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MIDLAND ARMY AIR FIELD

MIDLAND ARMY AIR FIELD. Midland Army Air Field was a World War II United States Army Air Forces bombardier-training base on U.S. Highway 80 halfway between Midland and Odessa in Midland County. It was originally named Sloan Field for Samuel A. Sloan, who leased 240 acres of pastureland in October 1927 to establish a privately owned landing field and flying school. Sloan was killed in a plane crash on January 1, 1929, and the operation was continued by his brother and sister. Sloan Field was designated an Army Airways Station in May 1930. In July 1939 the field was sold to the city of Midland. Using both WPA and municipal funds, runways were improved and landing lights were installed in 1940. After the outbreak of war in Europe and the fall of France in 1940, local officials successfully campaigned to have the field made a training base for the expanding army flying-training program. On July 1, 1941, the municipal airport was leased to the United States government for a dollar a year, and construction began on July 17.

Midland Army Flying School, popularly called the "Bombardier College," was initially designated an Air Corps Advanced Twin Engine and Bombardier Training Center as part of the Gulf Coast Training Command. On September 26, 1942, the base was formally redesignated Midland Army Air Field, and the school was named the Army Air Forces Bombardier School, one of a dozen bombardier-training schools. The first group of cadets, Class 42–6, arrived for training from Ellington, Texas, on February 6, 1942. Midland reached a peak base population of more than 4,000 and graduated a total of 6,627 bombardier officers before all training ceased on January 1, 1946. In August 1943 the AAF Central Bombardier Instructor School was transferred from Carlsbad, New Mexico, to Midland. The base pioneered the use of the highly secret Norden bombsight and at one time operated twenty-three bombing ranges across West Texas. Personnel from Midland AAF helped establish the "West Texas Bombardier Triangle" of bases at Big Spring (1942), San Angelo (1942), and Childress (1943), and were instrumental in developing photographic and sonic methods of scoring bomb hits and analyzing bombing proficiency. The air field was deactivated as a military installation on June 15, 1946, and returned to the city of Midland on July 1, 1947. Since that date, it has been improved and modernized and has become an increasingly busy commercial air terminal and transportation-distribution center.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Midland Reporter-Telegram, July 2, 1941. Odessa American, February 6, August 28, 1942.

James L. Colwell

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

James L. Colwell, "MIDLAND ARMY AIR FIELD," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qbm02), accessed December 17, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.