RESEARCH WARS

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FSAAF

Fort Sumner Army Air Field
Fort Sumner, New Mexico
1942-1945

ARTICLE 1
Published in the De Baca County News by Scot Stinnett and in the Clovis News Journal and Portales News Tribune by David Stevens.

Fort Sumner Army Air Base grounds and records searched, many mysteries generated
 
By John W. McCullough
Graduate Student in History
Texas Tech

Congruent with the extraterrestrial mysteries and legends of New
Mexico is the towering, white blockhouse rising above the concrete at
the Fort Sumner municipal airport. With the label “NASA” painted on
its sides and a crown of antennae and communication dishes, this
building is closed to but a select few.

More mysterious, but open to all who wish to help research it, is
Fort Sumner Army Air Base (FSAAB) which is now home to the Fort
Sumner municipal airport.
 
Was FSAAB only a glider school? How many men (and women) trained
there during WWII? What type of training occurred? How many civilians
did the base employ? What about the POW camp located on the base?
What was the financial impact of the base upon the village of Fort
Sumner and De Baca County? How many veterans are still alive to tell
the tale?

As a volunteer research assistant at Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock,
TX, I discovered all these many mysteries but only a few teasing
answers during my visit to Fort Sumner from December 31 through
January 3. I had read a brief amount about FSAAB at Silent Wings
Museum’s library. Before traveling to Fort Sumner, I contacted Steve
Gamble, president of Eastern New Mexico University in Portales and
asked about any persons in Fort Sumner who could be of help in his
research on FSAAB. Gamble directed me to Scot Stinnett of the De Baca
County News, whoprovided information as well as the names and emails
of other persons in Fort Sumner who could help. Fort Sumner native
Dale Burge, who now resides in Alamogordo, emailed me digital copies
of the FSAAB yearbook when the field was a twin-engine training base.
I arrived in Fort Sumner on the morning of December 31 and went to
work, first meeting with Stinnett, then researching the archive of
newspapers at the De Baca County Courthouse. I found much information
on FSAAB in the now defunct Fort Sumner Leader newspaper. Richard
Terrell of the Fort Sumner water department also took me on a tour of
the municipal airport and former mayor David Bailey gave an interview
on New Year’s Eve.

County Tax Assessor Denise Cones gave me a very large color map of
FSAAB from WWII. Then on New Year’s Day, I had the pleasure of
meeting and interviewing longtime Fort Sumner resident H.R. “Bob”
Parsons in Roswell. Parsons talked about the early days of aviation
in Fort Sumner prior to the arrival of the US Army Air Force (USAAF)
in 1942 as well as his memories of the glider school. Finally, on
Saturday, January 2, I traveled to the Fort Sumner Municipal Library
and reviewed a very large stack of paper and photos donated by Mary
Ann West in 1994.

After this preliminary research and after talking with West on the
phone, it was clear that a very large amount of data exists on FSAAB,
but no real, cohesive analysis and history of FSAAB has been
compiled. Two things are certain: the former base and its hangar and
two warehouses are in very good condition; and, there are plenty of
highly-motivated people in Fort Sumner and the surrounding area who
want to have these many mysteries solved.

In an email to the people of Fort Sumner sent after my visit, I
outlined a plan for continuing research on the air base and a
challenge to Fort Sumner residents to re-build the wood hangar and
turn it into a first-class WWII museum.

In addition to the indoor museum exhibits, photos, uniforms, and
archival material, I would like to see an outdoor walking trail to
direct visitors from one area of FSAAB to another, as well as reading
plaques and markers which would give information about each area of
the base. I borrowed this idea from the layout of many of the landing
zones and battlefields of Normandy, France. I have researched the
D-Day campaign considerably in five trips to Normandy. The French
D-Day museum placed numerous plaques, markers, signs, and photo
displays at the many landing zones, drop zones, and battlefields
which give the visitors considerable information about the action
which occurred there.

No doubt a very large source of economic impact for Fort Sumner
during WWII, FSAAB could once again be a source of economic revenue
for Fort Sumner – this time as FSAAB Museum.

FSAAB Museum would tell the story of the early days of aviation in
New Mexico, the creation of the municipal airport, the conversion of
the CCC camp into FSAAB glider school, and the conversion of the
glider school into a twin-engine training base. The scope of the
museum would cover the economic impact of FSAAB on the village of
Fort Sumner, the civilian contractors and workers who benefited from
and worked with FSAAB, and the many aspects of training and the POW
camps.

FSAAB Museum would also tell the post-WWII story of the dismantling
and disbursement of the many barracks and buildings and of NASA’s
eventual interest in the former air base grounds for scientific
research and balloon launches. I have challenged Fort Sumner to open
just such a museum by 2012.

I will work through email and phone calls with several persons in
Fort Sumner this spring regarding this research and I plan to return
to Fort Sumner in July, 2010 for more direct research and possibly a
presentation to the Fort Sumner Rotary Club and the Chamber of
Commerce.

I urge all to attend the WWII National Glider Pilot’s reunion in
October, 2010 in Lubbock at Silent Wings Museum. More details will be
available at the website below. I also hope to help Fort Sumner
organize a FSAAB WWII veteran’s reunion to coincide with the opening
of FSAAB Museum.

Persons with information which can help me and the village of Fort
Sumner in the research, may contact me at the email address or phone
number below.

John W. McCullough, Lubbock, TX; 806-793-4448

Email:  john.w.mccullough@live.com

Additional information is available at:

www.breedlove-cptp.org

www.wingedcommandos.org

 www.silentwingsmuseum.com






FSAAF main hangar (about 150' x 90') in excellent condition and still in use today.


ARTICLE 2
Published in the De Baca County News by Scot Stinnett and in the Clovis News Journal and Portales News Tribune by David Stevens.


Further research performed on FSAAF – important WWII museum seen in Ft. Sumner’s future

By John W. McCullough, Friday, January 14, 2011

Graduate Student in History, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

On this my second research trip to Ft. Sumner, I traveled once again early on the morning of New Year’s Day to arrive in time to talk to various persons around town about their memories of the WWII air field and their thoughts on creating a museum at the same site.  I left Lubbock about 8:30 a.m. on December 31 and was greeted by Gary and Elaine Gaintner at the Billy the Kid Inn on US 62-84 with a warm welcome and ample room for my research materials.  I called Ron Sena of the Ft. Sumner city office to arrange a time for me to photograph the grounds of Ft. Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) again.

Ron arrived at the north entrance about 1:30 p.m. to unlock the gate for me.  A hard, cold, driving winter wind sliced in from the northwest contrasting the bright, sunny day.  Tumbleweeds piled six feet high on the chain link fence, trying their best to blow away down the prairie but held back – if only temporarily – by said fence.  Ron left with instructions for me to call him when I was through photographing.  It was too cold for Ron and he was using his day off from work for refrigerator repairs at the house.

I was alone on the grounds, driving slowly through the stark, quiet buildings, driving slowly backwards through time imagining what bustling activity and rich life once reigned at this air field.  I was also thinking ahead to the future and what new challenges and tasks lay ahead for Ft. Sumner if a WWII museum were to be opened on this site.  Like the tumbleweeds trying to blow on past and fade into the unknown, so too are the many memories from the veterans and townsfolk of FSAAF quickly fading away, gone with the wind.

I took many photographs and refreshed my own memories of the layout of the old air field from my first trip on December 31, 2009 when Richard Terrell gave me a guided tour.  Since my last trip, I have a much clearer understanding of the purpose and contents of FSAAF – and a much better vision of a future WWII museum commemorating this air field and its many veterans.

After spending forty-five minutes on the grounds, I struggled to close the chain link fence gate in the 50-plus mph winds with gusts probably approaching 70 mph.  I decided to give Ron a break and lock up myself so he could enjoy the holiday with his family.  Back at the Billy the Kid Inn, I began compiling notes and making a few phone calls.  My next stop was to see David Bailey and discuss my plans for a future museum, Ft. Sumner’s fourth museum.

Since my last visit, I have emailed many persons who read my original article and have spoken to several on the phone.  The De Baca County Records office gave me a very large map of FSAAF last New Year’s Eve day 2009.  I took this to the FEDEX Office in Lubbock and digitized it on their very large, professional-grade scanner.  The map shows the many hangars, buildings, barracks, and POW compound which once comprised FSAAF.  I put a copy of the digitized map as a jpg file onto CD and mailed to Scot Stinnett of the De Baca County News and former mayor David Bailey, co-owner of Dave’s Venture Foods.

After finishing my work at the inn, I drove to David’s business late on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve day 2010 to meet with him again.  David and I had a long talk about Ft. Sumner, past, present, and future, and I laid out my plans for a WWII museum at the old air field site.  This museum, I told David, would be built on the grounds of FSAAF and would tell the story not only of the original glider school but also of the twin-engine training school, the German and Italian POW camp, and of local veterans such as Williams S. “Deak” Parsons – the “Atomic Admiral” and his younger half-brother Bob Parsons.  I told David, “The Air Force may have taken away your air field, but it cannot take away your history and your heritage from WWII and that history can be used upon which to make money for Ft. Sumner.”  David thought the idea was splendid and agreed that such as museum should be built.

On New Year’s Day, 2011, I drove once again to Roswell to see Bob Parsons and interview him about his time in the Marine Corps in WWII and talk about his ideas regarding a museum at Ft. Sumner.  Bob was staying with his daughter Diane.  Bob thought a museum at that old air field would be a fine addition to the village of Ft. Sumner and gave me some ideas on who to contact.  I asked Bob about the many murals painted on the buildings in Ft. Sumner.  Bob said he painted four of them but was not sure who painted the other murals.  I asked him why there were no murals depicting FSAAF and all its various missions during the war:  glider school, twin-engine training base, and internment camp.  He was not sure why someone had not painted murals of that.  I told Bob that FSAAF was an important part of Ft. Sumner’s history and that a mural painted in honor of it would help stir up interest and excitement in a WWII museum.  He agreed that a mural of the old air field might be a good idea.

Back in Ft. Sumner that night, I stopped by Fred’s Packaged Goods Store and spoke with owner and manager Ron Gauna.  I described the presentation I would like to make to the Ft. Sumner city council and business leaders this coming summer of 2011.  Ron proposed using his restaurant as the meeting place so that he could serve lunch which would then be followed by my presentation.  I agreed and thought was a very good suggestion.  I told Ron I would contact many persons in Ft. Sumner again by email and phone call once I returned home to Lubbock and try to arrange a date for this luncheon and presentation.  I also encouraged Ron to attend the National WWII Glider Pilot’s Reunion this October, 2011 in Oklahoma City.  I will be there along with Joe Hays, Director of Hangar 25 Bomber Museum, a WWII museum in Big Spring, Texas.  If Ft. Sumner could send a detachment of persons such as Ron Gauna, David Bailey, Scot Stinnett and Mayor Wendell Bridges to this reunion then they could introduce themselves to the leaders of the Glider Pilots’ Association (GPA) and convey to them their desire to open a museum which would tell the story of the advanced glider school which once existed there.

After returning home to Lubbock, I began work on my second research website and on January 4, I launched the site online.  The website, Research Wars, includes a link named FSAAF which includes all my research on the air field and my plans for a museum to commemorate the base.  I will use this website as a central organizing place not only for my research on FSAAF but also to keep track of the plans and progress made toward a future museum.  Everyone can view this website at:  www.researchwars.org

Much works needs to be done to make the FSAAF Museum happen and many people will need to be involved.  I already have received a call from Alan Sparks of the Ft. Sumner Development Committee who received my graduate school research card from the two women who work at the Bosque Redondo Memorial museum.  I made a trip there late in the afternoon of New Year’s Eve 2010 before visiting with David Bailey.  Sparks was very interested in my plans for a museum at the municipal airport where FSAAF once stood.

Many veterans of FSAAF will need to be contacted and the National WWII Glider Pilots’ Association can possibly help me with that endeavor.  Their email address is:  www.ww2gp.org.   I am a member of this group as well as a volunteer research assistant at Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock.  Silent Wings Museum is the National WWII Glider Pilot’s Museum.  Persons may view their site at:  www.silentwingsmuseum.com

Many interviews of these veterans of FSAAF will need to be recorded of their stories and I will need to obtain copies of any photographs they may have.  I still have much work to do just reviewing the many newspaper stories from WWII about this air field.  But that work will pay off in very big dividends both in historical rewards for me as well as historical richness and financial profits resulting from a new WWII museum for Ft. Sumner, New Mexico.  Please contact me by email or phone call with any information you may have about FSAAF.  I plan to be back in Ft. Sumner in July to give a presentation to civic and business leaders and interested parties about a future WWII museum commemorating their former WWII air field, Ft. Sumner Army Air Field.

John W. McCullough

Home:  806-793-4448

www.researchwars.org

www.breedlove-cptp.org

www.silentwingsmuseum.com

www.ww2gp.org

www.hangar25museum.com




The last hangar of FSAAF on the right and is still in excellent condition, as are all the runways.  The tall white building to the left is the NASA research center, still in use today for meteorology work utilizing weather balloons.  About once a year, one of the weather balloons wanders across the New Mexico border east into West Texas and the Lubbock area making the local news.  Many concerned citizens call the police and media to report the very large balloons, which are usually at an altitude of 50,000 feet or higher to ask if they are UFO's or some other type of aircraft with which authorities need to be concerned.




Robert "Bob" Parsons at his daughter's home in Roswell, NM on Saturday, January 1, 2011.  This was my second trip to see Bob, both of which occurred on New Year's Days, 2010 and 2011.  Mr. Parson's proudly served in the US Marine Corps, 4th Division, and was wounded on Iwo Jima.
Mr. Parson's followed his older half-brother, William S. "Deak" Parsons, into the service during the war.  Deak Parsons was a Captain in the US Navy when he commanded the flight of the B-29 Superfortress, the Enola Gay piloted by Colonel Paul S. Tibbetts of the US Army Air Force, on August 6, 1945 when it dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan at Hiroshima.  I am trying to pursuade the village of Ft Sumner to paint murals of FSAAF as well as the stories of local veterans such as Bob and Deak and many others to tell the story of Ft Sumner's past.  Deak Parsons was also born and raised in Ft Sumner.  He died in the 1960's.  Bob Parsons passed away in the spring of 2011.

ARTICLE 3
Published in the De Baca County News by Scot Stinnett and in the Clovis News Journal and Portales News Tribune by David Stevens.


FSAAF:  From CCC Camp to new Glider School

By John W. McCullough, Thursday, May 19, 2011

Graduate Student in History, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

This is the third part in a multi-part series on the history of Ft Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF)

 

David Bailey fondly recalled the stories he had heard about the CCC Camp which was the original inhabitant of the grounds before WWII on the northeast side of Ft Sumner.  The camp, Bailey said, was started back in the Great Depression days of the 1930s by the Roosevelt Administration.  It was labeled CCC Camp 23N, Bailey recalled to me in my motel room on New Year’s Eve 2009 at the Super 8 Motel on US 62-84 Highway; but that was about all Bailey knew of the camp and just that it was later turned into the glider school when the war broke out.  I whetted Bailey’s appetite by telling him how earlier in the day at the DeBaca County Courthouse, I came across many articles in the Ft Sumner Leader newspaper (now the DeBaca County News) which gave many more details about CCC Camp 23N.

An article in the Ft Sumner Leader dated April 15, 1942 referenced the camp’s former superintendent who was killed in a car wreck near Salt Lake City, Utah on April 14.  Mr. C. E. Johnson, who was stationed at the Ft Sumner camp for about two months, was re-assigned to another CCC Camp in Mount Pleasant, Utah.  He left his post in Ft Sumner on March 31 to assume his new duties in Utah on April 13.  He and his wife had travelled to his hometown of Silver City first before separating.  Mrs. Johnson went to visit family in California while Mr. Johnson travelled on to Utah alone.  No other details about the wreck were given.

Then on Friday, May 1, 1942, another article appeared in the Leader which stated curtly that CCC Camp 23N was scheduled to close on May 23 in conjunction with an order for all such camps to be closed except those engaged in defense work.  The buildings at the camp would be left intact, according the article, with a caretaker in charge of the grounds.  Enrollees of the camp and part of the personnel were shipped to the Conchas Dam where a bombing range was to be constructed.

The first mention of a possible glider school at Ft Sumner was on May 24 when the Leader announced in a brief article that four Army officials met with local businessmen who showed them the local CCC Camp and other facilities which might contribute to a future glider school located at the former camp site.

Excitement about a new glider school rose on Friday, June 5, 1942, when the second article about a glider school appeared.  But an odd, perhaps old-fashioned word appeared in the article’s headline:  glidey.  The article headline read:  GLIDEY FLYING SCHOOL SITE STILL BEING GIVEN INSPECTION.  Apparently “glidey” was a term used sometimes in those days to refer to gliders.  The article stated that the four men flew from the West Coast to Clovis and then by courtesy of Bill Cutter’s Cutter-Carr Flying Service to Ft Sumner.  A new glider school at Ft Sumner “would meet the hearty approval of all residents”, the Leader commented.  The article ended by stating that it was hoped that the information the men obtained during their inspection tour would meet with the approval of the powers in Washington, D.C., thus indicating the strong desire of Ft Sumner residents for the economic impact of a glider school to replace the lost revenue from former CCC Camp 23N.  So much more of the history of FSAAF will be told in the upcoming months and years.  A museum at the municipal airport would be a great location for Ft. Sumner and the WWII veterans to continue telling this history for decades to come.  All these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.

The National WWII Glider Pilot Association’s website www.ww2gp.org and

Silent Wings Museum, the National WWII Glider Pilot’s Museum also both tell the story of the glider pilots of WWII.  The Silent Wings Museum website is www.silentwingsmuseum.com.  The glider pilots were also known as Winged Commandos and another website in their honor was started by Joe Hays.  That website is www.wingedcommandos.org

If you were a part of Ft Sumner Army Air Field and have information which can help me in my quest to write a complete history of that field, please contact me by phone or email.

John W. McCullough

Home:  806-793-4448

Email:  johnmc@researchwars.org




David Bailey, former mayor of the village of Ft Sumner, talks with me, John McCullough, on New Years' Eve, December 31, 2009 at the Super 8 Hotel in Ft Sumner, NM.  Mr. Bailey drew me a map of what he recalled of the old FSAAF site from when he was a kid in the early 1950s.  Mr. Bailey owns Dave's Venture Foods along with his sister.  They took over the store after it was run by their father for many decades.  FSAAF was an advanced glider base, then a twin-engine training site, as well as a German POW Camp during WWII.  It was a very large field with five runways and numerous hangars, buildings, and a house for the base commander.  The chimney from the base commander's house is still standing.  Most of the concrete foundations from the buildings are still there and in very good shape.  Several other buildings where mechanical work took place are also still standing and in use today.--johnmc.


An open letter to the Mayor of the Village of Ft Sumner, Mr. Windell Bridges, the City Council, and the Chamber of Commerce.  This letter was sent to them in early October, 2011:



Mayor Windell Bridges

Village of Fort Sumner           

P.O. Box 180

173 E. Avenue C

Fort Sumner, NM 88119

 

Friday, September 30, 2011

 

Mayor Bridges and the Village of Ft. Sumner City Council,

            I made two research trips to Ft. Sumner, the first on December 31, 2009, and the second on December 31, 2010, staying two days both times.  My purpose was to obtain information about Ft. Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) WWII advanced glider training base and the subsequent twin-engine training facility and POW camp.  I spoke with many persons including former mayor David Bailey and took many notes from the old copies of the Ft. Sumner Leader newspaper.  I travelled twice to your municipal airport and photographed the hangar, buildings, and concrete foundations from the WWII air field.  So far, I have written three articles about my research trips.  Mr. Scot Stinnett of the De Baca County News published all three.  These articles also have been published by Mr. David Stevens in both the Clovis and Portales newspapers.

I would like to propose to the village of Ft. Sumner that you build a WWII museum at your municipal airport.  This museum would tell the story of the glider field, twin-engine training base, POW camp, and the stories of local WWII veterans like Admiral William S. Parsons and his brother Robert Parsons who fought in the Marine Corps at Iwo Jima.  This museum would take advantage of the many concrete foundations left over from the war at Ft. Sumner’s airport by using them as a walking path with information markers explaining which buildings were located where and what their function was.  The museum would be built just to the west of the current hangar.  FSAAF Museum also could be used as a building to host WWII reunions, high school class reunions, office Christmas parties, reunions for other veterans from Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars, and for important municipal functions and meetings.  These would be held in the museum’s activity center or meeting areas.  The town murals tell a great story about the history of Ft. Sumner but they also need to include the story of Ft. Sumner Army Air Field.  I ask that Ft. Sumner have an artist paint the many scenes of FSAAF as murals.  Stories of WWII veterans such as the Parson Brothers could be told in murals as well.

Mr. Ron Gauna, of Fred’s Restaurant and Lounge, has graciously offered to allow us to use his facility for a luncheon and presentation by me about FSAAF Museum.  We could meet on a Friday or Saturday afternoon for lunch and a discussion about this future museum and its economic impact on Ft. Sumner.  I will deliver a presentation regarding my research findings and how this museum will tell the story of FSAAF and the people of Ft. Sumner during WWII.  I hope you and the city council agree to my request for this luncheon and will invite many civic and business leaders in De Baca County to join us.  Please let me know your decision so we can begin planning soon.

Thank you,

John W. McCullough

Home:  806-793-4448

Email:  john.w.mccullough@live.com

www.breedlove-cptp.org

www.researchwars.org

 

cc:  Dr. Allan Kuethe, Dr. Tai Kreidler, Dr. Monte Monroe, Mr. Bill Tynan, Dr. Jim Reckner,

Dr. Paul Carlson, all of Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas

Dr. Steven Gamble, President of Eastern New Mexico University, Portales, New Mexico

Mr. David Stevens, Publisher of the Clovis News Journal and the Portales News-Tribune

Former Mayor Mr. David Bailey, Mr. Scot Stinnett, Mr. Ron Gauna, Mr. and Mrs. Gaitner, Dale Burge, and the Chamber of Commerce, all of Ft. Sumner or Alamogordo

Mr. Charles Day, Mr. Leon Spencer, Mr. Doug Flynn, Mr. George Theis, Mr. Joe Hays, all of the National WWII Glider Pilots Association

Mr. Lou Thole, author of the Forgotten Fields series of books on WWII airfields

Ms. Brooke Witcher, Director of Silent Wings Museum, the National WWII Glider Pilot’s Museum, Lubbock, Texas





This photograph of a matchbook cover advertising FSAAF during WWII was provided by Mr. Charles Day, of the National WWII Glider Pilots' Association.  The image depicts two training gliders, possibly TG-5's, being pulled by powered twin-engine planes over the fields around Ft Sumner, New Mexico.

See more about the National World War II Glider Pilots' Association at:

www.ww2gp.org

They hold annual reunions of the glider pilots at various locations throughout the United States.  The annual reunion for 2012 will be held in San Antonio, Texas in October.




ARTICLE 4
Presentation on FSAAF glider school given, exploratory committee needed

This is the fourth article written on Ft Sumner Army Air Field from WWII

On Monday, December 26, 2011 at the Ft Sumner City Hall, I gave a presentation to Mayor Windell Bridges, Mr. James “JW” Wilson, a local resident, and Mr. Scot Stinnett of the DeBaca County News.  The subject of my presentation was Ft Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) and what I foresee as a WWII museum commemorating that training field to be located at the municipal airport.

Before the meeting, I spoke with some area residents who all commented on how much they enjoy my research articles written about FSAAF glider school and look forward to seeing many more.  They also agreed with me that a museum honoring the men and women who trained and worked there during the war years was definitely needed.

My presentation to the mayor described briefly the history of the base, how it started as a glider school then changed to a twin-engine training field with Italian and German POW camps located there as well.  I explained how there was considerable archival information available but that no extensive history of the air field had been written.

The proposed FSAAF Museum would tell the full story of the aviation training at the municipal airport and the POW camps but it would also tell the story of local WWII veterans such as US Navy Captain William S. “Deak” Parsons and his younger half-brother US Marine Robert “Bob” Parsons.

A new museum in Ft Sumner would provide not only academic enrichment for the community but also an economic impact with visitors coming to see the new museum and staying overnight while patronizing local restaurants and businesses.

Ft Sumner already has four museums:  Windows on the West Museum, the Billy the Kid Museum, Old Fort Sumner Museum, and the Bosque Redondo Museum.  FSAAF Museum would be the fifth museum for this community.

Karen Steele painted all of the very fine murals in town depicting scenes from Ft Sumner’s past, except for one.  The remaining mural was painted by Bob Parsons.  I suggested to the mayor and other gentlemen present that Ft Sumner needs murals painted telling the story of FSAAF in all its different phases.

We all agreed that an exploratory committee for FSAAF Museum is the next best step to take.  Scot Stinnett said that we would need 5 to 7 residents who would be energetic and committed to making FSAAF Museum a reality.  Stinnett also said that we should involve Eastern New Mexico University in Portales so they can offer advice and direction and perhaps help with historical research matters.  We also agreed that I should return in the summer of 2012 and give a presentation on a Monday to a larger group of people to be held either at the high school or library.  Mayor Bridges said a Monday would be best for everyone and he would work to make arrangements for the meeting site.

I offered to notify Dr. Steve Gamble of ENMU to inform him of our next steps.  Mr. Gamble has been keeping up with my articles in the De Baca County News by reading them in the Clovis and Portales newspapers.  David Stevens, the editor of both newspapers, has been publishing my articles on FSAAF in his newspapers.  Both men are very interested in my on-going research of this air field.

JW Wilson said that if Ft Sumner opens FSAAF Museum then he will donate the first artifact to it, a wood propeller from the air field which he father gave him.  He father worked at the air field and was in charge of the motor pool at one time.  More on his father’s time at the glider and twin-engine field will be written later.

Besides this new museum, other things can be done to help promote Ft Sumner and those were discussed at this meeting as well.  I mentioned to the gentlemen present that Mr. Tito Gonzales, owner of the Coronado Inn, said many bird watchers come here at various times of the year and stay at his inn.  (The Coronado Inn’s cabins are made from some of the barracks from FSAAF.  More about this will be written later.)  So I suggested to the mayor that Ft Sumner should pick one or two months of the year when birds are most prominent and host a bird watching festival.  Ft Sumner could also benefit from an art, music and cultural festival.

If you have information on FSAAF or stories about Ft Sumner during the WWII days, please contact me.  Visit these websites for more information about FSAAF and gliders in WWII.

John W. McCullough

Texas Tech University

Lubbock, TX

806-793-4448 (home); 806-786-7018 (mobile)

www.researchwars.org

www.silentwingsmuseum.org

www.ww2gpa.org





Pilot instructor with cadet glider pilot at FSAAF in 1943.  Photo courtesy of Dale Burge, Alamogordo, NM.



ARTICLE 5
FSAAF:  Wooden troop ships and first arrivals

By John W. McCullough, Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Graduate Student in History, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

This is the fifth article in a multi-article series on the history of Ft Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF)

My third article in this series finished on June 5, 1942 with information about the new “glidey school” to be located at Ft Sumner during WWII.  Picking up where that portion of the story left off, the next article of interest in the old Ft Sumner Leader newspaper comes from June 19, 1942.  In it, a story with photos on the front page talks of the first wooden troop-plane fleet.  The caption under the photos explains that “in order to solve the metal shortage in plane production, piano and furniture men have built a plane made 90 per cent of wood.”  The caption goes on to explain that “fleets of these huge wooden troop-planes, capable of carrying men and munitions at 200 miles per hour, are nearing a reality.”

Of course, one of those great wooden troop-planes would be the WACO CG-4A glider.  Over 15,000 of these gliders would be built during WWII – the third-most built aircraft of the war.  The WACO CG-4A glider would be used at many glider training fields throughout the war, including FSAAF. 

According to another article from the Ft Sumner Leader dated August 7, 1942, the US Army already had two infantry divisions ready to move by air by this time:  the 82nd and 101st divisions.  The article mentions that these two infantry divisions, based at Camp Blaiborne, LA, will be the first airborne divisions and will be streamlined down to about 8,000 men each with all of their weapons and equipment being moved by airplanes and gliders.

Closer to home in Ft Sumner, excitement continued to grow throughout the summer of ’42 as the US Army Air Force began moving into the town.  The next article in the Ft Sumner Leader said that the army had taken over two vacant store buildings.  The first building, to be used for storage, was the B. C. Withers building which was on Sumner Avenue next to the Zia Theater.  The other building was the J. W. Allen building, formerly occupied by the Piggly Wiggly store but now to be used as an office for the officers at the glider school.

Then on Friday, July 3, 1942, the Ft Sumner Leader announced that the first contingent of officers and men had arrived for the Army Air Force Advanced Glider School.  Seventeen officers and 184 men comprised this first group with Lt. Col. T. B. Anderson, commanding.

More will be discussed about this first group of men who arrived in July to start operations at FSAAF in the next article coming soon.  All these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.

John W. McCullough

Home:  806-793-4448

Email:  johnmc@researchwars.org





Glider pilots exercising at Ft Sumner Army Air Field in 1942.  Photo courtesy of The Ft Sumner Leader newspaper archives.





ARTICLE 6:  Details revealed about first officers and men who arrived at FSAAF


By John W. McCullough, Friday, June 29, 2012

Graduate Student in History, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

This is the sixth article in a multi-article series on the history of Ft Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.  The last article from the Ft Sumner Leader newspaper dated July 3, 1942, ended with the first contingent of officers and men arriving Ft Sumner on Wednesday, June 29.  This first group of US Army Air Force men was composed of 17 officers and 184 men.

Lt. Col. T. B. Anderson was the commanding officer.  He came from the West Coast Air Force Training School in Santa Ana, CA.  Other officers included two Captains and a slew of First and Second Lieutenants.  Most of the officers came from various air fields in California such as Mather Field and Minter Field, but one Lieutenant was from Luke Field in Arizona.

This first group of officers and men, who arrived on June 29, did so in time to have breakfast served to them at various places in town including three cafes.  The American Women’s Volunteer Service (AWVS) served breakfast to 78 of the men at one location.  Some of the men arrived with their families in tow.

After breakfast, the men unloaded equipment from the train and delivered it to the Advanced Glider School Training Base, which was 1 mile north and 1 mile east of town.

The arrival of so many men and their families meant a direct and immediate economic impact on the city of Ft Sumner.  The Ft Sumner Leader published an article which alluded to this economic impact when it announced the re-opening of the ZIA movie theater which had been closed for about a year.  The article stated that Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Allen managed the ZIA Theater and also owned and operated the Granada Theater.  The newspaper said that both theaters were bringing good movies to Ft Sumner and were liberally patronized by the Glider School soldiers, as well as local residents.

On September 30, 1942, Col Kenneth C. McGregor became the new commandant of the glider school at Ft Sumner, the Ft Sumner Leader announced.  Col McGregor came from Gardner Field Army basic training center in Bakersfield, CA.  No mention was made if Col McGregor was replacing Lt Col Anderson or if he was simply going to be Anderson’s new superior at the glider school.

Upcoming articles will discuss improvements at the glider school as well as recent interviews with Ft Sumner residents who talked about the disposition FSAAF hangars and barracks after the war ended.  All these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.  If you have information which can help in this research, please contact me.  Please visit Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, TX or online at www.silentwingsmuseum.com for more details about the glider program of WWII.

John W. McCullough

Home:  806-793-4448

Email:  johnmc@researchwars.org





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