The Korean War of 1950 emphasized the need for maintaining a Naval presence in Okinawa. On February 15, 1951, U.S. Naval Facility, Naha, was activated. Subsequently, Fleet Activities, Ryukyus was stood up on March 8, 1957, also at Naha. On May 15, 1972, upon reversion of Okinawa to Japanese administration, the two organizations were combined to form Commander, Fleet Activities, Okinawa (CFAO). Fleet Activities, Okinawa relocated to Kadena Air Base on May 7, 1975, as Fleet Activities, Okinawa/Naval Air Facility, Kadena. In 1992, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commissions eliminated reference to Naval Air Facility, Kadena, although CFAO still remains responsible for hosting Navy aircraft at Kadena Air Base.
History of Kadena Air Base, Home of Fleet Activities Okinawa
Kadena history dates back to just before the April 1945 invasion of Okinawa when a local construction firm completed a small airfield named Yara Hikojo near the village of Kadena.
The airfield, used by Japanese warplanes, was one of the first U.S. 10th Army targets and was captured just hours after American troops stormed the island beaches April 1. Americans captured a 5,000-foot strip of badly-damaged coral runway. Army engineers quickly made repairs and by nightfall the runway could accept emergency landings. After adding six inches of coral, the airfield was declared operational eight days later. By August 1945, an additional runway was built and the original runway lengthened and improved to accommodate bombers.
Although originally a fighter base, a B-29 organization -- the 316th Bombardment Wing -- was the first element responsible for base operations. The 316th was preparing to fly combat missions against Japan. However, President Harry Truman announced the end of offensive action against Japan on August 15,1945, before bombers could take to the skies. The surrender of the Ryukyus-deployed Japanese forces occurred Sept. 7 when Gen. Joseph Stilwell accepted the surrender at a location which later became Kadena's Stearley Heights housing.
The 316th BMW remained at Kadena until inactivation in 1948. An advanced element of the 316th returned to Kadena in June 1950 when the 19th Bomb Group arrived from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to fight the Korean War. In August 1950, the 307th Bomb Group arrived from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., adding to the base's growing bomber force.
When the Korean War ended in 1953, the B-29s departed and in 1954 were replaced with F-86 Sabrejets from the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing (from Korea). In March 1955, the 313th Air Division was activated at Kadena, replacing 20th Air Force as the senior U.S. Air Force organization in the Ryukyu Islands.
The 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, as the wing came to be known, exchanged its F-86F Sabre Jets for supersonic F-100D Super Sabres in 1957. The wing converted to F-105D Thunderchiefs in 1962. In the early '70s, the wing traded its Thunderchiefs for F-4C/D Phantoms. We received our latest fighters, the F-15 Eagle, in 1979.
Then, in 1991, the largest reorganization the base had ever seen took place when many units realigned, redesignated or inactivated. The 313th AD deactivated Sept. 30 and one day later Kadena combined three wings -- the 376th Strategic Wing, 18th Combat Support Wing and the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing -- into one, thus incorporating the E-3 Sentry (Airborne Warning and Control System), KC-135 Stratotanker and the F-15s all under one wing -- the 18th Wing. Since then, the 33rd Rescue Squadron and its HH-60G helicopters have also realigned under the 18th. Additional unit restructuring has followed, making Kadena one of the most complex and certainly the largest operational combat wing overseas in terms of the number of aircraft assigned.
(Source+: Kadena Air Base Website)