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Throughout World War II, military air bases in Alaska provided a vital link in the route ferrying aircraft, troops, and materials from the continental United States to the Pacific Theatre of operations. At the end of World War II, as one of the northernmost military air posts in the country, Ladd Army Air Field, located outside the town of Fairbanks, Alaska, was strategically positioned to play an important role in the Cold War, being mere minutes away by jet from the Siberian coast of the Soviet Union. Renamed Ladd Air Force Base in 1947 when the United States Air Force was formed as a separate service, the field became the Northern Sector headquarters for the newly formed Alaskan Air Command, whose mission included air defense of Alaska, regional support for Strategic Air Command (SAC) and North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) operations, strategic reconnaissance, and arctic research.



Processing Information

Arranged, described, and encoded by Melissa A. N. Keiser, 2021.


Circa 1944-1954


Jeff Karpiak, gift, 1989, NASM.1989.0082


0.15 Cubic feet


This collection consists of 63 black-and-white photographs and eight 35 mm color slides (transparencies) documenting the training of an unidentified United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) pilot in the late World War II period, followed by his service with the United States Air Force (USAF) Alaskan Air Command in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Aircraft featured include the North American P-51H Mustang and the Lockheed F-94 Starfire.


No restrictions on access


Collection descriptions

Archival materials

Arrangement note

In 1990, the black-and-white print photographs in this collection were reproduced in negative number order on the second side (Side B) of National Air and Space Museum Archival Videodisc 7, a LaserDisc CAV format 12-inch (30 cm) optical disc published by the Smithsonian Institution. Print numbers applied during videodisc production are used as item-level image numbers (print numbers NASM 7B03406 to NASM 7B03476, videodisc frame capture numbers VD-7B03406 to VD-7B03476) and the black-and-white prints are stored in videodisc number order. Color copies of the 35 mm slides were produced by the Smithsonian Office of Printing and Photographic Services (OPPS) and are stored in negative number order.

Scope and Contents

The photographs in this collection fall roughly into three groups; many of the images include an unidentified man who is assumed to be a relative of the donor. The first group consists of 8 x 10 inch black and white print photographs of U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) pilot training aircraft and activities at various unidentified locations in the continental United States. Aircraft pictured include a Porterfield Model 50 Collegiate biplane (possibly part of the Civilian Pilot Training Program), Fairchild PT-19 Cornell, Boeing PT-27 Kaydet, Vultee BT-13, North American AT-6 Texan, and Cessna AT-8 Bobcat. The second group of 8 x 10 inch black and white print photographs depicts a U.S. Air Force (USAF) North American P-51H (F-51H) Mustang unit at Ladd Air Force Base—and possibly at Mile 26 Satellite Field (later known as Eielson Air Force Base); this is believed to be the 65th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, who were based in the Fairbanks, Alaska, area and flying P-51s circa 1946-1947. Additional aircraft seen in this group include a Boeing PT-27 Kaydet primary trainer fitted with an enclosed cockpit for cold climate training, Douglas C-47 and C-54 cargo aircraft, Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, and a group of three Sikorsky R-5 helicopters. The third group of eight 35mm color slides (transparencies) depict Lockheed F-94 Starfire fighter jets (and one view of a North American F-82 Twin Mustang); these are believed to be aircraft assigned to either the 65th or 449th Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons, and are seen in low-level flight near Ladd Air Force Base circa 1952-1953. Both squadrons were assigned to the USAF's Alaskan Air Command.


Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.

Topics Aeronautics
Aeronautics, Military
Lockheed F-94 Starfire Family
North American P-51 Mustang Family
World War, 1939-1945
Korean War, 1950-1953
Cold War -- 1950-1970


Jeff Karpiak Photograph Collection, Acc. NASM.1989.0082, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Archival Repository

National Air and Space Museum Archives