Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
(Morton Air Academy Contract Flying
School, includes Auxiliary Field No. 4)
Gary Field in 1943.
The airfield opened on June 29, 1942.
Known as Blythe Field and Gary Field, it began training United
States Army Air Forces flying cadets under contract to Morton
Air Academy. Assigned to United States Army Air Forces West Coast
Training Center (later Western Flying Training Command) as a
primary (level 1) pilot training airfield. It had three 2,100'
active hard-surfaced runways and three local axillary airfields
for emergency and overflow landings. Flying training was performed
with Fairchild PT-19s as the primary trainer; it also had several
PT-17 Stearmans assigned. Known sub-bases and auxiliaries assigned
to the field were:
Ripley Auxiliary Field No. 1
Ripley Auxiliary Field No. 2
Blythe Auxiliary Field No. 4 (see below)
It was inactivated on August 4, 1944 with
the drawdown of AAFTC's pilot training program, then declared
surplus and turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers on September
30, 1945. Eventually discharged to the War Assets Administration
(WAA), and the facilities of the former airport were reused by
Palo Verde Community College. The college opened at the site
on September 15, 1947 and it was at this point that any aviation
use of the airfield presumably ended.
Palo Verde College opened its doors as
a junior college, having an initial enrollment of seventeen students.
By 1950, enrollment had reached 250. In September 1958, the College
moved to East Hobsonway, and closed its facilities at the former
The site of Gary Field was reused as a
private airfield beginning in 1981 as W. R. Byron Airport and
is a privately owned airfield.
Today, many of the original hangars &
buildings remain standing. In particular, the characteristic
irregular arrangement of the barracks buildings which remains
at the site make the location of Gary Field very much recognizable.
One of the large arch-roof hangars remains standing (at the southwest
corner of the group of buildings), as well as the tower/operations
building (just north of the large hangar), as well as one smaller
hangar (northeast of the tower/operations building). The second
large hangar (at the northwest corner of the site) was apparently
removed, but its foundation is still clearly recognizable.
An interesting sidebar to history puts
billionaire Kirk Kerkorian at Morton Air Academy as a flight
instructor during the early World War II period flying throughout
the California desert; he made a first career flying charters,
and later building hotels like the MGM Grand years later.
Source: Wikipedia 2 December
by Justin Ruhge
The Morton Air Academy was one of many
in California that trained men to fly on a Ryan or Stearman aircraft.
Morton was located at Blythe Municipal Airport. In addition to
the Academy, an Army Air Base was established at the Airfield.
Overnight the population of less than 4,000 residents in Blythe
jumped to 8,000 soldiers and several hundred WACs.
Morton had a capacity of 550 students
and employed about 500 civilians with a payroll of $1.2 million.
The Academy operated from June 1942 to August 1944 during which
it graduated several thousand pilots. The facilities were built
overnight. There were three hangars, a control tower, administration
building, barracks and aircraft maintenance buildings.
At war's end, the structures at the Army
Airbase were moved away from the Airport. The Academy buildings
were left for the use of the city. From 1946 to 1958 the Academy
buildings served as Palo Verde High School and for a time housed
Palo Verde College as well. After that, two companies manufactured
prefabricated homes there. In 1979 the property was owned by
Willard Byron who planned a housing project on the site, next
to the Blythe Municipal Golf Course.
Assigned to Gary Field
of the United States Station List
Air Depot Detachment (AAF)
Contract Flying School (Primary)
10th Army Air Forces Flying
Training Detachment (AAF)
AAF - Army Air Forces
units | AGF - Army Ground Forces | ASF - Army Service Forces
units | WDC - Western Defense Command