The BAFB Exhibition is open until 5:30pm every Friday & Saturday in December for #LightsoftheDelta

Remembering the War that Saved the World

The National Cold War Center, located on Eaker Air Force Base, will be recognized as a major tourist attraction in Arkansas that will provide an immersive and authoritative experience in informing, interpreting and honoring the legacy of the Cold War.

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The Vision

Never Forget

For those Americans not alive during the Cold War, it’s difficult to imagine living under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. But that was the reality of the Cold War – a time we cannot afford to forget. That is the purpose of the National Cold War Center, to create a place where these historical events will never be forgotten and the human experiences will be preserved for and shared with generations to come. The center will tell the story of the brave men and women who guarded the fragile peace between two powerful nations.

Phase Development

airtraffic control tower
front of airplane
takeoff runway

History of the Base


    On June 10, 1942, the U.S. Army opened an advanced pilot training school at Blytheville, Arkansas. This facility trained Army Air Cadets on Beechcraft AT-10 Wichita advanced trainer planes to learn to fly North American B-25 Mitchell bombers in all theaters of World War 2. Notable people who were stationed at the base durring this time include Carl Jr. and Frank Bailey, sons of Arkansas Governor Carl Bailey, WASP Mary Quist, and Al Feldstein, editor of Mad Magazine from 1956-1985. The airfield’s site was specifically chosen due to the high quality of soil (which was essential for a proper runway), and ease of construction thanks to its proximity to the Mississippi River (which allowed for easy shipping of construction supplies and equipment).


    Thanks to lobbying from Arkansas representatives in congress and the City of Blytheville, the WW2 airfield was reactivated as Blytheville Air Force Base, a single-mission Tactical Air Command base. On June 19, the 461st Bombardment Wing, Tactical assumed control of BAFB. They brought with them the Martin B-57B Canberra jet bomber and the Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star trainer jet. The B-57 was a light tactical bomber that primiarly served as an interdictor aircraft, but also had variants that served in reconosiance roles. The 461st Wing did not see any combat during it's three years at Blytheville, instead it participated in training exercises in Louisiana, South America, and Central Europe.


    In response to the 1955 congressional Killian Report and changing priorities in the Air Force, Blytheville AFB was transferred from the Tactical Air Command to the Strategic Air Command. After the transfer, the 97th Bombardment Wing, Heavy assumed control of air base on July 1. This wing brought with them a squadron of Boeing B-52G Stratofortress long range bombers, which were equipped with GAM-77 “Hound Dog” and GAM-72 “Quail” missiles. Within the next few years, the 97th Wing’s bomber squadron was joined by a squadron of Boeing KC-135A Stratotankers.

    Photo of military personnel in front of Blytheville Air Force sign.

    That January, the 97th Wing began its primary mission, to support Operation Chrome Dome. This "Air Alert" mission saw SAC bombers and tankers flying routes to points on the border of the USSR as a check against Soviet nuclear aggression. Additionaly, Blytheville AFB began its "Ground Alert" mission, which involved having 5 B-52s and 4 KC-135s setting on an "Alert Pad" on the eastern end of the airbase, ready to go 24/7. With only 15 minutes notice, these planes were able to launch with their deadly payload. Each of the four B-52s on the alert pad were equiped with 4 GAM-77 missiles. Each GAM-77 was equiped with a nuclear warhead that could be set to over three times more powerful than the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki.

    United State Air Force Bomber Plane dropping bombs above the clouds.

    On October 24, following the discovery of Russian Intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba by an American spy plane, SAC ordered all of its Alert Facilities to DEFCON 2. Blytheville AFB’s 97th Wing was ordered to send two of its bombers to aerial alert, ready to strike the Soviet Union with nuclear missiles at a moment's notice. This is the closest that America and the Soviet Union ever came to nuclear war. Following the crisis, the 97th Wing was presented with the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for its performance.

    United States Air Force fighter planes in attack formation in the sky.

    In March, the majority of the 97th Wing’s bombers, tankers, and personnel were moved to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to support various operations in the Vietnam Conflict. The most notable operation was Linebacker II, a major bombing raid in December that targeted numerous sites in North Vietnam. On the first night of the bombing raid, Charcoal 01, a B-52G manned by a BAFB crew, was shot down. Three of the crew were killed in the crash and the other three became POWs. Following Linebacker II, the 97th Wing held the distinction of flying the final bombing operations of both Vietnam and Cambodia. The 97th Wing remained at Andersen AFB until September 1973, and upon their return BAFBs mission was altered to include training bomber and tanker crews.


    In January, Blytheville's base leadership was plesantly surprised to discover that they were on the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) list to be transfered B-52s and personnel from the potential closing of Beale AFB, California. They were equally shocked when, the following April, they were relisted by the BRAC commission to potentially be closed. This change in plans came from SACs resistance to reduce the capasity of Loring AFB, Maine, their largest base. Congressional representatives from Arkansas fought the base's closure for three years. While they eventually succeded, there were a number of improvement projects scheduled for the base that were either postponed or canceled.


    In April 1988, the Blytheville AFB was placed on the BRAC list for the third time. This came as quite a shock to base leadership, as the 97th Wing had secured the Omaha Trophy and the Fairchild Trophy in the previous two years, denoting it as the best performing wing in the entire Strategic Air Command. That May, in response to the BRAC placement, the airbase was renamed to Eaker Air Force Base, in honor of the famed World War 2 Army Air Forces General Ira C. Eaker.

    By the time the base was renamed Eaker Air Force Base, the Cold War was winding down. The mission of SAC was beginning to wane as tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union eased due to new communications and cooperation between the two countries.

    United States Air Force planes on the landing strip at the base.
  • Cold War Ended

    With the signing of the Treaty of Conventional Forces in 1990 and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty a year later, the Cold War was officially over. By September 1991, the Strategic Air Command mission would be inactivated, thus retiring the B-52 fleet and effectively ending air force activity at Blytheville/Eaker Air Force Base.

    The crowd at the Berlin Wall in Germany the day it fell.

    As Eaker AFB prepared for closure, units were either deactivated or moved to another base and services were slowly wound down. In March, the last B-52G, the City of Blytheville, left the base, and the following month, the 97th Wing was moved to Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Over 700 civilian jobs were lost after this move, and with the loss of the base personnel, the population of the county dropped by almost 3,500 people. On December 15, the last Air Force personnel were transferred out and Eaker Air Force Base was officially deactivated and closed.

BAFB Exhibition

Now Open

Expanding the vision: The first phase of The National Cold War Center will tell the story of the war that saved the world.

Come explore Blytheville AFB's history and its impact on people and community.

Operating Hours: Tuesday - Saturday from 9:30 am - 5:00 pm.

Address: Building 202, 3711 Idaho Street, Blytheville, AR 72315

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News & Updates

  • Office of the Arkansas Attorney General to donate $500,000 for the development of the National Cold War Center

    BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. (October 16, 2023) – The Office of the Arkansas Attorney General has committed to donating $500,000 over two years to support the continued development of The National Cold War Center. In an Oct. 10 letter, Arkansas Attorney Gene...

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  • National Cold War Center Receives $500,000 National Scenic Byways Grant

    BLYTHEVILLE, AR (May 15, 2023) The National Cold War Center (NCWC) project has received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program, in conjunction with the Arkan...

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  • Arkansas awards $400,000 to National Cold War Center in Blytheville

    The Division of Arkansas Heritage, a part of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage & Tourism, announced on February 15 at their headquarters that The National Cold War Center was one of five recipients to receive funding from the Arkansas Cu...

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  • Arkansas Delegation Introduces Legislation to Designate Blytheville Air Force Base as National Cold War Center

    Washington, D.C. (February 7th, 2023) – Today, Representatives Crawford, Hill, Westerman, and Womack, along with Senators Boozman and Cotton, introduced legislation to name the Blytheville/Eaker Air Force Base located in Blytheville, Arkansas, the ...

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  • The National Cold War Center Wins Entrepreneur of the Year at 21st Annual Arkansas Delta Byways Awards for Tourism Achievement

    JONESBORO, AR (January 31st, 2023) – The 21st annual Arkansas Delta Awards, which recognize tourism achievement in Eastern Arkansas, were awarded Friday, Jan. 27, during a ceremony held at the Hendrix Fine Arts Center on the campus of Phillips Comm...

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  • Nucor Steel Arkansas and Nucor-Yamato Steel Company each present gifts of $500,000 to The National Cold War Center during the center’s annual Gala on Nov. 5

    BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. (November 10, 2022) – Nucor Steel Arkansas and Nucor-Yamato Steel Company each presented $500,000 gifts to The National Cold War Center during the center’s “Cocktails & Cockpits” Gala on Nov. 5. The $1 million donation ...

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  • National Cold War Center receives $1.9M in state funding for improvements

    The National Cold War Center has acquired $1.9 Million in funding from the State of Arkansas. The contribution will aid ongoing efforts to make the Center a major Delta tourism destination by sharing the unique history of one of the most pivotal conf...

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  • The National Cold War Center Honored with Arkansas Delta Byways Innovation Award

    BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. – The National Cold War Center was honored with an Arkansas Delta Byways Innovation Award on May 2 for its inventive efforts in promoting tourism in the Arkansas Delta. Arkansas Delta Byways presented the Innovation Award to the ...

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Phase Development


Blytheville Air Force Base Exhibit

Opening of the first major on-site exhibit and welcome area for operations of The National Cold War Center project. Open since November 2020. Major fund development is launched with individuals, corporations and grantmakers.


The Work Continues

The National Cold War Center works to stabilize and renovate the SAC Alert Facility, while finalizing architectural exhibit designs, securing static aircraft for display, and continuing an aggressive capital fund drive.


The National Cold War Center Opening

Doors will open to the center that honors and remembers the war that saved the world. On-site experiences including a Welcome Center, self-guided tours, Alert Tower, B52 bombers. Cold War Legacy Gallery, and more.

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    Birth home of Johnny Cash
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    A guy on a motorcyle riding under the US Hwy 61 Arch.
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    The store front of the Delta Gateway Museum
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    mockingbird on tree branch
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    The store front of the Greyhound Bus Depot
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