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TABLE 9. WWII NAVY TRAINING STATIONS AND BASES
* The U.S. Navy conducted specialized and operational training in many places and under various designations during World War II. Other training programs were carried out at other naval facilities, including air stations, operating bases, and shipyards.
Source: United States Navy, Bureau of Yards and Docks, Building the Navy's Bases in World War II (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1947):261 - 279.
"theater-of-operations" construction, which consisted of tar paper tacked to thin wooden frames. Nevertheless, some functions at the mobilization camps required permanent structures. For example, perishable subsistence required buildings with masonry walls to ensure cold storage. Ammunition was stored in concrete "igloos" to minimize the dangers of explosion. Water, sewerage, or laundry plants were built using permanent construction. Flammable materials, including packaged petroleum products or paint, were sometimes stored in permanent buildings.lxxxvi These support buildings were minor elements of training and operational installments.
Other permanent structures served training functions. Some of these buildings and structures employed unique designs. The 250-foot towers for training airborne units were dramatic examples of permanent training structures. Each tower included four arms that could accommodate an open parachute canopy (Figure 4). Soldiers were placed in the parachute harnesses on the ground and lifted 250 feet off the ground. The descent would simulate a parachute jump.lxxxvii Swimming pools, especially those constructed on Navy or Marine Corps training installations, were used for teaching water survival skills more than for recreation.
Army Air Forces Installations
In the years between World War I and World War II, the Army's air arm underwent a period of mixed progress and stagnation. Experience during the First World War had established the utility of military aviation and fostered the conviction among a group of Army officers that future wars would be decided by air power. Moreover, Army aviation profited from steadily improving civilian aircraft technology. Yet the growth of military aviation was limited by the general lack of interest in military affairs during the 1920s and early 1930s. With limited appropriations for all its activities, the Army could not afford to take full advantage of the technological improvements in aviation.
Discord between air and ground officers further complicated the development of Army aviation. Led by Billy Mitchell, numerous air officers believed that future wars would be decided by strategic air warfare. In this view long range bombing would replace ground combat. Consequently, they favored the development of heavy bombers at the expense of smaller aircraft. They further argued that the nation's air component should be independent from the Army, creating a separate Air Force. Mitchell's argumentative style led to a well publicized court-martial that prompted endless inquiries and boards to study the future of Army aviation. Air power advocates received recognition when the Army Air Service was upgraded to the Air Corps in 1926. In 1935, the Air Corps received a further boost with the creation of a General Headquarters for the Army Air Forces. This headquarters was the command element for air units that could be employed as a strategic force. The Chief of the Air Corps continued to supervise the administration and logistical support of Army air units.lxxxviii
Air Corps installations reflected the uneven growth of Army aviation. Most of the airfields constructed during World War I were closed after the war. Airfield construction received a boost from the 1935 Wilcox Act, which emphasized construction of airfields along the nation's borders to protect the United States against hostile air attacks.lxxxix By the close of the inter-war period, the Air Corps operated slightly more than 20 airfields.xc
With the increasing tensions in Europe and Asia, the Air Corps received its share of new appropriations during the late 1930s. The War and Navy Departments developed a series of contingency plans for fighting multiple enemies, known as the "RAINBOW" plans. The final revision, RAINBOW 5, emphasized the role of the Air Corps in frontier air defenses and air power projection.
McChord Field, near Tacoma, Washington is an excellent example of an air field constructed during the late 1930s after the adoption of RAINBOW 5. In 1938, this area was considered the Northwest Frontier and McChord was built to provide air defense for the Puget Sound Navy Yard and the Boeing aircraft plant in Seattle, and medium bomber support to the Navy. Construction at McChord was extensive and designed to be permanent. The airfield housed a mix of pursuit and medium bomber aircraft. Taking advantage of the freedom in site selection given by the Wilcox Act and funding from a generous Congress, the Air Corps built McChord to be a show place of air power.xci Contractors built four 350 by 500 ft. steel and concrete hangars, a hospital, power plant, housing, and one of the largest brick barracks in the United States at the time. Although the construction contracts were under Quartermaster Corps control, the Air Corps selected the designs for buildings directly related to aircraft operations.
Other facilities were built around the country to complement the nation's air defense system (Table 10). These air bases, including Elmendorf in Alaska, Hanscom and Westover in Massachusetts, MacDill in Florida, and McGuire in New Jersey, were all built to bolster the defense of the United States.xcii Operations bases were only part of the overall network of facilities designed to meet national defense requirements. Like other arms of the military, the Air Corps underwent rapid expansion during the protective mobilization period. Pilots, aircrew, and technicians, both officer and enlisted, required suitable technical instruction; therefore, the Air Corps needed to expand its training facilities.xciii
During 1940, the Air Corps surveyed the nation for suitable civilian airports that could be leased for the emergency. Eager to attract defense spending, municipal governments frequently offered to lease airports and adjoining land for one dollar per year. At the same time, the Quartermaster Corps construction division issued contracts to expand existing training facilities at Chanute Air Base, Illinois; Kelly Field, Texas; Lowry Field, Colorado; Maxwell Field, Alabama; and, Randolph Field, Texas. New construction at these fields was a mix of temporary and permanent construction. The expansion of Kelly Field, Texas, included a wide range of construction, from large, reinforced-concrete hangars to tent cities. At Lowry Field, the War Department authorized construction of new buildings, including an 850-man barracks. Construction was incomplete when the Protective Mobilization Plan was announced, and new soldiers were quartered in tents until September 1940. Thereafter, construction at Lowry was primarily temporary. The service members lucky enough to live in the brick barracks called their new home "Buckingham Palace."xciv At other locations, the Army eventually resorted to leased hotels for troop housing.xcv Figure 5 illustrates the expansion of Air Corps training installations by 1942.
The mobilization program strained the capacity of the Construction Division of the Quartermaster Corps' centralized management techniques. The Corps of Engineers seemed better suited for many construction projects because it used a decentralized management system, with district offices. To expedite construction, Congress gave the Secretary of War permission to shift the responsibility of Air Corps construction to the Corps of Engineers in late 1940. The engineers displayed ingenuity and flexibility in meeting the needs of the Air Corps. Utilizing the methods of large contract management gained from major river and harbor projects, the Corps of Engineers quickly took control of Air Corps construction projects.xcvi
The transfer of construction responsibility to the Corps of Engineers produced tension between the engineers and Colonel Frank Kennedy, chief of the Air Corps Buildings and Grounds Division. In 1940 and 1941, Colonel Kennedy, as the Air Corps point of contact to the engineers, set himself up as the air field design expert. Engineer officers complained that Kennedy prepared air field layouts from his office in Washington, D.C., without ever having visited the site, and dabbled in design.xcvii
TABLE 10: WORLD WAR II ARMY AIRFIELDS NOW ACTIVE DoD INSTALLATIONS
Source: Robert Mueller, Air Force Bases: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1989).
By early 1942, however, cooperation between the Air Corps and the Corps of Engineers became the hallmark of construction operations and the Air Corps began to restructure their headquarters for wartime operations. Congress recognized the administrative and operational skills displayed by the Corps of Engineers and, on 16 December 1941, it transferred all construction functions to the Corps of Engineers.xcviii
With America's entry into World War II, the Air Corps suddenly assumed a new mission of anti-submarine warfare. German submarines threatened to sink British ships faster than they could be replaced, and the Allies sought a means to counter this threat. In pre-war planning, however, the Air Corps had not envisioned anti-submarine warfare as part of its operations, and therefore lacked a clearly defined doctrine for that type of operation. Nevertheless, since the Navy lacked the necessary land-based aircraft for coastal patrols, the Air Corps assumed this mission until the Navy could acquire the necessary aircraft.xcix
The Air Corps worked to develop their aircraft to match the mission at hand and utilized coastal air facilities to their fullest extent. On 17 June 1942, the Air Corps established the 1st Sea-Search Attack Group (1st SSAG) at Langley Field, Virginia.c The technical work of the 1st SSAG was vital to the success of the combined Army-Navy anti-submarine warfare campaign. Using devices tested by the Group, including the absolute altimeter, the magnetic anomaly detector, and radio sonic buoys, the Air Corps harassed and destroyed German U-boats both night and day. Anti-submarine squadrons operated from long established bases such as Langley, and from newly built air fields, such as Westover, Massachusetts, and Fort Dix Field (now McGuire AFB), New Jersey.ci
As the Air Corps shifted to a war-time footing operational requirements exceeded the capacity of existing bases. New additions to Air Corps facilities were constructed from less critical materials such as timber, masonry, or concrete, preferably timber. At smaller training fields, the standard four runway configuration was changed to two runways. The Air Corps directed that all construction on private land leased for the duration of the war be limited to temporary buildings, including hangars and control towers, except at tactical anti-submarine bases.cii The Air Corps Plans and Design Branch designed aircraft hangars based on the criteria that they be easily expandable to accommodate larger aircraft, use the least expensive type of door, have interior shops, and have access from both ends (Figure 6).ciii
As early as 1941, the Air Corps planned to introduce a super heavy bomber into its inventory. The B-29 "Superfortress" could travel greater distances and carry heavier loads than any previous bomber. One of the problems associated with the new bomber was construction of runways that could accommodate the planes' heavy loads of up to 140,000 pounds. Existing highway construction theory had limited applicability for such demands, therefore the Corps of Engineers had to develop new construction techniques. Working with civilian engineers, especially experts in soil engineering, the Corps of Engineers pioneered new theories on the ability of soil to withstand pressure, and constructed runways with thicker bases of crushed stone. This research not only allowed the United States to employ the B-29 and later bombers, but it also
contributed significantly to the growth of civilian aviation after the war.civ
The final blow to Japan came with the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The specially organized 509th Composite Group delivered the atomic bomb. To prepare for its mission, the Group initiated a program of secret training using B-29 bombers at Wendover Field, Utah, to practice the delivery of the exceptionally heavy load. The success and secrecy of the operation attested to the successful training program.cv
From 1938 to 1945, the war cost approximately 350 billion dollars, of which the Air Corps used an estimated 3.2 billion dollars for the construction and leasing of facilities.cvi In
cooperation with the Quartermaster Corps Construction Branch, and later the Corps of Engineers, the Air Corps expanded from a handful of facilities in 1939 to a peak of 783 operational facilities by the war's end. Of these 345 were main bases, 116 were sub-bases, and 322 were auxiliary fields.cvii