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Thunderbirds will take to the sky to celebrate 100th anniversary of Selfridge Air National Guard Base

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For nearly 100 years the Selfridge Air National Guard Base has played a major role in protecting the United States and its citizens. Soldiers, sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Homeland Security agents have called it home and many have been deployed from the base to fight overseas in every war since World War I.

The base will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year with an open house headlined by the world-famous U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The event will take place Aug. 19-20.

There’ll also be an air show demonstration by a wide variety of current military and heritage aircraft. All the nation’s military services will be represented with ground displays during the event as well. In addition, plans are in the works for a special museum display, a coffee table book about the base’s heritage, and special ceremonies to mark the occasion. Look for more details later this year.

“The 2017 Open House will not only celebrate the full century of service the men and women of Selfridge have contributed to America, but will also launch us into our second century,” said Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum, commander of the 127th Wing, the host military unit at Selfridge.

The Selfridge Air National Guard Base opened on July 8, 1917. It’s last century is filed with stories of bravery, honor and service as those deployed from there and those who remained at the base have been involved in every war since the World War I.

They have perpetually been there in America’s hour of need, whether serving in World War II after Pearl Harbor or patrolling and protecting the Detroit area in the uncertain hours after the attack on September 11, 2001.

107th over France in World War II

107th over France in World War II

As recently as last year, the base sent 500 troops to combat ISIL. This attempt to push back the terrorist organization was the largest deployment from the base since 1953, when the Korean War ended.

During World War II the Tuskegee Airmen, the famous group of all-African American pilots, mechanics and others, received their advanced combat training at Selfridge. The Tuskegee airmen are considered some of the best pilots of the era and were instrumental in breaking down racial barriers. This makes Selfridge not only an important point in military history, but also in civil rights.

Tuskegee Airmen

Tuskegee Airmen

“At Selfridge today, we stand on the shoulders of so many patriots, so many military personnel from the past 10 decades who have lived the core value of Service Before Self,” Slocum says.

In those hundred years, Selfridge has gained the unique distinction of becoming one of the few places where Homeland Security agencies and all five Department of Defense services work together for a single goal of providing support and defense of our nation.

With such a founding date so close the birth of aviation, Selfridge is one of the oldest Air bases still in use today. Wilbur and Orville Wright made four brief flights at Kitty Hawk with their first powered aircraft on December 17, 1903, a short 14 years before the base opened.

In an ironic twist, the base was named after US Army First Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge, and early Army aviator and the very first person to die in an air crash. He was flying with Orville Wright who was demonstrating his plane for an Army performance test. During a steep turn, the wings flexed, the propeller blade snapped off and the plane plummeted to the ground. Wright survived. Selfridge did not.

In another ironic twist, Selfridge was almost not an airbase. Due to the harsh Michigan winters, there were fears it would not be suitable for flight training. The base was originally a school for mechanics and eventually gunners. It actually did not begin to train flight until after the end of World War I.

Those interested in signing up to receive periodic email information about the Selfridge Open House and Air Show may do so at the website In addition to the Open House, Slocum said a number of special events are planned throughout 2017 to honor the occasion of the centennial.

Information on the history of Selfridge Air National Guard Base is available on the History & Heritage page of the 127th Wing’s official website,

– Pictures and videos from Selfridge Air National Guard Base and Thunderbirds 

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