Summary:Ardmore Army Air Field A Historical Summary
Ardmore Army Air Field
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Citizens of Ardmore approved a $100,000 bond issue in early 1942 to purchase 1,416 acres of land north of Gene Autry, Oklahoma. The US Government contributed 650 acres that it owned in the area to complete the 2,066 acres used for the base. The acreage was leased for one dollar to the USA for the duration of the war plus six months. Far from being completed, the base was officially activated, August 3, 1942.
Initially, the base was to be a glider training facility, but this phase was short-lived. The first unit to arrive, November 21, 1942, was the 418th Air Base Glider Squadron, under command of the First Troop Carrier Command of the 2nd Air Force. They came from Stout Field, Indiana. This squadron included approximately 200 glider pilots plus support troops. They had several two-place training planes, a CG-4A troop/cargo glider and C-47 tow aircraft. On April 15, 1943, a little over four months after arrival, the glider phase ended when the 418th was transferred to Bowman Field, Kentucky. The base was assigned to the 3rd Air Force, April 12, 1943.
In July of 1943, the 394th Bombardment Group's 584th, 585th, 586th and 587th Squadrons arrived from MacDill Army Air Field, Florida, and the base became a Martin "Marauder" B-26 crew-training base. At Ardmore only five weeks, they were reassigned to Kellogg Field, Michigan.
On August 20,1943, the base passed from the 3rd Air Force to the 2nd Air Force for the second time. In September 1943, the 46th Bombardment Operational Training Wing, 20th Bomber Command, arrived from Dalhart, Texas, under command of Brigadier General Frank A. Armstrong, Jr., a seasoned B-17 combat veteran. (Brigadier General Frank Savage, the fictious character of the book, movie and TV-series, "Twelve O'Clock High," was patterned after Colonel Armstrong who served as commander of the 306th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, for a short time.)
Soon after the arrival of the 46th BOTW, a full contingency of men and B-17 "Flying Fortresses" arrived from Ephrata Army Air Base, Washington. Both groups constituted the 395th Combat Crew Training School known after March 25, 1944, as the 222nd CCTS following deactivation of the 395th. The field passed from the 2nd Air Force to the 3rd Air Force, 3rd Bomber Command, 89th Combat Crew Training Wing, June 16, 1945 and became the 332nd Combat Crew Training School. The mission under each CCTS was to assemble and train B-17 replacement combat crews through a rigorous, 24-hour training program in the classroom and sky. Five bombing ranges, a small arms range, an air-to-ground firing range, a 50-caliber range, a radio range and a few smaller areas were leased for training purposes. The total land associated with the Field was approximately 27,000 acres.
The crews were made up of recently graduated pilots, bombardiers, navigators, flight engineers, gunners and radiomen. They trained as a crew for three months and most were immediately assigned to the 8th Air Force in England as replacement combat crews. At peak capacity, the base was said to have had 10,000 occupants. Ardmore Army Air Field/Base received a squadron of approximately 100 WAACs, July 23, 1944. They performed various duties on the base including control tower operation. Another unique group arriving in 1945 was a contingency of 200 German prisoners of war. They did various jobs around the base and were helpful in closing the base at the end of the war. The official date of closing was October 31, 1945.
Ardmore Army Air Field was also identified as Ardmore Army Air Base for a short time in late 1943 and was known as the Gene Autry Base by some. Most all documents, including accident reports, list the name as Ardmore Army Air Field. The base had 13 commanders during its four years of operation. Ardmore Army Air Field/Base played a vital part in the winning of the war. Many who trained here, later gave their lives in the skies of Europe to defend our freedom.
In December 2002, a memorial stone was erected in the Remembrance Memorial Park, near the entrance of Ardmore Industrial Airpark. The monument identifies and honors those who died in training accidents during WWII and the Korean Conflict. It was officially dedicated Memorial Day, 2003.
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