Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ellington Field WWI and WWII

Some Ellington Field history from the HPL files:

The oldest of the bunch, although without a date, appears to be from the 1920s, since the Douglas DT is featured.

Most of what was in the early section of the folder dealt with the Field's resurgence at the start of WWII

Dec. 8, 1940
Construction of barracks, warehouses, mess halls, a base hospital consisting of 13 buildings, administration buildings, hangars, a theater, and other buildings necessary for the training of flying cadets is proceeding at a rapid pace out of Ellington Field 18 miles southeast of here, where many middle-aged men recall having received training during the first world war. Completely abandoned following the first war, the field is a hive of industry now. Approximately 175 buildings are under construction at a cost of around $1,500,000. At the top left is a picture of some of the many mess halls. Warehouse construction is shown at the top right, with one of the numerous rows of barracks building shown at the bottom.

January 5, 1941
Lieut. Col Reid, Ellington Field Chief Stretched Truth to be Fighting Man at 14

Liet. Col. W.H. Reid, commanding officer of Ellington Field, became a soldier when he was a gangling kid running around in knee breeches.

It was the year 1898, the Spanish-American was was being fought and the Reid family was living in a small town in Missouri name Bethany.

Naturally, all the talk then was of war and it had a terrific effect on the colonel, then eight years old.

Smitten with a flaming spirit of patriotism, he shouldered his air rifle and ran out in the woods near Bethany to meet the Spaniards.

That was the beginning of a career that has taken the kid with the air rifle into the top ranks of Uncle Sam's air service.

When you sit and talk with Colonel Reid, you somehow forget all the talk about American unpreparedness and you feel like you could slap Hitler with your right hand and push Il Duce around with he left.

He weights 184 pounds, all bone and muscle.
The colonel has sandy hair, a ruddy complexion and calm blue eyes. He is not tall -- five feet nine inches -- and he weighs 184 pounds, all bone and muscle. At 50 years of age, he looks a match for any and all comers.

With or without guns, you don't feel scared when he's around.

But the most impressive thing about the colonel is his confidence in the fighting forces of the United States, especially the air corps.

March 7, 1941

Ellington was Tents on Mud in '17, Cadet Then Recalls Here

G.S. Voorhees, Who Was Also in the Last War, Compares Field With One of Today

The Ellington Field of 1941?

It will be a modern air field fully eqipped to train 4100 men.

The Ellington Field of 1917?

Well, it wasn't anything to brag about.

That's G.S. Voorhees, World War fling cadet at Ellington, talking.

The Ellington Mr. Voorhees knew was a tent town and the 1000 cadets living in it had a muddy row to hoe.

No Barracks, But Tents

"We didn't live in barracks," he said. "We lived in tents -- five of us to a tent. The tents? They were pretty wet and soggy."

What's the matter, did they leak?

"No," Mr. Voorhees replied. "The ground was wet and soggy. They drainage was bad."

Sometimes, he said, there were days at a time that planes couldn't get out of the mud and into the air.

Recreation Now

There will be adequate recreational facilities at the Ellington Field of 1941, but there weren't at the Ellington of 1917.

If there was any recreation there in the World War I, I didn't know anything about it," Mr. Voorhees said. "Whenever we got any time off, we tore into town -- either Houston or Galveston."

The biggest difference, though, is in the planes. The Ellington of 1941 will have modern planes capable of speeds in the 300s, but the Ellington of 1917 had little more than box crates.

Curtis O.X. Used
At first the Curtiss O.X. training plane was used. The only instruments were clocks and compasses. Racks loaded with dummy bombs were tacked onto the belly of the plane for the bombardier students.

Later, the fields received some DeHavilland trainers with Liberty motors. They were faster than the Curtiss O.X.'s but for this reason figured in more accidents.

A flying student of Ellington, 1917, was apt to have a number of accidents. Mr. Voorhees, a bombardier, didn't, be he said crack-ups came with monotonous regularity.

Sent to Berkeley
Mr. Voorhees signed up as a flying cadet in October, 1917, at Omaha and was sent to Berkley, CAl. He had been in Berkeley only give weeks when there was a call for volunteers to be sent to Ellington.

He had never heard of Ellington and neither had most other flying students, but army didn't have to wait long to get their quota.

I arrived there in February, I think it was on Washington's birthday," Mr. Vorhees said. "In July 1918 I was discharged as a flying cadet and commissioned a second lieutenant.

Lieutenants Up Alone
"Whenever we went up as cadets, we had instructors in the plane with us. When we became lieutenants, we went up alone."

The bombing range was just [?] of the field. In the center of the range was a huge bullseye.
When you hit the bullseye during the day, there was a puff of smoke. When you hit it at night there was a flash of light.

Later, Mr. Voorhees went to the gunnery range at San Leon and tried his bombing aim on their targets.

Ordered to New York
Then came September, 1918, when he was ordered to report to report to New York.

"Yeah, I was glad to leave Ellington, but only because I was going in motion," Mr. Voorhees said.

He sailed from Hoboken, N.J. and landed at Liverpool. From Liverpool he was sent to Winter, just outside of London.

From Southampton he crossed the channel to Le Havre, and finally was sent to Ciermont-Ferrand, where he was stationed at what once had been a tire manufacturing plant.

Was a Casual
He had been classed as a casual until he got to Europer. There he became a member of the Second Day Bombardment group, 163rd aero squadron.

Later he went to the Fourth corps, 354th squadron.

Mr. Voorhees saw no actual combat. When peace came, he had orders to go to the front on Nov. 21. It was a close shave.

He got home on Oct. 19, 1919. The same day, he gave up flying. He lives now at 3811 Amherst.

Mr. Voorhees hasn't seen the Ellington Field of 1941, except from the highway, but he has hopes.

December 31, 1942
New Chapter in Ellington's Proud Heritage

A V for Victory at Ellington Field. In the 21 months since Ellington's restoration the field has become a great concentration of military might with thousands of fighting men, hundreds of planes and buildings, and the largest concrete flying slab in the world.

October 26, 1941
Ellington to Play Major Part in Air Defense Plan
Pilot Output due to reach 2800 a year

Largest Advance Flight Station to Produce Almost 1/10th of Uncle Sam's Airmen

April 21, 1941 "Oscar to Ring at Old Stand"

Master Sgt. Roy E. Allisoin, right, is shown examining "Oscar," a bell used at the old Ellington Field in 1922 to sound mess call. Sergeant Allison, who was assigned to Ellington at that time, has been assigned to another tour at the new field here. During the time between 1922 and now, the ball has been used at Kelly Field, where Sergeant Allison has been stationed. He is showing the bell to Lieut. William F. Buchanan, commanding officer of the 69th School Squadron at Ellington Field. Sergeant Allison brought the bell from the army so that he could bring it back to Ellington Field.

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