HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --
On Jan. 12, 1940, officials from the Ogden Chamber of Commerce, other civic groups, and the nearby Ogden Ordnance Depot gathered in a swirling snowstorm to participate in ground-breaking ceremonies at the newly developing Hill Field. The event marked the beginning of Works Progress Administration excavations for the first two buildings at the fledgling Ogden Air Depot. The project included construction of a quartermaster warehouse and commissary, and a quartermaster garage and shops.
Hill Air Force Base traces much of its founding to 1934. Successful operation of a temporary Air Corps depot in Salt Lake City to support airmail operations focused the attention of senior military and civilian leaders to Northern Utah as a possible site for a permanent air depot. Later, representatives from the Ogden Chamber of Commerce, together with most of Utah’s congressional delegation, promoted the advantages of locating an air depot in this area, which included good year-round flying weather, excellent climate for both aircraft maintenance and materiel storage, established rail and highway transportation center, adequate land, water, power, and manpower, and a strategic location inland for protection from possible enemy coastal attack.
As a result, in July 1934, the Air Corps Materiel Division, now Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, recommended that its prospective “Rocky Mountain Air Depot” be located in this area. The Wilcox Act of August 1935 authorized site selection and construction of seven permanent Air Corps stations, one of which was to be the maintenance depot in the western region.
This action prompted the Ogden Chamber of Commerce to take options on several thousand acres of land in Davis County in 1936, eventually donating several hundred acres to the United States government. By April 1939, the United States government had acquired nearly 3,000 acres of land held in escrow by the Ogden Chamber of Commerce as a site for the Ogden Air Depot (the forerunner of the Ogden Air Logistics Complex). The Military Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 1940, passed by the United States Congress in June 1939, included $8 million for construction of an air depot near Ogden, Utah.
On Dec. 1 1939, Air Corps General “Hap” Arnold informed the Ogden Chamber of Commerce that the name of the site for the new depot was Hill Field in honor of Maj. Ployer P. Hill, an early Air Corps Materiel Division pilot who lost his life in 1935 at Wright Field, Ohio, while testing the Boeing Model 299 aircraft, a pre-production demonstrator of the famous B-17 bomber.
Col. Morris Berman, the first commanding officer of the Ogden Air Depot, began his four-year tour of duty at Hill Field on Nov. 7, 1940, marking the formal activation of the installation’s depot and supply workload. Soon after, the second officer assigned to the Ogden Air Depot arrived along with the first civilian employee and enlisted Army Air Forces personnel. From this humble beginning, depot strength quickly grew to a World War II peak of over 20,000 civilian and military personnel.