Marine Corps Air Facility Walnut Ridge

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Marine Corps Air Facility Walnut Ridge
Walnut Ridge Army Airfield
Located near: Walnut Ridge, Arkansas
Walnutridgeaaf-1942.jpg
Oblique airphoto of Walnut Ridge Army Airfield, looking northeast, taken while under construction in 1942
Marine Corps Air Facility Walnut Ridge is located in Arkansas
Marine Corps Air Facility Walnut Ridge
Marine Corps Air Facility Walnut Ridge
Coordinates 36°07′29″N 090°55′30″W / 36.12472°N 90.92500°W / 36.12472; -90.92500
Site information
Site history
Built 1942
In use 1942-1945
Built by United States Marine Corps
United States Army Air Forces
Battles/wars World War II
See Also: Walnut Ridge Air Force Station
Flying cadets at Walnut Ridge AAF in front of a Vultee BT-13A Valiant, 1943 (Serial 41-23074 visible)
Consolidated B-32 Dominators awaiting the smelter at RFC Walnut Ridge, 1946 (Serial 42-108562 visible)

Marine Corps Air Facility Walnut Ridge is a former United States Army and United States Marine Corps airfield located in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. After it was closed, it was redeveloped into Walnut Ridge Regional Airport.

History[edit]

Walnut Ridge Army Airfield[edit]

The origins of the facility date to the 1942 when Walnut Ridge was selected by the United States Army Air Corps for the establishment of a basic flying school as part of the 70,000 Pilot Training Program. It was one of many air fields created in the country’s interior during the war.[1] Constructed though the late spring and summer, the facility was opened on 15 August 1942 as Walnut Ridge Army Airfield (AAF).[2]

The airfield at Walnut Ridge consisted of a main 6,000 ft aligned 05/23. It also had two 5,000 ft secondary runways aligned 01/19 and 14/28; all were concrete.[3] In addition to the main airfield, several auxiliary airfields were constructed to support the training mission:[3]

Walnut Ridge AAF was placed under the jurisdiction of the Southeast Training Command, Army Air Forces Training Command. Its mission was the training of new pilots as part of their third-stage flight training.[4] Training began of flight cadets in October 1943,[1] the Army Air Forces Flying School (Basic) at Walnut Ridge primarily flew Vultee BT-13 Valiant single-engine monoplane trainers.[1]

Training statistics show that during the period from 1 November 1942, thru 30 September 1943, the training hours flown at Walnut Ridge were 160,648. The average for all Basic Flying Schools in the Southeast Training Command was 129,474. Walnut Ridge had .49 accidents per 1000 hours versus .57 accidents per 1000 hours average for all schools; however, the fatal accident rate at Walnut Ridge was higher, .087 per 1000 hours versus a .052 average. The hours flown at Walnut Ridge through June 30, 1944, totaled 414,429.[1] Graduates from the basic flight school then were transferred to one of Training Command's Advanced flying schools that operated AT-6 Texan Advanced trainers, and upon graduation, they were awarded their pilot's wings and commissioned as 2d lieutenants. During its operation, Walnut Ridge had over 4,600 graduates. Forty-two students and instructors died in training.[1]

In addition to the flight school, Air Technical Service Command (ATSC) operated a major maintenance facility at Walnut Ridge. C-47 Skytrains, P-40 Warhawks, P-51 Mustangs, B-17 Flying Fortresses and later in the war, B-29 Superfortresses, which were used for training in the United States, were flown here for phase maintenance and other necessary updates as directed.[1]

As part of the phase down of Army Air Forces pilot training, the Basic school at Walnut Ridge was closed at the end of June 1944. The last class graduated on June 27, 1944,[1] and the facility was transferred to the Department of the Navy.[4]

Marine Corps Air Facility[edit]

Under Navy control, the facility was used by the United States Marine Corps as a pilot training school. VMF-513 was transferred to the base on 14 September 1944 and operated SBD-5’s and FG-1D Corsair’s. Aparantley the school only operated until 4 December 1944 when the school was moved to MCAS Mojave, California. The Navy decommissioned the base on 15 March 1945.[1]

RFC Walnut Ridge[edit]

With the end of World War II, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) established a disposal and reclamation facility at Walnut Ridge for aircraft excess to the needs of the United States military.[1] RFC Walnut Ridge became one of the largest disposal sites for aircraft in the united States. It is estimated that approximately 10,000 warbirds were flown to Walnut Ridge in 1945 and 1946 for storage and sale. Some sources report the number to be over 11,000.[1]

Fighters, bombers, trainers, and all other manner of aircraft were offered for sale to the public, some of the planes being newly manufactured and flown to Walnut Ridge directly from the assembly line. Some were sold to various civilian entities and to the general public (less all armament and classified military components), however, most aircraft sent to Walnut Ridge were dismantled and their airframes shredded; their hulks finding their way to two large aluminum smelters built on the flightline ramp. The smelters turned the aluminum of the aircraft into ingots, which were recycled and sold to industry for use in manufacturing a wide variety of items, from toasters to Mobile Homes.[1]

RFC Walnut Ridge disposed of aircraft until 1951 when it was closed. The smelters themselves were dismantled the next year and used as bricks for a civil administration/terminal building on the civil airport established by the City of Walnut Ridge.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

[5] [6] [7]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Walnut Ridge Army Flying School, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture
  2. ^ AFHRA Document 00179459. Walnut Ridge Army Airfield
  3. ^ a b Military Airfields in WW2
  4. ^ a b Manning, Thomas A. (2005), History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. Office of History and Research, Headquarters, AETC, Randolph AFB, Texas ASIN: B000NYX3PC
  5. ^ Manning, Thomas A. (2005), History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. Office of History and Research, Headquarters, AETC, Randolph AFB, Texas ASIN: B000NYX3PC
  6. ^ Thole, Lou (1999), Forgotten Fields of America : World War II Bases and Training, Then and Now - Vol. 2. Publisher: Pictorial Histories Pub, ISBN 1-57510-051-7
  7. ^ Shettle, M. L., Jr. (2001). United States Marine Corps Air Stations of World War II. Bowersville, Georgia: Schaertel Publishing Co. ISBN 0-9643388-2-3. 

External links[edit]