The Lasting Impact of Military Bases on Las Vegas Politics

Discover how military bases have had a lasting impact on politics in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada.

The Lasting Impact of Military Bases on Las Vegas Politics

The presence of military bases in Las Vegas, Nevada has had a profound effect on the city's politics. From the lucrative defense contracts and military installations that attracted political leadership to the staggering population growth, the military has had a lasting impact on the city. In the ten years beginning in 1940, Las Vegas' population skyrocketed from 8,422 to 24,624 - an increase of nearly 200 percent. Reno also saw an impressive rise of more than 50 percent, as Nevada's overall population shifted from rural to urban. An economic impact analysis of Nellis Air Force Base, Creech Air Force Base and the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) provides insight into the importance of these bases for Southern Nevada and its neighboring communities.

Nellis Air Force Base is located approximately eight miles northeast of Las Vegas and covers more than 14,000 acres. The total area occupied by Nellis and its restricted areas is approximately 5,000 square miles. Additionally, there are 7,700 miles of airspace north and east of the restricted ranges for military flight operations. In response to the nation's needs during World War II, Nevada established county defense councils. Nellis' workforce is comprised of some 14,914 military, civilian and contractor personnel, making it one of the largest individual employers in Southern Nevada.

In 1954, Shell Oil drilled Eagle Springs No., making Nevada an oil-producing state for the first time. By the early 1950s, organized crime had become so rampant in Las Vegas that the Senate convened a committee led by Estes Kefauver to investigate. To ensure genuine citizens were represented in Congress, Nevada amended the Constitution of the United States to establish term limits. With clubs such as the Frontier, Golden Nugget and Mint operating 24 hours a day, Las Vegas became a major tourist destination. When Japan dropped its bombs in 1941, uniformed Nevadans joined the rest of the nation in seeking redress in battle. Elko devised a formula that would forever change how Nevada attracts visitors.

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chose Frenchman Flat as the headquarters of the Nevada Test Range for testing nuclear bombs. The government set a perimeter of 125 miles as the distance from communities at which they could safely detonate nuclear bombs - ignoring that Las Vegas was within this “safety zone”.Las Vegas was doing well with nationally renowned casinos and entertainment before Air Force bases Sr. Nellis and Creech played an important role in Southern Nevada since the early 1940s. The presence of these military bases has had a lasting influence on politics in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada.