My only previous visits to North Carolina were a couple of quick transits back in the early 1970s when we moved to, and away from, Florida. I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit the state on business.
Saturday, 22 Apr 2006
I had a direct flight from DFW to Raleigh-Durham International (RDU). I found a modern airport, with no obvious evidence of its W.W.II days as Raleigh-Durham Army Airfield. This was a 3AF field, supporting Camp Butner, and was declared surplus in Oct 1945. I signed out the rental car -- a Saturn Ion this time -- and my only destination for the day was the home of an old friend. He's a guy I knew back in 6th and 7th grade, and we've stayed in touch on-and-off ever since. This was our first meeting since 1990, so it was fun to get reacquainted with him, and meet his wife.
Sunday, 23 Apr 2006
Now it was time to get settled in at the work location. I attempted a couple of side visits, but because of rain I didn't get photos. Not to worry, I revisited those locations later in the trip. Final stop of the day was Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (VKAG). I checked in to my billeting room and made a quick windshield tour of the base before unpacking. This would be home for the next two weeks, as we did our work on the base.
Thursday, 27 Apr 2006
After work I jumped in the car and headed southwest. Dinner was beef jerky, in the car. My goal was a quick visit to Pope Air Force Base (TMKH). This base is on the larger Fort Bragg (HCTL), so I had to visit Bragg in order to get to Pope. Two for the price of one.
Sunday, 30 April 2006
We worked long hours on this trip, including the weekend, but on this afternoon we quit at a reasonable hour and I had some daylight to play with. I used this time to search for some former off-base annexes that used to serve Seymour Johnson AFB. First stop was to the east of the base, and it looks like the wrecking ball beat me to the site. The Summerall TACAN Annex (WLUH), 35-20-53, 77-55-33, was activated in Nov 1959 and inactivated in Jun 1998. It was declared excess in May 2002. I found the access road with no difficulty, but the fence and building had been demolished sometime in the past few years. The only remnant I found was this power pole, about 150 feet north of the former navigational aid.
Also not far from the base, on the south side, I found the former Paley Transmitter Annex (STTT), 35-19-44, 77-57-40. It looked reasonably intact, with towers still standing minus the antennas. This facility supported Seymour Johnson AFB starting in Aug 1959, until its disposal in Aug 1989. I find no references to an off-base receiver site, so I assume the companion to this transmitter was located on the main base.
Moving to the west side of the base, I found the former Neuse Middle Marker Annex (RMKF), 35-19-48, 77-59-55. The fenced compound remains (complete with facility number), but the equipment has been removed. It was designated in Oct 1958, and declared excess in May 2002. There was an outer marker site that worked in concert with this middle marker -- Brogden ILS OM Annex (CLJH) -- but I was unable to find its exact location.
Thursday 4 May 2006
Our hard work paid off, and we finished our mission about lunchtime. Since we had comp time coming for the previous weekend, we enjoyed a day and a half of free time.
For years I have known that Saulston Annex (UZJM) existed. I had not known its purpose until I stumbled across a description on a public web page operated by Seymour Johnson AFB. Back in 1961, a B-52 crashed northeast of the base, and one of the nuclear weapons broke apart on impact. The Air Force acquired an easement, limiting any excavation in the three-acre area to a depth of five feet. The easement (I believe it is in that field) has been on the books as an annex of Seymour Johnson AFB ever since.
I see lots of static display aircraft and missiles in my travels. In front of schools, VFW halls, you name it. But this is the first time I've seen a missile decorating the parking lot of a church. Yup, this Matador missile stands guard at the Blended Fellowship Church, near Patetown, North Carolina. No, I don't know the story on this one!
The unexpected free time, combined with a nice sunny day, encouraged me to revisit two sites that were rained out earlier on this trip. North of New Bern, I located the former Jasper Communications Site GWEN 891 (LTSX), sporting the standard 299' tower. This site was activated in approximately 1987 and disposed of in Jan 2000. In ACC documents it is sometimes also known as Beaufort or New Bern.
On the north side of Kinston, I looked for the remnants of Stallings Air Base, at 35-19, 77-37. Now Kinston Regional Jetport (ISO), this was Kinston Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Facility during W.W.II. Reactivated in 1951 for flight training, it was briefly known as Kinston Airfield before being designated Stallings Air Base -- one of several contractor-operated bases designated as "Air Base" rather than "Air Force Base." It remained operational until at least 1957.
I also took a quick look at Craven County Regional Airport (EWN), 35-04-30, 77-02-25. Used by the Marine Corps during W.W.II, it was first known as Simmons-Knot before being called New Bern Outlying Field. I found a modern airport with no obvious traces of its military background
Friday, 5 May 2006
Another day off, and an important visit to make. It was time for me to see the windswept birthplace of flight, near Kitty Hawk. The site of the first sustained, controlled flight is an obvious "must see" for anyone immersed in the study of aviation history. Kitty Hawk is on the famed Outer Banks of North Carolina, a hotbed for tourists. Well, in between the tourist condos and mega-sized souvenir shops is the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The pilots reading this might already know there is a civil airstrip, First Flight (FFA), at the memorial, just a few hundred feet away from the track of the first flights. A pair of Coast Guard rescue helicopters buzzed low over the tourists, probably using the memorial as a waypoint on a training flight. The visitors center was nice, as was the imposing granite memorial built in 1932. I also liked the recreated hangar and quarters. But for me, the important place to contemplate is the stretch of ground where the first flights actually took place. Ironically, that is the place most of the tourists bypassed as they trudged mindlessly from the visitors center to the hilltop memorial. Fine with me, I was alone with my thoughts as I walked from the takeoff point to the distance markers commemorating the four flights the brothers made on 17 Dec 1903. First flight, 120 feet in 12 seconds, by Orville. Second flight, 175 feet in 12 seconds, by Wilbur. Third flight, 200 feet in 15 seconds, by Orville. Fourth flight, 852 feet in 59 seconds, by Wilbur. Can you imagine how elated they must have felt at the end of that day?
Following the highway north then west back onto the mainland, I drove through the town of Barco and stopped at the current Carrituck County Airport (ONX). During W.W.II this was built as Barco Flight Strip. The flight strip (see this paper for information on the program) would not have had much in the way of buildings or infrastructure, and I suspect nothing remains except the footprint of the airfield itself. I was entertained by a Navy T-34 that was working the pattern, making low approaches every few minutes.
Continuing west, I turned south at Elizabeth City and drove right past the current Elizabeth City Coast Guard Air Station/Regional Airport (ECG) (itself a veteran from W.W.II) to the site of the former Elizabeth City Naval Air Station (also called Weeksville Naval Air Station). My objective here was to see the remaining lighter-than-air hangar, Airdock #1. It's now on private property, but I could see it from a distance -- a steel hangar over 1,000 feet long is hard to miss! The hangar dwarfs a normal-sized water tower next to it. I also explored the remains of the nearby Airdock #2, a mere 900 feet long! This one was destroyed in a fire in the 1990s, and only the four corner support towers still stand.
The current Northeastern Regional Airport (EDE), 36-01-37, 76-34-00, was Edenton Marine Corps Air Station during W.W.II. I found an industrial park, with a classic Navy-design operations building from the early 1940s in good condition and now used by a state agency.
Saturday, 6 May 2006
Bidding farewell to Seymour Johnson, I checked out of billeting and drove to the southeast. In Wilmington, I looked for the former Bluethenthal Field. This is now Wilmington International Airport (ILM), at 34-16, 77-54. During W.W.II, Bluethenthal was a 1AF base with an antisubmarine mission. From the late 1940s until the late 1990s, it was known as New Hanover County Airport. In the 1960s, an air defense fighter facility was built, including four late-type alert hangars within a partial revetment, a maintenance hangar, and a nearby weapons storage area.
While driving through the city, I noticed the unique Art Deco-style lettering on the Wilmington National Guard Armory and made an impromptu stop. The signage and the general appearance of the armory suggests this may be older than the armories I'm used to seeing in Texas.
Continuing south through Wilmington, I made my way down the coast to Kure Beach, a tourist destination also home to the former Fort Fisher Air Force Station (3327, HEVT), on the Cape Fear River and just a stones throw from the Atlantic Ocean. This former radar site, in use from about 1955 to 1989, is still partly owned by the Air Force, as Fort Fisher Recreation Annex. Renovation and new construction have made it difficult to recognize this as a former radar site. A museum on the annex was not open when I visited.
The former Fort Fisher Family Housing Annex (HEVU) is also part of the current recreation facility, with units available for vacation rental.
I attempted a visit to the former GATR site, Fort Fisher Communications Annex (HEVW), but the access road was blocked and adorned with Keep Out signs. I did discover what may have been a water system annex for the Air Force station, several blocks south, on the west side of the highway. After this coastal fun, it was time to head inland.
Near the City of Maxton, I found the remnants of Laurinburg-Maxton Air Force Base, at 34-47-30, 79-22-00. This is now Laurinburg-Maxton Airport (MEB). A few warehouses and two water towers still stand in the southwest corner of the former base. Further north, another water tower looks vintage. This field served during W.W.II as Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base. It was reactivated and designated an Air Force Base in Jan 1954, then redesignated Laurinburg-Maxton Vehicle Storage Station in Oct 1956.
Unfortunately, there was little visible evidence that Knollwood Field, 35-14, 79-23, had served the AAF Technical Training Command during W.W.II. Near Southern Pines, the present Moore County Airport (SOP) is now a busy general aviation field.
In town, I noticed signs pointing to the NG Armory, so I had to check it out. Sure enough, I found Southern Pines National Guard Armory to be another early model, with the now-familiar distinctive lettering on the sign.
From Southern Pines, my final objective of the day was just to drive as close as practical to Winston-Salem. I ended up in Kernersburg, a suburb on the west side of Greensboro. This was the longest driving day of this trip, covering 434 miles in just over 11 hours.
Sunday, 7 May 2006
From Kernersburg, I drove a few miles west to the southeast edge of Winston-Salem, and was greeted by the imposing concrete tower, with its distinctive finish, for the AN/FPS-24 radar at Winston-Salem Air Force Station (3307, ZDKN), 36-02-42, 80-08-07. Part of the former radar site, used from 1955 to 1970, is a public park, and part of it is the property of ACRA. The recreation building and other buildings still stand, including a dormitory and several metal buildings.
The Winston-Salem Housing Annex sits just across the road from the station, and the homes are lived in and well-maintained.
Just a few blocks away I found the former GATR site, Winston-Salem Communications Annex, now county property.
The current Smith-Reynolds Field (INT), 36-07-30, 80-13-00. This airport in the north part of Winston-Salem was built just before W.W.II and was used by the AAF as a "safety flight control station" during that conflict. I paid a quick visit in the rain, and the 1941 terminal building was the only structure I saw that looked to be wartime vintage. The terminal has been upgraded and modified over the years, but the distinctive lines of the WPA Art Deco style remain.
I was not so fortunate at Greensboro's High Point Airport, 36-05-30, 79-56-30, now called Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO). It was raining harder, and I saw nothing of historical interest. In fact, the only photo I took was of some geese crossing the road. Air Transport Command and AAF Technical Training Command used this field during W.W.II, and it was also an outlying field for the Navy.
Continuing my drive to the east, I wandered into the northern part of Burlington, seeking the former Fairchild Aircraft plant at 36-05-52, 79-24-29. The plant is hemmed in on all sides by industrial and residential areas, so photographing the large plant buildings was difficult. A rayon plant before the war, this became a Defense Plant Corporation property during W.W.II. As Plancor 506, Fairchild Engine & Airplane first produced aircraft here, then Firestone Tire & Rubber produced guns. Sometime after W.W.II, this became the Tarheel Army Missile Plant. The Western Electric Company operated the plant to produce Nike Ajax and Hercules missiles.
Just across the road from the plant, I saw my third armory of the weekend. Yup, Burlington National Guard Armory was also sporting the Art Deco font on its front sign.
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