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Alumni of Vanden High School
Fairfield - Travis AFB - Vacaville
Solano County, California - USA

This page updated:
June  21, 2011



The Vanden High School Story

The history of Vanden High School is directly linked to early Scandinavian settlers in Northern California, Travis Air Force Base, the US Military and their families. 

In 1852, three Norwegian seafarers - Carl H. Thompson and his brother Dan, and Steve Larsen - purchased a small sailboat in San Francisco and headed up the Sacramento River.  Apparently their destination was the gold fields of the Mother Lode region; however, they missed the main channel of the river and found themselves in Montezuma Slough a few miles south of the present day Travis Air Force Base.  They abandoned their boat there and walked inland to Calaveras County.

After two years of work, and finding little gold, the three Norwegians returned to Montezuma Slough, built a small house, and raised sheep and cattle. Gradually other Scandinavians took up farming in the area, and "Scandia" (Little Norway) became the accepted name of the area east and south of Denverton.  Today, the Western Railway Museum is located near Denverton on Highway 12 southeast of Travis AFB.

When construction began on the Army airfield that would become Travis AFB, the area was still referred to as Scandia. The first article on construction was on July 2, 1942, four days before bulldozers broke ground for the new airstrip. The following week, the "Republican'" newspaper reported "the great 1,600 acre area six miles east of Fairfield in the Scandia section is today teaming with activity as men and machines move in to prepare the foundations for a great flying field."

Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Field was an isolated airstrip with a few tar paper shacks set in the middle of a wind-swept prairie during World War II.  Activated on May 11, 1943, the field was named Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Field, after the two closest - mostly agricultural - towns: Fairfield and Suisun City.  Planned shortly after Pearl Harbor, the base served as home for bombers and fighters assigned to defend the West Coast.  The first runway and buildings were constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the summer of 1942.  For a few months, the outline of an aircraft carrier's deck was painted on the runway to help newly-commissioned Navy pilots practice maneuvers. The strong local winds nearly duplicated those at sea.

Shortly after construction began, however, the base's potential as a major aerial port for the Pacific theater led the Army Air Corps to assign it to the newly-designated Air Transport Command (ATC).  The base officially opened on June 1, 1943, servicing and ferrying aircraft from California to the Pacific war zone.  By 1945, the base had become the West Coast's largest aerial port.  The airlift of troops and supplies to Japan and Korea, and the processing of war-weary returning GIs, had become the primary mission.  On June 1, 1948, the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) assumed jurisdiction. 
On May 1, 1949, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) became the major command for the base, turning it into a long-range reconnaissance and intercontinental bombing installation.  For the next nine years, airlift operations became secondary while the base served as home for SAC bombers.  During this period, new hangers appeared, runways were added and widened, and permanent barracks and family living quarters were built.  The base grew to its present size of over 6,000 acres.

In 1951 Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Field was renamed Travis Air Force Base in honor of Brigadier General Robert F. Travis, who was killed in a B-29 crash at the installation on August 5, 1950.  At the time of his death, the general was commander of the 9th Heavy Bombardment Wing and base commander.  Formal dedication ceremonies were held on April 21, 1951.

MATS resumed command of Travis AFB on July 1, 1958.  The base became headquarters for the 1501st Air Transport Wing in 1955, MATS's Western Transport Air Force in 1958 (later the 22nd Air Force), and the 60th Military Airlift Wing in 1966 (later the 60th Airlift Wing then the 60th Air Mobility Wing).
Travis became part of the Air Mobility Command (AMC) on June 1, 1992.  AMC's primary mission is mobility for America's armed forces.  Travis supports this capability by deploying air mobile forces anywhere in the world, and sustains them in a conflict.  The base has become the largest in AMC in terms of aircraft and staff.
Known as the "Gateway to the Pacific," Travis handles more cargo and passenger traffic than any other military air terminal in the United States.  Additionally, the base has had a long and proud history of supporting humanitarian airlift at home and around the world.  

As the air base grew the numbers of military families increased.   Students living on Travis AFB had to attend the high schools in the neighboring towns of Fairfield and Vacaville.  In the early 60's the number of families living on the base became large enough to build a high school for Travis students.  This was the beginning of Vanden High School.

The school was named Vanden because the location of the school is in the same vicinity in which a town called Vanden was to be built.  A Scandinavian family by the name of Vanden settled in this area in the mid 1880's.  They started a store and made plans for the town and a railroad station.  However, these plans never materialized although a post office operated from 1897 to 1899.

All that remains of the Vanden family, is a road named in its memory, and plans for a town that never materialized. The school board wished to pay tribute to this early pioneer family by selecting its name as one of historical importance for the high school.

Vanden High School officially opened in September of 1964. The first semester of classes was held at Golden West Intermediate School from 7:00 am until 12:30 pm while construction of the high school was completed.

On January 25, 1965 the six hundred students and thirty-six faculty members moved from Golden West to the present Vanden campus.  The Class of 1965 was Vanden's first graduating class.  The one hundred forty seven members of the class of 1965 received their diplomas on June 11, 1965.

Forty years later, on June 10, 2005 - Vanden's Class of 2005 became the 40th group of outstanding young men and women to graduate and become Alumni of Vanden High School.   Go Vikings!


Vanden's Class of 2005 Graduation - June 10, 2005



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