By the outbreak of war in September 1939, Gander was ready for civil operations. The value of a functioning airport in such a strategic position was unique. Gander was the only operative airport in the Maritimes.
Thus, the airport at Gander became the main staging point for the movement of Allied aircraft to Europe during World War II. Gander’s location on the Great Circle Route made it an ideal wartime refuelling and maintenance depot for bombers flying overseas.
In November 1940, Captain D.C.T. Bennett left Gander for Europe, leading the first fleet of seven Lockheed Hudson bombers across the Atlantic during the Battle of Britain. More than 20,000 North American-built fighters and heavy bombers would follow.
In 1942, the Newfoundland Government handed over the control of the airport to the Canadian Government and it became a military airfield, with a continuous delivery of planes to the war zone.
In 1945, the Newfoundland government took over control of the airport again. By the end of the year, Pan-American World Airways, Trans-World Airline, Trans Canada Airlines (later Air Canada), and British Overseas Airway Corporation (later British Airways) begin regular Atlantic air service through Gander. Gander handled 13,000 aircraft annually and a quarter million passengers, requiring a new $3 million terminal to be built and opened in June 19, 1959.
By the 1950s, Gander airport was one of the busiest international airports in the world, buoyed by transoceanic traffic.