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FSAAF Articles 7-11

ARTICLE 7

Glider School at Ft Sumner allotted $500,000 for improvements

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

Graduate Student History, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

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

In the October 2, 1942 edition of the Ft Sumner Leader, Senator Dennis Chavez (D, NM) announced great news for the citizens of New Mexico.  The Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) had notified him that it had allotted $2,625,000 of its $199,000,000 appropriation for 1943 to build two new airports and improve two existing airports in New Mexico.

Ft Sumner would receive $500,000 for a new class 3 port, the Army Advanced Glider Flying School.  The remainder of the $2,625,000 would go to three other ports:  Santa Fe’s existing airport for the amount of $780,000; another $750,000 went to establish a new class 3 port at Artesia; and the final $595,000 went to improve the Las Cruces airport.

Senator Chavez said that the all of the money was allotted for ground improvements such as runway lengthening and widening.

The first recorded mishap of a plane from FSAAF was reported soon after this.  On October 13, the Ft Sumner Leader announced that FSAAF had lost a plane which was en route to Chandler, Arizona by way of Albuquerque.  The plane left FSAAF on Wednesday, October 7 for Albuquerque.  Second Lt. H. H. Burwell was the pilot and sole passenger of the aircraft.  When Lt. Burwell flew out of Albuquerque late Saturday, October 10 for Chandler, the plane went missing.  It was due to arrive at 9:04 p.m.  Officials said that the plane would have exhausted its fuel by 10:45 p.m.  Ten search planes left Albuquerque on October 13 to resume the search for the missing plane.

December 18, 1942, the Leader reported that Major W. W. Dreyfoos, commander of all glider training of the West Coast Training Center (WCTC), was “very well satisfied” with the acceleration of the training program at Ft Sumner Glider School, according to Col. K. C. McGregor, commanding officer.

Major Dreyfoos was accompanied by Col. Mike Healy, chief surgeon for the WCTC.   They arrived in an AT-6 airplane.  Col. Healy made an inspection of the air field’s new hospital with Capt. John W. Montgomery, post surgeon.

Major Dreyfoos visited the auxiliary fields and observed night flying.  He assured Col. McGregor that more equipment and students would be sent to Ft Sumner’s glider school.

Major Dreyfoos then left to inspect the air fields at Roswell, Artesia, and Carlsbad before submitting his report to General Barton K. Yount, chief of the flying training command for the United States.

All these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.  Please visit Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, TX or online at www.silentwingsmuseum.com for more details 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






General Barton K. Yount


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ARTICLE 8

Student pilots received basic glider training at FSAAF in October, 1942

By John W. McCullough, Monday, November 26, 2012

Graduate Student History, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

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

In late October, 2012, Claude A. Berry attended the National WWII Glider Pilots Association annual reunion in San Antonio, Texas.  While there, he recalled many details about his glider training at Ft Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) in the fall of 1942.

Originally from San Antonio, Berry learned to fly in the Army Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPT) in the spring of 1942.  After completing this course, Berry and about twelve of his fellow student pilots traveled to Plainview, Texas in early September, 1942, for training at the Plainview Pre-Glider School at Finney Field.

Berry said that Plainview was a “dead stick” primary glider school.  This training involved taking a single-engine plane up to about 5,000 feet, turning off the engine, which made it “dead stick”, and then gliding in to the runway.

After completing this training, Berry and the other students in his group split up and went to various destinations for the next phase of glider training.  Some of the student pilots went to Okmulgee, Oklahoma while some others went to Lamesa, Texas.  Berry’s group of student pilots went to Ft Sumner, arriving in early October.  Berry had his own car and drove from Plainview to Ft Sumner.

Regarding Ft Sumner, Berry said, “It was out in the boondocks.  It wasn’t a very big field, but it did have some hangars.”  Berry also said that there was a sailplane sitting on its side.  “It looked like a Schweizer sailplane.  It wasn’t busted or anything, but I never saw it fly.”

At Ft Sumner, Berry said that they trained mostly in J-3 Piper Cubs and Taylorcraft aircraft which had the engines removed and were used as gliders.  Since the engines were removed, there was room for one more person in these modified gliders for a total of three places.  This second phase of training was called basic glider training.

The tow pilots used Consolidated Vultee BT-13’s and Stinson L-1A’s which had about 220 horsepower to pull the gliders.  The BT-13’s pulled two gliders in a twin tow formation while the L-1A’s towed just one glider at-a-time.

Berry’s instructor was a man named Daley.  He took us up one day very soon after we arrived.  The three of us, two students and the instructor, sat in tandem with the instructor sitting at the back most position.  “We went up to about 3,000 feet.  That was the first time I had ever been towed in a glider.”

“It was mighty cold and we had no warm clothes.  I bounced that glider all around and I dropped down into the tow.”  When we landed, the instructor told Berry that if he ever did that again he would be out of the program.  Berry complained to him about how cold he was up there.  Berry made it past the next few days doing better in his glider flying as time went on.

More details about Claude A. Berry’s glider pilot training experiences at FSAAF will be given in the next article.  Berry currently resides in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

All these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.  Please visit Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, TX or online at www.silentwingsmuseum.com for more details 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





WWII Glider Pilot Claude A. Berry.
Photo courtesy John W. McCullough.  Photo taken in October, 2012 at the National WWII Glider Pilots Association annual reunion in San Antonio, TX.



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ARTICLE 9

Student Glider Pilot Berry reprimanded for trip to Clovis in WWII

By John W. McCullough, Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Graduate Student History, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

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

In late October, 2012, Claude A. Berry attended the National WWII Glider Pilots Association annual reunion in San Antonio, Texas.  While there, he recalled many details about his glider training at FSAAF in the fall of 1942.

Arriving in late October, Berry recalled about FSAAF, “They had only modified Taylorcraft and Piper Cub planes with the engines removed which were then used as gliders.  All the gliders were parked outside.”

“We did some night flying at Fort Sumner.  They used smudge pots to light up the taxiways and one runway was lighted at the main airfield, as well.”  Berry said that there was more than one runway at the main airfield but he was not sure how many runways it had.  The runways were grass, said Berry.

“There were two hangars and at least a couple of barracks.  They had two classes flying at all times.  The barracks were wood-framed with wood sides and tarpaper covering them in some places.  They had a potbelly stove in them for heat, toilet facilities and showers inside the barracks, too.”

“There were also some auxiliary airfields.  The auxiliary fields had just one runway each.  They were used both for daytime and nighttime flying.  At night, smudge pots illuminated the one runway at each auxiliary field.”

Berry said that there was a movie theater in Fort Sumner but not much else.  So one weekend when it was cold and snowy Berry and a couple of his buddies drove to Clovis in Berry’s car. 

They did not do much in Clovis.  It was nighttime when they arrived.  They had dinner and looked for a bar.  Berry recalled drinking a small amount, but not much.

They were not supposed to go to Clovis and when Berry returned, he received a “104”.  Berry explained that this was an “Article of War 104”.  A “104” meant that he had done something wrong regarding military procedures.  Berry was confined to his barracks as punishment.

More details about Claude A. Berry’s glider pilot experiences at FSAAF will be discussed in the next article.  Berry currently resides in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

All these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.  Please visit Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, TX or online at www.silentwingsmuseum.com for more details 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

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ARTICLE 10

Glider Pilot Berry stood fire watch outside of FSAAF in December, 1942

By John W. McCullough, Monday, April 29, 2013

Graduate Student History, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

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

In late October, 2012, Claude A. Berry attended the National WWII Glider Pilots Association annual reunion in San Antonio, Texas.  While there, he recalled many details about his glider training at FSAAF in the fall of 1942.

Claude Berry finished training at FSAAF on December 16, 1942.  He then went home to San Antonio, Texas for the holiday and was there through Christmas day.  It was very warm in San Antonio and Berry wore a short sleeve shirt.

When he returned to Fort Sumner by train it was sleeting and snowing.  Although Berry and his fellow students had completed their glider training, the Army Air Forces quartered them at FSAAF until their orders came through to go to their next duty station.

The day Berry arrived back at FSAAF he volunteered to go off the base with three other student glider pilots to stand guard over a large area of ground which had been on fire recently.

A glider pilot, whom Berry did not know, released his tow rope on his WACO CG-4A glider about 10 miles away from the air field.  Berry was not sure if he crashed or what.  It was late in the day when this happened.  The glider pilot could not walk back to the air field before dark so he had to stay out there on the range all night by himself.

To keep warm, the glider pilot started a fire.  Berry is not sure if he purposely set his glider on fire or if the ground fire he started just caught the glider on fire; but either way, the fire quickly grew out of control and soon a large range fire was raging over many acres.

So Berry and his three fellow glider pilots spent the night guarding what was left of the WACO CG-4A glider and kept an eye on the burned ground all around them, ready to shovel dirt on any hot spots which might flare up again.

Fort Sumner was a mighty cold place for Claude Berry.  He nearly froze to death in his first training flight at FSAAF in a sailplane.  Then, when he spent a night off base guarding a recent fire hot spot, he almost succumbed to the bitter cold of a New Mexico winter night.

“All I had on was a thin poplin shirt.  When they took us out there that afternoon for fire watch, they told us that someone would come for us in a few hours.  No one ever came.  We liked to froze to death.  We started up the Dodge truck and turned on the heater every now and then to try to stay warm.”

The next morning, Berry and his three buddies spotted a distant farm house with smoke coming from it.  They could not move the truck from the fire spot until the sergeant came back for them, so they started walking towards the farm house. They knocked on the door and a woman let them in.  She and her husband had a daughter and a baby.

“They had a fire going.  We had biscuits and something to eat for breakfast.  Boy it was the best meal we ever had.  I meant to get their address and write them and thank them, and never did.”

After finishing breakfast, Berry and his buddies walked back to their truck.

“Then the guy [sergeant] showed up after a while and come and got us [to bring us back to base] and we really romped on that character, boy.  We went to headquarters and told them about it, too.  He said that he was sorry for something.  He said that he did not forget us, but I believe that he just did.  He never did get anyone else to volunteer to come out there and replace us [on fire watch].”

More details about Claude A. Berry’s glider pilot experiences at FSAAF will be discussed in the next article.  Berry currently resides in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

All these stories are available online at www.researchwars.org under the FSAAF link.  Please visit Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, TX or online at www.silentwingsmuseum.com for more details 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



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ARTICLE 11

Glider Pilot Berry flew in two combat missions in Europe

By John W. McCullough, Thursday, June 12, 2013

Graduate Student History, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

This is the 11th article in a multi-article series on the history of Ft Sumner Army Air Field (FSAAF) during WWII.

In late October, 2012, Claude A. Berry attended the National WWII Glider Pilots Association annual reunion in San Antonio, Texas.  While there, he recalled many details about his glider training at FSAAF as well as later training.

After Berry graduated from FSAAF, he headed south 83 miles to Roswell AAF for more training.

Berry arrived at Roswell Army Air Field in April, 1943, staying about three months.  He flew light aircraft there.  He then went on to Santa Anna, CA for further aircraft training before taking commando training at Ft. Knox in Louisville, KY where he spent Christmas of 1943.

In January, 1944, Berry and his group went to Wichita Falls, TX for ground school mechanics training and more flight training in Taylorcraft L-2’s.  He was at Wichita Falls for about two months before heading to Lubbock, TX.

Berry earned his “G-wings” as a member of class 44-7 on June 16, 1944 in Lubbock at South Plains Army Air Field (SPAAF) which is now home to Silent Wings Museum (www.silentwingsmuseum.com).  After graduation, Berry and his fellow glider pilots were given some vacation time.

Upon their return, they were sent to Laurinburg-Maxton, North Carolina for more winged commando training and then went on to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.  From there, Berry and his fellow glider pilots went to Nottingham, England and prepared for actual glider missions in Europe.  Berry was in the 91st Troop Carrier Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group. 

His first glider mission was Operation Repulse on December 27, 1944.  In this mission, Berry delivered 155mm shells, fuses, and powder charges to an artillery unit just outside of Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.  There were 51 WACO CG-4A gliders in this mission.

Berry was the lone trooper aboard his glider and was towed by a C-47 Skytrain.  Berry recalled a lot of anti-aircraft flak.  He carried a Thompson sub-machine gun and .45-caliber side arm.  As soon as he landed in a field outside Bastogne, the African-American soldiers of the artillery unit rushed over to his glider to take out the shells and other supplies.

Berry’s second glider mission was in Operation Varsity on March 24, 1945.  For this mission, Berry delivered a jeep with ammunition and two soldiers to a landing zone near Wesel, Germany.

Immediately after landing, Berry’s glider was hit by enemy shell fire and destroyed before the supplies could be unloaded.  Berry and his passengers escaped injury however since they had already taken cover nearby after landing.

About 50 gliders participated in this mission and they delivered part of the 17th Airborne Division into combat.

Claude Berry currently resides in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

All 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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All articles are published monthly in the DeBaca County News, Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
Scot Stinnett, Publisher and Editor.
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