Pope Air Force Base Gets Its Name

The Randolph County 4-H Club vising Pope Field in the 1940s. Image from the N.C. Museum of History

The Randolph County 4-H Club vising Pope Field in the 1940s. Image from the N.C. Museum of History

On April 5, 1919, the Camp Bragg Flying Field was renamed in memory of First Lieutenant Harley Halbert Pope, the first officer assigned to the post.  Pope had been killed when the Curtiss JN-4 Jenny he was flying crashed into the Cape Fear River earlier that year.

A member of the guard assigned to keep order Pope Field in the 1940s. Image from the N.C. Museum of History

A member of the guard assigned to keep order Pope Field in the 1940s. Image from the N.C. Museum of History

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 and balloon and bombing training. A major expansion occurred in the 1930s with a runway extension, installation of lighting and construction of a new headquarters building and two hangars. During World War II the field was used primarily for troop carrier training. Throughout these years Pope Field remained under the auspices of the Army. After the Army Air Force became a separate branch of the military in 1947, Pope became a base.

Troops from Pope have been deployed in many major conflicts including the Vietnam, Gulf and Iraq Wars as well as military actions taken in the Congo, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama and Somalia. In 2011, Pope Air Force Base was absorbed into Fort Bragg, once again becoming Pope Field.

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