The Victorville Air Station

What was to become George Air Force Base was originally known as the Victorville Air Station. With war raging in Europe and President Franklin Roosevelt spurring the nation in a crash  aeronautic military capability development program, civic leaders in Victorville in April 1940 approached the United States Army in an effort to interest it in locating an airfield, which was initially sold as a training facility, in the High Mojave Desert. Citing the customary 360 days per year of sunshine and unencumbered open space, together with the availability of services from the nearby towns of both Victorville and Adelanto, they were able to convince the Department of War to approve tentative plans for such a facility.  In 1941, with war clouds growing ever more ominous, the United States Army Air Corps accelerated the plans and after an effort to secure the property in question was made, including buying parcels from willing sellers and using the threat of eminent domain against unwilling ones, an agreement was entered into and construction of the 2,200-acre base commenced with a groundbreaking ceremony on 12 July 1941. Special equipment to compact the earth for the runways and to lay down the tarmac was brought to the site. Construction on the air station’s four runways had begun in earnest by August 1941. Seven hangars were part of the facilities initial construction. In addition, four other auxiliary or sub-bases were constructed, which entailed Hawes Auxiliary Airfield (No 1); Helendale Auxiliary Airfield (No 2); Mirage Auxiliary Airfield (No 3); and Grey Butte Auxiliary Airfield (No 4). The first, third and fourth auxiliary airfields have been abandoned. The Helendale facility is today the home to a test facility operated by Lockheed Skunk Works.
In addition to the airfield, the building of a large support base was carried out with barracks, various administrative buildings, maintenance shops and hangars.
The station facility consisted of a large number of buildings based on standardized plans and architectural drawings, with the buildings designed to be the “cheapest, temporary character with structural stability only sufficient to meet the needs of the service which the structure is intended to fulfill during the period of its contemplated war use.” To conserve critical materials, most facilities were constructed of wood, concrete, brick, gypsum board and concrete asbestos. Metal was sparsely used. The station was designed to be nearly self-sufficient, with not only hangars, but 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. Over 250 buildings, together with complete water, sewer, electric and gas utilities, the airfield served over 4,000 military personnel.
Training began in February 1942 on Curtiss AT-9’s, T-6 Texan’s, and AT-17’s for pilots, and AT-11’s and BT-13 Valiant’s for bombardiers. The Army operated an advanced twin-engine pilot training school at the field, its graduated generally flying C-47 Skytrain transports, B-25 Michell or B-26 Marauder medium bombers. The school also trained replacement crew members in the B-25 and B-26. The first class of flying cadets graduated on April 24, 1942.
In addition to the pilot training, a US Army Air Force Bombardier training school was operated. The 516th, 517th and 518th Twin-Engine Flying Training Squadrons being the flying squadrons. Bombardier training was conducted by the 519th, 520th, 521st and 522d Bombardier Training Squadrons. In April 1942, these training squadrons were organized under the 36th Flying Training Wing, which became the main flying operations command and control organization. The first bombardier classes had to practice their target runs at nearby Muroc Army Air Field (later renamed Edwards Air Force Base). The pilots used Highway 395 as a landmark and guide north to the bombing range.
Waco CG-4 Glider pilots were also trained at Victorville Field, with special emphasis on spot-landing and night flying. The gliders were an essential part of the 6 June1944, D-Day invasion as hundreds of gliders carried troops and equipment to strategic landing sites in Normandy, France. To ease the overcrowded runways at Victorville, glider students practiced take-offs and landings at the El Mirage Lakebed and El Mirage Field. There were seven oiled runways on the dusty dry lake and they worked well until the lake bed flooded in January 1943.
In March 1944 a school for P-39 Aircobra single-engine pursuit pilots was established and the following month the 3035th Army Air Forces Base Unit took over the administrative organization of the flight school at the Victorville Air Station.  Bombadiers also began training on B-24 Liberator that year and in September, a radar training school for Bombardiers was established.
In May 1945, with the surrender of Germany, the training at Victorville Field began to slow down, and on 15 August, all training at the base ceased. After the Japanese capitulation, the post commander was notified about 15 September that Victorville was to be placed in a standby status. On October 12, 1945, all flying at the airfield ended and the base was placed on standby status.

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