, the Port granted the Air Force a lease on approximately 400 acres of land for the sum of one dollar.
In 1953, the 503d Defense Group was activated and the air base of Portland International Airport became part of the Air Defense Command. ADC maintained host responsibility through several organizational and aircraft changes until April 1966 when the 337th Fighter Group was deactivated.
At that time host responsibilities passed on to the 939th Troop Carrier Group (Reserve). They remained as host until 1 July 1968, when the group was moved to McChord AFB, Washington.
On 1 July 1968, the Oregon Military Department with the Oregon Air National Guard as its agent, assumed host responsibilities for the Air Force property. The major tenant units were the 304th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, 83rd Aerial Port Squadron (Reserve), 116th Tactical Control Squadron and the 244th Combat Control Squadron/Flight (AFCS).
On 26 April 1968, the Port of Portland submitted to the Commission and Oregon Air National Guard a detailed study of Port facility requirements necessary for present and predicted aviation growth. The study included the desire to expand into the military lease portion of PIA.
On 6 January 1969, the Port proposed to acquire approximately 180 acres of land to accommodate expansion. Replacement of facilities in an operable configuration to meet DOD standards at an estimated cost of $12,000,000, was preliminarily agreed upon.
On 4 June 1969, the agreement was reached that the Oregon ANG would remain at PIA with necessary replacement of facilities including relocation of Army Aviation to Salem, Oregon.