Chièvres Air Base (AB) has been associated with the military history of Belgium since 1917. It was in 1917 when Germany first landed an aircraft outside the village of Chièvres in the fields they determined to be a prime location for a military air base. When World War I ended in 1918, Germany left Belgium without completing the air base they envisioned.
The potential air base land was returned to agriculture until the late 1930s when the Belgian government decided to establish the airfield for Belgian military aviation. These plans came to a halt when in May 1940, during World War II, Germany once again invaded the area and began to finish what they had started in 1917.
During the building of the German air base in 1940-41, more than 9,000 men and women were employed to build the runways, hangars, barracks, and flak towers. In May 1940, the Germans added 1,050 acres to the airfield, which was eight times larger than the Belgians had originally planned for in 1939. The airfield’s maximum size of more than 3,706 acres was reached in 1944.
The first unit to occupy Chièvres AB in 1940 was the Jagdegeschwader 26 from the Luftwaffe fighter wing whose mission was to attack the beachhead of Dunkirk, France, and to bomb airfields and airplane factories in the neighbourhoods of Paris. Later, the Italian 43rd Group used Chièvres AB as their base of attack for air raids over Britain. The Italian group was recalled from Chièvres AB in December 1940, and the base was occupied by Germany once again.
The Germans stayed at Chièvres AB until they retreated in August 1944. Before leaving, the Germans destroyed all of the airfield’s infrastructure and installations and burned all the base documents and records. The entire history of Chièvres AB over the last years disappeared in smoke.
Within a week of liberation, the US Army engineers established a camp at Chièvres AB and began to rebuild the destroyed airfield. By October 1944, the air base was once again fully operational. US Army personnel and engineers occupied the airfield until December 1945, at which time the base was returned to the Belgian military authorities.
In December 1950, the Belgian 7th Wing was established at Chièvres AB, where it remained until 31 January 1964. After the 7th Wing’s departure, the base hosted flight schools and a military training centre. On 31 December 1967, Chièvres AB was given to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) as a support installation. On January 1968, the US Army established the NATO SHAPE Support Group on Chièvres AB to provide logistic and aircraft transportation support to NATO and to SHAPE.
In 2009, the NATO SOF Coordination Center (NSCC) added its training and education compound to Chièvres AB, supporting the Alliance SOF mission. On 1 March 2010, the NSCC was redesigned as the NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ). It remains so today.
For a more detailed history, go to: www.garrisonchievres.eur.army.mil/sites/local/pages/history.htm