On a grassy plain in the center of Bolling Air Force Base rests an F-105 fighter plane with weather-worn camouflage paint, its guns and engine stripped away. The warplane, a relic salvaged from combat in Southeast Asia, is the only aircraft on the once-bustling field that for half a century was central to U.S. aerospace development. Bolling saw its last flight 20 years ago.

East of the mounted aircraft rises the steel frame of a massive building going up--the future headquarters of the Defense Intelligence Agency, a symbol of what Bolling has become.

Today, Bolling is a quiet Air Force support operation dominated by office work and suburban-style military homes built on former runways. Along with two other military preserves, the Navy Photographic Laboratory and the Anacostia Naval Air Station where the presidential helicopters are kept, it completes the Bolling-Anacostia Tract--1,200 flat, fenced-in acres that lie between the riverfront and the community of 77,000 residents in Ward 8, the city's poorest ward.

Some say it also stands between them and a better way of life.

Although the base community relations program aids local efforts such as Boy Scout troops, ROTC students, the annual Special Olympics, and athletics at Forest Haven, the city's home for retarded persons, Bolling, to residents of Ward 8 and some city government officials, is "a separate society" or "an island unto itself."

Bolling might have become a new town development comparable to Fort Lincoln if the District government had realized its hopes of acquiring portions of the tract for civilian development after the Air Force declared it surplus property in 1965. But Congress overruled the National Capital Planning Commission, which had supported the plans, and removed Bolling-Anacostia from its jurisdiction.

One of that idea's most ardent supporters was the Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy, who, in August 1966, led an "invasion" of the base by the D.C. Coalition of Conscience to demand its use for civilian housing. He was joined by the Rev. William Wendt, former City Council member Willie J. Hardy, Council member David Clarke, the Rev. Channing Phillips, and others from the roster of recent District history makers in an ultimately futile overnight camp-in.

Ward 8 council member Wilhelmina Rolark said the relationship between Bolling and her constituents is best described as "coexistence." The city "certainly . . . could have benefitted greatly from having that land available to us, but those decisions are up to the Congress and the Pentagon," she said.

Since that time the military has gradually built up much of the open land at Bolling with construction, including barracks, office buildings and a thousand bright colored, well-spaced two-story homes with carports, for military families.

"We look at Bolling Air Force Base and we know what a valuable resource it is, but it's just like looking at a resource that never will be made available to you," said Albert R. Hopkins, president of the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation.

That action "wiped out any involvement by Ward 8 and the city," Hopkins said, "and from that point on the military has gone ahead with construction at [Bolling] as they saw fit."

Bolling occupies the middle of a sausage-shaped area that stretches along three miles of shoreline, from the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge on the north to the tip of the Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant on the south, and is set off from the rest of Ward 8 by Interstate 295.

City government planners see Bolling as an area taking up nearly a quarter of the 5,600 acres in Ward 8 and along with other federal or city-owned public installations, close to 60 percent of the ward's entire land area.

"You're limited in how much is left in the ward for local development," noted John Moore, Ward 8 planner in the city's Department of Planning and Economic Development. "That means that when rapid-rail does become a reality, there is going to be an attraction there" for businesses and residents, but little land to work with, Moore said.

In recent months, the city has again been eyeing the military property as a possible solution to the problem of finding land for new housing and economic development in Ward 8. The Bolling-Anacostia tract is one of several parcels of land owned and operated by agencies of the federal government. Both the city and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) are jockeying to get parcels of federal government land for specific projects.

Metro officials plan to locate the Anacostia Metro station at the foot of the South Capitol Street Bridge. But the land is being used as a nursery by the Architect of the Capitol, and Metro would have to find other property to trade for South Capitol Street Bridge site. Metro has offered as a substitute the 25-acre Camp Simms property, former home of the D.C. National Guard, at 15th Street and Alabama Avenue SE.

But Camp Simms, owned by the federal government, is one of the sites the city has identified as a redevelopment area that could provide much needed housing and jobs. In an effort to keep Camp Simms from being used as a nursery, the city is searching intensely for an alternate location for the Capitol nursery. Among numerous sites the city has proposed for the nursery is a portion of Bolling, near the South Capitol Street Bridge.

But the military has its own plans for the area near the city's proposed nursery site. The newest building project is the DIA building, a $102 million, 849,000-square-foot structure (roughly the size of the block-square Department of Commerce building at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue). Designed with wings of varying heights up to seven stories, it will dwarf everything else on the base. Following the pattern of recent years, it will have little impact on employment or other economic aspects of civilian Ward 8.

The 1,000 to 2,000 workers who will occupy the building over the next two years will move from scattered sites in "old or unsuitable buildings" around the city, according to Lt. Col. Mark Foutch of the DIA public affairs office. "It's possible some clerical or support-type jobs might open up . . . or more roads-and-grounds-type jobs," but not much more, Foutch said.

"After they started building over there, I guess everybody figured they would do what they wanted," said David Lyon, another ANC member. "You can't drive up 295 without being aware a lot of construction is going on there. It stands out like a beacon or something." But most people, he said, "are kind of resigned to the fact that it is a federal area and we won't have much control."

"We tried to make a case with our plans and designs with the Pentagon of what it could look like. . . . I think the community made its case, fought its battle, lost the battle and went on to other things," agreed John Kinnard, director of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum.

"Bolling, to me, is just there," said Hugh W. Gray, a Ward 8 Advisory Neighborhood Commission member and pastor of Jerusalem Church of Christ in Southwest.

Southeast native John Reeves III, 35, a Methodist minister active in the nearby community, recalls that during the 1950s and 1960s, before the end of flights in and out of Bolling, huge complexes of the garden apartments that dominate Ward 8 housing were occupied by military families assigned to the base.

But even then, "as far as the base was concerned, that was their private domain," Reeves said.

Bolling's history as a military preserve dates back to the Civil War when it served as a cavalry depot, with as many as 30,000 Union Army horses located on land, leased from a local farmer and known as "the flats."

Later, a steel mill occupied part of the land before it became an aviation site during World War I. The field, opened on Department of Planning and Economic Development. "That means that when rapid-rail does become a reality, there is going to be an attraction there" for businesses and residents, but little land to work with, Moore said.

In recent months, the city has again been eyeing the military property as a possible solution to the problem of finding land for new housing and economic development in Ward 8. The Bolling-Anacostia tract is one of several parcels of land owned and operated by agencies of the federal government. Both the city and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) are jockeying to get parcels of federal government land for specific projects.

Metro officials plan to locate the Anacostia Metro station at the foot of the South Capitol Street Bridge. But the land is being used as a nursery by the Architect of the Capitol, and Metro would have to find other property to trade for South Capitol Street Bridge site. Metro has offered as a substitute the 25-acre Camp Simms property, former home of the D.C. National Guard, at 15th Street and Alabama Avenue SE.

But Camp Simms, owned by the federal government, is one of the sites the city has identified as a redevelopment area that could provide much needed housing and jobs. In an effort to keep Camp Simms from being used as a nursery, the city is searching intensely for an alternate location for the Capitol nursery. Among numerous sites the city has proposed for the nursery is a portion of Bolling, near the South Capitol Street Bridge.

But the military has its own plans for the area near the city's proposed nursery site. The newest building project is the DIA building, a $102 million, 849,000-square-foot structure (roughly the size of the block-square Department of Commerce building at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue). Designed with wings of varying heights up to seven stories, it will dwarf everything else on the base. Following the pattern of recent years, it will have little impact on employment or other economic aspects of civilian Ward 8.

The 1,000 to 2,000 workers who will occupy the building over the next two years will move from scattered sites in "old or unsuitable buildings" around the city, according to Lt. Col. Mark Foutch of the DIA public affairs office. "It's possible some clerical or support-type jobs might open up . . . or more roads-and-grounds-type jobs," but not much more, Foutch said.

"After they started building over there, I guess everybody figured they would do what they wanted," said David Lyon, another ANC member. "You can't drive up 295 without being aware a lot of construction is going on there. It stands out like a beacon or something." But most people, he said, "are kind of resigned to the fact that it is a federal area and we won't have much control."

"We tried to make a case with our plans and designs with the Pentagon of what it could look like. . . . I think the community made its case, fought its battle, lost the battle and went on to other things," agreed John Kinnard, director of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum.

"Bolling, to me, is just there," said Hugh W. Gray, a Ward 8 Advisory Neighborhood Commission member and pastor of Jerusalem Church of Christ in Southwest.

Southeast native John Reeves III, 35, a Methodist minister active in the nearby community, recalls that during the 1950s and 1960s, before the end of flights in and out of Bolling, huge complexes of the garden apartments that dominate Ward 8 housing were occupied by military families assigned to the base.

But even then, "as far as the base was concerned, that was their private domain," Reeves said.

Bolling's history as a military preserve dates back to the Civil War when it served as a cavalry depot, with as many as 30,000 Union Army horses located on land, leased from a local farmer and known as "the flats."

Later, a steel mill occupied part of the land before it became an aviation site during World War I. The field, opened on July 1, 1918, was named later that year in honor of Col. Raynal C. Bolling, who was killed while defending his Army chauffeur from German soldiers during an attack in France. A former New York businessman and an early advocate of military air power, Bolling was one of the first high-ranking American casualties of the war.

Bolling Field was intended as a temporary facility, to be closed six months after the war ended. After the Armistice, however, military heroes, including Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell, argued successfully for keeping it open for aerospace testing and as a part of the capital's defense system.

In the 1930s, severe flooding forced the Air Force to move Bolling from its original site, where the Anacostia Naval Air Station is now located, to the current location. Work Projects Administration laborers built the runways and taxi strips.

Bolling was still a busy, noisy installation during the 1950s when Armed Forces Day, first held there, brought enormous crowds to view aerial demonstrations and military exhibitions each year.

Among the few military rituals still performed at Bolling are the formations of the Air Force Presidential Honor Guard, who live there.The base is also home to the Air Force Drill Team and the Air Force Band.

But those ceremonial squad members are far outnumbered by the paper pushers in offices of the Air Force Surgeon General, the Chief of Chaplains, the Accounting and Finance unit and other desk operations.

"That just happens to be the mission our base, and it's no less of a mission than any flying base," insists Lt. Audrey Bahler, director of public affairs. She said Bolling is one of nine Air Force bases that have no flight operations, all serving as support or training sites.

"Even though we're no longer an active flying base," Bahler said, "it's a very active base."