Ardmore Army Air Base, 1942 – 1946
Citizens of Ardmore approved a $100,000 bond issue in early 1942 to purchase 1,416 acres of land north of Gene Autry. The U.S. Government contributed 658 acres that it owned in the area to complete the 2,084 acres needed for the base. The acreage was leased for one dollar to the USA, for the duration of the war plus 6-months. Far from being completed, the base was officially activated November 21, 1942, was the 418th Air Base Glider Squadron, under the command of the First Trooper Carrier Command of the 2nd Air Force. They came Stout Field, IN. This squadron, included approximately 200 glider pilots plus support troops. They had several two-place training planes, a CG-4A troop/cargo glider, and C-47 tow aircraft. On April 15, 1943, a little over 4-months after arrival, the glider phase ended when the 418th was transferred to Bowman Field, KY. The base was assigned to the 3rd Air Force April 12, 1943.
In July of 1943, the 394th Bombardment Group’s 584th, 585th, 586th and 587th Squadrons arrived and the base became a Martin “Marauder” B-26 crew-training base. At Ardmore only 5-weeks, they were reassigned to Kellogg Field, MI.
On August 20, 1953, the base passed from the 3rd Air Force to the 2nd Air Force for the second time. In September 1943, the 46th Bombardment Operational Training Wing, 20th Bomber Command, arrived from Dalhart, TX, under command of Brigadier General Frank A. Armstrong, Jr., a seasoned B-17 combat veteran. Shortly thereafter, a full contingency of men and B-17 “Flying Fortresses” arrived from Ephrate Army Air Base, WA. Both groups constituted the 395th Combat Crew Training School known after March 25, 1944, as the 222nd CCTS. Their mission was to assemble and train B-17 replacement combat crews through a rigorous, 24-hour training program in the classroom and sky. The crews were made up of recently graduated pilots, bombardiers, as a crew of 3-months and most were immediately assigned to the 8th Air Force in England as replacement combat crews. At peak capacity, the base was said to have had 10,000 occupants.
Ardmore Army Air Base received a squadron of approximately 100 WAAC’s, July 23, 1944. They performed various duties on the base including control tower operations. Another unique group arriving in 1945 was a contingency of 200 German prisoners of war. They did various jobs around the base and were helpful in closing the base at the end of the war.
Ardmore Army Air Base was also identified as Ardmore Army Air Field and was known as the Gene Autry Base by some. The base had 13 commanders during its 5 years of operation.
Ardmore Army Air Base played a vital part in the winning of the war. Many who trained here later gave their lives in the skies of Europe to defend our freedom. For some, Ardmore Army Air Base was their station of final effort --- hence, this Memorial.
Ardmore Air Force Base, 1953 – 1959
The Korean Conflict presented a need for reactivation of the base September 1, 1953. The majority of the WWII buildings had been removed and construction of new structure began in 1952. Men with the 463rd Troop Carrier Wing (Medium), Memphis, TN, began to arrive in July-August 1953 completing the move by late September. The 463rd Troop Carrier Group was comprised of the 772nd, 773rd, and 774th Squadrons and their support groups. They initially flew the Fairchild C-119 “Flying Boxcar” and had the honor of receiving December 9, 1956, the first Lockhead C-130A “Hercules” delivered to the USAF. It was named “The City of Ardmore” and is on display at Dyess AFB, Abliene, TX.
The 16th Troop Carrier Squadron from Sewart AFB, TN, was assigned on a permanent change of station staus from October 17, 1954, to July 7, 1955, when the unit was deactivated. The 309th Troop Carrier Group had its inception at the Ardmore base July 8, 1955. It was the first tactical assault group to be organized by the U.S. Air Force. They received and flew the first Fairchild C-123Bs delivered to the USAF.
A year later, July 7, 1956, the second assault group, the 419th Troop Carrier Group was formed after transfer of the 309th to France. The 419th, flying C-123Bs, consisted of three tactical squadrons: the 339th, 340th, and 341st. Most of the 419th personnel were from the 456th Troop Carrier Group that transferred to Ardmore from Japan, June 6, 1956 and deactivated July9, 1956.
The military and their civilian counterparts, served and worked together in the Air Base Group (Headquarters, Communications, Air Police, Air Installations and Food Service Squadrons), Maintenance and Supply Group (Maintenance, Supply and Vehicle Squadrons), and Hospital Group (4454 USAF Hospital and Tactical Detachment 11 (25th Weather Squadron) making it all come together. Military and civilian personnel on the base usually numbered from 2,000 to 3,000.
The primary purpose of the 463rd TCW, 456th TCG, 419th TCG, 16th TCS, 309th TCG, and similar units within the Tactical Air Command’s 18th Air Force was to perform airborne, air transport, air supply, and aero-medical operations. The 463rd TCW performed with excellence in various joint-exercises and maneuvers in the USA and overseas.
The 463rd Troop Carrier Wing was transferred to Sewart AFB, TN, in January 1959. Six base commanders directed the 463rd during its assignment at Ardmore. The base was closed March 31, 1959.