History Nebraska Blog

Marker Monday: Bruning Army Air Field

Welcome to Marker Monday! Each Monday we will feature one of Nebraska’s hundreds of historical markers. If you’d like to see a specific marker featured, send an email to jill.dolberg@nebraska.gov.

Location: Rural Nebraska 4, Bruning, Thayer County, Nebraska; 40.321558, -97.44751

Marker Text: Bruning Army Air Field, located northeast of here, was one of eleven army airfields in Nebraska during World War II. Construction began in September 1942 on 1,480 acres of farmland, for which the government paid twelve landowners $73,400. The field was activated on March 18, 1943. It eventually included 1,720 acres, 234 buildings, and three 6,800-foot runways. By December 1943 nearly 500 civilians and 3,077 military personnel worked there. Bruning initially provided training for the 456th, 449th, and 487th Heavy Bombardment Groups, flying B-24 Liberators. The 449th moved directly from Bruning to Italy, where it flew 245 group missions, losing 101 planes, 388 men killed in action, and 363 men as prisoners of war. In 1944 the field was home to P-47 pilots from the 23rd Fighter Squadron, later sent to Europe, and the 507th and 508th Fighter Groups, which flew in the Pacific. The field was declared surplus by the War Department on November 21, 1945, and transferred to the state of Nebraska in 1947. Bruning was maintained as a state airfield until 1969. The site has reverted to agricultural uses.

Further Information: On September 12, 1942, twelve landowners living near Bruning received notices that they had to vacate their property in ten days. While they were compensated $50 per acre, most structures on the property were moved or destroyed. The property was to be used for the 1,720-acre, 234-structure Bruning Army Airfield, which was dedicated on August 28, 1943. Twelve bombardment squadrons and nine fighter squadrons were stationed at the base, which at peak capacity had 4,000 personnel and 800 civilian employees. After 174 buildings were dismantled in 1947, the field was turned over to the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics in 1948. It was used as a state airfield until 1969. The land is now leased to farmers and a feedlot company. Of the 234 buildings once on the site, only 5 now remain. More fatal air crashes occurred involving planes from Bruning than any other airfield in Nebraska during World War II. There were 15 crashes of planes originating from Bruning resulting in 42 deaths.

Bibliography / Read on: Goeres, Vince. Wings Over Nebraska: Historic Aviation Photographs. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society Books. 2010. Kooiman, Barbara M. Aviation Development in Nebraska. Nebraska State Historical Society State Preservation Office and Nebraska Department of Aeronautics. Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. 2000. Penry, Jerry. Nebraska’s Fatal Air Crashes of WWII. Milford: Blue Mound Press. 2009.

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