RESEARCH WARS

Your Subtitle text

SPAAF AUX 2

South Plains Army Air Field -- Auxiliary Field #2
Idalou / Estacado, TX

In January and February, 2009, I researched SPAAF AUX 2 at the request of Joe S. Hays, former director of Silent Wings Museum.  Lou Thole contacted Joe Hays asking for information on this auxiliary field to SPAAF and Joe contacted me, John W. McCullough.

After meeting with several men who lived in the vicinity, I wrote the following articles for the Idalou Beacon newspaper, owned and operated by Jona Janet of Idalou, Texas.


SOUTH PLAINS ARMY AIR FIELD (SPAAF) AUXILIARY FIELD #2

RESEARCH TRIP:  SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2009

 

Written for Jona Janet of The Idalou Beacon

 

 

Article title:  WWII glider field, SPAAF AUX #2 searched, two-bay fire station discovered

 

Author:  John W. McCullough

Personal email:  john.w.mccullough@live.com

Winged Commandos email:  adjutant@wingedcommandos.org

Website:  www.wingedcommandos.org

Personal research website:  www.breedlove-cptp.org

Home phone:  806-793-4448

 

It all started in January, 2009 when Joe Hays, former director of Silent Wings Museum, sent an email to me, John McCullough, a volunteer research assistant at that museum, asking me to contact Lou Thole of Cincinnati, Ohio.  Mr. Thole is the author of a series of books called Forgotten Fields which are about abandoned World War II air fields.  Mr. Thole was working on the final stages of his latest book in this series.  Thole asked for any information that Hays and I could provide him on an auxiliary airfield which was located between Idalou and Estacado, TX during WWII.  This auxiliary airfield was a part of, and worked in conjunction with, South Plains Army Air Field (SPAAF) which was located at the old Lubbock airport.  The official name of this auxiliary airfield was SPAAF Auxiliary Field #2, although locals knew it by many different names including Estacado Auxiliary Glider Field.  A map from Thole listed this base’s name as Idalou Auxiliary Air Field.  (SPAAF Auxiliary Field #1 was located at Abernathy.)

 

I quickly went to work employing the same research method I used when I researched Clent Breedlove’s and M. F. Dagley’s Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) / Pre-Flight’s programs at Texas Tech during WWII, which was to place a brief announcement in the Thrifty Nickel and The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal asking for persons with information to contact me.  (I also have done extensive research on D-Day at museums in Normandy, France.)

 

The same day the announcement appeared (Thursday, February 5), Mr. Jerry Bartlett of Lake Ransom Canyon called me to say that his family farmed cotton just south down the road from SPAAF AUX #2 during the war and that he would be glad to meet with me to discuss the details and look around the site of the old field.

 

The next day I drove to Estacado and knocked on a few doors asking persons about an old glider field that was in the area during WWII.  No one knew of a glider field, but when I mentioned that the land was used as an experimental pig farm by Texas Tech in the early 2000’s, two persons were able to identify for me where that land was located.  The last person to whom I talked in Estacado even mentioned that his dad, Mabry Greenhaw, grew up around the area of Estacado and that if anyone knew of a glider field in these parts during the war, he surely would.  About a year earlier I learned that this land was used by Tech as an experimental pig farm from Bill Tynan.  Tynan worked at the pig farm during that time.  Tynan currently works as a volunteer research assistant at Texas Tech University’s Southwest Collections / Special Collections Library.  Tynan was the Public Relations officer for Reese Air Force Base from 1973 until it closed in 1997.

 

I called Greenhaw later that night and he agreed to meet me at the former glider air field.  Greenhaw stated that indeed the land was used as a glider auxiliary air field during WWII.  Jerry Bartlett of Ransom Canyon saw my notice in the Thrifty Nickel and called me.  The date was set:  Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 4:00 p.m.  Greenhaw, Bartlett, and I met on Texas State highway 789 at US 62-82.  From there we traveled north about 3 miles to County Road (CR) 5800.  This was the southeast corner of the old SPAAF AUX #2 field.  We three then traveled one mile due east on CR 5800, then turned north and traveled up another dirt road about three quarters of a mile stopping in several places to look over the fence at the land and at some low objects in the distance.  However, we could not access this land at this time since the gates were locked and the land is owned by Xcel Energy.

 

I recorded their stories on cassette tape.  The two men told of gliders landing errantly in cotton fields and officers in jeeps driving across furrows to retrieve the men from the gliders.  Both also recalled many glider tow ropes being dropped into cotton fields and men in jeeps driving out to retrieve them.  One memory stood out especially for Greenhaw who grew up just to the east of SPAAF AUX #2.  One time, a glider landed not too far from the Greenhaw home.  Two officers drove to the glider in a jeep and retrieved the pilot who apparently was not hurt.  But then the officers did something unusual.  Greenhaw’s dad told him that the officers chained a German shepherd to either side of the glider and left the dogs there.  They later came back out to the glider to tow it back to the base.  Greenhaw said that his dad commented that whatever was inside that glider those two officers obviously did not want anyone getting too close to see it.  Greenhaw’s dad thought perhaps that glider might have contained some type of secret equipment the Air Force men were testing.

 

After driving around some more and recording additional stories, we all agreed that the only way to see what was on this one section (640 acres) of land was to get permission and a key from Xcel Energy, which currently owns the land.  This land is presently under the Conservation Resource Program (CRP).

 

I contacted Xcel Energy several times before being placed in touch with Brad Sparks.  Sparks gave permission for the research trip and sent me a key.  The second date was set:  Sunday, March 1, 2009 at 2:00 p.m.  Mabry Greenhaw, Tommy Fondren, the Brown brothers, Joe Warren and Walter Ellis, and Joe Hays and me (both of Lubbock) would meet on Highway 789 and CR 5800 for research at SPAAF AUX #2.  (To be continued in the next edition of The Idalou Beacon.  Please contact John McCullough at the email address or phone number listed if you have any information which can help in this research.)

 

SOUTH PLAINS ARMY AIR FIELD (SPAAF) AUXILIARY FIELD #2

RESEARCH TRIPS:  SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7 AND SUNDAY, MARCH 1, 2009

 

Written for Jona Janet of The Idalou Beacon

 

 

Article title:  WWII glider field, SPAAF AUX #2 searched, two-bay fire station discovered

 

Author:  John W. McCullough

Personal email:  john.w.mccullough@live.com

Winged Commandos email:  adjutant@wingedcommandos.org

Website:  www.wingedcommandos.org

Personal research website:  www.breedlove-cptp.org

Home phone:  806-793-4448

 

(This is part two of a two-part story about SPAAF AUX #2 glider base during WWII.)

The second date was set:  Sunday, March 1, 2009 at 2:00 p.m.  Mabry Greenhaw, Tommy Fondren, the Brown brothers, Joe Walter and Walter Ellis, and Joe Hays and John McCullough (both of Lubbock) met on Highway 789 and CR 5800 then proceeded to drive through one of the now accessible gates.

The research group drove to a certain spot in the southwestern part of the section and stopped.  A large concrete foundation still sat there where it had been since 1943.  It was the foundation of the old two-bay fire station (or fire house).  Many old spare items were laying on the foundation:  old water hoses, paint cans, wood fence posts, metal scraps.  The foundation is about 25 feet long and about 20 feet wide.  Concrete blocks lifting up from the foundation still existed where the two garage doors were separated and where the walk-through door stood.  Another square concrete block rose up from the middle of the foundation floor.  This was the mounting point for the center post that rose to the ceiling.  The Brown brothers said the walls of the fire station were made from a material like sheetrock but much thicker (about 1 inch thick).  On the outside of these walls, black tarpaper was nailed to protect and waterproof the walls and roof, giving the fire station a completely black appearance.  The fire station was not a two-story building but it was very tall, giving it the appearance of being a two-story building.

About 25 feet south from the fire station (across what used to be a road) was the officer’s hut (although no remnants of this remain today).  The officer’s hut was very small.  The men remembered it to be about 10 feet long and 8 feet wide.  The only other structure the men remembered was the very long one-story building with no windows which probably was a warehouse.  They do not believe that any men were quartered here since the lack of windows would have proven too hot for them during the summertime.  There is some confusion about the location of this warehouse.  Greenhaw remembers it to be north of the fire station but the Brown brothers remember it being west of the fire station (no remnants remain of the warehouse today either).  Some of the items from WWII found on the ground include square nuts and bolts, nails with lead heads, sheet rocks remnants and some tarpaper nails and round tabs.

Lou Thole provided the following information about SPAAF Auxiliary Air Field #2 from his research:  The field was located twelve miles west and four miles north of SPAAF (located at the old Lubbock airport) and purchased for $30,307.00.  (This purchase was from Mary Catherine Brown whose sons farmed the land, according to Joe and Walter Brown, her grandsons.)  Construction was completed on March 1, 1943. The buildings were one truck shed, a stage house and a pit latrine.  The runways were North-South (NS), NE-SW and NW-SE. They were 5000 feet long and 150 feet wide.  The construction at Idalou was done by Ernest Flogd, of Fort Worth, Texas at a cost of $207,233.00.  (This information comes from the AF Historical Research Center, microfilm rolls # B2594 and B2595.)

SPAAF AUX #2 was a location where many gliders (WACO CG-4A’s and possibly WACO CG-3’s and sailplanes used as trainers) were picked up from the runways by C-47’s and other powered aircraft using a hook which caught a cable attached to the glider.  The C-47, which flew from SPAAF in Lubbock, would swoop down on SPAAF AUX #2’s runways and let the large treble hook dangling from a long nylon rope snag the glider sitting on the runway and lift it into the air.  The glider on the runway had another nylon rope strung across two tall bamboo poles situated on either side of the runway.  The C-47’s treble hook would grab the glider’s rope and SWOOSH!  Off the glider would go into the wild blue yonder.  This procedure was known as the glider retrieval program and was used often in combat zones to bring wounded soldiers, Prisoners Of War (POW’s), or other men from the front lines (or even from behind the enemy’s lines) back to friendly Allied bases.

Another research trip is planned for SPAAF AUX #2 in the summer or fall of 2011 after Hays and I return from D-Day 66 in Normandy, France and London, England.  We want to perform a more intense search of the grounds with a metal detector.  I have considered applying to the Texas State Historical Commission for a landmark sign to be placed at this site to commemorate the work done at SPAAF AUX #2.

 

 





Aerial photograph of SPAAF AUX 2 from the late 1960's still showing the outline of the old glider runways.  This photo was digitally enhanced by John McCullough to label the runways, main road and gate, and location of the two-bay fire house with officer's quarters.





The Brown brothers, Joe W. Brown and Walter Ellis Brown look over aerial photographs of SPAAF AUX 2 with Joe Hays and Mabry Greenhaw.






The remnants of the 2-bay fire house of SPAAF AUX 2.





C-47 Skytrain picks up (snatches) a WACO CG4A glider with tow rope.  Photo provided to me by Mr. Charles Day, Secretary of the National WWII Glider Pilot's Association.




Jerry Bartlett was the first to call me when he saw my notice in the THRIFTY NICKEL asking for information about SPAAF AUX 2.




Mabry Greenhaw and Tommy Fondren joined us for the search of SPAAF AUX 2 and both had memories to share of the glider training site from WWII.

Website Builder