MIDLAND, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- This Veterans Day, the Commemorative Air Force Museum in Midland unveiled a new exhibit dedicated to preserving the history of local veterans.
“We’re very concerned about making sure our veterans are recognized, especially the few remaining veterans of World War Two. Of the 16 million that served in World War Two, there are less than one million alive and we think it’s real important that people recognize the sacrifices that they made so the world we exist in can be what it is,” said CAF’s Bill Coombes.
Coombes and the CAF are helping recognize those sacrifices by keeping the stories of local veterans alive.
“What we have focused this area of our museum on is veterans who served in the war who lived either in Midland before the war or settled here after the war,” Coombes said. “We’re trying to collect stuff that belonged to people who had a connection to Midland/Odessa either during the war, before the war, or after the war, and put it on display.”
The exhibit features locals, including Earl Craig, Harvey Hurt, President George Bush, Paul Noel, and Coombes’ own parents, who moved to Midland after World War II.
Coombes said he hopes Midlanders will visit the exhibit and learn more about just how big a role the area played in the war effort.
“People don’t know what Midland was or how important Midland Army Airfield was to the war effort. It was the largest training base for bombardiers in the war, and that history is slipping away if somebody doesn’t step up and try to preserve it and that’s really what we pride ourselves on doing.”
Midland Army Airfield was a WWII U.S. Army Air Forces training facility off Highway 80, between Midland and Odessa.
Midland Army Airfield was a World War II United States Army Air Forces bombardier-training base on U.S. Highway 80 halfway between Midland and Odessa in Midland County. It was originally named Sloan Field for Samuel Addison Sloan, who leased 240 acres of pastureland from Clarence Scharbauer, a rancher, in October 1927 to establish a privately owned landing field and flying school. Sloan was killed in a plane crash in January of 1929, and the operation was continued by his brother and sister. Sloan Field was designated an Army Airways Station in May 1930 and in 1939, Harvey Sloan sold the Field to the City of Midland for $14,500.
Historians said that prominent businessmen in Midland could foresee the possibility of a military base in West Texas. In 1940, after Hitler struck Poland, they started promoting the airport for use as a training base to the military establishment in Washington. Workers added more runway and taxiway improvements, as well as airfield lighting, and in June of 1941, it was announced that Midland would get the air school. The municipal airport was leased to the United States government for a dollar a year, and construction began that July.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Isaiah Davies, Commanding Officer of Midland Army Airfield, announced that the school would be used exclusively to train bombardiers. The air field was deactivated as a military installation in 1946 and returned to the city of Midland in 1947. Since that date, it has been improved and modernized and has grown into what is now known as the Midland International Air and Space Port.
“I think it’s amazing that we can be here and still use the same runways they used in 1942…we’re very proud of what we have here,” Coombes said.
Coombes, an airplane enthusiast and avid supporter of all veterans, said that those who served rarely want to be thanked, but deserve that gratitude nonetheless.
“All of the people, I have interviewed- hundreds of World War Two veterans they didn’t want thanks…(but), they did serve, and it was important that they served I think the CAF does a fairly good job of preserving our history that way and I think that people ought to be able to say thank you and have some sincerity in their voice when doing it. I don’t think you can say thank you enough and it’s not just World War Two veterans, but all veterans who served. We have a volunteer army mentality here from the very get-go and they (veterans) didn’t have to do it, they did it out of love and country.”
If you’d like to learn more about the CAF or its exhibits, click here.