Sembach's origins date back to 1919 when French occupation troops used the eastern part of the future flightline as a landing ground and erected some provisional buildings. After their withdrawal in 1930, these structures were removed and the airfield returned to agricultural use. In World War II, the field was once more considered as a flying station but these plans failed to materialize. It wasn't until March 1951, that the site was chosen as an air base and surveying commenced the following month. A 7,880 ft runway (06/24) was laid in September 1951 and taxiways, aprons and dispersal loops were built until the end of that year. Shortly thereafter, control tower, hangars, and maintenance shops were completed. On 1 September 1951, U.S. authorities officially took over the construction site from the French and named it Sembach Air Auxiliary Field. In spring 1953, the base's administrative portion was completed on a hilltop, a mile north of the airfield. On 5 April 1953, the 7355th ABS was assigned as base operating unit and ten days later the installation was renamed Sembach AB.
On 7 July 1953, the 66th TRW was reassigned from TAC to USAFE and its subordinate 66th ABG took control of the base. The next day, the wing's first aircraft arrived, RB-26s of the 30th TRS, followed by RF-80s and T-33s of the 302d and 303d TRSs. Air Rescue Service established a tenure at Sembach with the arrival of the12th ARG and the subordinate 81st ARS on 25 September 1953. The 11th TMS, the first Matador missile squadron at Sembach, arrived on 1 July 1956. The 587th TMG activated on 15 September 1956 and became the 11th TMS's higher headquarters. In 1958, aircraft operations began to decline. The 12th ARG wound down operations and inactivated on 18 February, followed by the 81st ARS within a month. Until the end of August, the final elements of the 66th TRW had left Sembach for Laon AB, France. The 512th FIS arrived from RAF Manston on 28 March with F?86Ds and operated from Sembach until its inactivation on 1 July 1959. The 7127th SG took over as host unit on 18 June 1958, the official transfer date of the 66th TRW. Concurrently, the 11th TMS inactivated and was replaced with the 822d TMS to preserve the latter's heritage. On 1 September 1959, Sembach became USAFE's primary missile base when the 38th TMW moved in from Hahn AB. The wing underwent a fundamental reorganization on 25 September 1962 when it took control of the 822d TMS from the intermediate 587th TMG which inactivated the same day. Concurrently, two additional squadrons, the 823d and 887th TMSs were activated. Meanwhile, the Matador missile had been replaced with the superior Mace. On 1 July 1964, the activation of the 7th ACS marked the return of a USAF flying unit. Meanwhile, Army liaison aircraft and helicopters had become regular users. The 38th TMW and its subordinate units were discontinued on 25 September 1966 and the 603d ABW took over. On 1 July 1968, the 601st TCW replaced the 603d ABW as host unit.
The 601st TCW relocated to Wiesbaden AB on 1 July 1973 to make room for HQ Seventeenth Air Force which moved in from Ramstein on 5 October. After the 601st TCW had left, the 7400th ABG took over as host unit. The pending transfer of Wiesbaden AB to the Army led to the 601st TCW's return on 1 January 1976. The wing's 20th TASS flew OV-10A aircraft while the 601st TASS operated CH?53C helicopters. On 4 July 1976, the 704th TASS activated as a second OV-10 squadron. An A-10 forward operating location was established when Det 1, 81st TFW activated on 1 September 1978. Revetments and a dozen hardened aircraft shelters were built and A-10 operations began in May 1979. The 601st TCW began to draw down its flying activities when the OV-10s of the 20th and 704th TASS returned to the U.S. in summer 1984 and both squadrons inactivated effective 30 September. Meanwhile, the CH-53s of the 601st TASS were retained until March 1988. Sembach gained an electronic combat mission when the 65th AD and the subordinate 66th ECW stood up on 1 June 1985. The 43d ECS activated under the 66th ECW on 1 October 1986 with EC-130H Compass Call aircraft for which a high-security facility and special maintenance hangars were built in the eastern dispersal loop. Following the withdrawal of their aircraft after Desert Storm, the 43d ECS inactivated on 31 July 1991. Concurrently, A-10 deployments ceased and Det 1, 81st TFW was phased out on 31 August 1991. After the inactivation of the 66th ECW on 31 March 1992, the 601st Support Wing (as the 601st TCW had been redesignated) resumed host unit duties but closed down three years later when the flightline returned to German control. At the time of writing, the administrative portion was still under USAFE control as Sembach Annex. This site has been managed by the 86th AW since the inactivation of Seventeenth Air Force on 30 September 1996.
© Gerhard Moroff 2001