Vandenberg (except Atlas, Thor, range, & training)
The West Coast missile base began as the U.S. Army’s Camp Cooke just a couple months before we entered World War II, getting its name on 5 October 1941. The camp was used again for training during the Korean War. At the time it was selected by the Air Force as a place to test launch missiles, there was little left of much use for anything other than storage. One of the first things the Air Force did after taking possession was rename the place Cooke AFB; that happened on 7 June 1957. In May of the following year, a significant chunk of the southern part of the base was turned over to the U.S. Navy and named Naval Missile Facility Point Arguello (the Navy returned it in 1964). General Hoyt S. Vandenberg served as the USAF’s second chief of staff from 1948 to 1953, and when he died at the age of only 55 shortly after retiring, some method of memorializing him and his 30 years of service to his country was sought. The effort culminated with the renaming of Cooke AFB as Vandenberg AFB on 4 October 1958. The transition from U.S. Army camp to missile base was solidified on 15 December 1958 when Vandenberg AFB successfully launched its first missile, a PGM-17 Thor IRBM. The launch, performed by a SAC crew from the 1st Missile Division, inaugurated the IRBM portion of the Pacific Missile Range. During the next few years, launch facilities were constructed for Atlas, Titan I, Titan II, and Minuteman missiles, and launches of these became a common occurrence, often with several launches during a typical week. To support all these activities and people, the 392 ABG was activated. A short time later, when the 704 SMW was activated, the 392 ABG was placed under it. The 704 SMW was the very first Air Force ballistic missile wing, but it was short-lived. A number of organizations followed it that served as host for the many and varied squadrons that existed at the base during the subsequent decades--too many to list in this brief introduction, but you will find patches for most of them in this album. Keep in mind that the missions performed at this base have been so diverse, and the units so plentiful, that not all patches from Vandenberg are pictured in this album, as is reminded by the parenthetical that follows the album’s name. Those patches are contained in other albums within this gallery. And viewers are reminded that the missile mission is only a fraction of what the base does, especially in more recent years. For every missile launch there are several space launches. In fact, on 14 May 2021, the base was renamed Vandenberg Space Force Base, and it became an installation of the new, sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, United States Space Force. Rather than add this name change to the location listed for each and every Vandenberg patch in this (and other) albums, this fact is mentioned here and only here, just once. The location did not change, only the name of the base.