Louisiana’s military history – plenty of fight left here
Louisiana’s military bases are not relics of a bygone age; the state maintains a proud collection of active and thriving installations.
Louisiana has always had a robust military presence. The French chose to found New Orleans where they did in large part because it occupied a bend in the river that formed a defensible harbor. In the 1840s, the city served as the principal port of embarkation for troops headed to the Mexican-American War. Several of the city’s neighborhoods and the campus of the University of New Orleans once were military bases.
In Alexandria, England Air Force Base now serves as a multi-use commercial park and airport. Historic forts can be found throughout the state. But Louisiana’s military bases are not relics of a bygone age. Louisiana maintains a proud collection of active and thriving installations.
During World War II and the Vietnam War, Fort Polk in western Louisiana became a staging ground for mock warfare and the training of tens of thousands of soldiers. More soldiers shipped out of Fort Polk than any other fort during the Vietnam War. Today, the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk bills itself as the Army’s “premier combat training center.”
Louisiana also contains significant Air Force installations. Barksdale Air Force Base, in northwestern Louisiana, was established in the 1930s and became a bombardier’s training ground during World War II. In recent decades, it has served as a major base for B-52 bombers, known for their efficiency, effectiveness and long range. This has placed the airmen of Barksdale in hostile skies over Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The forts of Louisiana continue to evolve to meet the current needs of the military. A pair of old Navy bases straddling the Mississippi River in New Orleans have been consolidated to create a single base known as “Federal City,” home to the Marine Forces Reserve and a regional Coast Guard base. New Orleans’ Jackson Barracks, home of the National Guard’s legendary Washington Artillery, dates back to the 1830s. It was heavily damaged in the 2005 Katrina disaster, but is now restored and back in action. While Jackson Barracks contains headquarters, Camp Beauregard (near Alexandria) serves as the Louisiana National Guard’s main training facility. Just downriver from New Orleans, in Belle Chasse, the Navy’s flyboys have a home at the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base. It is also home to Louisiana Air National Guard, U.S. Air Force Reserve and U.S. Coast Guard flying operations.