Ardmore Army Air Field
The weekly Ardmore Army Air Field newspaper, "Bombs-Away," usually included a feature story highlighting a support unit necessary for training of personnel and the daily operation of the field. The following condensed versions of some of these articles will help us understand the teamwork necessary to make the base function properly. e-mail to gsimmons
Briefing prepares each combat crew of the 222nd Combat Crew Training Section for a bombing mission by giving them the hard-facts of what might spell ruin for enemy military installations, enemy cities, and enemy industrial centers. The Fortressmen crews received similar daily briefings as they would receive at a U.S. bomber station in a combat zone. The crew training session simulates an American bomber base in England as much as human imagination and AAF ingenuity can make it. The briefing room in CG3 is long and narrow. The crews sit on wooden benches. In about 30-minutes the assembled crewmen learn all about their mission, as group and squadron commanders and instructors outline the procedure concisely and expertly. Problems are ironed out in the briefing room as complete understanding of each move is necessary for coordination. Briefing includes a roll call, which determines if vacancies must be filled in a crew. Planes are also assigned to crews. The operations officer begins the briefing, followed by the group navigator, group bombardier, weather officer and intelligence officer. The crews are told where their planes are located, starting and take-off time, and weather facts. Watches are synchronized for split-second timing which determines how effective bombing by great aerial armadas will be. Separate briefings with individual crews as to their specific mission follows the main briefing to make the bombing mission picture clearer. Maps are carefully charted and plotted. Missions from Ardmore are identified with the names of enemy cities or other objectives. The distances to the objectives are the same as from a base in England to a city in Germany or a German-occupied territory. Crews are taught to be observant. What they see on their mission may provide information that would save a comrade's life or make tomorrow's bombing run more successful. When the crews return from their mission, critiques are held. Airplane commanders (pilots) and alternate pilots exchange criticisms, suggestions, and rehash the mission with instructors while the bombardiers and navigators follow similar procedures. Without the briefings, there could be no "mission for today." May 13, 1944
Ten members of the Alert Crew section had the responsibility of operating and maintaining the night reference and obstacle lights placed in the surrounding Arbuckle Mountain terrain. The lights were located in a three mile radius of the field. They were checked by jeep four times in a 24-hour period. Power for the lights was provided by gasoline powered generators located in close proximity to the lights. The marker lights were large red bulbs on cone bases. The reference lights were located on top of 41-foot towers. Both kinds of lights were turned off at 8 AM and on at 5 PM. Additional runs to check the lights and generators were made at 11 PM and 4 AM. These trips were for refueling and repair/maintenance of the generators and replacement of burned out bulbs. The Alert Crews also kept all runways and taxiways clear and properly lighted at night with smudge pots. The smudge pots in these areas were replaced by bulbs as installation was completed. Personnel were armed during the spring and summer to eliminate the numerous rattlesnakes in the rough, mountainous terrain. The Alert Crew was under supervision of Captain Frederick W. Volker, base operations officer, and Lt. Isaac E. Robertson, assistant. S/Sgt. George A. Timmons, line chief, was in direct charge of all the functions. The men also had responsibility for assisting in rescue operations following crashes. March 25, 1944.
The 3rd Weather Squadron detachment provided 24-hour weather information for AAAFld 365 days of the year. Major John A. Buchler, weather officer, was in charge of the station. The station operated 24 hours a day receiving coded teletype information every six hours from stations in the US and many foreign countries. Information was also received from islands in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Winds aloft maps were produced on six hour intervals with local weather conditions reported every hour on the half-hour. June 24, 1944.
Postal Service personnel at the field included one officer, seven enlisted men and one enlisted WAC, represented 65 years of civilian postal experience. WAC Pvt. Honor Patterson had 23 years experience at Hub, MS as post mistress. The Post Office handled around 1,000 pieces of mail daily. Ardmore was one of the few PO sections in the US that delivered mail to various sections on the field in its own truck. This policy was established by former postal officer, Major August G. Ross, to eliminate the necessity of each section sending vehicles to pick up their mail. Records kept by the post office indicated an average of 400 soldiers at the AAAFld sent money orders home each payday in amounts totaling around $15,000. September 23, 1944.
The Engine Change section saw a new field record set by two engine change crews for a four engine change on a B-17. They completed the job in 11.5 hours. Normal engine changes on B-17s at AAAFld were around 50 per month including 15-20 supercharger changes. In June 1945, 102 engines and 18 superchargers were changed. Engines were changed at 600 hours run-time or earlier if they failed. The supercharger specialists worked inside the cramped wing in the terrific heat build-up of the Oklahoma summers. Two men of the department did practically all the in-wing work. They were S/Sgt. W. Varney and T/Sgt. Gabriel A. Luonzo. June 22, 1945.
The Flight Test section located in the North Hanger was comprised of six officers and nine enlisted men. The section included four pilots, two navigators, three engineers, three radio operators and three armorer-gunners, many of them were combat experienced veterans. All aircraft on the field were monitored according to hours, inspection due dates, and type of inspection. All equipment on the B-17s was checked at 100 hour intervals, major repairs and engine changes. The section averaged five test flights a day of 60 to 75 minute duration at 100 hour inspections. Engine major repairs or changes received two hour test flights. Normal crew for the test flight included six men. Personnel who were not on flying status requesting a flight were taken along on 100 hour test flights which were considered the safest time for the flying opportunity. The Flight Section never had a forced landing on test flights. Pilots coming to Ardmore who had not completed 4-engine transition flew as co-pilots to accumulate adequate flying hours before taking the standardization check ride. Major R. E. Davis was officer in charge. October 14, 1944.
As part of combat training, each gunner fires the .50 caliber guns at high altitude of 20,000 feet or more in full battle dress. The aircraft flew in combat formation to simulate battle conditions. Temperature ranged from -5 to -20 degrees below zero in normal summer weather and was much lower in winter. The 50,825-acre Matagorda Island Air-to-Air Gunnery Range was approximately 450 miles from Ardmore and four miles above the Gulf of Mexico. The gunners fired at towed targets with live ammunition or attacking aircraft with gun cameras used to record the gunner's proficiency. Fighter aircraft from Abilene AAB, Texas or elsewhere attacked the Fortress formation during the gunnery practice. Gun camera film was developed and shown to the crew on return to Ardmore. All crewmen except pilot and copilot were trained to serve as gunners should the need arise. Low level strafing at 400' was also part of the training program. During the gunnery training phase each crew flew a minimum of 150 hours. September 22, 1944.
The Altitude Training section and Personal Equipment section taught combat crewmen how to react to emergency situations such as ditching their aircraft, bailing out over water and generally caring for themselves in emergencies. Co-pilots had the additional duty as personal equipment officers. They learned the procedures and taught their crews. Information was received on oxygen use, parachutes, fire extinguishers, flak suits, electrically heated clothing, life rafts and other necessary subjects. Realistic drills, films and lectures by combat experienced personnel who had experienced the real thing rounded out the instruction. A pressure chamber was available to experience high altitude problems that might occur. An earthbound worn-out B-17 provided the realism for learning to evacuate the aircraft. July 29, 1944.
The Base Photo Lab had approximately 30 specialists and on-the-job trainees including four WACs under the supervision of Lt. Malcolm Cast, base photo officer, and Lt. Herbert Wortheimer, assistant. Three shifts kept the lab in operation 24-hours a day. The staff was also responsible for care, installation and removal of K-20, K-22, K-24 and A-4 cameras used for bomb spotting and other aerial photography needs. Official cameramen performed pictorial coverage of crashes and Army equipment failures plus other official assignments. October 27, 1944.
The Aircraft Parts and Equipment section, 434th Sub-Depot was responsible for procurements and was supplier of tremendous stocks of aircraft replacement parts. This section occupied four warehouses in the south end of the field. The section's supply source was the main depot at Tinker Field, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma who shipped two or more truckloads of supplies daily to Ardmore. Emergency airfreight and rail service was also used. Seven enlisted men, five officers and 135 civilian employees made up the section. The civilians handled most of the paper work, stock records, requisitioning, worked in the repairable section and did general labor. Captain Seymour S. Weisberger was the 434th Sub-Depot supply officer. October 27, 1944.
The Celestial Navigation Training section operated three of six air conditioned, octagonal towers containing Celestial Navigation Trainers. The dome of the sphere was illuminated by a projection machine to simulate the sky. The trainer was equipped with flight instruments used by the pilot, navigator, bombardier and radio man. Instructors "flew" with the crew. The interior was darkened and a complete picture of enemy terrain was projected on a screen beneath the trainer which flew the course charted by the navigator. The dome was illuminated with stars in a fixed position which the navigator used to plot their course as under actual flight conditions. The pictures used were actual pictures of terrain from England to Germany. The trainers also allowed simulation of bombing of assigned targets on the "in-place" combat run. A staff of 31 enlisted men served as operators-instructors with ten others functioning as maintenance experts. August 5, 1944.
The Ordnance section had the responsibility of keeping planes supplied with adequate bombs, ammunition and 30 to 40 different type of flares used in heavy bomber combat training. Most of their work was done SE of the field in the fenced off area. The crews of 12 or more men worked three shifts a day shoveling sand into bomb casings, inserting black powder spotting charges and arming wires. They also linked 100-round belts of .50 caliber machine gun ammo, did the heavy lifting of boxed cartridges and sand laden bombs. In one emergency situation, six men linked 28,000 rounds in three hours. They had responsibilities for care and handling of all munitions until delivered to the flight line where armorers actually loaded the aircraft. Each of the men attended a 10-week munitions course at an Ordnance Training School elsewhere, in addition to a two month course of operational training. The men were also charged with inspecting spent cartridges and exploding undetonated primers. Dud bombs were detonated with high explosives when necessary at practice areas or disarmed when detonation could not be safely done in other areas. When men from Ordnance went overseas, their work was much the same except with live bombs less the sand. Lt. Harold R. Townsley was munitions officer. May 20, 1944.
Men of the Armament Maintenance section were nimble-fingered technicians responsible for installation and maintaining proper working order of armament equipment of the B-17s. The section was divided into two departments---armament and gun sights and turrets. Four shifts provided round-the-clock checking and repair as well as issuing of armament parts and equipment. Before going on gunnery missions, the crew reported to Armament Maintenance and were issued "actions," the inner parts of machine guns, ring sights, adaptor mounts, bomb bay motors, ammo chutes and other needed parts. Other armorers from the section loaded the bombs in the ships. Planes undergoing 50 and 100-hour inspections were checked by armament crews for malfunctions of bomb racks, bomb bay doors, guns, sights and turrets. Equipment needing repair was removed and worked over in the maintenance shop. All parts of the guns were carefully inspected after they had been disassembled. Sights were checked for accuracy by the turret and sights section. Cameras were installed for recording the accuracy of gunnery practice. W/O Jesse W. Gilbert was director of armament maintenance. Flight chiefs S/Sgt.Matthew J. Klobuchar and Alvin D. Kirk were in charge of the turrets and sights division. Four flight chiefs were over the armament section. May 24, 1944.
Five bombing ranges were maintained and operated by AAAFld bomb rangers. Range 1 was located southeast of Roff, Oklahoma, Range 2 was nine miles east of Ada, Oklahoma, Range 3 was at Lula, between Allen and Coalgate, Oklahoma, Range 4 at Phillip, four miles south of Coalgate, Oklahoma. Range 5 was near Bromide, Oklahoma. Captain Albert W. Siefert was officer in charge of the rangers who repaired and recorded the hits or misses of the bombardiers whose bombs were identified by number. The soldiers lived in huts near the isolated ranges which were in operation seven days a week. The range near Ada was headquarters of the operation. They had electricity, an improvised water tank, radio and four hutments housing seven personnel. The other locations had three or four rangers per site. September 30, 1944.
Captain Samuel Goldman and Lt. Sidney I. Hurwitz served in the Dental Clinic under Major Thomas J. Smith, Dental Surgeon. Nine dental officers, including Smith, served in that section. The clinic consisted of the main operating room plus three additional operating rooms that housed nine dental units (chairs) with the latest in dental equipment. It was important that teeth were in good condition as problems not evident on the ground sometimes occurred at high altitude. The dental unit was housed in the hospital quarters. Major Smith, a native of Hydro, Oklahoma, was in practice nine years before entering the service plus three additional years of military experience. The average civilian dental experience for the dentists at AAAFld was eight years. Nine enlisted men, six of whom were dental assistants, made up the other personnel in the dental section. A T-5 with 15 years civilian experience made false teeth when necessary. March 4, 1944
The glass enclosed flight control booth for the 395th (222nd) Combat Crew Training School was located over the top of Training Section Headquarters next to the flight line. Local flying aircraft within a 3-mile radius of the base and on the ground are under control of a smaller, higher tower located south of the main control booth. Flight control starts with a dispatcher in the glass enclosed booth who keeps a constant check on the condition of all planes as they take off and land. His records govern the assignment of planes to flight sections. Final plans for training flights are the result of conferences by the directors of training and flying and flight control. Immediately after take-off, a ship reports in to the ground station, the radio operator giving his name, group, the time and type of flight. A half-hour later, the ship's radio operator communicates in Morse code, giving his position and requesting a weather report. Routine, hourly weather reports are sent to the aircraft. Three ground radio stations located in a hutment off the north end of the N/S runway maintain contact with the planes and a fourth operates a direction finder device by which a plane reporting in as lost can be located and given a bearing back to the field. The ground station communication men become familiar with the crew's radio operator's sending techniques during the 3-month training phase just as you would recognize a person's voice after a while. The ground station operates a homing transmitter providing a beam for planes to fly back to the field. The flight control booth maintains a large map with magnetic markers depicting location of each aircraft close-in or many miles away. Aircraft are advised by radio if weather conditions are deteriorating at some point along their flight path and they may be asked to abort and return to the base. Voice radio contact is also maintained to report aircraft engine problems or sick crew members. April 8, 1944
The 395th (222nd after March 25, 1944, 332nd after June 16, 1945) Combat Crew Training School was structured in the following way: Seven Staff Officers (Director of Training, Director of Station Services, Director of Maintenance and Supply, Executive Officer, Base Intelligence Officer, Base Personnel Officer, and Base Adjutant. Most of these positions were backed by Assistants.) Station Services included: (Trial Judge Advocate, Administration Inspector, Legal Boards and Claims Officer, Tactical Inspector, Budget and Fiscal Officer, Tactical Inspector, Post Exchange Officer, Post Engineering Officer, Assistant Post Engineering Officer, Sub-Depot Officer, Assistant Administration Officer, Traffic Officer, Gunnery Officer, Physical Fitness Officer, Aviation Physiologist, Base Special Services Officer, Sales Officer, Classification Officer, Field Chaplain, Assistant Base Adjutant, Assistant Special Services Officer, Assistant Base Personnel Officer, Mess Supervisor, three Chaplains and Base Mess Supervisor.)
The Combat Crew Training School assigned crews to Groups 1, 2 and 3. Each group had a Group Commander and Squadron Commander. Prior to training flights, assembled crews were briefed by the Group Bombardier, Group Navigator, Weather Officer and Intelligence Officer. The phase training was usually completed in three months. Most of the instructors who trained the crews in ground sessions and in flight training were combat veterans.
Air Fields under command of the 2nd AF, 8th Service Command included: HQ, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Army Air Field; Harding Field, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Ardmore, Oklahoma, Army Air Field; Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas; Dalhart, Texas, Army Air Field; Pyote, Texas, Army Air Field; Abilene, Texas, Army Air Field; Alamogordo, New Mexico, Army Air Field and Clovis, New Mexico, Army Air Field.
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