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Nellis Air Force Base's rich history |

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Nellis Air Force Base's rich history

There are dozens of historical artifacts at the Clark County Museum dating back to the early days at Nellis.

They give you a better understanding about the heroic work being done at one of the military's historically significant bases.

Las Vegas Army Airfield was renamed Nellis Air Force Base in May of 1950 after Lt. William Nellis. He was a star athlete at Las Vegas High School, who died when his aircraft was shot down over Luxembourg, Germany.

Many decorated airmen have passed through, but one of the most legendary was Col. John Boyd, a skilled and daring pilot credited with changing "the art of war."

"He was the first guy to mathematically describe dog fighting. And once you can mathematically describe something, you can figure out how to make it better, and his input was crucial in the both the F-15 and F-16 design," said Nellis historian Jerry White.

It's a massive amount of air space is one of the reasons Nellis has never been on the chopping block, even in times of military downsizing.

"The airspace we have extends from the California state line to the Utah state line and the whole southern corridor of the state. Pretty much from the Sheep Mountains north," White said.

Nearly every inch of the 2.9 million square acres of range land is used during Nellis' Red Flag exercises.

"If you come out here during Red Flag, you'll see B-52's, B-1's B-2's, you'll see every fighter we have, you see the navy, the Brits the Aussie's the French, the Israelis, the Spanish," White said.

Today approximately 12,500 military and civilians work on base. It's part of the engine that drives southern Nevada's economy.

"Economically, Nellis is a huge part of the local economy, it's also a huge part in terms or bringing people into the area," said Mark Hall-Patton. "Many of the organizations that I belong to, churches, things like that, you find that you have people from Nellis who are not just members, they get involved and are a part of it."

Right now, dozens of artifacts from Nellis' rich history are on display at the Clark County Museum. Everything from goggles and bomber jackets early pilots wore, to a Life magazine cover that made gunnery school seem cool, to a 7 second burst of 50 caliber rounds. It's the fabric of a somewhat secretive place that for 75 years has been training some of the best and brightest in the U.S. military.