Message #91:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Ghost Airports
Date: Sun, 31 Mar 1996 14:59:57 -0701 (MST)
Mime-Version: 1.0



To: Tom Baker jaybird@nmia.com
From: Brian W. Kenny

Tom-
You may be interested to hear I spent Thursday and Friday at a meeting to
discuss partnerships to protect the cultural resources of the Barry
Goldwater Gunnery Range AZ.

The assembly of archaeologists and historic preservation specialists
discussed prehistoric resources and historic resources, some of which
include abandoned air strips and military facilities dating from World War
II.  It all was quite interesting.  We even discussed the large earth
intaglios of the desert region.  It seems the conference sponsors may invite
the workshop attendees on a tour of the gunnery range in the near future. At
the very least, a summary of the conference will be published and
distributed within the next six months.

Barry Goldwater came to the conference to receive an historic preservation
recognition award for his years of interest in and service to aviation and
Arizona archaeology.  I chatted with him privately for 4 or 5 minutes and
recounted how he, as a Senator, had personally helped me when I was a USAF
fly-boy in SEA.  He took care of his airmen! (Interestingly, he remembered
my personal story and recounted an event that I did not know!).

We ran a preliminary announcement about the Western Papagueria CRM workshop
on the SWA web site.  If you want to know more about the workshop, I highly
recommend you contact Bruce Masse, Archaeologist, 56CES/CEVN, Luke AFB, AZ.
(602) 856-3823 / fax (602) 865-3817.

I mentioned to Dr. Masse that SWA would like to publish his conference
documents and data on the SWA website.  It would be good if you could chime
in, too.  Perhaps your aviation (aerial) archaeology web site would be a
good place to run additional data and links.  I hope you will consider
contacting Dr. Masse. At the very least it might be an opportunity to do
some aerial archaeology on the BMG gunnery range.

Thanks
Brian Kenny
kenny@getnet.com
http://www.swanet.org/


Got the newspaper clippings, Brian, thanks; that's an amazing story, that
after 50 years there are still relatives who remember the young owner of
that ring looking wistfully back at his home as he was leaving it for the
last time (and they still live in that home, too!), just another victim of a
war he had nothing to do with starting, like so many others. Sad.

I wonder how many other wrecks Lasher has found using the old Air Corps
records. I didn't realize they didn't clean up wreck sites then, but I
suppose things were too hectic in the frenzy of the war effort. (Engines
still sitting in the tops of trees?) Lindbergh wrote about how some of these
bombers were made so quickly and poorly that they were dangerous to fly.
Maybe defects caused the fires that were reported to have broken out on this
airplane's last flight just before the crash.

I have landed several times at the Kingman airport where that flight
originated and looked at all the photos on the walls of the little FBO shack
showing big bombers lined up wingtip to wingtip in long rows. You probably
have too. One of the bombers in those photos may have been the one that
splashed on the 'Frisco Peaks with those unlucky kids aboard. Those pictures
are really historic. I read a few days ago that of 90,000 B-24's that were
built there are only eight left now, and only two of those can fly. It's
probably similar for the B-17's.

The FBO shack and few modern hangars at Kingman are decorated with old bomb
casings and propellers and other artifacts from the days when it was a
wartime beehive of activity. As you drive away from the airport you pass
through the ruins of all the old military buildings, and a few are still
standing.

All over the Midwest I have seen, and sometimes landed at, these ghost
airports of World War Two, and some of them are pretty spooky. One time
flying east across Oklahoma and Texas in an open cockpit airplane with no
radio I was startled to see a huge  international-sized airport coming up on
the horizon that was not on my map, and I thought I had gotten lost. I swung
way around it and kept a sharp eye on all the long intersecting runways for
signs of traffic taking off or landing, but there was none.
Actually there hadn't been any for many years, for it turned out to be
another of these ghost airports, another old abandoned WWII Air Corps bomber
training base.

Recently I landed on another one, in Texas, on the short piece of one runway
that was still in use by general aviation traffic, and looked the place
over: acres and acres of empty, cracked concrete aprons in front of two
remaining hangars; which were gigantic structures with hundreds of little
panes of glass in the sides and doors, many of them broken now. A big slot
could be opened above each door for the bombers' tall tails
(B-17's) to fit into when they were nosed in.

The insides of the hangars were like caverns, and the arched roofs were
supported by intricate trusses made of wood, because metal was needed for
the war effort elsewhere. My footsteps echoed in this great empty building
and caused a few pigeons high up in the ceiling to rustle around. Near these
abandoned hangars were the stump of the control tower, and in nearby fields
were the remains of wooden barracks that are now
sometimes only concrete steps leading up to nowhere. Isolated brick chimneys
marked the locations of the mess halls. I really felt like an archaeologist
walking around the ruins of a once thriving city, which I suppose it really
was, half a century ago..

In the nearby town, which was Dalhart, Texas, there was a little museum
containing memorabilia and photos of the wartime days, with an elderly lady
in attendance. She told me that old men from all over the country still
visit the museum occasionally, and tell her they went through flight
training at that airfield as young men, and that they have come back to see
it again. She said she advises them to just remember it the way it was back
then, and not bother to go out for a look at the ruins.  It would only make
them feel older and make them sad, she said. And it is sad to think how many
men went overseas from there and never came back home again.

Some day I am sure archaeologists will probe around those neglected old
ghost airports. Sometimes you see them with towns and farms spilling across
the old runways. You can really only see them from the air, too, which I
suppose ties it to aerial archaeology. So maybe I should write something
about it for our Web newsletter?

Thanks for bringing up an interesting topic, Brian, a different kind of
archaeology.

 Tom Baker
 http://www.nmia.com/~jaybird/AANewsletter/
 The Aerial Archaeology Newsletter