Editors Note: The information used to compile this article was taken from issues of the Baudette Region furnished by the Lake of the Woods County Museum.
In 1957, Foley Brothers Construction from St. Paul, MN began building the Baudette AFS site. The first commander and his personnel arrived at the site on August 8, 1958. The first commander was Captain Northrup. He was followed by twelve regular and two temporary commanders during the period 1959-1979. The last commander was Major Zelenski who terminated the official operation on July 1, 1979. The last military personnel departed the site on June 1, 1980. A listing of all commanders and their tour of command is listed on the last page of this history.
Many changes took place at the site during its operational years. It began with the AN/FPS-3, 6, and 90 Radar towers and two Gap Filler sites located approximately 75 miles to the east and west. Later the AN/FPS 24 & 26 towers were added and Baudette AFS was one of the 31 radar sites within the 30th Air Division (SAGE), Headquarters at Madison, WI. It and the other radar sites formed a watchful line across the northern tier of the United States. In addition to the radar towers, there were the Radio receiver and transmitter sites lobated a short distance from the main site. As time marched on, so did progress and with progress came the deletion of the old. The manual radars and gap fillers were eliminated. The BUIC III system was added in 1968 and with it came the personnel to operate it. Baudette was now able to perform the functions of a NORAD direction center if needed. It's ability was tested many times during one of the exercises, with more than 60 aircraft being controlled from here.
In 1970 Canadian and U. S. Army personnel were assigned to Baudette AFS. Colonel Hockney of the Canadian Forces was named the NORAD Center Commander. At this point, the number of personnel assigned here reached its maximum. There were approximately 285 military and 40 civilians assigned. The housing was critical and at this time for families. The unit added a trailer court on site and another which began at the now KOA campgrounds. An off site trailer court containing 33 government owned trailers was located in East Baudette. In addition, many houses and apartments were leased for families as far away as Warroad and Birchdale. Twenty-seven 3 bedroom homes were built in 1960 by the Air Force on the south edge of Baudette.
Baudette AFS personnel added much to the local community and its activities. An annual open house was held each year in May to acquaint the local people with operations at the site. The precision drill team, under the supervision of S/Sgt Abts, marched in parades and special events throughout the area. In April, 1960, this team led the Bridge Dedication parade. An "Airman of the Month" program was instituted in 1960 with Airman Vacabozzi being the first winner. In 1976 the program was supported by 34 local merchants and organizations. Commanders and personnel spoke at local activities including school graduation, rotary and Memorial Day gatherings. Captain Manning, Commander in 1976, was the Grand Marshall of the 4th of July Bi-Centennial Parade. During 1976, two Bi-Centennial flags were presented to the local schools. Many military personnel were active in local organizations and held offices as well.
Airman John Stock left Baudette and went to Vietnam. He made an appeal to this area for clothes for an orphanage. The first shipment from here was 300 pounds with two more shipments that followed. Columns appeared in the Baudette Region about activities at the base from time to time. The columns were entitled, "About the Base, "Hot Line", 692nd Radar Review" and the last was "Radron Blips". All writers were named except for "692nd Radar Review". It's author was known as A.Non.
The 692nd and its personnel won many awards and medals. Unit awards included the "A" award in 1968 and 1972; and the ADCOM Outstanding Unit award in 1976. In addition, various sections won other awards throughout the years. We all knew the feeling of being proud and to have been part of the unit. Let us not forget the monetary awards won through the "Suggestion Awards Program", they paid very well.
The base was a boon to the Baudette community and local economy. It severely impacted that economy when the site was closed. Employment at the site provided approximately 40 jobs for local civilians who worked in almost every function there. After the site closed, the facility was considered for a minimum security prison, job corp training camp, recreation camp and industrial center for business. The final decision was to sell it to Lake of the Woods County in 1980, who in turn sold it to Rapid River Grain and Seed Company. It is now used to produce feed pellets for livestock food. The most recent change will be peat ground will be used to heat the facility.
These Commanders assumed command in :
August 1958 Captain Northrup April 1959 Captain Sobonya August 1961 Lt. Colonel Lindbergh February 1963 Major Moros (Temp. Commander) November 1963 Lt. Colonel McDade November 1965 Major McElroy December 1967 Major Tevebaugh December 1969 Lt. Colonel Thayer July 1970 Lt. Colonel Adcock June 1972 Lt. Colonel Norman (Temp. Commander) July 1972 Lt. Colonel Skur April 1974 Captain Trackenberg June 1975 Captain Manning July 1977 Captain Zelenski