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FSAAF ARTICLES 12-17

These articles appear in the De Baca County News published and edited by Scot Stinnett.  You can subscribe to the De Baca County News and have it delivered to your mailbox so that you can enjoy all of the current events and great history of Fort Sumner, New Mexico.  Their contact information is below and a photograph of their office is shown, too.

The De Baca County News
      Serving the Pride of the Pecos since 1901

                Scot Stinnett                                          Martha Sena
            and Lisa Stinnett                                Production Assistant
     pecospub@plateautel.net                             Shara Cortese
                                                                    Advertising Representative

   575-355-2462  --  Fax  575-355-7253

   181 E. Sumner Ave
   P.O. Box 448
   Fort Sumner, NM  88119


           


ARTICLE 12

Several barracks from FSAAF used to build the cabins at the Coronado Motel

By John W. McCullough, July 24, 2013

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

This is the 12th article in a multi-article series on the history of Ft Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.  The next several articles in this series will be devoted to answering the questions many persons have asked about what became of FSAAF following WWII.

In a recent interview with Mr. Tito Gonzales, owner and manager of the Coronado Motel located on the west side of Fort Sumner he recalled some memories about Fort Sumner in WWII and had many stories about the construction of that motel when he was just a child.

Gonzales was born on July 20, 1938 at the Fort Sumner Hospital which used to be located where the Fort Sumner library is standing today.  Dr. Taylor or Dr. Brown delivered him.

Dr. Edward Fikany and his aunt, who was also a doctor, ran the hospital which was a long building that faced east.  Dr. Fikany and his aunt lived in a house on the south side of the building.

Tito Gonzales grew up in Fort Sumner and had two older brothers and a sister.

Gonzales recalled that, as a child in the later part of WWII, there were two bars in Fort Sumner which were always full of soldiers and cowboys:  the Longhorn Bar and the Mint Bar.  The bars were located in the middle of downtown about where the two highways intersect.

After the war was over and FSAAF closed, Gonzales remembered very well how some of the barracks of the old airfield were used again in Fort Sumner, and are still in use today.

Gonzales is not certain, but he believes that the Coronado Motel was built in 1948 or 1949.  He recalled barracks being brought from the old FSAAF to the location where the motel would be built.  The barracks were used to build the cabins of the motel.

“They were just the shells of the buildings [barracks] from the airfield”, recalled Gonzales.

He was never sure if the barracks were enlisted men’s quarters or officer’s quarters.

Gonzales said that he knew all the carpenters, plumbers, and other workers at the site.  He used to run errands to a nearby café, Tibbet’s Restaurant, to buy burgers, candy, and soda pop for them while they were building the motel.

Tibbet’s Restaurant was located a little further west of the motel along Highway 60.  It was owned and operated by Wes Tibbet.  It had five or six stools and a counter.

Just to the west of the café was the Rio Pecos Oil Company which sold gas and had a garage for repairing cars.  The owner use to sell new Pontiacs there, too.  The Rio Pecos Oil Company is now the site where the Torres Tire Shop is located.

The men kept Gonzales busy running errands to the café, but they would only send him to buy one or two things at a time.  He later realized that that they did it this way to keep him out of their way while they were working.

The workers would give young Tito Gonzales their extra pennies to pay him for bringing their food, candy, and drinks to them.  Sometimes he would receive a nickel for his efforts or one of the men would give him extra change and say, “Here kid, buy yourself a candy bar, too.”

“They treated me good.  I think that’s when I first went into business for myself”, recalled Gonzales fondly.

More about the construction of the Coronado Inn from the former barracks of FSAAF will be discussed in the next article.

All these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.

Readers are reminded of the National WWII Glider Pilots reunion in Kansas City, Missouri September 12-14.  More information can be found online at www.ww2gp.org.

If you can help with this research project, please call John McCullough at 806-793-4448 or email him at johnmc@researchwars.org


    


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ARTICLE 13

Coronado Motel historic because of its age and connection to FSAAF

By John W. McCullough, September 6, 2013

Graduate Student in History, Texas Tech University

This is the 13th article in a multi-article series on the history of Ft Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.  The next several articles in this series will be devoted to answering the questions many persons have asked about what became of FSAAF following WWII.

In a recent interview with Mr. Tito Gonzales, owner and manager of the Coronado Motel located on the west side of Fort Sumner he recalled some memories about Fort Sumner in WWII and had many stories about the construction of that motel when he was just a child.

Gonzales said that he did not recall how the former barracks from FSAAF were moved to their current site to become the cabins of the future Coronado Motel.  He did recall, however, that the office was built separately and was not one of the barracks.  Originally, there were 15 cabins and a small office.

As a child, Tito Gonzales had a paper route in the late 1940s.  Newspapers from Clovis would arrive on the bus at the bus station where the Senior Citizens Center is located today.  The bus station was run by a man named Mr. Estes and his wife.  They had two or three daughters.  There was an office and living quarters in the back of the bus station where the family lived.

After Gonzales delivered the papers on his route, he would take the extras to the various motels around town:  the Coronado Motel, the Bosque Redondo Motel, located where the Rodeo Grill is today, the Pecos Valley Hotel, and the Commercial Hotel.

The newspapers were five cents each.  When he took the papers by the Coronado Motel, the office manager would tell him which rooms had occupants.

“There were no TVs or even radios in the cabins in those days so everyone bought all the newspapers I had”, remembered Gonzales.

When delivering newspapers as a child to the Coronado Motel, young Tito Gonzales never imagined that he would one day be the owner.

There have been many owners of the Coronado Motel over the decades.

The original owners were Jack and Nadine Hitson and Gonzales believes that they were from Fort Sumner.

“Jack paid to have the Coronado Motel built”, claimed Gonzales.

Jack Hitson also ran a bar in Taiban called “Jack and Bill’s.”  He was also involved in the cattle business, as well.

Hitson ended up in trouble with the IRS over some matter and eventually left for Australia, leaving his wife behind in Fort Sumner, remembered Gonzales.

There were a couple of more owners after the Hitson’s, but Gonzales does not remember them.  Then the Coronado Motel was owned by Jack Skipworth followed by another man named Guy Shipley.

Otis Parker purchased it next and ran it from the mid- to the late-1960s. Then Parker sold it to George Gaintner who ran it until he sold it to Frank and Betty Garcia in the 1980s.  Garcia then sold it to Gonzales in 2005.

The late George Gaintner is the father-in-law of Elaine Gaintner who currently owns and operates the Billy-the-Kid Country Inn.

Gonzales purchased the Coronado Motel in July, 2005.  After purchasing the motel, he expanded his living quarters so he now has 14 cabins.

To the best of his memory, the Coronado Motel sign was originally constructed along with the motel.  On Saturday, January 12, 2013, Tito Gonzales turned on the new blue lights on the arrow portion of the sign.  He also had the entire arrow re-painted the first week of January:  a white background with a red arrow.  Eventually, he wants to put neon lights on the sign.

Before purchasing the Coronado Motel, Gonzales operated Tito’s Burritos and has plans to re-open it.

The Coronado Motel is the oldest motel in Fort Sumner and possibly in DeBaca County.  The Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari and the Westward Ho! Motel in Clovis may be older, said Gonzales.

In fact, the Westward Ho! Motel in Clovis is a few years older than the Coronado.  John and Ann Wilson, owners of the Westward Ho! Motel since July, 1980, said that their motel was opened in 1935 and has been open continuously since then.  Ann Wilson said in a recent interview that a man named Mr. Patton hired a builder in Clovis to construct the hotel.

The Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari was built in 1939.  On March 29 of that year, Carpenter W. A. Higgins purchased lots and began construction of that now historic hotel.  It is still in business today (www.blueswallowmotel.com).

Because of its age and the fact that the barracks came from FSAAF, the Coronado Motel is an historic site in eastern New Mexico.  The site is worthy of a New Mexico historical marker and research is being conducted now to submit an application to the Historical Society of New Mexico (HSNM) to ask them to grant a marker for the motel.

Plans are also in the works to apply for an historic marker to be placed at the former front entrance to FSAAF.

More accounts about FSAAF and whatever became of it following WWII will be discussed in the next article.

All of these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.  More information about the Glider Pilots of WWII is located at www.wingedcommandos.org.

If you can help with this research project, please call John McCullough at 806-793-4448 or email him at johnmc@researchwars.org




Mr. Tito Gonzales, owner of the Coronado Motel in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, stands in front of the fireplace in the front office.  The fireplace is made of petrified wood and was built with original hotel after WWII.  Gonzales claims that some of the barracks from the former Fort Sumner Army Air Field were used to make the cabins of the Coronado Motel.  Gonzales said that Jack and Nadine Hitson paid to have the motel built.  Gonzales thinks that the hotel was built in the late 1940s.  Records from the De Baca County Courthouse proved that Gonzales was correct:  the Hitson's purchased the land on the west side of Fort Sumner from the state of New Mexico to build the Coronado Inn.  However, the land purchase was in early 1951.  Further research will be conducted using the Fort Sumner Leader and Fort Sumner Review newspapers to determine more accurately when the motel was opened.  Photo is courtesy of John McCullough.


ARTICLE 14

WWII fighter pilot Bill Kingsbery flew in the Panama Canal Zone before training at Fort Sumner at the end of the war

By John W. McCullough, Graduate Student in History, Texas Tech University

This is the 14th article in a multi-article series on the history of Fort Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.  The next several articles in this series will be devoted to answering the questions many persons have asked about what became of FSAAF following WWII.

In a recent interview, Mr. Bill Kingsbery, a WWII fighter pilot and son-in-law of the late Clent Breedlove, recalled many memories of his days as a fighter pilot in the war.  Before he trained at Fort Sumner, he was based in the Panama Canal Zone.

Kingsbery was born in Childress, Texas but grew up in the Lubbock area.  He was born on May 30, 1924.  He knew from an early age that he always wanted to be involved in aviation.  He graduated from Lubbock High School in May, 1941.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor seven months later, he was not old enough to join the US Army Air Forces so he waited another year.

He eventually entered the service in January of 1943 in Lubbock, Texas.

He was first shipped to Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls for basic training.  From there he went to the Aviation Cadet Center in College Station.  After that, he went to San Antonio.

His next stop was Cimarron Field in El Reno, Oklahoma where he had his first flying instruction.  This was primary training and occurred in a PT-19.

His basic flight training was in a BT-13 in Winfield, Kansas.

His advanced training was at Foster Field at Victoria, Texas in an AT-6 Texan.

He also received ten hours of instruction in a Curtis P-40 Warhawk before graduating.  The P-40 became famous as the fighter plane used by the Flying Tigers in China.

Kingsbery earned his wings and was commissioned as a second lieutenant on January 7, 1944.

“We luckily got overseas duty and we thought that we were on our way to join [General Claire] Chennault in China to be a Flying Tiger; but we ended up waking up in Panama”, Kingsbery recalled.

At first, he flew the P-40 in the 6th Air Force in the Panama Canal Zone.  There were six squadrons of pursuit planes in Panama at that time.

He participated briefly in anti-submarine duty.  This duty consisted of protecting tankers carrying oil coming out of Venezuela against possible submarine attack.

On these missions, Kingsbery and his fellow pilots would go up in their P-40s with depth bombs to attack any enemy subs which they might site.  Each P-40 had six .50-caliber machine guns with 200 rounds of ammunition in each gun.

At this time, he was stationed at an airfield in the jungle called Aqua Dolce which translates into English as Sweetwater.  His pursuit group was the 39th Fighter Squadron.  Originally, the US Army Air Forces called their fighter planes pursuit planes and thus gave them a “P” designation, such as the P-40.

The pursuit pilots were on-duty 24-hours a day but actually only flew missions about every three days.  They would participate in many “mock” battles.  These exercises consisted of “repealing” the US Navy which was carrying out a simulated attack against the Canal Zone.

The flying was very dangerous in the Canal Zone.  The pursuit pilots were required to fly in shifts every day no matter what the weather because all aircraft, including commercial aircraft, coming into the Canal Zone had to be escorted by four fighter aircraft.

The P-40s were just not that well suited to flying in bad weather.  As a result, they would collide in mid-air quite frequently.  Many pilots were lost this way, said Kingsbery.

The Panama Canal Zone was such a great asset to the United States, said Kingsbery.

“This is where the Japanese made one of their big mistakes is [that] they should have bombed it when the bombed Pearl Harbor; because then anytime you would have had a fleet going out to the Pacific for action [from the east coast of the United States], they had to go all the way around South America”, stated Kingsbery.

The Madden Dam provides the water pressure for the locks.  One well-placed bomb on this dam would have put the canal out of commission, concluded Kingsbery.

After flying the P-40 for about three months, he next flew the Bell P-39 Airacobra which had tricycle landing gear.  He flew P-39s for about a year and liked them very much.

For armament, it had four .50-caliber machine guns, two in each wing with two hundred rounds of ammunition each, and a single 37mm cannon that fired through the nose of the plane.  The P-39 was a mid-engine airplane which meant that the pilot actually sat just in front of the engine.

The final two months of his time in the Panama Canal Zone were spent flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightening.

Kingsbery referred to the P-38 as the “Cadillac” of fighters because it had counter-rotating props so he never had any torque problems.

On a plane which has just one propeller, the pilot must constantly adjust the direction of the plane slightly at an angle to counter the pull of the propeller in the direction that it is rotating; but since the P-38 had two propellers, each rotating in the opposite direction, the propellers would cancel each other’s pull.

It was such a pleasure to fly, said Kingsbery.  It had a 52-foot wingspan whereas the P-39 only had a 34-foot wingspan.  The P-38 also had tricycle landing gear which Kingsbery preferred to the “tail dragger” landing gear of other fighter planes like the P-40.

After leaving Aqua Dolce, he was stationed at France Field which was located near the capital city, Panama City, which is on the Pacific side of the country and not too far from the city of Colon which is on the Atlantic side.

The people in Panama probably resented the pilots, most of whom were only 18-20 years old.  We raised quite a bit of hell when off-duty, said Kingsbery.

He was stationed in Panama for fifteen months.  It was wonderful duty since he had considerable time off-duty to explore the beautiful countryside in Panama.

He went back to Panama many years after the war but a lot had changed.  He did not see anything left of the airfields where he was stationed during the war.

After leaving the Panama Canal Zone in 1945, Kingsbery headed to Greenville, Texas briefly before transferring to the 9th Air Force at his new training base, Fort Sumner Army Air Field.

More about Bill Kingsbery and his time as a pursuit pilot in WWII will be discussed in the next article.

All of these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.

If you can help with this research project, please call John McCullough at 806-793-4448 or email him at johnmc@researchwars.org




                                      


                                                 


Bill Kingsbery and his son Ted at the Breedlove CPTP Reunion Dinner at the Texas Tech's McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center on Saturday, September 11, 2010.  Kingsbery is a WWII veteran who flew P-38's, P-39's and P-40's in the 6th USAAF in the Panama Canal Zone from 1943-1945.  He was then transferred to the 9th Air Force and stationed at FSAAF in Fort Sumner, New Mexico from June to August, 1945.  While at FSAAF, he flew P-47 Thunderbolts to prepare for the expected invasion of Japan.  Kingsbery is the son-in-law of the late Clent Breedlove who was a civilian contractor in the CPT in Lubbock during WWII.  Kingsbery and his wife, Mary Louise, lived together in Fort Sumner.  Photo is courtesy John McCullough.




                                                                         


Mr. Bill Kingsbery at Breedlove Airport in Lubbock, Texas in 1946.  Photo is courtesy TTU Southwest Collections / Special Collections Library.




ARTICLE 15

Kingsbery flew night mission in a P-47 on his first day at FSAAF

By John W. McCullough, Graduate Student in History, Texas Tech University

This is the 15th article in a multi-article series on the history of Fort Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.

In a recent interview, Mr. Bill Kingsbery, a WWII fighter pilot and son-in-law of the late Clent Breedlove, recalled many memories of his days as a fighter pilot in the war.

Kingsbery left the Panama Canal Zone on May 5, 1945 where he had been stationed as a fighter pilot with the 6th Air Force.

From there, he was sent to Florida for a thirty-day leave for rehabilitation.  Kingsbery explained that after you had served overseas the military would send you to a rehabilitation center to re-accustom you to civilian life in the states.

During this leave period, he wed Mary Louise Breedlove.  They married on May 31 and spent their honeymoon in Florida.

Mary Louise was the daughter of Clent and Aulyne Breedlove of Lubbock.  Clent Breedlove was a major private contractor in the Civilian Pilot Training program (CPT).  More about his operation is available at www.breedlove-cptp.org.

After his leave time was over, Kingsbery received orders to travel to Greenville, Texas.  He and his new wife arrived at Greenville on June 15, 1945.  He was stationed there for only a week before he and Mary Louise headed for his new training site, Fort Sumner Army Air Field.  They drove to FSAAF on June 30, 1945 in their own car.

Kingsbery and his wife drove from Greenville, which is located about sixty miles northeast of Dallas, non-stop to Fort Sumner in one day.

At FSAAF, Kingsbery became a part of the 9th Air Force.  The 9th Air Force was previously stationed in England for most of the war.  The WACO CG-4A assault gliders and many other types of ground attack aircraft were attached to the 9th Air Force while the high-altitude B-17 heavy bombers were a part of the celebrated 8th Air Force which also was stationed in England.

When the Kingsbery’s arrived at FSAAF, it was around one or two o’clock the afternoon and Kingsbery said that he was very tired from the long drive.  He said that he had an unusual experience when he first arrived at Fort Sumner.

He was assigned to the flight line when he first arrived and he reported to some major, whose name he cannot remember now.  This senior officer needed Kingsbery to take some younger fighter pilots on a nighttime training mission in the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.  At this time, Kingsbery was a First Lieutenant.

The major said to Kingsbery, “Boy, we’re glad to see you, because we’re just graduating a class tomorrow and I’ve got two pilots that need night flying experience.”

“Major, I’ve never flown this airplane”, replied Kingsbery.  “It was a P-47; they called it ‘the Jug’ – Thunderbolt – huge, huge.

“Well, that’s ok”, replied the major, “I’ll have the sergeant – if you’ll come out a little early, it gets dark about seven o’clock – if you’ll come out early, then he’ll go through all the instruments with you on the airplane.”

“I said, ‘I’ve never flown the plane’, repeated Kingsbery.

“Well, we need to get these guys graduated tomorrow; and if you just take them and take them to Dallas, and then go north to Oklahoma City, and then return.”

“I said, Major ‘I’ve never flown this airplane’, repeated Kingsbery, who was a first lieutenant at this time.  “I’ve been a P-38 or P-39, tricycle gear.”

“Well, that’s alright, replied the major, “You’ve got a lot of experience and these are pretty good boys.”

“It was a huge trail-dragger plane.  2700 Pratt & Whitney engine in front of you.  You couldn’t see a damn thing.  But you know, you don’t argue”, reflected Kingsbery in frustration.

So after driving all the way from Greenville, Texas, Kingsbery was going to have to fly all the way back to Dallas, then Oklahoma City, then back to Fort Sumner on his first night at FSAAF before he could go to bed.

Kingbery’s newlywed wife, Mary Louise, had already checked in at the Pecos Valley Hotel in Fort Sumner where the two of them would live.

Kingsbery returned to the airfield around seven o’clock to meet his two young student pilots and take them on their nighttime training mission in their P-47’s.

“So I met those two young men.  They looked like they had just graduated from junior high school.  Golly – they looked young!”  And I didn’t know how they flew.”

“So we got into our planes and took off.  And Fort Sumner, in the night, it is very dark.  They don’t have anything, any cities that are close by, any large towns.”

“But, we, of course, just flew east and went to Lubbock, and instead of me going all the way down to Dallas and then Oklahoma City, I just circled around Lubbock a little while, went up to Amarillo and circled around Amarillo a little while, and then we went home [to Fort Sumner]”, chuckled Kingsbery.

“And then I had to land at night in that darn dark place of Fort Sumner.  But luckily, we had youth and I had a lot of experience.”

Kingsbery said that they were gone for about a three-hour flight that night.

Although the P-47 had landing lights, they were not supposed to use them.  Kingsbery said that the runways at FSAAF were lighted along the sides with electric lights.  Originally, they were probably smudge pots, he said, but the lights appeared to be electric by the time he arrived at Fort Sumner in 1945.

More about Bill Kingsbery and his time training in a P-47 Thunderbolt at FSAAF during WWII will be discussed in the next article.

All of these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.

If you can help with this research project, please call John McCullough at 806-793-4448 or email him at johnmc@researchwars.org


                                         


                                 

The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt -- "the jug" as it was called by some fighter pilots of WWII.  The P-47 was the largest and heaviest single-seat piston fighter plane of the war.  It had a 2,000hp engine and a top speed of 450mph and was an excellent pursuit and escort fighter plane as well as a superb ground attack aircraft.  Photo is courtesy the USAF website.





                         

The Bell P-39 Airacobra was much smaller and lighter than the P-47.  Bill Kingsbery flew the P-39 in the Panama Canal Zone when he was attached to the 6th Air Force.  The P-39 had four and sometimes six .50-caliber machines guns and packed a powerful punch from a 37mm cannon that fired through its nose cone.  The plane was a mid-engine design with the pilot actually sitting in front of the engine.  It had tricycle landing gear and was much easier for the pilot to see from the cockpit as opposed to the P-47, according to Kingsbery.  Photo is courtesy John McCullough and was taken at the CAF Airsho at the Midland International Airport in Midland, Texas in 2010.





ARTICLE 16


Holidays during WWII were lean times but spirit of Christmas felt at FSAAF

By John W. McCullough, Graduate Student in History, Texas Tech University

This is the 16th article in a series on the history of Fort Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.

Throughout 1942, the Fort Sumner Leader and Fort Sumner Review newspapers had many articles on the changing demands made by the US government on its citizens on the home front.  Rationing of essential war items was being expanded more and more and rubber drives and scrap metal drives were in full swing.

With the fall of the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, and the fall of French Indochina to Japanese forces, the Allies found that they were in short supply of natural rubber.

There were frequent calls for citizens to buy war bonds to help pay for the war.

Many cartoons both poked fun at the shortages caused by the war while also sending a patriotic message for everyone to pitch in and do their part to support the war effort.

One such cartoon pictured a woman in her fancy evening gown wearing a large rubber automobile tire around her neck.  In the background, one gentlemen quietly comments to another partygoer, “Mrs. Van Pyster is wearing the family heirloom tonight.”

In another cartoon from the June 26, 1942 Fort Sumner Leader, one man is seen carrying another man in his arms while walking along the sidewalk.  He tells the perplexed police officer watching them that they are saving their rubber heels by taking turns carrying each other to their destination:  “He carries me a block and I carry him a block.  We save our rubber heels that way.”

Yet another cartoon, entitled “The Latest in Crops”, depicts a farmer in his field “growing” all sorts of metal war equipment and machinery from the ground as his part of the scrap metal drive.

Another cartoon in the Fort Sumner Leader from August 28, 1942, was about an odd effort by the government which called for citizens to turn in their typewriters for military use.  Apparently, there was a shortage of typewriters at military posts and the US government did not want to spend the time, money, or metal, making new typewriters; so they simply called for civilians to turn over their own typewriters to the government to supply the need.

Many of the cartoonists, such as Chon Day, Gregory d’Alessio, Hilda Terry, and Garrett Price, would sign their cartoons followed by the notation FOR OWI under their names.  OWI was the Office of War Information. This indicated that the cartoonists’ drawings, which were aimed at showing the humorous side of the rationing effort, were sponsored by the government to boost morale on the home front.

Food, of course, was also rationed starting in early 1942 with sugar.  Coffee and meat were added to the list of controlled consumable items in late 1942.

In November, 1942, the Fort Sumner Leader stated that a good turkey would cost the average housewife about $6.00 for Thanksgiving.  The Office of Price Administration gave this estimate after checking its schedule of maximum prices for turkeys which varied somewhat at different localities throughout the country, depending on how close a city was to a turkey producing site.

However, with all of this rationing going on, the citizens of Fort Sumner still found the time and the required food stuffs to hold a Christmas party for the children of the military personnel at FSAAF.

On Friday, December 18, 1942, the Fort Sumner Leader published an article entitled “Santa Claus to Visit Children of the Military Personnel”.  The article stated that Santa Claus would visit the children of the Glider School when a gala Christmas party would be staged for them on December 24 at the Post.

“Each child will receive a gift and ice cream, cake and candy will be served in the mess hall”, stated the Leader.

Santa Claus, replete in his red costume, will appear as played by Capt. T. S. Whitelock.  Santa will then pass out gifts to the children, according to Lt. Francis C. Clapp, Special Service Officer who is in charge of arrangements for the affair.

The Leader went on to say that approximately 25 children under the age of 12 were expected to be at the event.  Each child would receive a personal invitation to the party.

The Christmas gifts were purchased by Mrs. W. H. Morrison and Mrs. L. H. Williams.

In their Thursday, December 17, 1942 edition, the Fort Sumner Review stated that “a series of holiday dances and festivities have been planned for the military personnel of Fort Sumner and their ladies by the A. W. V. S., Post Special Service Office and the townspeople.”

Col. K. C. McGregor, commanding officer of the Glider School, commented after the holiday to the hosts and hostesses of the special events, “Without your generosity, many servicemen who were unable to be with their families during the holidays would have spent a lonely Christmas.  It is such a spirit of friendliness which will do towards keeping up the morale of the men in our fighting forces”, stated the Review in its December 31, 1942 edition.

All of these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.  To learn more about the glider program of WWII, readers are encouraged to visit Silent Wings Museum online at www.silentwingsmuseum.com.

If you can help with this research project, please call John McCullough at 806-793-4448 or email him at johnmc@researchwars.org


       


                                                                                                              

This cartoon from the Fort Sumner Leader newspaper in August, 1942 depicts the leaner times brought on by the demands of the war.



                                                                                                                                        

Captain Francis C. Clapp and Captain Thomas S. Whitelock of FSAAF helped make the Christmas of 1942 at Fort Sumner a special event for everyone.




ARTICLE 17

Kingsbery and wife stayed briefly at the Pecos Valley Hotel in Fort Sumner

By John W. McCullough, Graduate Student in History, Texas Tech University

This is the 17th article in a series about Fort Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.

In the last article, Bill Kingsbery, a WWII fighter pilot and son-in-law of the late Clent Breedlove, spoke of his first training mission in a P-47 Thunderbolt at FSAAF. 

Kingsbery originally was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone with the 6th Air Force.  There he flew P-38 Lightenings, P-39 Airacobras, and P-40 Warhawks.  He and his wife, Mary Louise, arrived in Fort Sumner on June 30, 1945.

When the Kingsbery’s arrived in Fort Sumner, they began looking for a place to stay.  Officers and other married men were allowed to live off-base.

“We had a very difficult time finding a place to live.  We just searched constantly.  We had to stay in that old hotel that had quite a bit of bed bugs, the old Pecos Valley Hotel it was named”, remembered Kingsbery sourly.

It was two-story and the Kingsbery’s stayed on the second floor.  It had about twelve or fourteen rooms from what he recalled.

There was one community bathroom down the hall.  There was no sink in their room, no fireplace, no desk, no air conditioner, or a fan.  There was electricity in the room with a lamp or two.

“Comfort was not priority”, he said about the hotel.

Kingsbery did not know who owned the hotel but did state emphatically, “If we had known the owner, I imagine that we would have shot him.”

“It was just a small, single room with just you and the bed bugs.”

According to Dale Burge and the Remembering Fort Sumner Facebook group, a woman owned the Pecos Valley Hotel.

Burge supplied a photo of the old hotel which was demolished sometime after the war.  It was located in downtown Fort Sumner just east of the Senior Citizen’s Center.

“It belonged to a lady named Adelina Wilbur.  We don’t know when it was torn down but it was located a block south of City Hall”, stated Burge.

Burge is a native of Fort Sumner who now resides in Alamogordo.

While Kingsbery was busy training at FSAAF, his wife, Mary Louise Breedlove Kingsbery, traveled north to Las Vegas to visit her parent’s ranch called the “Flying B”.

“Luckily, my wife’s parents had a guest ranch out of Las Vegas, New Mexico which was only a hundred miles from there, so she would go up and then bring down a lot of things from the ‘Flying B’ that we used.  She re-decorated our hotel room and de-bugged it”, recalled Kingsbery.

Her parents, Clent and Aulyne Breedlove, purchased the 1,100-acre ranch in March, 1943 according to records from the San Miguel County Deeds and Records office.  It was located just southwest of Las Vegas and is now called Camp Blue Haven and is a religious retreat for kids.

The Kingsbery’s stayed at the Pecos Valley Hotel about ten days before they found a much better garage apartment with another officer and his wife.

He thinks that their half of the apartment was about 400- or 500-hundred square feet.  It was a combination bedroom, living room, kitchen, and had a private bath and was ground floor.

Kingsbery did not recall the name of the family who owned the house with the garage apartment but said that they were nice.

He did not recall how much they paid in rent for the garage apartment but said that it was reasonable.

“We were just so pleased to get it that we didn’t want to rock the boat.”

“I imagine that if they had asked us to wash the sidewalks we would have done it because we were just so glad to be out of that hotel”, chuckled Kingsbery.

They would make many of their own meals there in the apartment but they would also have quite a few of their meals at the Officer’s Club at FSAAF.

German POW’s worked at many places at FSAAF including the Officer’s Club and served them.

“My wife was very attractive, so when we came into the officer’s club, you would hear the Germans start speaking quickly amongst themselves”, chuckled Kingsbery.

“We were just pleased to be out there at the base because the facilities at Fort Sumner were just lacking.  The city was just not designed to have that many people”, remembered Kingsbery speaking about the influx of many servicemen and their wives in town due to the war.

 “They had a movie theater on the base and one in town”, said Kingsbery regarding the entertainment available.

 “About 15 miles from Fort Sumner there as a dam and a river.  We would go up there and go swimming”, said Kingsbery.  This was Lake Sumner state park.

Overall, Kingsbery remembers that the people of Fort Sumner were very nice.

More about Bill Kingsbery and his time training in a P-47 Thunderbolt at FSAAF during WWII will be discussed in the next article.

All of these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.

If you can help with this research project, please call John McCullough at 806-793-4448 or email him at johnmc@researchwars.org








The Pecos Valley Hotel from a photo postcard taken in the late 1930s.  The postcard was supplied by Mr. David Bailey, former mayor of Fort Sumner.  The postcard was digitized at the Texas Tech library in Lubbock by John McCullough.  The building at the far end of the street reads First National Bank.  The building closest reads Fort Sumner Drug Co.



                                                                

Another photo of the Pecos Valley Hotel.  Dale Burge is native of Fort Sumner and provided this photo.  Burge now lives in Alamogordo, NM.

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