I recently came across a bunch of photos from my father's time at this Airfield in early 1942.
Some interesting things were going on there back in 1942.
Dad was here from 23 March - 1 May 1942.
Twenty nine Palms Air Academy would begin training around Jan. 1, 1942, to be followed, two weeks later, by a class of 18. Instruction was to last four weeks, and thereafter, classes of 24 each were to be enrolled every two weeks until 126 students had been trained.
The training represents the first definite step toward adoption experimentally of the use of gliders in the way motorless planes that have been employed by the Germans.
The Germans had been the first to use gliders in warfare, overtaking Fort Eben-Emael, a Belgian fortress, on May 10, 1940, leading to the subsequent capture of three important bridges. The Germans also used gliders in their invasion and seizure of the Greek island of Crete.
Those successes led Britain and Japan to begin glider programs, followed by the U.S.
The students in this new glider program would be air force officers selected from volunteers among pilot training instructors.
The object of these schools was to turn out soaring pilots, not aerial truck drivers, and the early Army trainees ended up as accomplished sailplane soarers.
The glider school was privately owned and would be operated by F.R. Whyers, a Pasadena civilian contractor, under air corps supervision. The 17th Army Air Force Field Training Detachment, 6th Army Air Force Glider Training Detachment operated at the school.
This would be the third glider school to be operated for Army pilots, the others in Elmira, N.Y. and Lockport, Ill.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the U.S. was thrust into war, within six months, the demand for trained glider pilots jumped from the small pre-war cadre of 126 to 6,000.
Instruction, including ground school, began for the first class of pilots on Jan. 18, 1942.
The gliders were towed on aircraft – or cars then they would cut loose to sail on their own. Some pilots were able to catch the perfect thermal that enabled them to soar to heights of almost 20,000 feet.
To the USAAF, sailplane thinking prevailed. By being able to soar - gain altitude on rising air currents - and therefore stay up longer on a given flight, the student would conceivably receive more instruction per flight. It was not long, however, before the military woke up to the fact that troop gliders were not simply bigger sailplanes that made long straight glides into enemy territory. They were, rather, low-performance trailers that had to be towed to a point almost directly over the landing area, and once over the designated spot, the real piloting skills necessary to reach the ground quickly in one piece, took over, if one wanted to survive.
Sailplanes, with their long flat glides in the range of 20 or 30 to one, plus their entirely different handling characteristics, were of little value in familiarizing pilots with troop carrying gliders. Further, they were not really an efficient vehicle for turning out skilled pilots quickly. As a consequence, the sailplane trainers were abandoned as soon as sufficient quantities of the CG-4A ‘Waco’ were available for advanced training. In the interim, several advanced training bases were established: Bergstrom, Dalhart and Lubbock, TX, Bowman, KY, Fort Sumner, NM, Greenville, SC, Lockbourne, OH, Stuttgart, AR and Victorville, CA. A major percentage of glider pilots were graduated from South Plains Army Air Base at Lubbock, TX.