You can’t tell the full story of the Black Hills without telling the story of both Camp Rapid and Ellsworth Air Force Base. These two military installations have played pivotal roles in the region.
Ellsworth Air Force Base
Ellsworth Air Force Base was founded in 1942 to train bomber pilots to aid the Allies in the European Theater of WWII. The base was originally named Rapid Army Air Base. Following the War, this base was put on standby and then a few years later was made a permanent establishment of the United State Air Force — which was established as a separate branch of the Armed Forces in 1947.
The base was renamed Ellsworth after Brigadier General Richard Ellsworth following his death in 1953. For 81 years, this base has grown, evolved and has proven to be an extremely valuable asset to both the global fight for freedom and the local communities that surround it. The next chapter of the Ellsworth story is being written right now as the base prepares for the arrival of the B-21 Raider, the most advanced military aircraft in the world.
Just as storied as the history of Ellsworth is the history of Camp Rapid, an Army National Guard Base located in Rapid City. This base came into prominence during WWI, training and sending troops to the French front. The base remained active during WWII and has continued to grow.
Locals who have been in the area for a while have a particular appreciation for the South Dakota’s National Guard for their heroic role during the Rapid City Flood of 1972. Today, the soldiers of Camp Rapid are not only vital to the security of the state of South Dakota, they play a major role in national security, as well.