On September 5, 1942 construction was approved to start work on the Kearney Air Force Base (originally Keens Municipal Airport) that the City of Kearney leased to the Army for $1.00 per year as long as the base was needed. Major V. B. Trevellyan was assigned as the first commanding officer of Kearney Army Air Base, arriving on November 30, 1942. Buildings were essentially completed and ready for occupancy by December 15. "It is a complete city within its own area" explained the Corps of Engineers.
Training units began arriving in Kearney January 30, 1943. Troops were moved in via Union Pacific "troop" trains. The first planes to move in arrived February 4, when a B47 squadron arrived. The base served a dual purpose during 1943: one for training, the other for processing.
On June 21, 1943 the 824th WAC unit of twelve enlisted women and two officers was activated at the Kearney base. One crew after another arrived at and departed from the base and by April 1944 the base was capable of handling 388 B-17 crews monthly. Of the six hangars built at the Kearney field, four were capable of holding either B-17 or B-29 aircraft.
The base was designated Kearney Army Air Field in October 1944, two weeks after the first B-29 arrived for overseas processing. From January 1 to June 1 of 1945, there were 554 B-29s processed for dispatching. During the month of May 1945, 84 B-29 combat crews were processed through Kearney with an average stay at the base of 9.3 days each. Contrary to the situation at many bases, with the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, work at the Kearney base increased as attention was devoted to the war against Japan and the expanding B-29 program.
The base was redesignated Kearney Air Force Base in January 1948. Many improvements were made, but the facilities were considered substandard by some military officials. The two major deficiencies were inadequate housing facilities and a need for additional funds of $2,800,000 to bring existing facilities up to desired operating standards. Consequently, the Strategic Air Command decided to abandon the field on March 15, 1959.