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January 20, 2017
 

High Desert Hangar Stories with Bob Alvis

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Bob Alvis
Special to Aerotech News

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Thick as flies, and twice as loud.

There are many things we can be proud of here in the Antelope Valley, but one thing gets overlooked many times, and unknown to many new residents of our Valley is the role it played in training all those young boys that took to the skies in World War II.

I’ve told you stories on these pages about our War Eagle Field and its operations in the 1940s, but in this issue I want to focus on an airfield that was built to support that operation.

Two airfields were built to the north of Lancaster to handle the overload from War Eagle Field. They were Liberty Field and the one I will focus on here, Victory Field. Fifty-plus BT-13 trainers were constantly in the air seven days a week, weather permitting, and the sight and sound were a constant companion for Valley residents day and night. The facilities at War Eagle presented a challenge for student pilots trying to focus on lessons away from the cockpit, as the constant noise and distraction of a flying circus interrupted their studies.

The answer was the building of the two auxiliary fields to handle the flight operations training for all these cadets. Victory Field, one of our “fields of gold” built with the crushed-up mine tailings from Rosamond’s Tropico Gold Mine in its runways, consisted of two complete runways with one operation igloo. The igloo was a result of a very interesting construction technique where workers would inflate a balloon and spray a stucco-type mix all over it. When it dried, they would deflate the balloon and cut in windows, doors, and then paint it white.

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The rare photos I have here come from a chance meeting with World War II pilot Pat Connolly who, after an interaction on a project I was working on about War Eagle Field, told me he had trained here and had taken movies of his time flying in basic training. Luckily, some of those movies were of his landing and checking in at Victory Field.

The fields are still there today if you know where to look under all that desert sage. The operations igloo can be visited, even though it’s been reduced to just the basic foundation and a bit of the shell out at Victory.

I find myself sometimes sitting out there and trying to imagine the sights and sounds and the seriousness of the operation, as young men trained for war in a very stressful environment where failure could have ended up with death or washing out of the program.

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I also think about the underlying excitement of those young men as they took to the skies every day and chased the clouds — and each other — as American aviation cadets.

“Thick as flies and twice as loud” was the community’s jest in response to the noise and air traffic, but thinking about it, what a beautiful sight and sound as the very best of our nation filled the skies of our Antelope Valley many years ago.

Till next time, Bob out …




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