High Desert Hangar Stories: The Control Tower — Can history be preserved?


The Control tower at War Eagle Field, the heart of air operations at the historic field.

Many of you know of my respect and dedication to sharing and preserving the history of Lancaster’s World War II training base, War Eagle Field.

War Eagle Field, which served as home to Polaris Flight Academy, was a training field for British and American pilots during the war years.

I fear the day is swiftly approaching that will see its demise and the chance to save a bit of that magical history will be lost forever. My question is: are we now so disconnected and distant from that generation and its history that we can find no way of preserving a part of that historic field, honoring the sacrifices of the hundreds who came to our Valley in a very dark chapter of world history to serve and train and pick up the sword of freedom and take it to battlefields around the world?

The entire base is still there at 60th Street West and Avenue I but, being a realist, I’m expecting that the politics of local governments will find no value in its history and old structures. The bulldozers will arrive and proceed to turn old dirt into new dirt. What was once the home base for hundreds of British and American airmen who began their journey on the world’s behalf will no longer meet the sunrise and sunsets and serve as hallowed ground to remember those young men from around the world, who left their all in the battlefields of the skies and now occupy cemeteries and unmarked graves in far-off lands.

The control tower in the early days of air operations at the field.

I’ve shared the history of War Eagle Field many times on these pages, including the loss a couple years ago of a very important artifact of that history, when the wind directional on the east side of the field — which I had hoped could be preserved and moved to another Valley location to serve as a continuing memorial to this time in our history — was unceremoniously removed and disposed of by Los Angeles County. That has left a very deep wound in my spirit that can never be repaired and I will just live with that heartache and hope for better outcomes in the future.

If we can find a way to touch the heart and souls of individuals that have no idea of the importance of what that piece of land means to thousands of families here in America and Europe, it would go a long way in helping to take a step back and realize that it’s more than just a piece of land to be used for the maintenance of society, but also a place where we can show what America is capable of in times of crisis.  

We will never save it all, as politics and practicality will see to that, but I do have hope that one important part of that story, a structure which is the very heart and soul of what this field was all about in the 1940s, can survive.

The Control Tower still stands today and is in need of the love that I know many in this community, around the nation and yes, even the United Kingdom, would love to see preserved in honor of all those who used its services 24-hours a day for more than five years. The War Eagle control tower needs preservation or a new home somewhere around our Valley. This is my plea to local leadership and government to help save this historic structure and find it a fitting home, where it can be a monument to local aviation history that was made in the skies of the Antelope Valley during World War II.  

One of the many classes of British and Canadian pilots to graduate from Lancaster.

Why a building? It comes down to the soul of that building and of all the facilties that were out at that site. This was the one place where the energies of pilots, instructors, ground crews and flight operation crews came together as one, answering the call of the world for highly skilled airmen to defend freedom.

Can we as a community, along with some visionary politicians in local government, come together and form an alliance to make this project a reality? Can the coming together of our community with that of our brothers and sisters in the United Kingdom help move forward the dialog of honoring those who came here to serve so many years ago? Is the opportunity to bring our Valley’s youth into a project like this something we would be willing to embrace?

Los Angeles County hold all the cards and only time will tell if they will be willing to serve and represent those of us who still embrace such things, and be a partner in an effort to find a home and a proper program to carry on the legacy of the field and its heroes from the Greatest Generation.

One of the many classes of American airmen that graduated from Lancaster.

I hope and pray I receive that phone call someday soon and that hearts and souls will soften to the possibilities of a meaningful dialog that can bear the fruit of understanding and cooperation, saving one historical building that was the heart and soul of Polaris Flight Academy/War Eagle Field and the touch point to every airman who trained there. 

We do this in their honor, the young men from America and Britain who never came home.

If you have an interest in this project and want to help make it a reality, please contact me via Aerotech News or on social media. If you’d like to read my past columns about War Eagle Field — including the loss of the weather directional, that was published in August 2016 — go to the home page of this web site and type War Eagle Field in the search box at the top right of the web page.

“One day we’ll write the stories we hold
The words will flow like ink from our pen
We’ll show the world that old buildings have souls
And we’ll also show them that so do old men.”

For now, and hoping for a miracle, Bob out …

The control tower as seen today, waiting for a chance to serve future generations with local history lessons in bravery, honor and commitment to freedom around the world.