Less than a week before Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Works Progress Administration dedicated a recently constructed airport near Goldsboro, North Carolina. The airstrip was named Seymour Johnson Field in honor of Lieutenant Seymour Johnson, a Navy pilot who perished after a failed test run in 1941. According to historian William S. Powell, “as of the early 2000s Seymour Johnson was the only air force base in the world named for a U.S. Navy pilot” (p. 1021).
On June 12, 1942, the Air Force gained control of the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, with its main goal in training pilots for aviation warfare in World War II. The base became the home of the 75th Training Wing and the 326th Fighter Group during the war. Throughout the war a total of 250,000 troops cycled through the camp, and some of these pilots were the first bombers inside Germany. However, at the close of the war Seymour Johnson was shutdown by the Air Force.
Even though Seymour Johnson was discontinued in the 1940s, two veterans wanted the Air Force to return to Goldsboro, Scott Berkeley and John D. Lewis. Berkeley, mayor of Goldsboro and World War I pilot, along with Lewis, a World War II pilot, pushed for a reopening of the camp, and on April 1, 1956, their campaign succeeded as Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was opened as part of the Tactical Air Command.
In July of 1956, the 83rd Fighter-Day Wing moved into the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. A year later, the renowned 4th Tactical Fighter Wing (or more commonly known as the 4th Wing) moved to the base, taking the place of the Eighty-third Wing. Known for “shooting down the greatest number of enemy aircraft in both World War II and the Korean War,” the Fourth Fighter Wing’s transition to the base ensured its perpetuation (Powell, p. 1021).
Even though the 4th Wing calls the base home, numerous other specialized Air Force units have trained and prepared at Seymour Johnson. Some units include the 482nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, the 19th “Suitcase” Air Force, and the 68th Bombardment Wing. The 4th Wing was organized into four different squadrons in the 2000s; two departments train and the other two squads are for military duty.
One important trait of the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base has remained its consistent dealings with the surrounding community. Mayor Scott Berkeley successfully prepared the Goldsboro area for the incoming Air Force personnel and the base has “enjoyed one of the best reputations in the air force for community relations” (Powell, p. 1021). In recognition of the benevolent relationship between the community and the base, a large model of air force pilot wings rest above Goldsboro’s city hall.
“Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.” William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).
“Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.” North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program website. A Division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. (accessed February 23, 2012).