Ardmore Air Force Base
|Ardmore Air Force Base|
|Ardmore Army Airfield|
|Part of Tactical Air Command|
|Located near: Ardmore, Oklahoma|
Ardmore Army Airfield, 1944
|Built by||United States Air Force|
|In use||1942-1946; 1953-1959|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
- For the civilian airport use, see Ardmore Municipal Airport
Ardmore Air Force Base is an inactive United States Air Force base, approximately 11 miles northeast of Ardmore, Oklahoma. It was active during World War II as a heavy bomber training airfield and during the early years of the Cold War as a troop carrier base. It was closed on 31 March 1959.
In 1940, Ardmore's Chamber of Commerce, like many US cities, was interested in securing a defense-oriented entity to boost the economy of the area as part of the United States's buildup of its military forces on the eve of World War II.
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 War Department for the duration of the war plus six months. The initial plans were that the base would serve as an Army Air Corps glider training facility. The Arbuckle Mountains located to the north and east of the base would have been ideal for creating updrafts and down drafts.
Construction began on the airfield which consisted of four runways 7200x150(N/S) - bituminous; 7282x150(NE/SW), 7200x150(E/W), 7200x150(NW/SE); concrete. In addition, the building of a large support base with more than 300 buildings, numerous streets, a utility network, was carried out with barracks, various administrative buildings, maintenance shops and hangars. The station facility consisted of a large number of buildings based on standardized plans and architectural drawings, with the buildings designed to be the "cheapest, temporary character with structural stability only sufficient to meet the needs of the service which the structure is intended to fulfill during the period of its contemplated war use" was underway. To conserve critical materials, most facilities were constructed of wood, concrete, brick, gypsum board and concrete asbestos. Metal was sparsely used. The station was designed to be nearly self-sufficient, with not only hangars, but barracks, warehouses, hospitals, dental clinics, dining halls, and maintenance shops were needed. There were libraries, social clubs for officers, and enlisted men, and stores to buy living necessities. Over 250 buildings, together with complete water, sewer, electric and gas utilities, the airfield served over 4,000 military personnel.
World War II
Far from being completed, Ardmore Army Airfield was officially activated on 2 August 1942. Jurisdiction of the facility was assigned to the I Troop Carrier Command. The first group of soldiers to arrive was on 21 November 1942, when the 418th Air Base Glider Squadron arrived from Stout Army Air Field, Indiana. This contingency consisted of 262 enlisted men, 13 officers assigned, plus 30 enlisted men and four officers attached.
In the following weeks and into early 1943, approximately 200 glider pilots were assigned to the field along with 15 liaison aircraft (Aeronca L-3C and Taylorcraft L-2A Grasshopper) for use in training. At the time of the glider pilots arrival, individually or in small groups, only four base officers were qualified as pilots. A Waco CG-4A glider was brought to the field from the Ford manufacturing plant near Detroit, Michigan but reports indicate it saw limited use while at the base.
Glider pilot training never materialized at Ardmore on a large scale or for very long. The glider pilots, most of whom had civilian licenses or had been in military flight training, usually trained in the first phase of glider instruction with light aircraft that could glide for long distances with reduced power or with engines turned off. Advanced phases included the use of "two-place" sail planes and the large CG-4A glider.
On 15 April 1943, a little over four months after arrival, the glider phase ended when the 418th was transferred to Bowman Field, Kentucky.
Medium Bomber training
Jurisdiction of Ardmore AAF was transferred to III Bomber Command on 12 April 1943. Under Third Air Force, the mission of the base was to become a Martin B-26 Marauder crew training base. In June, Ardmore AAF was assigned as a sub-base to Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma.
The 394th performed Phase Two crew training while at Ardmore. This involved local and distant training flights with simulated missions allowing all crew members to practice and improve their skills. Classroom instruction was also part of the program. At this time, no gunnery or bombing ranges were associated with the Ardmore field. It is reported that the 394th used a bombing range located in the Great Salt Plains area of northern Oklahoma as did other training units. The outlines of a German battleship, the Scharnhorst, and an oil refinery were used as simulated targets. The group trained at the airfield for just over a month until 19 August, when it moved for further training at Kellogg Field, Michigan.
Heavy Bomber training
With the departure of the 394th to Michigan, on 20 August 1943 jurisdiction of Ardmore AAF was transferred to II Bomber Command, Second Air Force. In September 1943, the 46th Bombardment Operational Training Wing, arrived from Dalhart Army Airfield, Texas.
Shortly after the arrival of the 46th BOTW, the 395th Bombardment Group was moved to Ardmore from Ephrata Army Air Base, Washington. The 395th's mission was to be a combat aircrew replacement unit for B-17 Flying Fortress aircrews. The group consisted of the 588th, 589th 590th and 591st Bombardment Squadron.
Ardmore Army Air Field became a receiving facility for new pilots, navigators, gunners, bombardiers, radio operators and flight engineers as they completed their specialty training elsewhere. While serving here, they were conformed through a 24-hour, grueling schedule into highly proficient B-17 combat crews. This was accomplished through a rigorous training program in the classroom and sky. The combat crews were only at the base for five months or less, usually three, before shipping overseas. Reports indicate that combat crew training was coordinated to allow trained crews to finish their three-month training on a five-week graduation schedule. Orders supplied by a former waist gunner stationed at Ardmore, included 55 B-17 crews, transported by rail from the base to Grand Island, Nebraska. Most of the B-17 crews went directly from the Ardmore field to Grand Island, then to European commands to contribute significantly to ending the war.
On March 25, 1944, the 395th designation was changed to the 222nd Combat Crew Training School by Second Air Force, General Order No. 35. The 395th was inactivated, April 1, 1944. It was replaced by the 418th Army Air Force Base Unit, the squadrons being re-designated as "Squadron A", "Squadron B", "Squadron C" and "Squadron D"
A WAC contingency of one was assigned to the base, June 5, 1944. Other WACs from Oglethorpe, Georgia and Colorado Springs arrived June 23 and June 28. They performed various duties on the base including control tower operation. According to newspaper accounts, the Ardmore base was selected in September 1942 as one of nine southwestern camps to train WAACs. Later, the Corps of Engineers, Denison, Texas, under command of Colonel W. W. Wanamaker, approved a $50,000 to $100,000 building fund for WAAC quarters. Contract for the WAAC barracks was let to Builder's Construction Company, Oklahoma City, April 17, 1943, for an amount under $50,000. Unknown as to whether this unit was part of the original plans for training WAACs. Women's Army Auxiliary Corps became the Women's Army Corps in 1944 granting them the same benefits as soldiers. Another group of young women who played an important part in World War II and probably brought aircraft to AAAFld on occasion were the WASP, Women Airforce Service Pilots
With the mission of Second Air Force becoming B-29 Superfortress Training, jurisdiction of Ardmore AAF was transferred to III Bomber Command, Third Air Force on 16 June 1945. III Bomber Command re-designated the 418th AAFBU with the 332nd Combat Crew Training School.
The end of the war in Europe, however placed Ardmore AAF out of a job, as the primary combat organization for B-17s was Eighth Air Force and to a lesser extent, Fifteenth Air Force in the European Theater. Training of bomber crews ended at the base, as the B-29 was the strategic bomber in the Pacific Theater, and the B-24 Liberator was used in the CBI and to a lesser extend in the Pacific where the B-17 was withdrawn in 1943.
German war prisoners were confined on the base beginning June 1, 1945 through November 1, 1945. They did various trades and industrial jobs around the base and were helpful in closing the base at the end of the war.
With the end of the war in the Pacific, officer students at Ardmore were asked if they wanted to remain in the postwar Air Forces. Those who elected to remain were reassigned to other bases. Trainee flexible gunners were reassigned to other bases or separated.
The base was closed October 31, 1945. In 1946 the government declared the base surplus property, issuing a use permit to the City of Ardmore. The War Assets Administration issued a quit claim deed in 1948 to the City of Ardmore which included the land, 2085.28 acres, and all thereon. It was reported that the facility was valued at $35,000,000. A binding recapture clause stipulated it could be activated again by the government in case of military need.
As a result of the Korean War and the expansion of the United States Air Force after the outbreak of the Cold War, the World War II Ardmore Army Airfield was reactivated by the United States Air Force in 1953. The base had deteriorated badly over its eight idle years and a major renovation project was required to return it to acceptable standards. The base was renamed Ardmore Air Force Base and was reactivated on 1 September 1953. Ardmore AFB was placed under the jurisdiction of Eighteenth Air Force, Tactical Air Command. Its mission was to support TAC's expanding troop carrier transport mission performing tactical airlift training.
The new 463d Troop Carrier Wing was assigned to the reactivated base upon its activation, its 463d Troop Carrier Group being a re-designation of the World War II Fifteenth Air Force 463d Bombardment Group. The majority of the 463rd personnel were formerly with the 516th Troop Carrier Wing stationed at Memphis Municipal Airport, Tennessee. The first personnel from the 463rd arrived in Ardmore in July–August with official activation.
The 463d Troop Carrier Groups wartime bombardment squadrons were re-designated as the 772d, 773d, 774th and 775th Troop Carrier Squadrons. Each squadron was equipped with sixteen Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar medium transport; with a few World War II Curtiss C-46 Commandoes assigned to the Wing Base Flight for utility duties.
In addition to supporting tactical airlift training, the wing airlifted, airdropped, and landed Army airborne troops and cargo to support tactical operations, special missions, and Army and Air Force joint airborne exercises, worldwide.
The 16th Troop Carrier Squadron was assigned to the group on 14 November 1954 as a training squadron, It received the Chase YC-122 Avitruc light transport in early 1955. Based on the Chase YCG-14 glider of World War II, but powered by reciprocating engines, nine of these aircraft assigned. Although they performed well in evaluation, the USAF no longer saw a need for a small transport aircraft and cancelled the project, the squadron being inactivated on July 8, 1955. The aircraft served on in utility roles assigned to the Wing Base Flight until 1957.
On 8 July 1955 the 309h Troop Carrier Group (Assault, Fixed Wing) was attached to the 463d TCW, being re-activated by TAC. A former Air Force Reserve unit which was activated and liquidated of assets at the beginning of the Korean War in February 1951. The group's 376th, 377th and 378th Troop Carrier Squadrons received the first Fairchild C-123 Provider medium transports ordered by the USAF. The squadron provided tactical airlift to Army troops, their equipment, and supplies for assault landings. The 309th was reassigned to NATO, being deployed to the USAFE Dreux-Louvilliers Air Base, France on 2 June 1956, introducing the C-123 to Europe.
A second assault group, the 419th Troop Carrier Group (Assault, Fixed Wing) was attached to the 463d TCW, on 9 July 1956, also being re-activated by TAC. Like the 309th the 419th was also a former Air Force Reserve unit that activated and liquidated of assets at the beginning of the Korean War. Its 339th, 340th and 341st Troop Carrier Squadrons were also equipped with the C-123 and performed a similar mission to the 309th TCG, airlifted, airdropped, and airlanded troops and cargo to support tactical operations, special missions, and U.S. Army and joint airborne exercises, worldwide. The 419th, however, did not deploy to NATO due to budget reductions in USAFE, as well as no suitable bases to deploy to. It was inactivated on 11 December 1957, its aircraft being reassigned to other TAC units.
Aircraft from the 463d are thought to have been involved in early development and testing (1955) of the "snatch" maneuver used later in the highly secret "Corona Project." In 1956 the wing received forty-eight new C-130A Hercules medium transports, and replaced its C-119s. The first C-130A delivered to the USAF, December 7, 1956, the "City of Ardmore", landed at Ardmore on December 9, 1956. With the advent of the C-130 the wing was assigned to the TAC Composite Air Strike Force, commonly known as a CASF, which was centered on troop carrier C-130s supplemented by Military Air Transport Service (MATS) C-124 Globemaster transports to deliver support personnel and cargo for TAC fighter/bombers to overseas destinations at a moment's notice.
On 1 September 1957, six Tactical Air Command bases, including Ardmore, were transferred to Ninth Air Force when the Eighteenth Air Force was inactivated s part of an Air Force reorganization. The 463d Troop Carrier Wing was re-designated as the 838th Air Division (Troop Carrier) but only until December 1957 when it reverted to the former designation of 463d Troop Carrier Wing (Medium) when the 419th TCG was inactivated.
Beginning with the deployment of a CASF to Turkey in 1958 in response to a military coup in Lebanon, 463d TCW C-130s were involved in a series of deployments to both sides of the globe. Immediately after the Lebanon Crisis, the 463d deployed a CASF to the Taiwan in August 1958 in response to troubles in the Formosa Straits. Overseas rotations became a regular part of troop carrier life as TAC maintained TDY units in Europe supporting the USAFE 322d Air Division and in the Far East supporting the PACAF 315th Air Division, both of which had their own C-130 squadrons.
Original Air Force plans were for Tactical Air Command to have two troop carrier wings of C-130 Hercules, the 314th and 463rd, both of which began converting to the new turboprop transport in early 1957, with the 463rd receiving its first airplanes in mid-December of the preceding year. The two wings consolidated at Sewart AFB, Tennessee when the 463rd's base at Ardmore, Oklahoma was placed on the closing list due to budget reductions in the FY 1959 Defense Budget.
The base closing announcement was made in late May 1958 that the base would close by January 1959. The last squadron of the 463d left in early January and was moved to Sewart Air Force Base, Tennessee
The official closing of Ardmore Air Force Base occurred on 31 March 1959 returning the facility to the City of Ardmore for the second time in 1959. The release came without the recapture clause but with a stipulation that it would be used as Ardmore's Municipal Airport and be maintained in perpetuity for airport purposes.
The Ardmore Industrial Airpark, owned by the City of Ardmore, is presently leased to the Ardmore Development Authority. Although all of the wartime and USAF runways and taxiways exist, only the north/south 14/35 remains open and in use. And as of the 2010's, the 13/31 runway was rebuilt and extended and is in service by 2015. Several large parking aprons, also from its Cold War service remain. Several World War II hangars remain along with a large USAF hangar built in the 1960s. The base is largely obliterated by a large manufacturing firm which built a large facility, including shipping and receiving with over 100 over the road trailers on the facility. Isolated wartime/USAF roads remain and a few military buildings can still be found.
The 463d Troop Carrier Wing's first Lockheed C-130A, the "City of Ardmore" (AF Ser. No. 55-023) eventually flew missions in Europe, Africa, Japan, Okinawa and South Vietnam. It was retired October 9, 1989, and is now on static display at the Dyess Air Force Base Linear Air Park in Abilene, Texas.
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 airmen from Ardmore AFB who died in training accidents during World War II and the Cold War. It was officially dedicated Memorial Day, 2003.
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings: Lineage and Honors Histories, 1947-1977 (Washington: USGPO, 1984)
- History of Ardmore Army Air Field (1942-1945) and Air Force Base (1953-1959)
-  Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Central Oklahoma
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