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FSAAF ARTICLES 18-24

ARTICLE 18 

Kingsbery enjoyed firing rockets from a P-47 while at Fort Sumner AAF


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

This is the 18th article in a series about Fort Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.


In the last article, Bill and Mary Louise (Breedlove) Kingsbery had found suitable quarters in which to live while in Fort Sumner.

Kingsbery spent his days busily training in a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bomber at FSAAF.

“It was big, with that great big ole Pratt and Whitney 2,700 horsepower engine in front of you.  You couldn’t see a damn thing”, he said speaking of his pursuit plane.

Kingsbery and his fellow pilots were practicing for the invasion of Japan.

“It was the perfect plane for ground support for the invasion of Japan and that was what we were training for”, recalled Kingsbery.

The P-47 was built to carry a very heavy amount of ordinance.  It was the largest and heaviest single-seat fighter plane of the war.

“We could take off with a 1,000 pound bomb; 800 rounds of .50-caliber ammunition for each of the eight .50-caliber guns, four in each wing; and ten five-inch rockets, five under each wing”, remarked Kingsbery.

“With a turbo-charger on the engine, you could reach 43,000 feet in altitude”, he added.

The Army Air Force had a bombing area out there, a practice bombing area, for the pilots from FSAAF to use with targets set up for the pilots to attack.

The pilots would fire their five-inch rockets at targets.  They would also strafe targets with their machine guns.  They were firing live rockets and ammunition.

He was not sure in what direction the target bombing area was located from FSAAF but said that it was a pretty good distance from the airfield and town.

Kingsbery had never fired rockets from a pursuit plane before arriving at FSAAF.  When asked how he liked firing the five-inch rockets, he replied, “That was good.  That was a good experience.”

According to Kingsbery, the P-47 had a trigger on the front of the control stick for the machine guns, another trigger for the rockets and a final trigger to release the bomb.

The P-47 Thunderbolt was not as pleasurable to fly as the Bell P-39 Airacobra or the Lockheed P-38 Lightening because your visibility was not as good in the P-47.  The P-47 had much larger wings in order to carry much heavier amounts of ordinance so the pilot could not see as well as a result.

Although easier to fly, neither the P-38 nor P-39 could do near the damage to a ground target that the P-47 could do, according to Kingsbery.

Most of their training was done during the daytime.  They did very little nighttime training in the P-47s.

When asked to look through a 1944 Fort Sumner Army Air Field yearbook, Kingsbery said that he did not recognize any of the photographs because a lot of things had changed by the time he arrived on June 30, 1945.

The last class of cadets was scheduled to graduate the day that he arrived.  He did not remember any cadet pilots stationed at FSAAF when he arrived, except for a few pilots who were just graduating that day.  A major ordered Kingsbery to take this final group of pilots on a nighttime mission to qualify them to graduate.

The airfield had been turned into a staging area for pilots of the 9th Air Force to prepare for the invasion of Japan.  The Army Air Force had just reassigned Kingsbery from the 6th Air Force in the Panama Canal Zone to the 9th Air Force at Fort Sumner.

The function of the airfield in earlier years was to introduce cadet pilots to aircraft, both powered aircraft, and at the beginning, sailplanes and gliders.

However, when Kingsbery arrived in the summer of 1945, the airfield was used to train experienced pilots in how to use the P-47 Thunderbolt.

One of the photographs in the yearbook showed some cadet pilots engaging in skeet shooting at FSAAF in earlier days.

Skeet shooting was always required of fighter pilots wherever they were stationed because of their gunnery needs.  It kept their shooting skills sharp, noted Kingsbery.

Kinsgsbery said that about eight to ten pilots came from his former, temporary base at Greenville, Texas to Fort Sumner to train in P-47s.  Altogether, he thinks that there were possibly up to fifty P-47s used for training at FSAAF when he was stationed there.

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


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ARTICLE 19



TO BE ADDED SOON.














ARTICLE 20


Kingsbery very grateful that the atomic bombs ended the war in August, 1945


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

This is the 20th article in a series about Fort Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.

In the last article, Lt. Bill Kingsbery discussed hearing the world’s first atomic blast early on the morning of July 16, 1945 while he was stationed at FSAAF where he trained in a P-47 Thunderbolt.

He was in the 9th Air Force which was preparing for the invasion of Japan.  Kingsbery practiced firing rockets and dropping bombs from his Republic P-47 Thunderbolt on bombing ranges outside of FSAAF during the summer of 1945.

Then, early one morning, just before dawn, an enormous explosion occurred about 180 miles from Fort Sumner.  The date was Monday, July 16, and the world’s first atomic test bomb had been exploded in the desert at Alamogordo AAF southwest of Fort Sumner at a place called Trinity Site.

Originally, Kingsbery and his fellow pilots were given a cover story by the USAAF about the loud explosion that they heard early in the morning darkness of July 16.  They were told that an ammunition dump had exploded at Alamogordo AAF.  The July 19 edition of the Fort Sumner Review newspaper had an article on their front page stating the same.

But in the Friday, August 10, 1945 edition of the Fort Sumner Leader newspaper, an article appeared on the front page entitled “Alamogordo Explosion Now Explained”.

The article appeared just four days after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan on August 6.  The second atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on August 9.

According the article, the atomic test blast on July 16 at Alamogordo AAF was heard for hundreds of miles in all directions.  The brilliant flash of light was seen as far away as Silver City, Gallup, and from the highways near Albuquerque.

Also seeing the flash of light were railroad employees, mail messengers, and others in Vaughn.

The article talked about how the world had been ushered into the Atomic Age with the blast at Alamogordo AAF.  The three atomic bombs cost two billion dollars.

The bombs were built in three secret locations in the United States, one of which was near Santa Fe, stated the article.

The atomic test bomb was mounted on the top of a steel tower at Alamogordo AAF.  The final assembly of that bomb began on the night of July 12 in an old ranch house, according to the Leader.

Major General Leslie R. Groves headed up that phase of the project which was under the direction of Dr. J. R. Oppenheimer of the University of California.  Oppenheimer is “credited with the implementation of atomic energy for military purposes”, according to the article from the Leader.

When the explosion occurred, there was a “blinding flash lighting up the whole area brighter than the brightest daylight”, said the Leader.

About three weeks after the first atomic test bomb was exploded at Trinity Site at Alamogordo AAF, Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, one on August 6 and the other on August 9.

Kingsbery commented on these missions which ended the war so quickly.

“Of course, we were very grateful; because we frankly dreaded, I did, dreaded being ground support for the invasion of Japan because we had learned by that time the patience of the Japanese and how ferocious they were and we knew that they would defend their homeland with their bodies.”

“So we knew that if we were shot down, we would be tortured probably.  So we were just very thankful for the atomic bomb.”

Regarding his time in Fort Sumner, Kingsbery said, “The people were nice but it was very crowded.  There was just uncertainty in the air constantly; you know because we didn’t know where we were going – a lot of anxiety.”

By the time the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, Kingsbery and his wife Mary Louise had left Fort Sumner and were living in La Junta, Colorado.  The USAAF had transferred Kingsbery there for his next training assignment.

 “La Junta was just another staging area.  That’s where we received our new airplanes and formed our new flights.”

Kingsbery found a nice room to rent for him and his wife while stationed at La Junta AAF.

“Nancy Mahoney, and she was a widow, and she rented us a bedroom.  I remember her because she was such a gracious lady.  She and Mary Louise became like mother and daughter.”

At La Junta AAF, Kingsbery and his fellow P-47 pilots were scheduled to fly their planes to San Francisco, Calif., and then be loaded onto ships and head across the Pacific to Okinawa for the invasion of Japan.

 “In fact, after they dropped the atomic bombs in Japan, that’s when we were in La Junta, Colo., we were out of the service in a month or two”, he added.

After the war with Japan ended on September 2, 1945, Kingsbery considered staying in the Army Air Forces as a jet pilot but opted to return to college to complete his education since his wife was pregnant.

He returned to Lubbock to complete his education at Texas Tech.  He already had a year and a half of college at Tech having studied engineering before he went into the service.  As a veteran, Kingsbery earned $90 per month on the G.I. Bill to finish his degree.

While attending Texas Tech, he also worked as a pilot instructor and an ErCoupe aircraft salesman at Breedlove Airport, working for his father-in-law, Clent Breedlove.

Kingsbery lost his left leg in a glider accident at Breedlove Airport in February, 1946.  Mr. M. I. Hall, who later owned the Sunday Sun newspaper in Lubbock, was piloting the glider and lost control of it when the spar on the left wing broke when they were coming in for a landing.

After spending many months in hospitals in Lubbock and Dallas, Kingsbery went back to Texas Tech University for one semester, mostly on crutches.

He then attended San Diego State University because some friends invited him out to California to live in a veteran’s village.

He went to college there for fifteen months until September of 1947 when he and Mary Louise travelled to Austin, Texas.  He then completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas in January, 1950.

Kingsbery then worked with his father-in-law, Clent Breedlove, in the auto sales business in Las Vegas, New Mex.  Breedlove died of a heart attack in November, 1953 during a hunting trip with his son-in-law just outside of Las Vegas.

He then worked and lived in various places in New Mexico before returning to Lubbock.

In 1981, he started Liberty Heritage Group, LLC, in Lubbock with his son Ted.  It is an investment firm specializing in futures markets, according to Ted.  Kingsbery still works weekdays at his company with his son.

To help support the great aviation history of Lubbock, Kingsbery donated $10,000 towards the creation of Silent Wings Museum, the National WWII Glider Pilot’s Museum.  Silent Wings Museum (www.silentwingsmuseum.com) opened in 2002 and is located at Exit 9 on IH-27 at the old Lubbock Municipal Airport.

Kingsbery was later invited to join the Texas Aviation Heritage Foundation, Inc. (TAHFI) which is based in Lubbock and was started by the late Dr. John A. Buesseler of TTUHSC.

Kingsbery travels to Las Vegas, New Mex., several times a year with his son Ted and his family.  He turned 90 years old last May.

More about the pilot training 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



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ARTICLE 21


Otto Lyons trained in the CPT before arriving at FSAAF in WWII


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

This is the 21st article in a series about Fort Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.

Otto F. Lyons, Jr. was born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1922.  At the National WWII Glider Pilots reunion in Kansas City, Missouri, in September of 2013, Lyons gave an interview about his time training in gliders at Fort Sumner Army Air Field during WWII.

Lyons joined the US Army Air Forces in July, 1942 about seven months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii which brought the United States into the war.

He wanted to join the regular US Army Air Forces but he did not have the required two years of college at the time.  He had just graduated from high school and had only a half year of college experience.

Since he did not qualify for the regular USAAF, he looked for other options.  He then read an advertisement in the newspaper about the glider program.

“They were starting the glider program so I went down and enlisted for that”, said Lyons.

He was then later called to go for training in Memphis in the Civilian Pilot Training program (CPT).

He already had a pilot’s license before he joined the glider program but he was still required to train in the CPT.

The CPT was administered by the Civilian Aeronautics Authority (CAA) and started in January, 1939 at a select group of thirteen colleges around the country as a test during that spring semester.

It then expanded to hundreds more colleges starting in the fall semester of 1939.

The CPT was often referred to as the “putt-putt air force” because of the characteristic “putt-putt, putt-putt” sound that the 65-hp engines made while idling.  The planes typically used by the CPT to train students were Taylorcraft, Piper Cub, and Aeronca aircraft.

According to Patricia Strickland in her 1975 book, The Putt-Putt Air Force—The Story of the Civilian Pilot Training Program (1939-1944), the CPT trained a very large number of pilots used by the US military in WWII.  Strickland wrote the book for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  The FAA is the successor to the CAA.

Both the USAAF and the US Navy had many pilots in their ranks that were given their initial training in the CPT.

By the end of the program in the summer of 1944, the CPT had trained 435,165 students in the fundamentals of flying and was located at 1,132 colleges and universities around the United States according to Strickland.

“It was an order for us to go through CPT training when I enlisted”, recalled Lyons.

Although Lyons did note that he did not go through boot camp before going into the CPT.

“We were still in civilian clothes.”

“We were living in the dorms at Southwestern University and Memphis State University; Memphis State College it was at that time.  I was at Southwestern but some of the students were at Memphis State”, explained Lyons.

The in-class portion of Lyons’ CPT training occurred in college classrooms at Southwestern University in Memphis.

When asked about specifics on his training, Lyons replied, “We had about 30 hours.  We had ground school training.  We were in Taylorcraft tandem airplanes and some of them were [Piper] Cubs.  We didn’t have any Aeroncas there, I know.”

The ground school portion and in-flight portion of the CPT training occurred at the Memphis municipal airport.

Lyons remembered the name of one of his fellow CPT students, Carl Liggett.

After completing his CPT training, he was shipped to Roswell, New Mexico where he was placed in a glider pilot pool.  At Roswell, he also received his shots and his uniform.  He was at Roswell for several weeks.

When asked to explain what a glider pilot pool was, he replied, “It was just a place where you waited for your next assignment.  It was just part of your training.”

He next went to Big Spring, Texas, for “dead stick” school training.

At Big Spring, Lyons and his fellow students lived at a Boy Scout camp outside of town and not at Big Spring Army Air Field.

They lived in barracks at this large, grass field and also did their “dead stick” training at this field.

This was the pre-glider training portion of his education.  There were three phases for student pilots to learn to fly gliders:  pre-glider training, also known as “dead stick” training; basic glider training; and advanced glider training.

According to Charles Day, there were eighteen contract glider schools that the USAAF operated around the United States in three large training centers during the war.  Day is the national secretary of the National WWII Glider Pilots’ Association.

The four schools listed below, except the one at Lamesa, were under the jurisdiction of the Commanding General, West Coast Air Forces Training Center:

USAAF glider school                                                                          Capacity

Plains Airways, Fort Morgan, Colorado                                                184

Cutter-Carr Flying Service, Clovis, New Mexico                                   184

Big Spring Flying Service, Big Spring, Texas                                            80

Clent Breedlove Aerial Service, Plainview, Texas                                152

John H. Wilson Glider School, Lamesa, Texas                                       N/A


The glider school at Lamesa was under the jurisdiction of the Gulf Coast Air Forces Training Center.

An article from the Big Spring Herald dated July 15, 1942, stated that Major General Barton K. Yount visited the Big Spring glider school for an inspection.  General Yount was the commanding officer of the Army Air Forces Flying Command.

The article stated that General Yount was “pleased with the progress being made at the Big Spring school”.

Lyons provided more details about his time at Big Spring in the “dead stick” school.

There was a wind sock at the field but no control tower, but they did have an old shack that they used as an office.  They did not do any night flying at Big Spring.

Lyons said that they learned to fly in Aeroncas, Taylorcrafts, and Cubs.

They had their meals at a hotel in town.  He thinks that it might have been the Settles Hotel.  He remembers it being the oldest hotel in town.

After completing his pre-glider training at Big Spring, Lyons was promoted to Staff Sgt. and transferred to Fort Sumner Army Air Field for basic glider training.

Lyons recalled the weather being very cold when he arrived at Fort Sumner in late 1942.

More about Otto Lyons’ glider pilot training at FSAAF during WWII will be discussed in the next article.

Readers are encouraged to visit Silent Wings Museum (www.silentwingsmuseum.com) in Lubbock for more information about the glider program of WWII.

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











ARTICLE 22


Glider pilots lived in very primitive conditions in the early days of FSAAF


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

This is the 22nd article in a series about Fort Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.

Otto F. Lyons, Jr. was born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1922.  At the National WWII Glider Pilots reunion in Kansas City, Missouri, in September of 2013, Lyons gave an interview about his time training in gliders at Fort Sumner Army Air Field during WWII.

Lyons joined the US Army Air Forces in July, 1942 about seven months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii which brought the United States into the war.

At Big Spring, Lyons trained in Aeroncas, Taylorcrafts, and Piper Cub aircraft in the middle of a large field.  The field that they used for primary glider flight training was just a large converted Boy Scout camp that had a shack and a wind sock on it.

After completing his pre-glider training at Big Spring, Lyons was promoted to Staff Sgt. and transferred to Fort Sumner Army Air Field for basic glider training.  There were three phases in glider pilot training:  primary, also known as pre-glider or “dead stick” training; basic glider training and advanced glider training.

Lyons recalled the weather being very cold when he arrived at Fort Sumner in late 1942 in the wintertime.

“I know it was the wintertime, because it was real cold; in fact, our water tower at the place where they had our tents set up froze and broke and there was a big icicle hanging down about six feet long and about a foot in diameter.  I remember that”, said Lyons.

“They didn’t have any fence around the place, no security to speak of.”

There was a broken-down, barbed-wire fence around the perimeter from what Lyons recalled.  He also thought that there was a guard shack at the front entrance.

Life at FSAAF during this early period was very primitive.  The glider pilots lived in tents.  He recalled that the temperature dropped down to nine degrees below zero and that was when the water tower froze.  They also had to use open slit latrines for toilets.

“They were planning on making a semi-permanent base there and bring in the big WACO CG-4A gliders”, explained Lyons, “because they were digging trenches to put the sewer lines in.”

Some of the soldiers went into town one night and when they returned to the air field, they fell into the trenches most likely because they were drunk from what Lyons recalled.

“Some guys come in at night and fell into the trench and couldn’t get out”, he said.

When asked about the types of planes they had for training, Lyons explained that they used gliders.

“They weren’t sailplanes.  They were gliders.”

“They took the engine off an Aeronca, Taylorcraft, and Cub and put a third seat up there.”

These modified planes were called TG-2’s, TG-3’s, and TG-4’s.

Lyons knows that he went to Lubbock by train and thinks that he traveled by rail to Fort Sumner, too.

He completed thirty hours of flight time and was then held over at Fort Sumner as an instructor.

He lived in the tents the entire time at FSAAF.  They had no hangars, no storage buildings, no barracks, or anything else.

“They brought us our meals, from Clovis I guess, in a truck.”

“We ate out of our mess kits.”

“They had a barrel with soapy water and another barrel with clean water.  You dipped your mess kit in soapy water and then rinsed it in clean water; and I think half the guys there had dysentery.”

He did not recall what types of hot meals were brought to them but he did recall the dessert.  The dessert alternated from day to day.

“They had bread pudding on one day and bread pudding with raisins the next day”, he chuckled.

When asked about any buildings at FSAAF that were left over from CCC camp 23N, Lyons did not recall any buildings.  He also did not remember hearing anything about the former CCC camp which had been located there just a few months before in the spring of 1942.

“I do remember going into town and going down the main street, the main drag; it Tee-ed off [meaning that the streets formed a ‘T’ intersection] and there was a bank there and there was a saloon and the bank had a big plate glass window and you could see in and the vault looked like a great big bowling ball; round.”

David Bailey, co-owner and manager of Dave’s Venture Foods in Fort Sumner remembers that round vault, too.

“My dad and another man bought both of those safes.  They were identical.”

“They were about three and a half feet tall, three feet wide and two to three feet deep.  They were round like a globe but cylindrical, too.  They were on a pedestal that was curved in.”

“My dad bought his from Citizen’s Bank Clovis, Fort Sumner branch.”

“We had to use a front-end loader to move it because it weighed about 3,000 to 4,000 pounds.  Dad stored it at a local bar in town and then sold it a few years later.  That was back in the 1970s.”

The other man who bought the other safe was Mr. W. A. “Prunes” Bryant who owned and operated the Longhorn bar in Fort Sumner according to Bailey.  Bryant closed the bar around 1995 and sold his round safe at the same time that he closed the bar.  Bryant has since passed away.

Bailey said that his dad sold his round safe around the same time.

“The combination failed on one of those two safes and they had to cut it open on the back side”, remarked Bailey.  He did not remember, however, which of the two safes had to be cut open, his dad’s safe or Bryant’s safe.

Continuing on with more of Otto Lyons’ memories of Fort Sumner in WWII, he said, “Then they had a drug store and it had a nickelodeon and it had the instruments in it.”

Lyons explained that they were real-sized instruments that played automatically with no animated characters playing them.  You would put a nickel in the machine and the instruments would actually play the song.  The instruments he recalled were the violin, a set of drums, and a banjo.

Lyons did not recall any movie theater in town.  The bank and the drug store stood out vividly in his mind.  He also recalled a saloon.

More about Otto Lyons’ glider pilot training at FSAAF during WWII will be discussed in the next article.

Readers are encouraged to visit Silent Wings Museum (www.silentwingsmuseum.com) in Lubbock for more information about the glider program of WWII.

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







ARTICLE 23


Pilots trained in the WACO CG-4A glider for combat at FSAAF


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

This is the 23rd article in a series about Fort Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.

Otto F. Lyons, Jr. was born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1922.  At the National WWII Glider Pilots reunion in Kansas City, Missouri, in September of 2013, Lyons gave an interview about his time training in gliders at Fort Sumner Army Air Field during WWII.

Lyons joined the US Army Air Forces in July, 1942.  Before coming to FSAAF, he trained briefly at Big Spring, Texas, in Aeronca, Taylorcraft, and Piper Cub aircraft for his primary glider flight training.

After completing his primary, or pre-glider, training at Big Spring, Lyons was promoted to Staff Sgt. and transferred to Fort Sumner Army Air Field for basic glider training.

There were three phases in glider pilot training:  primary, also known as pre-glider or “dead stick” training; basic glider training and advanced glider training.

Lyons arrived at Fort Sumner in late 1942 on a very cold day.

When asked about his training in gliders at Fort Sumner, Lyons replied that they used modified planes from three different manufacturers.

“They took the engine off an Aeronca, Taylorcraft, and Cub and put a third seat up there.”

These modified planes were called TG-2’s, TG-3’s, and TG-4’s, respectively.

Lyons and his fellow glider pilots trained both during the daytime and nighttime.

“There was a windmill, I remember that distinctly.  The night that we flew, there was a shack out there that was used for the headquarters, or the office, I should say, on the field out there.”

“I remember at one end of the field there was a windmill and sometimes the guys would come in at night and they would think that they were going to hit that windmill and they would bail out.”

“I don’t know if you have heard that expression, or not, but that’s where guys would say, ‘Bail out, you fool, you’re too low!’”, recalled Lyons.

“A few of them bailed out, I don’t think that there were very many, and they carried one to Lubbock or Clovis to the hospital in one of the tow planes.”

“I remember one night, the officer in charge out there said, ‘Crank up the tow plane we got another one we’re going to have to take to the hospital it looks like. He bailed out.’”

“But his chute opened about the time his feet touched the ground”, added Lyons.

Lyons was not sure where the injured glider pilots in tow planes were taken for medical care but he thought that it was either Lubbock or Clovis.

He said that ground crews lighted the airfield with smudge pots so that the pilots could see better.

He completed thirty hours of flight time and was then held over at Fort Sumner as an instructor.  Lyons figured that this indicated that he was a pretty good glider pilot.  He had his pilot’s license since he was fifteen years old and he thinks that that might have helped him become an instructor.  He had a lot of flying experience.

Lyons explained that the Army Air Forces then closed down the basic glider pilot instruction at FSAAF and then shipped him and his fellow pilots to Albuquerque. 

After training more there, they were then shipped to Roswell Army Air Field and then back to Fort Sumner.

When he arrived back at Fort Sumner his second time, the Army Air Forces had changed to advanced glider pilot instruction there and were using the new WACO CG-4A gliders.

The WACO CG-4A glider held fifteen men:  the pilot, co-pilot, and thirteen heavily armed combat glider troops, also known as ‘glider riders’.  These were the actual combat gliders that were used in military operations overseas.

Lyons also said that FSAAF had been developed considerably since his first time training there.  The men no longer lived in tents.

“They had put the wood barracks in.  They made the advanced glider school there.  I think I was in Class 8, but I do not remember exactly.  The class ahead of me graduated and then they moved us up to fly and they closed down the base and sent us to Lubbock.”

“Six or seven classes graduated there.  They shut them down and moved them all to Lubbock.”

In the spring of 1943, the USAAF decided to consolidate all the advanced glider pilot training into one location, South Plains Army Air Field (SPAAF), which was located at the Lubbock municipal airport.

Lyons graduated from SPAAF in class 44-3.

Lyons then went to Laurinburg-Maxton, North Carolina for winged commando combat training.

His next stop was Bergstrom Field in Austin, Texas to train in C-47’s which were used to tow gliders.  They did a lot of nighttime training at Bergstrom Field, too. 

While in Austin, they were called overseas and the USAAF flew Lyons and twenty other glider pilots to England.

More about Otto Lyons’ days as a glider pilot will be revealed in the next article.

Readers are encouraged to visit Silent Wings Museum (www.silentwingsmuseum.com) in Lubbock for more information about the glider program of WWII.

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









ARTICLE 24

Lyons fought at Nijmegen, Holland during Market-Garden in September, 1944



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

This is the 24th article in a series about Fort Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.

At the National WWII Glider Pilots reunion in Kansas City, Missouri, in September of 2013, Otto Lyons gave an interview about his time training in gliders at Fort Sumner Army Air Field during WWII.

Lyons joined the US Army Air Forces in July, 1942.  Before coming to FSAAF, he trained briefly at Big Spring, Texas, in Aeronca, Taylorcraft, and Piper Cub aircraft for his primary glider flight training.

After completing his primary, or pre-glider, training at Big Spring, Lyons was promoted to Staff Sgt. and transferred to Fort Sumner Army Air Field for basic glider training.

Lyons first arrived at Fort Sumner in late 1942 on a very cold day.

Lyons was stationed at Fort Sumner on two different occasions.  The first time there, he trained in the modified Aeronca (TG-5), Taylorcraft (TG-6), and Piper (TG-8) aircraft.  These aircraft had the engine removed so that another student could sit in it as a training glider which was towed into the air by a powered aircraft.

During his second stay, he trained in the WACO CG-4A assault glider which was the same type of glider that he would fly into combat in Europe during the war.

The WACO CG-4A glider held fifteen men:  the pilot, co-pilot, and thirteen heavily armed combat glider troops, also known as ‘glider riders’.  These were the actual combat gliders that were used in military operations overseas.

After completing his training at Fort Sumner, he and his group of pilots were transferred to Lubbock at South Plains Army Air Field (SPAAF) for advanced glider training.  Lyons graduated from SPAAF in class 44-3, meaning the third class in the year 1944.

Lyons then went to Laurinburg-Maxton, North Carolina for winged commando combat training.

His next stop was Bergstrom Field in Austin, Texas to train in C-47 Skytrains which were used to tow gliders.  They did a lot of nighttime training at Bergstrom Field, too. 

While in Austin, they were called overseas and the USAAF flew Lyons and twenty other glider pilots to England.

Lyons said that they were picked to go over to Europe because of their extensive nighttime training in gliders.

“We were told that we were going for a special mission into Paris to keep the Germans from looting and burning in Paris; but after we got there and setup, it was cancelled because the French armored division just made a bee-line for Paris and got there before the mission could come off.”

Lyons did not participate in the Normandy glider operations but was involved in the Market-Garden glider operations in Holland.  Operation Market-Garden was fought from September 17-27, 1944.

Operation Market-Garden was the largest airborne operation in history and took place in Holland near the German border.

The British 6th Airborne Division landed just west of Arnhem near Oosterbeek.  The US 101st Airborne Division landed near Eindhoven and the 82nd Airborne Division landed near Nijmegen.  Also, the Polish 1st Airborne Brigade landed near Oosterbeek a few days after the initial assault.

Parachutists were dropped from C-47’s and glider troops and equipment were landed by US WACO CG-4A gliders and the larger British Horsa gliders in the operation.

Lyons landed at Nijmegen, Holland.  He took in both troops and supplies for the 82nd Airborne Division.

He flew one mission with fifteen men and a .50-caliber water-cooled machine gun and ammunition for that.  In addition, he also had seven trusses of 81mm mortar ammunition.

“After I got there, the glider pilots were ordered to take over the north-east perimeter next to the woods facing Germany.”

“They pulled the 82nd out and had taken them to the bridge and put the glider pilots out there to hold that line and that was the first time that a front line had been held by all officers and they were all glider pilots, and we never got recognition for that.”

Unlike pilots of powered planes, glider pilots were the only American pilots in the war who were considered infantry once their glider landed.  They were expected to fight like infantry, alongside infantry and that is why they were given commando training at places like Laurinburg-Maxton.  Thus, they received the nickname, “Winged Commandos”.

“They called all the glider pilots into Headquarters and took us out and we got the hell shot out of us.”

“The Germans were shooting anti-personnel shells at us that would burst at treetop level and the flak went everywhere”, continued Lyons.

“You didn’t dig a regular fox hole you dug one down deep – small and deep to keep from being hit by the shrapnel.”

After the Holland mission, Lyons was transferred to the 315th Troop Carrier Group and flew as a navigator and co-pilot on C-47’s.  He did not participate in any other glider operations during the war.

When asked about the kind of missions he flew in C-47’s, Lyons replied, “We picked up repatriated prisoners of war and carried them to Le Havre (France).”

“We picked them up from prison camps in Germany and other satellite nations of Germany, wherever they had prison camps; these were American soldiers that we were picking up.”

“We had a hospital ship docked there and the guys that were in pretty good shape were put on ships to go back to the states.”

After the war with Germany ended on May 8, 1945, Lyons headed to the island of Trinidad just north of Venezuela in South America.

“I was in the headquarters squadron of the 315th and went to Trinidad.  They started what they called a “Green Project” which was bringing troops back from the European Theater down to North Africa then across to South America and into Trinidad which is an island just off South America.”

“My outfit was headquarters for the whole operation.  Then they would fly them from there on into Miami.  They just kept them shuttling in C-47’s.”

“I was there until the Japanese surrendered.”

“I got the promotion and had passed the physical and Japan surrendered and so I told them that I wanted to go home they tried to talk me out of and I said ‘nope’.”

Lyons is the National Chairman and head of the Executive Council National World War II Glider Pilots Association.

He resides in Germantown, Tenn., and attends the glider pilot reunions annually.

Readers are encouraged to visit Silent Wings Museum (www.silentwingsmuseum.com) in Lubbock for more information about the glider program of WWII.  More information is also available at www.wingedcommandos.org and 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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