CLENT BREEDLOVE
CIVILIAN PILOT TRAINING PROGRAM
PRE-FLIGHTS PROGRAM
1939-1945

Plainview PGS Article 52



CAP Airfield at Marfa Had 15 Personnel and Was Well-Stocked With Supplies


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

This is the 52nd article about Clent Breedlove’s Plainview Pre-Glider School at Finney Field.

In the last article, Steve Patti recalled stories about his time flying in the Civil Air Patrol from an auxiliary field located near Marfa Army Air Field.  The CAP missions flying out of Marfa were tasked with patrolling the uninhabited areas of the U.S.-Mexican border along the Rio Grande.  Patti explained that the auxiliary field his CAP unit used was about 20 to 30 miles from Marfa Army Air Field.

“We were based on the auxiliary field which was located in the hilly country used as a game preserve.  I think there are antelope in that area.  There was electricity but I don’t know where it came from.  Our runways were gravel but it was lit and it was an auxiliary field for the main base of Marfa where they had a B-24 training base.”

He said that Auxiliary Field #1 was further south around Laredo or Eagle Pass.  Auxiliary Field #2 was the auxiliary airfield for the El Paso CAP base.

“The only time we ever went there (to the main base) was to pick up something in the PX (Post Exchange) or if we needed some nitrate dope.  We would re-cover some of the airplanes in the hangar.  We kept some of our airplanes in the hangar and then we did all our work there.”

“Marfa is almost 5,000 feet in elevation.  There were two houses and a windmill (at the auxiliary airfield).  The windmill was to pump water.”

“I slept with three other guys in one of the bedrooms at the house.  They had showers in the house.  Then the other house was where we ate, had a mess hall.  One of the pilots, Lt. Filbert, and his wife took care of the cooking and stuff.  So we had our meals there at house that they lived in.  She supervised the cooking done by the cook and his helper.  She would also travel to Marfa to buy food for the men.”

“I don’t know who occupied them before we did; but we were there six to eight months, or so.  We occupied them for the time that we were there.  There was no military there on the auxiliary field, except Civil Air Patrol.”

“We had a little square building near the hangar.  It was for storage and for cooking our meals.  We had a cook and a helper.  Then the meals were taken over to the house where there were tables and benches and stuff and we had our meals there.”

“There were probably no more than three or four pilots and maybe two or three observers.  We were kind of a way-stop for pilots coming in from the north and south.  We had an underground fueling storage facility and we had CAP personnel that did the re-fueling of the aircraft.  His name was Cato.  He looked Oriental.”

“There was only one runway and it was more or less east and west.  It was long enough for small military aircraft to land on it.  It was at least a minimum of 3,000 feet long.  It was gravel and lit at night up and down the entire runway with runway lights.”

“It was an emergency field there.  I never did see a military aircraft land there.  They were regular white runway lights,” explained Patti.

One dirt road led to this airfield.  There was no guard shack at the front entrance of the airfield but there was barbed wire around the perimeter of the airfield but Patti only recalled seeing part of it.

There was no sign that read Marfa Army Air Field, Auxiliary Field #2, or anything similar.  It was an unmarked airfield.

“It was so remote; there were no houses around in the area whatsoever.  There were no buildings.  There was nothing for miles around in either direction,” he continued.

When describing the one hangar at the airfield, Patti explained, “It had a resemblance of a control tower on top of the hangar with a windsock above that.”

“We had about two or three small planes in the hangar.  They were Stinson 10A’s.  We did maintenance there.  We were a stopover for airplanes going in either direction.  They would stop and land and get out and stretch and get a bite to eat or get some fuel or go to the bathroom and take off and go where they were normally based.”

“There were about four or five of us who were mechanics:  Virgil McCarron and myself, and there was Dean.”

“We had a chief mechanic who was a pilot also; but they would assign us to what we could do.”

The chief mechanic was also the commanding officer of the base.  Some of the mechanics lived in town and some lived on the base.

“I think there might have been two fuel tanks.  We did not fuel any military aircraft there, only CAP.”

“On average, we had 12 to 15 personnel at Marfa.  I would say it would vary from time to time.  Some people were only there like three months.  Some people were there like six months; and myself, I was full-time.  I was there for the full time that they had the base open until they closed the base.”

“I shared a room with Virgil and another person.  We had bunk beds.”

They did not have reveille in the mornings or retreat in the evening.

“I was 20 years old.  We went to bed at eight or nine o’clock.  We would get up at seven or eight o’clock in the morning and have our meal.  We had benches in there where we ate, very simple meals.”

“We had G.I. coveralls (supplied by the military).  In the wintertime, they gave us these flying wool boots, pants and coats, helmets and gloves.  Temperatures there in the wintertime got down to freezing.”

“There was no way of washing our coveralls unless in the bathtub so they didn’t get washed very often,” chuckled Patti.

“And the wind, a persistent wind there.  On a calm day, it was 10 to 15 miles per hour and on windy days it was 45 to 50 miles per hour.”

“I had my uniform, my O.D.’s (Olive Drab uniform) for winter and I had my summer khaki available.  When I went to town, I was dressed up in my uniform with my master sergeant stripes on and a hat.  Occasionally, I would go to a movie with one of the ladies that I met there at a USO dance.”

“They would supply our shoes.  We had to get our own uniforms; but the Army Air Corps would supply us with the coveralls, I believe.  It was regulation military (the uniform).”

More about the history of Finney Field and the CAP will be discussed in the next article.

Readers are asked to visit the Breedlove-CPTP website at www.breedlove-cptp.com 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 johnmc@breedlove-cptp.org.