9 Wing History
9 Wing/CFB Gander is rich in aviation history. From its beginnings as a strategic location during the war, Gander served as a staging area for the Royal Air Force Ferry Command. Gander's importance during the war continued to be equally important during peacetime.
In the Beginning
In 1935, as part of a global network of airfields conceived at imperial conferences, the Canadian Government decided to build an airport in Newfoundland. It was known as the "Newfoundland Airport." The name stuck until 1942 when Gander was adopted.
The airport served as one end of an experimental transatlantic airway throughout the 30s, and became one of the primary nodes in Ferry Command's link to Europe during the Second World War.
Winston Churchill referred to Gander as "the largest Aircraft carrier in the North Atlantic." It was home to many squadrons during the Second World War. It also had one of the first radar units on this side of the Atlantic.
The Base demobilized in 1945, but the airport continued as an important commercial stopping point on the transatlantic route.
Canadian Forces Station Gander 226 Aircraft and Warning Squadron (226 AC&W) began operations on 21 February 1954.
With unification in 1968, Naval Radio Station Gander was disbanded. It became part of Canadian Forces Station Gander and began sharing the former RCAF premises with 226 AC&W radar squadron.
In 1970, a new signals intelligence facility known as the "Turkey Farm" was opened to house 770 Communication Research Squadron and CFS Gander came under the control of Canadian Forces Communication Command.
103 Rescue Unit
In December 1976, the Canadian Government decided to locate a Search and Rescue Unit at Gander. On 2 May 1977, 103 Rescue Unit became re-activated to meet that new commitment. On 9 May 1977, CFS Gander became an Air Command unit. It became a base in March 1984.
Tragedy at Gander
Tragedy befell the Town of Gander on 12 December 1985 when an Arrow Air Jetliner crashed, taking the lives of 248 American service persons and its 8 civilian crew members.
For its assistance in the crash, CFB Gander was awarded the United States Secretary of the Army Commendation.
9 Wing Gander
On 1 April 1993, CFB Gander was renamed 9 Wing Gander. Since coming under the Wing Concept, many organizational changes have taken place.
On 23 June 1997, Prince Phillip presented 103 RU with their colours and the unit was renamed 103 Search and Rescue Squadron. On 3 July 1997, the last American Exchange position departed 770 CRS, ending fifty-six years of American military presence on Newfoundland soil.
Another milestone in Gander's history was the August 1997 renaming of 770 Communication Research Station to Canadian Forces Station Leitrim Detachment Gander.
Silent Witness Memorial
The Silent Witnesses Memorial was erected to commemorate the tragic event which took place on 12 December 1985 when an Arrow Air Jetliner crashed, taking the lives of 248 American service persons and 8 civilian crew members.
The memorial was erected in response to the desires of the many directly affected families of the Arrow Air Crash victims. Funded by the Newfoundland Masonic Fraternity and their Ladies Auxiliary, it embodies a true sense of community oneness, and will permanently demonstrate Gander's concern for their sad and tragic loss.
The "Silent Witnesses Memorial" depicts an American soldier standing atop a massive rock holding the hands of two civilian children. The children, a boy and a girl, each hold an olive branch, indicative of the peace-keeping mission of the 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles' on the Sinai Peninsula. Behind them rise three tall staffs, each bearing a flag: Canadian, American and Newfoundland.
As the trio stands, looking to the future, they are surrounded by the trees, hills, and rocks of the actual Arrow Air Crash site. The natural surroundings are the "Silent Witnesses" of the precise moment when 256 dreams ended, and the hearts and imaginations of the entire world were captured. This whole scene becomes "THE SILENT WITNESSES MEMORIAL", an appropriate and peaceful place of remembering. The sculpture was designed by Lorne Rostotski, St. John's, NF and sculpted by Stephen Shields, Hopkinsville, Kentucky, USA.
At the site, standing twenty-two feet in height, is the Cross of Sacrifice. A monument paid for from donations by those who have visited. The inscription "Rendez-vous With Destiny" - the motto of the 101st Airborne Division - was crafted from the remains of the emergency exit door of the ill-fated DC8. Surrounding the cross are planted 256 native trees - a tribute to each of the crash victims.