Location: Tuskegee, Alabama
Webpage: National Park Service
General Description: Morton Field was the only primary location during World War II to provide the initial training for African-American candidates for the U.S. Army Air Corps. Successful candidates then went on to training at Tuskegee Army Air Field for formal military training. This facility was under contract with the US Army with Tuskegee Institute who were to supply facilities for the aircraft, personnel, and trainers. The facility was under the ownership of Tuskegee Institute and in addition to providing the facilities also provide much of the instruction as part of its renowned aeronautical engineering program. The Historical Site includes the original airstrip, which is now a commercial airfield for Tuskegee, the two hangers, control tower, locker building, clubhouse, wooden offices and storage buildings, brick storage buildings, and a vehicle maintenance area. Hanger #1 houses the museum with displays of aircraft, maintenance and training facilities, recorded interviews of staff and students. While it only takes an hour or two to visit the site, it is a worthwhile experience especially for those interested in World War II history. Hanger #2 is schedule to open within the next year and will greatly expand the museum.
1) I was surprised to find out that this facility was only the first step in training future pilots. It included only the basic training in aviation and most of the candidates did not graduate.
2) The planes were designed to be quickly repaired. While it would appear that routine maintenance was strictly adhered to, major repairs were common. This might include engine overhauls to the replacement of entire wing assemblies. I am certain I would not want to trust those aircraft myself, but their were surprising few casualties during the training program.
3) One of the biggest safety concerns for the airfield was fire which meant the fire suppression systems were extensive. They had a large holding pond on site for this purpose.
4) While the pilots were proud of their success, it is obvious from the interviews and displays that they had to deal with a very high level of prejudice from the army. Most of the time the support from the army was minimal and it is obvious this program could not have been successful without the support and reputation of Tuskegee Institute.