Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Blythe Army Air
(Blythe Army Air
Blythe AAF, 16 July
Also known as Blythe Army Air Base, this
field was located 7 miles west of the town of Blythe on what
is now Interstate Highway 10. The field was built for the I Troop
Carrier Command but was given up by that command, without ever
occupying it, to the 4th Air Force as a California-Arizona
Maneuver Area (CAMA) training field. The 46th Bomb Group
and later the 34th Bomb Group occupied the field during the CAMA
days and flew a variety of planes including B-17s, B-24s, A-31s
and A-36s. Blythe Army Air Field later became a sub-base of Muroc
Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) and after the war
it became Blythe's local airport.
There was another airfield in Blythe, Gary Field, near the present-day
golf course, which had a private pilot training school known
as the Morton Air Academy. The school was contracted by the Army
Air Corps early in the war to give primary training to Air Corps
cadets. Gary Field had a total of three auxiliary airfields during
World War II:
A-1 Ripley #1 (10 miles south)
A-2 Ripley #2 (8 miles south)
A-4 (which was located a mere half mile
to the west).
The Primary Flying School at Gary used
the Stearman PT-17. The contract flying schools were mostly staffed
by civilian instructors. The Commanding Officer was an Army Air
Forces officer, and usually there were Army Air Forces check
pilots who made sure the students were qualified. The Commander
at Gary was Major Frank Fuller of the Fuller Paint Company fame.
The civilian head was Roger Pryor, who was a musical director
for one of the Hollywood film studios
Source: World War II Sites
in the United States: A Tour Guide and Directory by Richard E.
US Army Corps
of Engineers History (24 May 1989)
Located in Riverside County, California.
This site is approximately 6 miles due west of the City of Blythe
on West Hobson Way, adjacent to Interstate Highway 10.
The Army entered into a lease on 1 June
1942 with the County of Riverside to acquire use of 290.45 acres
(later determined to be 282.61 acres) consisting of the Blythe
Airport. Between 1942 and 1944 a total of 2354.89 acres of public
domain land were transferred to the War Department and all desert
claims cleared through declaration of taking. A total 1,896.04
acres were acquired in fee from various private parties. A total
of 6.54 acres of public domain land were acquired for right--of-ways
as well as a 1.98 acre easement and 0.63 acre permit. The Army
encroached on 20.18 acres for which a permit was never acquired.
Total acquisition, including the encroachment, was 4,560.06 acres.
The Army established Blythe Army Airfield
(BAAF) which was a second Army Air Forces heavy bombardment crew
training base during World War II. The 85th Bombardment Group
and the 390th Bombardment Group were active at BAAFin 1942 and
1943. Up to 75 B-17 bombers were flown and maintained at this
site. During this period the military constructed over 650 buildings
and other types of improvements including hangars, office buildings,
barracks, warehouses, runways and taxiways, water and sewer systems,
hospital, fuel and ordnance storage.
Historical records and drawings indicate
that bombs and explosive materials, and possibly incendiary and
pyrotechnic materials, were stored on-site in up to five magazines
or bunkers. A poorman gunnery range, skeet range, and jeep type
target range, all with ammunition storage, were constructed and
used by Army personnel.
This site is currently owned by Riverside
County and leased to the City of Blythe. The main runways and
a few remaining buildings constructed by the Army are beneficially
used by the city as an airport. All other improvements constructed
by the Army have been demolished.
Source: US Army Corps of
Engineers, Los Angeles District
US Army Corps
of Engineers History (30 September 1999)
Between 1942 and 1944, the Army acquired
4,248.12 acres in fee from various private parties, 6.54 acres
of public domain land via transfer, a 282.61 acre leasehold from
the County of
Riverside, a 1.98 acre easement and 0.63 acre permit. Additionally,
the Army encroached on another 20.18 acres for which a real estate
agreement was never signed. Total acquisition, including the
encroachment, was 4,560.06 acres.
The Army Air Forces established the Blythe
Army Air Field which was used for heavy bomber pilot and crew
training during 1943 and 1944. Numerous military improvements
were constructed at
this airfield including hangars, office buildings, barracks,
warehouses, runways and taxiways, water and sewer systems, hospital,
and fuel and ordnance storage. A poorman gunnery range, skeet
range, and jeep type target range, all with ammunition storage,
were constructed and used by Army personnel. Bombs, pyrotechnics
and incendiary devices may have also been stored in magazines
at the airfield.
The entire airfield was declared surplus to the needs of the
Army in 1946 and was reported to the War Assets Administration
for disposal. On 10 September 1948 the U.S.Government conveyed
title and interest in the entire 4,560.06 acre site, including
the leasehold and encroachment, to the County of Riverside via
quitclaim deed. The County of Riverside has leased the airport
to the City of Blythe which operates it as a municipal airport
facility. Only a few military improvements remain including five
buildings and portions of the runways and parking apron.
Source: US Army Corps of
Engineers, Los Angeles District
Members of the 87th
Bombardment Squadron (Light) and two of the squadron's Douglas
A-20 Havocs. September 1942
Blythe Airport was established by the Civil
Aeronautics Administration in the late 1930s as an emergency landing
field on the Los Angeles to Phoenix airway. A commercial airport
opened in April 1940.
The airport was leased by the United States
Army in 1942 and between 1942 and 1944, the U.S. War Department
acquired 4,248.12 acres in fee from various private parties, 6.54
acres of public domain land via transfer, 282.61 acres by lease
from the County of Riverside, a 1.98-acre easement, and a 0.63-acre
permit. The Army encroached on another 20.18 acres, increasing
the total acquisition for Blythe Army Air Field to 4,560.06 acres.
Over 650 buildings and other types of military facilities and
improvements were constructed at this airfield, including hangars,
office buildings, barracks, warehouses, runways and taxiways,
water and sewer systems, a hospital, and fuel and ordnance storage.
In addition to the main facility at Blythe,
several auxiliary airfields were built.
During World War II the airfield was known
as Blythe Army Air Field and was used by the United States Army
Air Forces. The use of the site began on May 14, 1942. Blythe
AAB was built for the I Troop Carrier Command but was given up
by that command, without ever occupying it, to the Fourth Air
Force as part of the United States Army Desert Training Center
(DTC) was established by General George S. Patton shortly after
the outbreak of the war, Blythe was the only airfield with construction
already under way. For six months, the air field served as the
sole air support base for the Army maneuvers under way at the
The 46th Bombardment Group and later the
85th Bombardment Group occupied the field during the CAMA days
and flew a variety of planes including A-31 Vengeances and A-36
Apaches. Once air fields were established at three new locations
within the DTC (Thermal, Rice and Desert Center), Blythe field
was no longer required for the Army's desert exercises. After
General Patton was sent to North Africa, the name of the training
center was changed to the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA).
The 46th and 85th Bomb Groups were reassigned.
The Army Air Forces then used Blythe as
a heavy bombardment crew training base for the Second Air Force
16th Bombardment Training Wing 358th Combat Crew Training School.
The field's mission was changed to the training of combat air
crews prior to shipment overseas. The 85th Bombardment Group and
the 390th Bombardment Group were active at Blythe AAF in 1942
and 1943. Up to 75 B-17 Flying Fortresses were flown and maintained
at the base. During 1943 and 1944, Blythe AAF was used for squadron
pilot training, then in December 1944 reverted to an active heavy
bombardment base with B-24 Liberators
At its peak in December, 1943 the base had
a population just short of 8000 uniformed and civilian personnel.
This was twice the population of the city of Blythe, the only
community within a one hundred mile radius. By April 1944 only
a housekeeping force was assigned to the base. By July 1944 the
field was abandoned by the Army and declared surplus. 126 airmen
were killed in Blythe Army Air Base-related accidents.
Blythe Army Air Field later became a sub-base
of Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) on 30 June
1945, and was inactivated on 18 October 1945, although during
OctoberDecember 1946, the 477th Composite Group (Medium)
used the airfield for desert maneuvers, flying B-25 Mitchells.
The airfield was declared surplus in 1946
and was reported to the War Assets Administration for disposal.
On September 10, 1948, the entire 4,560-acre site was transferred
to the County of Riverside via quitclaim deed dated September
Today a modern airport is on the site of
the former wartime airfield; most of the area of what was Blythe
Army Air Field has been abandoned to the natural landscape. Abandoned
runways and concrete parking ramps are visible in aerial photography.