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Home North Carolina Cumberland County City of Spring Lake Historical Markers Pope Air Force Base

Pope Air Force Base

NC-24 at Manchester Road, Spring Lake, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 11' 33.594", -78° 59' 10.7268"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Established in 1919 as Camp Bragg Flying Field. Renamed for Lt. Harley Pope, Army aviator (1879-1919). Since 1948 an Air Force base. 1 1/2 mi. W."
     In the public mind Pope Air Force Base sometimes is overlooked because of its proximity to Fort Bragg. Pope is on the northern perimeter of Bragg. Indeed, the histories of the facilities are intertwined. Camp Bragg was established in 1918 and the following year Camp Bragg Flying Field opened. The first officer assigned was First Lieutenant Harley Halbert Pope, a native of Bedford, Indiana. He and W. W. Fleming on January 7, 1919, left Camp Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, in a JN-4 or “Jenny” to scout landing fields for an airmail route. Without benefit of instruments they followed the railroad tracks. Very near to their destination, the Army aviators ran out of fuel and attempted to land their “airship” in the Cape Fear River but crashed. Both men died. Lt. Pope was memorialized with the renaming of the field on April 5, 1919.

     In the early years activity around Pope Field was so slow that pilots were asked to buzz the area to scare away grazing deer before landing. In the 1920s the primary use of the facility was for observation, balloon, and bombing training. A major expansion occurred in the 1930s with runway extension, installation of lighting, and construction of a new headquarters building and two hangars. During World War II the primary use was for troop carrier training. Throughout these years Pope Field remained under the auspices of the Army. In 1947 the old Army Air Force became a separate branch of the military and the base took its present name in 1948.

     Troops from Pope have been deployed in major conflicts such as Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the Iraq War as well as actions taken in the Congo, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, and Somalia. In the mid-1990s the Air Force maintained a composite wing at Pope made up of F-16 fighters (these were withdrawn in 1996), A-10 close air support aircraft, and C-130 transport planes. The base now has 5,500 military and civilian personnel. As of 2005 the fate of Pope Air Force Base was uncertain after it appeared on a list of military facilities being considered for closing.     

Robert Mueller, Reference Series: Air Force Bases (Office of Air Force History, 1989)
Bernard C. Nalty, Winged Shield, Winged Sword: A History of the U.S. Air Force, Volume 2, 1950-1947 (1997)
(Raleigh) News & Observer, October 5, 1941, and December 9, 1951
Fayetteville Observer, January 8 and March 26, 1919
John A. Oates, The Story of Fayetteville and the Upper Cape Fear (1972)
The State, March 7, 1951
Roy Parker Jr., Cumberland County: A Brief History (1990)
Pope Air Force Base Historical Marker Location Map, Spring Lake, North Carolina