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SCOTT AFB HISTORY
During World War I, Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker advocated an expanded role for aviation. Business and political leaders on both sides of the Mississippi River wanted the Midwest to be the site chosen for one of the new "flying fields." Aerial expert Albert Bond Lambert joined the St. Louis Camber of Commerce, and directors of the Greater Belleville Board of Trade, to negotiate a lease agreement for nearly 624 acres of land. After inspecting several sites, the U.S. War Department agreed to the lease on June 14, 1917. In a prophetic statement, Albert Bond Lambert remarked, "The establishment of this field adds greatly to the prestige of the St. Louis district and will undoubtedly play an important part in the development of aeronautics from a commercial standpoint after the war."
It was going to take a tremendous amount of time, money, and manpower to build an aviation field from scratch. Congress appropriated $10 million for its construction and 2,000 laborers and carpenters were immediately put to work. The government gave the Unit Construction Company 60 days to erect approximately 59 buildings, lay a mile-long railroad spur to connect the field with the main line of the Southern Railroad, and level off an airfield with a 1,600-foot landing circle. Construction was well underway when the government announced it would name the new field after Corporal Frank S. Scott, the first enlisted person killed in an aviation crash.
Frank Scott enlisted in the Field Artillery at Fort Slocum, N.Y. in 1908, at the age of 24. A lengthy illness led to his 1911 reassignment to the Signal Corps Aviation School at College Park Flying Field, Maryland, where he later served as a chief mechanic for one of the Wright Type-B biplanes. Interested in flying, Corporal Scott asked Lieutenant Lewis Rockwell to take him along on a flight. The unfortunate opportunity came Sept. 28, 1912.
First, Lieutenant Rockwell made a solo run over College Park at the remarkable speed of 40-miles-per-hour, with a crowd of 300 watching below. Confident that everything was in good order, he landed and brought Corporal Scott on board. After reaching 150 feet, the pilot leveled off and soared for about 10 minutes. But as he brought the plane in for a landing, the craft developed engine trouble and crashed to the ground in a pile of splintered wood and torn canvas. Corporal Scott was killed instantly, and Lieutenant Rockwell died later that evening. Both men were buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Oct. 1, 1912. The decision to name the aviation site at Belleville, Illinois, after Corporal Scott is a lasting tribute to those who lost their lives during the early years of the military aviation.
Scott Field was one of the first aviation stations built as part of the nation's World War I effort. The 11th and 21st Aero Squadrons of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service arrived from Kelly Field, Texas, on Aug. 12, 1917. Construction was completed by the end of August, but the first four aircraft--of a potential contingent of 72--did not arrive until September. On Sept. 2, 1917, William Couch, a civilian flying instructor, and Scott Field Commander, Major George E. A. Reinburg, made the first flight from Scott Field in a Standard two-seater biplane. At least seven Standards were already on Scott; by the time the first Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny" arrived. Operable from the front or rear seat, the 8-cylinder, 90-horsepower, Jenny would become the primary trainer used on Scott Field.
Flying instruction officially began on Sept. 11, 1917, and seventeen days later Cadet Merrit O. White became Scott's first pilot trainee to make a solo flight. Everything moved fast in a wartime environment, including the dangerous act of learning to fly airplanes. A judgment error or weather shift could produce severe accidents in the fragile aircraft of the day, so it soon became apparent that Scott Field needed a medical air evacuation capability.
Determined to improve the recovery of Scott's downed pilots, Captains Charles Bayless (post surgeon), Early Hoag (officer-in-charge of flying) and A.J. Etheridge (post engineer), along with Second Lieutenant Seth Thomas, designed two air ambulances, or hospital ships--using a configuration likely modeled after one in use at Gerstner Field, Louisiana. By the summer of 1918, Scott Field's engineering department had completed the rear cockpit modifications needed to convert two Jennies. Not long thereafter, on Aug. 24, 1918, as aviator with a broken leg became Scott's first air evacuated patient. Despite the many jokes made about the "red coffin," its presence was certainly reassuring to all.
Also reassuring, was the support Scott Field enjoyed from the local community. Plenty of curious sightseers came just to watch the construction or catch a glimpse of airplane activity, but many from the local community also gave morale support to their "Sammies" (Uncle Sam's boys). They hosted dances and receptions, established a library branch on the field, and invited soldiers into their homes for Thanksgiving dinners. Likewise, Scott Field hosted sporting events with their community neighbors and, on Aug. 17, 1918, they invited the public to attend a Field Meet and Flight Exhibition--Scott's first Air Show.
Scott Field's future became uncertain after the Nov. 11, 1918, signing of the armistice ending World War I. Large scale demobilization closed many U.S. air fields. Scott's remaining units were organized into a Flying School Detachment, and the field itself was designated as a storage site for demobilized equipment. Welcome news came early in 1919, with the War Department's announcement of its decision to purchase Scott Field--a decision influenced by Scott's central location and exceptional purchase price of just $119,285.84. This gave Scott a promise of a future; however, it still lacked a mission.
The new mission was finally selected in 1921, when the Secretary of War authorized building a lighter-than-air (LTA) station on Scott Field. Chief of the Air Service, Major General Charles Menoher, had suggested the idea based on Scott's central location and good weather, but credit for getting the War Department's approval goes largely to the repeated efforts of Edward Daley, Secretary of the Belleville Board of Trade. With approval, and $1.25 million in funding, the Air Service set about making Scott Field into the first inland airship port in the nation.
In addition to the World War 1-era structures, Scott Field needed many new facilities to accommodate its new balloon/airship mission. The most notable addition was the new airship hangar. Constructed between Sept. 1921 and Jan. 1923, it was three blocks long, nearly one block wide and 15 stories high. One report commented that 100,000 men--nearly the entire U.S. Army in 1923--could have stood in formation inside it. Scott's hangar was second in size only to the naval station hangar in Lakehurst, N.J., the largest one in the world at the time.
A couple of highlights of Scott's LTA era (1921-1937) include the 74-mph speed record for dirigibles, set by Scott Field's TC-1 in 1923, and the American free balloon altitude record of 28,510 feet, set in 1927, by Captain Hawthorne C. Gray. Captain Gray would have set a 42,470-feet world record later that same year had he survived that flight. A series of airship mishaps led the Chief of the Army Air Corps to recommend an end to LTA activities in May 1937, and the following month Scott's LTA-era came to an abrupt end.
The promise of a new mission came on Jun. 2, 1938, when the field was selected to become the new home to the General Headquarters Air Force (GHQAF) which would have made Scott Field the nerve center of the entire Army Air Corps. To prepare for the new mission, the old wooden barracks, administration buildings, airship mooring mast, and even airship hangar had to be torn down. (Today, building P-7, a 1923 electric substation, remains as Scott's oldest building.)
As the LTA and World War 1-era buildings came down, Scott Field began to grow. From 1938 to 1939, as part of a planned $7.5 million expansion program, the 628,572-acre LTA station more than doubled in size to 1,882,382 acres. The Works Progress Administration (employing as many as 2,500 people) and numerous contractors began work in Aug. 1938 on the Colonial style administration buildings, bachelor officer quarters (bldg 150), family quarters, barracks (P-40W & P-40N), service club (P-5), post exchange (P-8), commissary (bldg 52), fire and guard house (P-43) new hangar (bldg 443), entrance gate (P-2) and other facilities--nearly 100 buildings in all.
With the outbreak of World War II, the GHQAF move to Scott was cancelled. Instead, Scott Field reverted back to its former role as a training installation. On June 1, 1939, one of Scott's Balloon Groups was redesignated as a headquarters unit of the Scott Field Branch of the Army Air Corps Technical Schools. Subsequently, various technical schools moved to Scott. The arrival of the Radio School on Sept. 19, 1940, marked the beginning of Scott Field's communication training-era.
With the new training mission, came even more construction and growth. Over a two-year period, approximately 400 temporary wooden structures were built in four areas. Area 1 (adjacent to the brick structures) was a 2,205-man cantonment area consisting of barracks, mess halls, and recreational buildings. Area 2 (south end of the airfield) was a 5,670-man cantonment area that consisted of the Radio School, barracks, admin buildings, recreational buildings, and others, to include a 6,000-man mess hall (bldg 700)--one of the largest in the nation. Area 3 (on the east side of the airfield) included barracks, admin buildings, mess halls and other buildings. Each of the three areas had its own group headquarters, theater, chapel, library, service club, and exchanges. Area 4's shipping/receiving facilities and a 1000-man inductee reception center were added later just across from Area 2. The field's 43-bed medical facility (building P-4) quickly proved insufficient to support Scott's booming population of 20,000, so brick barracks and 62 wood-framed buildings were added, producing an 829 patient capacity.
After Sept. 1940, the primary wartime mission of Scott was to train skilled radio operator/maintainers; to produce, as the Radio School's slogan proclaimed, "the best damned radio operators in the world!" Scott's graduates flew in aircraft and operated command and control communications in every Theater of the War, and were often referred to as the "Eyes and Ears of the Army Air Forces." By the end of World War II, Scott's Radio School--becoming something of a "Communications University of the Army Air Forces"--had graduated 77,370 radio operator/mechanics. While all had been important to the nation's victory, two of the schools more well known graduates were Medal of Honor recipient Technical Sergeant Forrest Lee Vosler, and the future first Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Paul Airey.
Though the Radio School was the primary World War II-era mission, it was not intended to be Scott's only mission. The Air Corps had also planned for Scott to become a major air terminal. In 1940, a $1 million project began to construct four mile-long concrete runways. Though not fully completed until Nov. 1942, the portions that were complete provided a capability to give advanced flying school graduates instruction in instrument and night flying, navigation, photography, and administrative flights. By late 1943, the Radio School students were in the air as well, practicing code transmission under actual flight conditions. Unfortunately, airfield operations had to be sharply curtailed in May 1944, after an accidental tool-spark set fire to Hangar 1--Scott's only hangar. Repairs were not completed until May 1945. After World War II, more changes lie ahead for Scott.
The U.S. Air Force became a separate service on Sept. 17, 1947, and a few months later, on Jan. 13, 1948, Scott Field was redesignated as Scott Air Force Base. As part of the transition, Scott AFB came under new Air Force management when the 3310th Technical Training Wing assumed host responsibility from the 3505th Army Air Forces Base Unit. The following year, Headquarters Air Training Command became the first major command on Scott, as it completed its move from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. Air Force technical training, primarily communications training, continued to be Scott's primary mission through the late 1950s.
In 1957, Military Air Transport Service (MATS) moved to Scott AFB to help facilitate management of its east and west coast units, as Air Training Command left Scott AFB for Randolph AFB, Texas. During the changeover some technical training continued, however, by Feb. 1959, the few remaining technical courses left Scott for other bases. Their departure brought to an end Scott's 40+ years (1917-1959) as a training base and concluded Scott's 20-year technical training era (1939-1959). With the transition complete, Scott's new primary mission became air mobility.
As part of the air mobility transition, Air Training Command's 3310th Technical Training Wing--Scott's host wing since 1948--was redesignated on Oct. 1, 1957, as the 1405th Air Base Wing, a Military Air Transport Service organization. Shortly after the redesignation, the 1405th went to work on base improvements. Between 1957 and 1961, nearly 400 wooden World War II-era buildings were removed. The area across Highway 158 (today Scott Drive), became integrated into the base, as new structures were built and old ones renovated. The new 250-bed hospital opened in 1958; Chapel I and the 800-man dinning hall (bldg 1907) opened in 1960; and Scott Lake opened in 1962.
As the host wing, the 1405th also supported many tenant organization missions, to include; communications, weather, air defense, and even Air Force Reserve training (932nd Troop Carrier Group). One supported mission that was quickly becoming a primary Scott mission was aeromedical evacuation. Based on its airfield and World War II-era hospital facilities, Scott was chosen in 1949 as a "remain-over-night" station for aeromedical evacuees. Fighting in Korea began in 1950, and by the end of the year, Douglas C-54 Skymasters were bringing 200 patients a week to Scott. Building on earlier successes, by 1964, Scott was selected to become the headquarters for all aeromedical evacuation operations within the continental United States. As part of assuming the new mission and aeromedical units, the 1405th was redesignated as the 1405th Aeromedical Transport Wing. [The 1405th kept its eagle holding a MATS globe emblem, but changed its motto to "DESUPER ADIUMENTUM" meaning "Help From Above."]
Increasing importance placed on airlift led to MATS being redesignated as Military Airlift Command (MAC) in 1966. This consolidated airlift resources and placed it on an equal footing with other Air Force combat elements. As part of this reorganization, the 1405th was discontinued on Jan. 12, 1966, and its mission and resources were absorbed by MAC's newly activated 375th Aeromedical Airlift Wing. The 375th assumed all the roles and responsibilities of the 1405th [even its emblem and motto, still in use today].
The 375th's responsibilities changed in 1968, when the wing's 375th Air Base Group inactivated and host operations for Scott AFB was assumed by a new MAC organization, the 1400th Air Base Wing. This reorganization allowed the 375th to focus on its aeromedical evacuation mission which was expected to grow as a result of newly acquired C-9A Nightingale aircraft. Ultimately, even Scott's Air Force Reserve unit reorganized to help support the C-9A mission--becoming the 932nd Aeromedical Airlift Group (Reserve Associate) in 1969. The advanced speed, range, and capability of the new C-9As led to a quick phase-out of the C-118 Liftmasters and C-131A Samaritans, though the C-141 Starlifters continued providing long-distance medical evacuation flights from Southeast Asia to U.S. air bases--including Scott.
The Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973, and in the same year, Scott's Patient Airlift Center coordinated 61 aeromedical missions to bring 357 former Prisoners of War back to the U.S. in Operation HOMECOMING. In June 1973, the 1400th Air Base Wing inactivated, the 375th Air Base Group (today the 375th Mission Support Group) reactivated, and host wing responsibilities reverted back to the 375th Aeromedical Airlift Wing.
During it's time as Scott's host wing (1968-1973), the 1400th had managed massive base construction projects to include; Galaxy Housing, Shiloh Housing, a new portion of Wherry Housing, the new MAC headquarters, the BX (bldg 1650), the bowling center, the bank, the movie theater, the youth center, and the commissary (bldg 1961). After the inactivation, the 375th continued where the 1400th left off, completing; the James Gym, the aeromedical staging facility, the computer facility, and the dental clinic. One particularly significant project was the 1976 construction of the Shiloh and Belleville gates, restricting base access--a project first made possible by the completion of the Illinois Highway 158 bypass. Into the 1980s and 1990s, Scott continued to grow and change with the completion of still more projects, such as; the Air Force Communication Agency Headquarters, the USTRANSCOM Headquarters, the 126th Air Refueling Wing facilities, the MidAmerica Airport, plus the Patriot and Lincoln Landing housing areas.
While Scott's infrastructure was evolving, so too was the mission of the 375th Aeromedical Airlift Wing. In 1975, the wing was given responsibility for MAC's recently acquired worldwide aeromedical evacuation system. As a result, in addition to its stateside missions, the 375th also became involved with a myriad of world-wide aeromedical evacuation missions ranging from movement of Jonestown, Guyana, airstrip ambush survivors in 1978, to evacuation of freed American hostages from Iran in 1981, to evacuation of Marines from the Beirut barracks bombing in 1983.
In 1978, the 375th Aeromedical Airlift Wing was also given responsibility for MAC's continental U.S. Operational Support Airlift (OSA) mission. Since the early days, Scott had always had a few aircraft available to quickly move military leaders or critical cargo. The need for OSA steadily grew over time, and in 1962, Scott received the first Rockwell T-39A (later CT-39A) Sabreliners for training and some OSA missions. After 1978 however, OSA became a primary Scott mission as the 375th acquired the massive continental fleet of 104 Sabreliners dispersed across many locations flying a combined total of 92,000 hours a year. By 1984, Sabreliners began to be phased out of the Air Force inventory. That same year, the 375th received the first three Gates C-21A Learjets and flew the last CT-39 training mission. [The CT-39A and C-45H displayed by Scott's Hanger 1, commemorate those early OSA operations.]
With the Cold War drawing to a close in 1989, more changes were in store for Scott AFB. The Air Force began implementing an 'objective wing' structure in 1990, enabling wings to operate multiple types of aircraft. In implementing the objective wing's 'one base, one wing, one boss' concept, aeromedical units realigned to their respective host wings. Through this reorganization, the 375th transitioned to a Military Airlift Wing in 1990 and to an Airlift Wing in 1991. In 1993, the 375th's OSA units also realigned to their respective host wings.
On an Air Force-level, many Cold War-era commands inactivated in 1992--including Military Airlift Command. Personnel and assets from MAC and other commands were recombined to form a brand new Air Mobility Command (AMC). With its activation, AMC took up residence in MAC's headquarters building, and replaced MAC as a component of U.S. Transportation Command--a DOD Unified Command headquartered at Scott since its 1987 activation.
Into the 1990s, Scott's 375th Airlift Wing continued operating its fleet of ten C-9A Nightingales covering an area of responsibility stretching from North America, to Central America and the Caribbean. As part of this mission, Scott supported relief efforts for; the Great Flood of 1993, Operation ALLIED FORCE in 1999, and recovery after the 2001 terrorist attacks. But aeromedical airlift operations went through a considerable transformation in 2003, as a result of the Air Force decision to retire the C-9A Nightingales.
In addition to noise and maintenance issues with the aging C-9A, the Air Force's decision was based on decreasing need for aeromedical airlift since 1990s introduction of TRICARE. The expanded use of TRICARE network healthcare providers also supported the Air Force-wide downsizing of military hospitals, and contributed to 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendation to convert Scott's hospital into a clinic. Today, the 375th Airlift Wing continues to support aeromedical airlift, as does the redesignated 932nd Airlift Wing (AFRC), though now both use other airframes.
The C-21A continental operational support airlift (OSA) units dispersed in 1993, but were reconsolidated under the 375th Airlift Wing again in 1997. Some fleet reductions occurred over the years, but in 2007, a particularly significant recapitalization initiative reduced the wing's remaining 50 C-21As down to just 20 aircraft. Though some capability was lost, some capability was also gained through the 375th's activation of the 54th Airlift Squadron on Scott as an active associate squadron to support flying the C-40C aircraft of the 932nd Airlift Wing (AFRC).
Scott continued supporting aeromedical airlift, operational support airlift, and many of the same tenant missions it has supported for decades. One very important new mission was added in Oct. 1, 2003, as a result of AMC's warfighting headquarters reorganization. This reorganization reactivated the Eighteenth Air Force, on inactive status since 1958, and realigned under the Eighteenth, AMC's Fifteenth and Twenty-First Air Forces--both redesignated as Expeditionary Mobility Task Forces--and all of AMC's wings and independent groups. AMC's new Expeditionary Mobility Task Force concept established a ready mobility operations capability to provide faster support for contingency and humanitarian missions.
Scott has gone through many, many changes over the years, in size, infrastructure, and mission. Today, Scott AFB supports; U.S. Transportation Command, Air Mobility Command, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, Air Force Network Integration Center, Defense Systems Information Agency CONUS, Eighteenth Air Force, 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center, 375th Airlift Wing, 635th Supply Chain Management Wing, 126th Air Refueling Wing (ANG), 932nd Airlift Wing (AFRC), and more than 50 other associate partners. Together, they make up Joint Total Force Scott--one team cooperating to accomplish many missions, all supporting Scott's major role in fighting the Global War on Terror. It will be JTF Scott that shapes the future, leveraging technology, ingenuity, and manpower, to make Scott's next 95 years even more successful than the last!
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