Plainview PGS Article 21

Morris purchased Piper L-4A that once trained glider pilots at Finney Field

By John W. McCullough, Graduate Student in History, Texas Tech University

This is the 21st article about Clent Breedlove’s Plainview Pre-Glider School at Finney Field.

Joe Morris of Blue Sky Airport near Canyon, Texas contacted Silent Wings Museum in 2011 to tell them that he had a Piper L-4A aircraft from WWII and was interested in seeing it housed in a museum at some point in the future.  Morris was also interested in obtaining more information about the history of his aircraft at the various bases where it was located during the war.

Eddy Grigsby, Director of Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, directed Morris to the BREEDLOVE-CPTP research website.  All of the articles written for the Plainview Herald about Clent Breedlove’s Plainview Pre-Glider School at Finney Field are published on that website:

Morris then emailed some information about his Piper L-4A aircraft to the BREEDLOVE-CPTP email address which included a letter from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

In a recent interview at Blue Sky Airport, Joe Morris provided some details about the Piper L-4 aircraft which was used for many types of duties during WWII.

According to Morris, William T. Piper was originally associated with the Taylorcraft aircraft company.  According to the Piper website (, Mr. Piper formed his own company in 1937.

Piper Aircraft created a military version of their civilian J-3 Cub and designated it the L-4.  The many variations of the L-4 were nicknamed “grasshoppers” and were used widely in WWII in a variety of roles including reconnaissance, transportation of supplies, and medical evacuations, said Morris.

Almost 5,700 L-4s were produced for the U.S. Army Air Forces and about 250 were made for the U.S. Navy during the war, according to Morris’s research.

Morris’s Piper L-4A is listed with U.S. Army Air Force serial number 42-36813.  The 42 indicates that it was built in 1942.  Morris noted that after war planes were transferred to civilian use after the end of the conflict, the two-digit year was dropped.  So his Piper L-4A is marked 236813 on its tail section now.

Morris purchased his Piper L4-A from a man outside of Denver in 2006 but he does not recall the man’s name.  Morris saw the aircraft advertised in the Barnstormers website where many aircraft are bought and sold.

The plane was just a shell at the time and not flyable.

“It was really just the frame of the plane when I purchased it and it showed a lot of wear.  It obviously had been exposed to the weather for many years”, commented Morris.

 Morris hauled a trailer to Denver and brought the aircraft frame back to Blue Sky Airport.  He paid $11,000 for it.

Along with the aircraft frame came some paperwork including a letter from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  The letter was dated June 23, 2004.

The letter was addressed to Mr. Don Port of Golden, Colorado.  Morris never met Mr. Port but he believes that after Port sold the aircraft frame that possibly two other men owned it before Morris bought it.

According to the letter from the Smithsonian addressed to Don Port, this 1942 Piper L4-A was delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force on June 2, 1942 for a unit cost of $2,220.  It was first assigned to the 11th Glider Detachment at Miller Wittig Airport, Grand Forks, North Dakota a few days later on June 7.

It was then reassigned to Lubbock Air Base on November 11, 1942.  This was most likely Lubbock Army Air Field which was located about 10 miles west of Lubbock.  Lubbock AAF was later renamed Reese Air Force Base in 1949.

From Lubbock AAF, it was sent to Artesia on November 30.  The letter states that it went to Artesia, Texas, but according to Google online maps, there is no Artesia, Texas.  There is an Artesia Wells, Texas but it is located in south Texas north of Laredo.

Since no WWII Army Air Field was located at Artesia Wells, Texas, the reference to Artesia in the letter most likely meant Artesia, New Mexico.   Artesia Army Air Field was located at Artesia, New Mexico during WWII.

After this plane stayed at Artesia AAF briefly, it was returned to Lubbock on December 18, 1942 and then went to Plainview, Texas on February 27, 1943.  After that, the plane was sent to Lamesa, Texas on April 15, 1943.

Because this aircraft was located at Plainview, Texas from February to April of 1943, it was undoubtedly used at Finney Field in Clent Breedlove’s Plainview Pre-Glider School.

Morris finished the restoration work on his Piper L-4A in 2008 and flew it for the first time then.

Morris was born in Tulia and graduated from Tulia High School in 1951.  He retired as a commercial airline captain with Continental Airlines in November, 2013.

More about this history of Morris’s Piper L-4A aircraft which was used in glider pilot training at Finney Field in early 1943 will be discussed in the next article.

Readers are also asked to visit the Silent Wings Museum website at and for more details about the glider program of WWII.

Anyone with information about the Plainview Pre-Glider School at Finney Field should contact John McCullough at (806)793-4448 or email


Joe Morris of Blue Sky Airport in Canyon, Texas (near Amarillo) stands next to his Piper L-4A aircraft.  Morris fully restored this aircraft to flying condition.  It was once registered for use by Clent Breedlove at the Plainview Pre-Glider School in 1943 at Finney Field.  Photo courtesy John McCullough.