The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

October 26, 2012

Marker recognizes Pryor Field’s rich WWII history

— Seventy years ago, the Limestone County land, now the site of Pryor Field Airport, was teeming with pilots being trained to fight in World War II.

Beginning in October 1941, student pilots gathered — about 50 at a time — at the Southern Aviation Training School located three miles north of Decatur, said Larry Hall, pilot and Pryor Field historical marker project manager. Their trainers — many of them skilled crop dusters — were bent on producing pilots who could help win the war, he said.

The facility began with an administration building and infirmary, classrooms, mess hall, two barracks, dispatch towers and two hangers designed to hold 30 planes each, Hall said. By December of ’41, workers had built additional hangars and barracks, a hospital, classroom building, link trainer building and enlarged the kitchen and mess hall, Hall said.

Thursday, a group of people gathered at the new Pryor Regional Airport Terminal to celebrate the placement of the former training school on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. Following dedication of the historical marker, an open house and lunch were held at the new terminal, which is located about a mile north of Calhoun Community College.

He said former Pryor Field owner Clay Smith, who died in 2007, was the impetus for seeking a historic marker. Hall said he pursued the project after hearing Smith.

“Clay shared stories about the pilots, the trainers and what went on here,” Hall said. “I was impressed by all of his information, his collection of memorabilia, his tremendous research and his efforts to get pilots together.”

With such rich history, Hall thought the site should be recognized, advertised and patronized but certainly retained for posterity and future generations. So, he began the process of getting the airport named an historic landmark. The application for historic designation was approved in December 2010. The Air Board agreed to buy an historical marker for the site; it arrived in May and was installed. The metal marker now stands between two of the original hangars built during the war. The following is an excerpt from the new marker:

“…These two aircraft hangars and beacon tower are the remaining artifacts of one of only a few World War II Army Air Force Training Centers that have remained in continuous

use as airplane hangars since 1941. The school provided primary flight training for Army Air Force pilots. The facility was deactivated on Dec. 28, 1944, and turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers in September 1945. The training center was eventually discharged as surplus to the War Assets Administration and became a civil airport. The hangars were then used to convert surplus Army aircraft for commercial airline use for the Southern Airways Company, which later became part of Delta Airlines.”

1
Text Only
Local News
Photos


Poll

Which foreign crisis is the biggest threat to the security of the United States?

Russia-Ukraine
Israel-Palestine
Iraq
None of the above
     View Results
Facebook
AP Video
Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando
Twitter Updates
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Business Marquee