Independence Day and Wendover Air Force Base, Utah

Wendover Air Force Base is situated on the Nevada-Utah border. It currently functions as an airport and featured in the film Independence Day.

Wendover Air Force Base, currently Wendover Airport, is in Tooele County, Utah, on the Nevada-Utah border. Constructed in 1940 by the Army Air Corps, the airbase was used by both the Air Corps and its successor, the U.S. Air Force, until 1965. While it was in operation, bomber crews trained at the base, including the teams that carried the 1945 atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The base features heavily in Roland Emmerich’s 1996 science fiction blockbuster Independence Day. It is used in the film to depict both Area 51 and El Toro airbase. The film begins with massive flying saucers appearing above major cities. David Levinson, played by Jeff Goldblum, realizes that the ships are broadcasting a countdown, at the end of which each ship destroys the city beneath it. As the counter attacks against the aliens fail, survivors begin to regroup at Area 51, where the U.S. government has been studying alien life for years. After an alien escapes and is killed, Levinson discovers a way to disable the shields that prevent the alien motherships from being harmed. Levinson and Captain Hiller, played by Will Smith, are successful in sabotaging the ship, allowing the survivors to mount a successful counter attack and alert other resistance groups of how to defeat the aliens.

The airbase is used throughout the film as two separate locations: El Toro and Area 51. The airbase features extensively as both a staging ground for the military’s offensive operations and as a haven for refugees fleeing the alien invasion. During both the alien attack scenes on the refugees at Area 51 and the military at El Toro, the airbase was used as the location for action set pieces involving multiple explosions. As El Toro air base, Wendover is used to represent the military’s presence throughout the film and the Air Force’s attempts to combat the alien threat. As Area 51, Wendover air base is used to highlight both the infamous military installation but also the alien conspiracies and urban myths that are famous in the region. It is the site of the film’s most iconic scene: Bill Pullman’s President Thomas Whitmore’s Independence Day speech to the pilots and volunteers prior to the attack on the nearby spaceship. Since becoming an airport, the site has been used for multiple other films, including 2003’s Hulk.


Wendover AFB – Hanger
Wendover AFB – Hanger Source: Holloway, Mark., from Flickr. “Wendover AFB – Hanger,” available at
Around the Experience Music Project
Around the Experience Music Project A miniature UFO feature in the film. One such UFO is stored within Area 51 and used by the heroes in the films climax. Source: Tanglao, Roland, from Flickr. “Around the Experience Music Project -Seattle- daddycon2014-20140918.jpg,” available at
Wendover-3sep93 An aerial photograph of Wendover airbase in 1993. Filming took place for Independence Day three years later. Source: United States Geological Survey, from Wikimedia. “Wendover-3sep93,” available at



Isaac F. J. Middleton, Northern Arizona University
, “Independence Day and Wendover Air Force Base, Utah,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 23, 2024,