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Carlstrom Field
DeSoto County, near Arcadia, Florida
Carlstrom Field - FL - 1942.jpg
A 1942 photo of a Major George Ola in a PT-17 Stearman biplane trainer over Carlstrom Field

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Type Army Airfield
Coordinates Latitude:
Built 1917
In use 1917-1945
Desoto County Juvenile Correctional Complex
Controlled by US Army Air Roundel.svg  Air Service, United States Army
US Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg  United States Army Air Forces
Garrison Training Section, Air Service (World War I)
Army Air Force Training Command (World War I)
Battles/wars World War I War Service Streamer without inscription.png
World War I
Streamer WWII V.PNG
World War II

Carlstrom Field, Florida, World War I photograph, 1918

Carlstrom Field, Florida, World War II, note the PT-17 Stearmans on the flight line and the rebuilt hangars and ground station.

Carlstrom Field is a former military airfield, located 6.4 miles (10.3 km) southwest of Arcadia, Florida. The airfield was one of thirty-two Air Service training camps established in 1917 after the United States entry into World War I.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

Carlstrom Field was named after 1st Lieutenant Victor Carlstrom. He was born in Sweden on April 13, 1890. He migrated to the United States through Ellis Island in 1904 when he was 14. He moved to North Park, Colorado where his uncles Andrew Carlstrom and William Norell Carlstrom had established cattle ranches. Carlstrom was killed in an aircraft accident in Newport News, Virginia, who had made many "first" flights and set many altitude and distance records. On 9 May 1917, Carlstrom and a student pilot were killed when the wing of the aircraft he was piloting failed in flight.[2]

World War I[edit | edit source]

In 1917 the Army announced its intention of establishing a series of camps to train prospective pilots after the United States entry into World War I. An Army survey crew was sent to Southwest Florida looking for suitable sites to build airfields, one selected was a site about 6 miles to the southwest of Arcadia, Florida. An agreement to lease the land for the Army was concluded, and the construction of some 90 buildings began in January 1918. It covered over 700 acres (2.8 km2) which included fourteen hangars that housed four to eight planes each, a hospital, and six barracks that held 175 men each. Dozens of wooden buildings served as headquarters, maintenance, and officers’ quarters. Enlisted men had to bivouac in tents.[3]

In March, 1918 the 107th and 108th Aero Squadrons was transferred from Rich Field, Waco, Texas and assigned to the new Carlstrom Field. In April the 76th and 109th Aero Squadrons, also arrived from Rich Field, but were subsequently transferred over to Dorr Field; which was designed as an auxiliary sub-field for Carlstrom. Only a few Air Service aircraft arrived from Waco; most of the Curtiss JN-4 Jennys to be used for flight training were shipped in wooden crates by railcar. Carlstrom Field served as a base for flight training for the Army Air Service. In 1918, flight training occurred in two phases: primary and advanced. Primary training took eight weeks and consisted of pilots learning basic flight skills under dual and solo instruction with a student capacity of 300. After completion of their primary training at Carlstrom, flight cadets were then transferred to another base for advanced training.[3]

Squadrons assigned to Carlstrom Field were:[4]

  • Post Headquarters, Carlstrom Field, March–September 1919
  • 107th Aero Squadron (II), March 1918
Re-designated: Squadron "A", July–November 1918
  • 108th Aero Squadron (II), March 1918
Re-designated: Squadron "B", July–November 1918
  • 111th Aero Squadron (II), May 1918 (Initially at Dorr Field)
Re-designated: Squadron "C", July–November 1918
  • 205th Aero Squadron (II), April 1918
Re-designated: Squadron "D", July–November 1918
  • 284th Aero Squadron (II), February 1918
Re-designated: Squadron "E", July–November 1918
  • 302d Aero Squadron (Service), June 1918
Re-designated: Squadron "F", July–November 1918
  • Flying School Detachment (Consolidation of Squadrons A-F), November 1918-September 1919

Junius Wallace Jones, who later rose to the rank of Major General and was the first Inspector-General of the United States Air Force received his flight training here. With the sudden end of World War I in November 1918, the future operational status of Carlstrom Field was unknown. Many local officials speculated that the U.S. government would keep the field open because of the outstanding combat record established by Carlstrom -trained pilots in Europe. Locals also pointed to the optimal weather conditions in the Southwest Florida area for flight training. Cadets in flight training on 11 November 1918 were allowed to complete their training, however no new cadets were assigned to the base. Also the separate training squadrons were consolidated into a single Flying School detachment, as many of the personnel assigned were being demobilized.[3]

Inter-war period[edit | edit source]

Rapid demobilization followed the end of World War I, and despite the experience of that conflict, the Army's air arm remained quite small during most of the interwar period.[3] After the armistice, Carlstrom Field served as a testing area for various aircraft, dirgibles, and other aeronautical weapons. In October 1919, final testing of an experimental unmanned aircraft called the "Kettering Bug", one of the earliest examples of a cruise missile, was successfully tested & launched at Carlstrom Field. In January 1920 primary pilot instruction resumed on a small scale at Carlstrom Field with the opening of the Air Service Pilots' School. Training in primary flying took place at both Carlstrom and Dorr Fields. However, the administrative difficulties of the Air Service training about 200 flying cadets concurrently at such widely separated locations in Texas, California and Florida prompted a decision in 1923 to centralize all flying training in San Antonio, Texas. Carlstrom was ordered to phase down all activities at the base, and the flying training school was subsequently transferred to Brooks Field.[3]

The War Department had ordered that a small caretaker force remain to dismantle all remaining structures and to sell them as surplus, and by 1926 Carlstrom field was closed. Throughout the remainder of the 1920s and 1930s, the War Department leased out the vacant land to local farmers and ranchers.[3]

World War II[edit | edit source]

With the need for primary pilot training brought on by World War II, Carlstrom re-opened in March 1941 under the operation of Riddle Aeronautical Institute. The 53d Flying Training Detachment was activated under then Brigadier-General Junius Wallace Jones, who learned to fly at Carlstrom. The 53d FTD exercised Air Corps oversight of Embry-Riddle. A new facility was built adjacent to the remains of World War I-era facilities and Riddle contracted to train Royal Air Force aviators and graduated the first class in August 1941.

Carlstrom Field had a very unusual layout, with a compact group of buildings located inside a circular road, with five hangars located around the southern periphery of the road. No paved runway was ever built with the flying conducted from the 1-square-mile (2.6 km2) grass field.

Postwar use[edit | edit source]

Closed after the war, Carlstrom Field became the site of the G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital in 1947. Many of World War II era buildings remain in use by the hospital, with former six-plane hangars serving as maintenance buildings. The band shell, site of dances and other entertainment during the war, remains on the site.

In 2002, the G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital was closed and operates today as the Desoto County Juvenile Correctional Complex. The only remembrance of Carlstrom field today is a plaque on the administration building placed when it was refurbished by the state of Florida in 1992, and a tired B-17 weather vane on top of the building.

The Oak Ridge Cemetery in Arcadia is the final resting-place of twenty-three RAF cadets who died while in the United States for training. A special marker at the cemetery recognizes their service and a ceremony is held in their memory each year on Memorial Day.

Though the original World War II blueprints called for six hangars at Carlstrom Field, only five were ever constructed. Of those five, the two built first survive. Also still standing are the mess hall, band shell, canteen, administration building, water and sewage plants, and two training buildings. All that remains from World War I version of Carlstrom Field are concrete pads along Highway 31 upon which the wooden hangars stood, and across the highway, on private property, is a concrete full-scale outline of a World War I biplane that is approximately one foot tall. It was used for target practice by filling it up with water and cadets would shoot at it from the air and be able to see "hits" when their bullets struck the water.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  1. William R. Evinger: Directory of Military Bases in the U.S., Oryx Press, Phoenix, Ariz., 1991, p. 147.
  2. Location of U.S. Aviation Fields, The New York Times, 21 July 1918
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 National Archives of the United States: Records of the Training and Operations Group (Air Service) and the Training and Operations Division (Air Corps) Records of the Army Air Forces (AAF), (Record Group 18) 1903-64 (bulk 1917-47)
  4. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the First World War, Volume 3, Part 3, Center of Military History, United States Army, 1949 (1988 Reprint)
  • Shaw, Frederick J. (2004), Locating Air Force Base Sites History’s Legacy, Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air Force, Washington DC, 2004.
  • Manning, Thomas A. (2005), History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. Office of History and Research, Headquarters, AETC, Randolph AFB, Texas ASIN: B000NYX3PC

External links[edit | edit source]

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