Route to War - 445BG

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Route to War

History > Overseas Movement

Leg 1:  Sioux City, Iowa - Lincoln, Nebraska
Sioux City Army Air Field

Initially training at the field was intended to prepare an entire bomb group for overseas combat (OTU - Operational Training). After July 1943, sufficient Bomb Groups had been formed and trained, and the base switched to training individual crews as replacements or additions to various bomb groups (RTU - Replacement Training). Hollywood actor, pilot and Army Air Force Captain (later Brigadier General) James Stewart was posted to Sioux City with his squadron in 1943, where he and his crew completed their initial B-24 Liberator qualification prior to deployment overseas.

Lincoln Army Air Field

With war clouds forming in 1941, the United States Army Air Corps needed airfields for training flight and ground personnel. On 27 February 1942 Lincoln Airfield was announced to be home of an Army Airfield training field. Lincoln Army Airfield (AAF) was one of eleven USAAF training bases in Nebraska during World War II. Building construction was of wood, tar paper, and non-masonry siding. The use of concrete and steel was limited because of the critical need elsewhere. Most buildings were hot and dusty in the summer and very cold in the winter. Buildings consisted of hangars, barracks, warehouses, hospitals, dental clinics, dining halls, and maintenance shops. There were libraries, social clubs for officers, and enlisted men, and stores to buy living necessities. A large concrete aircraft parking ramp was poured along with four concrete runways. Their dimensions and directions were: 7000x150(N/S), 5500x150(NE/SW); 5500x150(E/W), and 7000x150(NW/SE).

The airfield was completed 151 days after the announcement with construction including barracks, paved streets, hangars and shops. 1,016 buildings and structures were constructed. Lincoln AAF was assigned to Army Air Forces Training Command, Western Technical Training Command with a mission to conduct flying training, basic military training and technical training. The plan consolidated a number of technical schools that were scattered throughout the country at that time. The first trainees arrived on 2 June 1942. Classrooms functioned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The 331st Army Air Force Base Unit commanded the support elements at Lincoln AAF as part of Air Technical Service Command, which was assigned to the 21st Bombardment Wing. It was also the home of the 12th Heavy Bombardment Processing Headquarters.

The 616th Flying Training Group provided flying training instruction to aircrews of B-17 Flying Fortresses, Consolidated B-24 Liberators and Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. The 54th Training Sub-Depot provided indoctrination and basic training for 30,000 combat personnel; providing basic flight training for Army aviation cadets, and being a military separation center. The 604th Training Group provided instruction to over 25,000 aircraft mechanics, specializing in Figher aircraft.

Leg 2:  Lincoln, Nebraska - Morrision Field, Florida
Morrision Army Airfield, Florida

In 1940 the United States Army Air Corps indicated a need for the airfield as part of the buildup of its forces after World War II began in Europe. Operating under a lease from Palm Beach County, the airport airport came under formal military control and on 25 November 1940 a construction program began to turn the civil airport into a military airfield. Construction involved runways and airplane hangars, with three concrete runways, several taxiways and a large parking apron and a control tower. Several large hangars were also constructed. Buildings were ultimately utilitarian and quickly assembled. Most base buildings, not meant for long-term use, were constructed of temporary or semi-permanent materials. Although some hangars had steel frames and the occasional brick or tile brick building could be seen, most support buildings sat on concrete foundations but were of frame construction clad in little more than plywood and tarpaper.

Leg 3:  Morrision Field, Florida - Borenquin Field, Puerto Rico
Borenquin Field, Puerto Rico

Origins of this air force base go back to 1936, when the necessity for an air base in Puerto Rico was recognized and advocated by United States Army Air Corps officials as a logical extension of the air defenses of the Panama Canal and of Puerto Rico itself. The Commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School forwarded to the Chief of the Air Corps a report describing Puerto Rico as a "most valuable asset" for national defense and recommending establishment of an Army Air Base on the island.

In 1939, the Army sent Major George C. Kenney to Puerto Rico to conduct a preliminary survey of possible air base sites. He examined a total of 42 sites and declared that Punta Borinquen the best site for a major air base. Planted sugar cane farms covered some 3796 acres that the government purchased for military use on the first week of September 1939 at a cost of $1,215,000. Later that year, Major Karl S. Axtater assumed command of what was to become Borinquen Army Air Field. In a less than auspicious arrival, Axtater landed the first aircraft ever at the still crude, unprepared runway of Borinquen and blew the tire on the tail wheel of the plane, but no serious damage or injury resulted. The 27th Bombardment Squadron arrived from Langley Field, Virginia, in late 1939 with nine B-18A Bolo medium bombers as the first squadron based at Borinquen Field. 417th Bombardment Squadron arrived on 21 November 1939.

In 1940, the air echelon of the 25th Bombardment Group (14 B-18A aircraft and two A-17 aircraft) arrived at the base from Langley Field. After 1 November 1940, the base served as headquarters of 25th Bombardment Group.

On 13 December 1940, the "tempest-in-a-teapot" "Battle of Borinquen Field" took place. Strictly a misnomer, the "battle" consisted solely of an "alert" and nervous guards firing machine guns against a "non-existent enemy invasion force", in reality a friendly merchant vessel traveling inshore for protection. The "battle" lasted 15 minutes, and in the confusion, one woman was wounded.

Leg 4:  Borenquin Field, Puerto Rico - Waller Field, Trinidad - Belém Field, Brazil
Waller Field, Trinidad

In 1941, Trinidad was alarmed by a large number of Nazi U-Boats prowling of its coastline, intent on disrupting British shipping in the Caribbean Sea, and using the Vichy French controlled island of Martinique as a possible supply facility. Although the first United States Army personnel arrived on Trinidad on 24 April 1941, it was only with the United States' entry into the war in early 1942 that Allied planners decided to counter the Nazi threat by establishing major air and naval facilities on Trinidad.

Waller Army Airfield was activated on 1 September 1941 with the assignment of the 92d Service Group. The unit's mission was to establish a flying facility within the United States Army Fort Read post. The unit consisted of the group's Headquarters, and the 92d Air Base and 309th Material Squadrons. The group was assigned to the Caribbean Air Force.

Waller Field was named after United States Army Air Force Major Alfred J. Waller. Major Waller was a distinguished World War I combat pilot and was killed in the crash of Consolidated PB-2A, 35-50, on 11 December 1937 at Langley Field, Virginia. The airfield was intended to have four runways, but the two southern ones were canceled due to the nature of the ground.

Waller was built to be the premier US combat airbase in Trinidad, but events overtook the plan. The South Atlantic Air Route to Europe quickly developed and became the most often used method of getting aircraft to the African and European theaters of war. Air Transport Command flew aircraft to Waller from South Florida airfields, then from Waller, aircraft were flown to Belem Airfield, Brazil, then across the South Atlantic Ocean to Freetown Airport, Sierra Leone and then to North Africa or England. Airfield congestion at Waller became so acute that the combat aircraft, the bombers actually confronting the U-Boats had to be moved out to Edinburgh (Carlsen) Airfield when it was completed.

Belém Field, Brazil

With the outbreak of World War II air bases and airports located on the Brazilian coast became immensely important in the support of transportation of aircraft, personnel and equipment across the South Atlantic Ocean to Sierra Leone in West Africa. These facilities provided the necessary logistical support for the thousands of planes that, manufactured in Canada and the United States were moved to North Africa and Europe. After protracted negotiations between Brazil and the United States, airstrips were built at Belém for the Air Transport Command with two runways measuring 1,500 x 45 meters on a basis of concrete and asphalt and comprising modern airport facilities, able to meet efficiently civil aviation and military needs.

Leg 5:  Belém Field, Brazil - Parnamirim Field (Natal, Brazil) with alternate fields: Adjacento Field (Fortaleza, Brazil) and São Luís Airport (São Luís, Brazil)
Natal, Brazil

This airport had an important role during World War II as a strategic base for aircraft flying between South America and West Africa. Particularly between 1943 and 1945, this facility was used jointly by the Brazilian Air Force, United States Army, United States Navy, the Royal Air Force, and commercial airlines. The maintenance and security installations were made by the U.S. Army in the South Atlantic (USAFSA).

Fortaleza, Brazil

The airport has its origins on a runway built in the 1930s and which was used by the Ceará Flying School until 2000. During World War II, the airport was an important allied base supporting the Southern Atlantic operations.

Leg 6:  Parnamirim Field (Natal, Brazil) - Mallard Field (Dakar, Senegal)
Mallard Field (Dakar, Senegal)

During World War II, Dakar Airport was a key link in the United States Army Air Force Air Transport Command Natal-Dakar air route, which provided a transoceanic link between Brazil and French West Africa after 1942. Massive amounts of cargo were stored at Dakar, which were then transported along the North African Cairo-Dakar transport route for cargo, transiting aircraft and personnel.

Leg 7:  Mallard Field (Dakar, Senegal) - Menara Airport (Marrakech, French Morocco)
Menara Airport (Marrakech, French Morocco)

During World War II, the airport was used by the United States Army Air Force Air Transport Command as a hub for cargo, transiting aircraft and personnel. It functioned as a stopover en-route to Casablanca Airfield or to Agadir Airport on the North African Cairo-Dakar transport route for cargo, transiting aircraft and personnel.

Leg 8:  Menara Airport (Marrakech, French Morocco) - Newquay Airport (Newquay, England)
Newquay Airport (Newquay, England)

The airfield was originally opened in 1933 as a civilian facility, but was requisitioned at the outbreak of World War II and named RAF Trebelzue to support other bases in the Cornwall area. The base was then renamed RAF St Mawgan 1943, after expansion. The facility was then handed to the USAAF where a number of improvements took place, including the building of a new control tower and expansion of the current runway.

Leg 9: Newquay Airport (Newquay, England) - RAF Tibenham
RAF Tibenham

The airfield was built up during 1941/42 as a standard heavy bomber airfield with a main runway 6,000 ft long (03-21) and two secondary runways 4,200 feet in length (08-26, 15-33). It had an enclosed perimeter track containing 36 frying-pan type hardstands and fourteen loops. Two T-2 hangars were constructed on the eastern side of the airfield and adjacent to the technical site. Accommodations were constructed for about 2,900 personnel. Tibenham was assigned USAAF designation Station 124.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia

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