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Myrtle Beach is rooted in military history

It’s been 28 years since the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base closed.  Newcomers may not be familiar with how Myrtle Beach came to be home to such a major military installation.  The text from this historical marker at Warbird Park explains the city’s role in World War II and beyond.  What once was the Air Force Base today is better known as the Market Common district.   

“The very beginning of a military base in Myrtle Beach can be traced to a meeting of the Myrtle Beach Town Council on October 16, 1939.  At that meeting, the Council agreed to purchase 135 acres for a municipal airport, and at the next meeting, named the new airport the Harrelson Municipal Airport in recognition of Mayor W. L. Harrelson’s efforts in promoting the construction of an airport.

“In 1940, federal funds, as part of the National Defense Program, were given to the Town of Myrtle Beach to help construct two runways.

“In 1941, the United States Army Air Corps (the precursor to the Air Force) expressed interest in the use of the airport for pilot training, and additional funds were made available to lengthen and pave two runways.

“In November 1941, the War Department, acting under the Second War Powers Act, acquired 6,707 acres to include the municipal airport.  Many airfield improvements ensued, and a fighter-bomber group was activated and given the mission of supporting and training pilots and associated air crews.”

In December 1941, just days before the Pearl Harbor attack, the Town Council agreed to turn the airport over to the U.S. War Department to serve as the Myrtle Beach Aerial Gunnery and Bombing Range.  Following World War II, the airport was returned to the city, but as the Cold War heated up in the mid-1950s, the city again gave its airport to the federal government.  It ultimately became the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, which operated until 1993.  Today, Harrelson Boulevard provides access to Myrtle Beach International Airport, preserving the original recognition for Mayor Harrelson’s support.