The BAFB Exhibition will be open on November 24th from 9:30am-12:30pm

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

  • BLYTHEVILLE ARMY AIRFIELD OPENS

    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 fly North American B-25 Mitchell bombers in all theaters of World War 2. The airfield’s site was specifically chosen due to the high quality of soil in the area (which was needed 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).

  • BLYTHEVILLE AIR FORCE BASE OPENS

    Thanks in part to lobbying from the City of Blytheville, the airfield was reactivated as Blytheville Air Force Base, a single-mission Tactical Air Command (TAC) base of the recently minted United States Air Force. On June 19, the 461st Bombardment Wing, Tactical assumed control of BAFB. They brought with them the Martin B-57B Canberra tactical bomber and the Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star trainer jet, and over the next three years participated in training exercises like Operations Sagebrush and Redwing.

  • FROM TAC TO SAC

    In response to the 1955 congressional Killian Report and changing priorities in the Air Force, BAFB was transferred from TAC to the Strategic Air Command (SAC). 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.
  • "ON ALERT" AT BAFB

    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, BAFB 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.

    United State Air Force Bomber Plane dropping bombs above the clouds.
  • CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    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. BAFB’s 97th Wing was ordered to put two of its bombers on 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.
  • RENAMED EAKER AFB

    That April, BAFB’s 97th Wing was awarded the Omaha Trophy, denoting it as the best performing wing in the entirety of SAC. About a week later, the base was again placed on the BRACC list again due to financial issues. The following May, in response to the BRAC placement, the airbase was renamed to Eaker Air Force Base (EAFB), in honor of the famed World War 2 Army Air Forces General.

    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.
  • THE BASE IS CLOSED

    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

  • 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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  • Ready Alert Facility Restoration Ground-Breaking Event

    BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. - The National Cold War Center broke ground today on an extensive restoration and structural stabilization of the Ready Alert Compound on the grounds of the former Blytheville Air Force Base. The groundbreaking marks the beginning o...

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  • Joseph Alley named National Cold War Center Exhibition Manager and Coordinator

    BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. (March 14, 2022) – The National Cold War Center has named Joseph Alley as Exhibition Manager and Coordinator. Upon joining the National Cold War Center staff on March 28, Alley will oversee the day-to-day management of the center...

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  • Designation Bill Introduced in U.S. House

    WASHINGTON (KAIT) - A bill that would name the former Eaker Air Force Base in Blytheville as the National Cold War Center was filed this week in the nation’s capital. According to a media release from Arkansas’ congressional delegation, Reps. Ri...

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  • Cotton, Boozman Bill

    Cotton, Boozman Bill to Designate National Cold War Center in Blytheville Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas) introduced a bill that would designate the center at Eaker Air Force Base in Blytheville, A...

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  • A Big Step Forward

    On November 11, 2020, the newly developed BAFB Exhibition will open on the Arkansas Aeroplex in Blytheville, Arkansas, completing the first phase in creation of The National Cold War Center. The small center, honoring the vast history of the former E...

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Phase Development

1

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 2020. Major fund development is launched with individuals, corporations and grantmakers.

2

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.

3

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.

Regional Tourism

  • Home of Johnny Cash

    Come visit the childhood home of American music icon Johnny Cash and see the restoration efforts that have preserved the story of the nation's largest farming resettlement community.

    Birth home of Johnny Cash
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  • Wilson Cafe and Tavern

    The Wilson Café and Tavern, located in Wilson, Arkansas, is the favorite local spot to dine and convene. The Wilson Café is open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Serving inspired southern dishes, classics, and a few items with a twist, the café is sure to create a memorable dining experience regardless of what time of day you stop in.

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  • US HWY 61 Arch

    The Blytheville Arch is a gateway between Arkansas and Missouri on Highway 61. The concrete horseshoe arch reads "Entering Arkansas" on one side and "Entering Missouri" on the other.

    A guy on a motorcyle riding under the US Hwy 61 Arch.
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  • Hampson Archeological Museum State Park

    Hampson Archeological Museum interprets the lifestyles of this farming-based civilization that lived there from A.D. 1400 to 1650. Artifacts and exhibits share the story of this early aboriginal population of farmers who cultivated crops and supplemented their food resources with hunting native game while developing its art, religion, and political structure along with a thriving trading network.

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  • Delta Gateway Museum

    Housed in the historic Kress Building in the heart of Blytheville’s Commercial Historic District, this regional heritage museum illustrates broad historical themes in one of the world’s most fertile agricultural regions.

    The store front of the Delta Gateway Museum
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  • Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge

    Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a true oasis of bottomland hardwood in an agriculturally developed area.

    mockingbird on tree branch
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  • Greyhound Bus Depot

    The Blytheville Greyhound Bus Station stands as one of the purest examples of the Art Moderne style existing in Arkansas. The bus station was also an important stop for many blues singers in the 1930's, like Elmore James and Muddy Waters, who were traveling north to Chicago. 

    The store front of the Greyhound Bus Depot
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  • Sans Souci Landing

    Located along the banks of the Mississippi River, the scenic park is situated on the site of the former Sans Souci plantation. Sans Souci means “without care” or “no worries” in French. The park also offers free ramp access to the Mississippi River.

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