Walnut Ridge Regional Airport

Walnut Ridge Regional Airport

Infobox Airport
name = Walnut Ridge Regional Airport



image-width = 300
caption = Walnut Ridge Regional Airport, 28 Feb 2000
IATA = ARG
ICAO = KARG
FAA = ARG
type = Public
owner = City of Walnut Ridge
operator =
city-served =
location = Walnut Ridge, Arkansas
elevation-f = 279
elevation-m = 85
website =
r1-number = 4/22
r1-length-f = 6,001
r1-length-m = 1,829
r1-surface = Asphalt
r2-number = 13/31
r2-length-f = 5,000
r2-length-m = 1,524
r2-surface = Asphalt
r3-number = 18/36
r3-length-f = 5,000
r3-length-m = 1,524
r3-surface = Asphalt
footnotes =

Walnut Ridge Regional Airport Airport codes|ARG|KARG|ARG is a general aviation airport located convert|4|mi|km NE of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas.

It is owned and operated by the city of Walnut Ridge.

History

Army Airfield

The airfield was built in 1942/43 and opened in October 1943 as as Walnut Ridge Army Airfield and was used by the United States Army Air Forces as a training base during World War II. Walnut Ridge was commanded by the 324th Army Air Force Base Unit, being assiged to the AAF Southeast Training Center.

Designed for 5,114 military personnel, and 976 civilians, Walnut Ridge AAF had three (3) 5,000-foot runways, a huge apron covering over 63 acres, 4 large hangars, base engineering building, and fully equipped 203 bed hospital. It also included, convert|131151|sqft|m2|abbr=on. of office space, convert|119613|sqft|m2|abbr=on. of enclosed storage space, convert|49324|sqft|m2|abbr=on. shop space, a water plant and sewer plant designed to serve 5,000 troops, and a 10,000-man laundry, 2 theaters, a swimming pool, gymnasium, WAC housing, eight mess halls, dozens of enlisted-men's barracks, parachute loft, gas chamber, 260 tile-block apartments, motor pool, control tower, officers' club, link-trainer buildings, fire station, several warehouses, crash station, and convert|9.64|mi|km of streets. Construction and land cost was almost ten and one-half million dollars.

The Air Field was activated on August 15, 1942, with the arrival of the initial contingent of key military personnel. Ten days later, 100 troops arrived, but there was no housing available on the air field, so these troops were transported to and from the CCC camp, located at five-mile (8 km) springs, north of Pocahontas for the first 30 days.

Even though the airfield was planned and designed as an Army Airfield, for some time it appeared it would instead become an Advanced Glider School. As late as September 1942, preparations were being made for gliders, including requests for instructional materials, gliders and tow planes.

Meanwhile the first 3 classes of Aviation Cadets programmed for Walnut Ridge were sent to Blytheville, which was being built as an Advanced Twin Engine School. Blytheville was scarcely any better prepared than Walnut Ridge. Circus tents were utilized for operations headquarters and classrooms. The runways were not ready, so flying was done from oil-coated dirt strips.

Finally, near the end of September the Southeast Training Command at Maxwell Field clarified the situation concerning the Air Field's mission by announcing 102 Aviation Cadets and 3 Student Officers from Decatur, Alabama, and 20 Aviation Cadets from Camden, Arkansas, would be sent to Walnut Ridge for Basic Flight Training. For reasons unknown, the Advanced Glider School was established at Stuttgart, which was being built as an Advanced Twin-Engine School.

During the eleven month period from November 1, 1942, thru September 30, 1943, the training hours flown at Walnut Ridge were 160,648. The average for all Basic Flying Schools in the Southeast Training Command was 129,474. Walnut Ridge had .49 accidents per 1000 hours versus .57 accidents per 1000 hours average for all schools; however, the fatal accident rate at Walnut Ridge was higher, .087 per 1000 hours versus a .052 average. The hours flown at Walnut Ridge through June 30, 1944, totaled 414,429.

Walnut Ridge was also a major maintenance facility, servicing C-47s, P-40s, P-51s, B-17s and B-29s.

Marine Corps Air Facility

On September 1, 1944, Walnut Ridge AAF was transferred to the Department of the Navy and was known as the "Marine Corps Air Facility Walnut Ridge". The Marine Corps trained for only a brief time, using SBD-5’s and FG-1D Corsair’s. VMF-513 transferred to MCAF Walnut Ridge on September 14, 1944, and then moved to MCAS Mojave, California, on December 4, 1944. MCAF Walnut Ridge was decommissioned March 15, 1945.

RFC Walnut Ridge

In 1945 the RFC established five large storage, sales and scrapping centers for Army Air Forces aircraft. These were located at: Albuquerque, NM; Altus, OK; Kingman, AZ; Ontario, CA; and Walnut Ridge, AR. A sixth facility for storing, selling and scrapping Navy and Marine aircraft was located at Clinton, OK.

It is estimated that approximately 10,000 warbirds were flown to Walnut Ridge in 1945 and 1946 for storage and sale. Some sources report the number to be over 11,000. It is reported that at least 67 of the 118 B-32 Heavy Bombers built were flown to Walnut Ridge, many straight from the assembly line. Of the remaining B-32’s, at least 37, perhaps more, were flown to Kingman.

Four thousand, eight hundred and seventy-one (4,871) of the aircraft stored at Walnut Ridge, primarily fighters and bombers, were sold to Texas Railway Equipment Company in September 1946, to be scrapped. The bid price was $1,838,798.19. On the southwest corner of the ramp, two giant smelters were constructed to melt the scrap aluminum, which was formed into huge ingots for shipping.

The aircraft at Altus were put up for scrap bid in 1947, and sold on May 12, 1947, to Esperado Mining Company of Walnut Ridge. (Probably owned in whole or part by Texas Railway Equipment Company, the company that scrapped the warbirds at Walnut Ridge.)

By late 1947 scrapping had been completed at Clinton and the big five scrapping facilities, except Altus, which finished by mid 1948.

The tens of thousands of proud warbirds that had survived the enemy fighter planes and fierce anti-aircraft fire could not escape the smelters at Albuquerque, Altus, Kingman, Ontario, Walnut Ridge and Clinton.

At Walnut Ridge, the two smelters used to turn the proud Warbirds into aluminum ingots were torn down about 1951. In 1952 the City of Walnut Ridge used the firebricks from the smelters to construct an administration/terminal building on the site of the WWII Base Operations building.

Civil Use

In the early 1960s, Walnut Ridge was determined to be excess by the military and turned over to the local government for civil use.

See also

* Arkansas World War II Army Airfields
*List of United States Marine Corps installations

References

* Thole, Lou (1999), Forgotten Fields of America : World War II Bases and Training, Then and Now - Vol. 2. Publisher: Pictorial Histories Pub, ISBN 1575100517

External links

* [http://www.walnutridge-aaf.com Walnut Ridge Regional Airport Webstie]


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