|Barksdale Field, 1934; Eunice DeField Collection: 2002.027.003|
In 1939 war broke out in Europe, and Washington called for an immediate expansion of its military capabilities. Along with the rest of the U.S. military branches, Barksdale started to prepare for war. As a result of the war raging in Europe, the personnel strength doubled at Barksdale Field by the end of that year.
In 1940 Barksdale Field was converted into an Air Corps Flying School, playing an essential role in World War II. In which there were four specialized flying schools established under the Southeast Air Corps Training Center. These flying schools were the Advanced Flying School two-engine (TE) pilots; Advanced Flying School TE Bombardier; Advanced Flying School TE Navigation; and Advanced Flying School single engine pilots.
After Barksdale Field was placed on war status in December of 1941, they transitioned from a training base to an operational base. In February of 1942, the Third Air Force assumed jurisdiction over Barksdale with a mission to train bombardment groups for combat service. Later that year the mission at Barksdale changed again, this time from operational training to replacement training. The Second Air Support Command Headquarters made Barksdale Field it's home in March 1943. Within a year, the remaining 335th Medium Bombardment Group was operating 95 airplanes and furnishing 65 crews per month for the combat theaters.
In the summer of 1943, the first Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) arrived at Barksdale, who along with the nurses provided vital services toward making Barksdale an exceptional airfield.
Just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 44th Bombardment Group was established at Barksdale Field. This unit created and trained America’s most famous B-24 organizations, including itself.
Unfortunately, accidents happened but when they did, they provided training on how to respond. On July 7, 1942, two accidents took place one involving a B-24D the other, separate accident, was of a B-26 Marauder, both planes experienced collapsed nose gear. These and other similar occurrences during the War brought about the slogan “Two a day, the Barksdale way.”
Beginning in 1944, Barksdale Field also served as a training center for the Army Air Corps Military Police during World War II, which included airfield defense. The vastness of Barksdale Field provided military police in training with a realistic experience when they simulated scenarios for both European and Pacific theater operations.
Barksdale Field also served as a training base for the Free French Air Force, where several hundred French airmen trained. The French Air Force received combat crew training in the Martin B-26. Every Friday Barksdale would fly the French tri-color flag while the French airmen trained.
In 1943 soldiers built and tended what was known as the largest Army Victory Garden; towards the end of the war German POW’s were brought from Camp Ruston to Barksdale to maintain the garden. German POWs could also on occasion be seen tending to the roads and maintaining the grounds.
On August 9, 1945, one of the bombardiers trained at the U. S. Air Corps Bombardier School at Barksdale Field, Kermit Beahan, dropped the lethal atomic payload on Nagasaki, Japan. The War was finally ended on September 2, 1945. After the war ended, Barksdale Field became a peacetime training center becoming the home of the Air Training Command from 1946-1949.
If you enjoy learning about history, you won’t want to miss Reverend Siegfried Kunz’s talk, “World War II and its Aftermath Through the Eyes of a German Boy.” Where Rev. Kunz will tell his riveting and heartbreaking story as a child refugee with his family, ethnic German minorities in Eastern Europe during and just after World War II. Monday, May 6, 2019, at 6:00 pm at the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center, 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City.
By: Amy Robertson