- California State Military
- The California
State Military Museum
- Preserving California's
- Historic California
- Eagle Field
- Eagle Field, 6.5 miles southwest of Dos
Palos, was built in 1942 as an Army Air Forces training base.
It was abandoned after the war, sold to private interests. Several
of the old hangers and other buildings remained for decades,
but eventually fell into disrepair. Location: From Interstate
5, 35 miles southeast of Merced, turn east on the Firebaugh Road
(Nees). Proceed 17.5 miles to Russell, turn north on Russell
and proceed 14.7 miles to Althea. Turn west on Althea and proceed
13.7 miles to Prince. Turn north on Prince which will take you
to the Field.
- Source: World War II Sites in
the United States: A Tour Guide and Directory by Richard E. Osbourne
- Compiled by: Mr. Jim Bertao, Eagle
- With the war already raging in Europe,
and tensions building in the Pacific, the United States War Department
began contracting with civilian flight schools to train pilots
for the U.S. Army. Coast Aviation of Palo Alto Cal was one such
operator. The principle owners were Harry White, Lex Ehrman and
Dick Hyde. They started a school called Mesa Del Rey in King
City, California in March 1941, and with the entry of the United
States into the war, they obtained a contract to build an additional
airport and flight school in order to fill the War Departments
need for pilots.
- A broad, flat desert plain 10 miles south
of Dos Palos was chosen as the site for this second facility.
This training facility would be called Eagle Field. The ground
breaking ceremony was on March 12, 1942 and construction began
immediately. With construction still underway, the first cadet
pilots arrived by train from Santa Ana at the railroad station
in South Dos Palos, Ca. in June of 1942. They rode to their brand
new base on a tram that was used for the 1939 Worlds Fair held
on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay. In time there was
steam heat and air conditioning in the barracks and offices.
A soda fountain, bowling alley, landscaping and a recreation
hall made Eagle Field the country club of training bases. Only
a few employees other than the cadets were actually in the Army.
The others were civilians working for the contracting corporation.
This included the flight instructors who wore regulation Army
uniforms and had to march in drill. The civilians worked as mechanics,
cooks, gardeners, office workers, fuelers, base security and
many other jobs needed to make the base function. Hundreds of
people from the local area and from out of town found good jobs
and enjoyed working here. It was what they could do to support
the war effort.
- Ryan PT-22s were the first planes used
for training. Cadets were expected to solo after a maximum of
10 hours of dual instruction. If they "washed out"
they went back to the walking Army (talk about motivation!).
If they succeeded they went on to two more levels of flight training
before they were introduced to ACTUAL combat overseas.
- As the Allies gained the upper hand in
the war effort and enough student pilots were in the pipeline
the training contracts were canceled. King City was closed in
August 1944 with some personnel transferred to Eagle Field. In
December 1944 Eagle Field saw her last cadets. Actual operations
lasted 30 months. In those 30 months approximately 5000 pilots
graduated from primary training with the loss of only three lives
due to accidents. This is considered an excellent record.
- Each class held graduation ceremonies
and a dance in one of the hangars. Some of the top name bands
came to Dos Palos for those dances. The base was used right after
the war as an aircraft storage depot and then for many years
as a crop duster facility. After the war the city of Dos Palos
was to develop Eagle Field as a municipal airport but they failed
in their effort. The property reverted to the federal government.
In 1980 it was put up for auction. The largest parcel, consisting
of both large hangars, runway, administration building, the remaining
barracks and the hospital was bought by Mr. Joe Davis of Fresno,
California. He has always had a vision of restoring a WWII airfield
out of respect for the men and women who won the war, making
a home for vintage aircraft and vehicles and giving both their
place in history.
- For more information on Eagle Field, CLICK HERE
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