Alabama Encore

Copyright © 2001-2010, Scott D. Murdock
16 May 2010 - Added additional photos, upgraded existing photos.

Once again family priorities required me to visit northern Alabama.  Of course, I'm not one to misuse precious travel time by proceeding directly from Point A to Point B!   Here is a summary of the sights I saw on my trip over and back.

Saturday, 17 Mar 2001

After a 0600 departure from Arlington, TX, my first stop of the day was Lewisville, Arkansas, and the Red River Space Surveillance Station, UAUH.  This is a receiver site (one of six) in the Navy's space surveillance system, and has been operational since approximately 1960.  The antenna elements are mounted close to the ground, so they are not very obvious from a distance.

Up the road to Hot Springs, and the site of Hot Springs ANG Memorial AFB, PYGY.  This location was redesignated Hot Springs Memorial Airport in 1992, and I suspect the "AFB" in the older designation was probably a short-lived mistake.  The ANG facility is on the edge of the airport grounds, not connected to the flight line, and hosts a communications unit.

Continuing to the northeast, I looped north around Little Rock to find some Titan II sites.  Operational from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, these were all demolished several years ago, though they still show quite distinctly on TerraServer aerial photos.  I went by six sites, finding them all to be either gated & locked, or clearly posted against trespassing.  Working my way from west to east on a fairly easy route, I found:

Little Rock AF Missile Site #14, NKCT, 35-10-05, 92-23-32

Little Rock AF Missile Site #15, NKCU, 35-17-30, 92-23-14

Little Rock AF Missile Site #17, NKCW, 35-19-46, 92-14-58

Little Rock AF Missile Site #18, NKCX, 35-24-36, 92-08-57.  Site #18 has a water well site, still fenced, where the access road meets the public road.

Little Rock AF Missile Site #3, NKCG, 35-26-31, 91-58-57

Little Rock AF Missile Site #4, NKCH, 35-22-13, 91-47-39.  Site #4 has a memorial dedicated to the 53 men who lost their lives in an explosion on 9 Aug 1965. 

I had reservations at Little Rock AFB, NKAK, 34-55, 92-08, and checked in for the night at 1700.  My billeting suite was in the same pattern barracks (3-story, red brick) I lived in at Dyess AFB, back in the late 1970s.  My, how times change -- back then four of us airmen shared two rooms and a bath, but now I had both rooms and the bath to myself.  The similarity to Dyess is no coincidence; both bases were built in the early 1950s for SAC.  Little Rock AFB was activated 1 Aug 1955 and has been owned & operated by SAC, TAC, MAC, AMC, ACC, and now AETC.  That's a lot of MAJCOMs!

Sunday, 18 Mar 2001

Heading east into the rising sun, my first stop was Memphis, Tennessee, and the former Mallory Air Force Station, 1754, 35-10-00, 89-57-25.  During W.W.II, this was known as the 830th Army Air Forces Special Depot.  It was redesignated the 830th Air Force Specialized Depot in approximately 1948, Mallory Air Force Specialized Depot on 7 Oct 1949, and on 3 Jan 1955 it was redesignated Mallory Air Force Station.  It was inactivated 1 Jan 1961, and placed in excess status 1 Feb 1961.  This industrial park is now used by numerous businesses, with some new construction / renovation evident.  Some of the buildings still look much like they did in years past

Heading south, I sought out the tiny town of Prairie, Mississippi.  This was home to the Gulf Ordnance Plant, a sprawling Army ammunition production complex built in W.W.II.  From 1953 until 30 Jun 1960, the Air Force used part of the former Army ordnance plant as the Prairie Vehicle Storage Station, 1709.  I would guess the Air Force use centered around the warehouses at the west end of the plant, at about 33-48-00, 88-39-25.  Further east, I was able to see a few munitions igloos (including this variant with doors on each end).  Slip-sliding the Subaru down some muddy trails, I found a few other buildings.  The main igloo complex was not publicly accessible.  My thanks to Ron Plante for confirming the location and prior history of this installation.

Moving southeast to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I visited the current airport, Tuscaloosa Municipal (TCL), which was the W.W.II Van de Graaff Field, 33-13-30, 87-36-30.  This was a contract flying school, operated by Alabama Institute of Aeronautics, Inc.  For at least part of its military service, it trained British cadets.  The large hangar dates from 1936 - 1937 as a Works Progress Administration undertaking.  It still stands in good condition, although recent windstorms (100 mph straight line winds) ripped off much of the roofing.  A small park near the hangar is home to a T-33.

That was the last site visit of the day.  I followed the interstate highways to Rainesville, Alabama, then cut west to Scottsboro for a few days of family business.

Wednesday, 21 Mar 2001

Departing Scottsboro at about 1000, I motored south down the interstate then took back roads to find Lake Martin Recreation Annex, 32-46-45, 85-49-39.  This is an annex of Maxwell AFB, and is active.  Not many customers on this day, and in fact I couldn't even find a staff member to pay the $1.50 entry fee for my brief visit.  It is a scenic place.  On my way out, I stuffed a couple of dollar bills in the office doorframe.

Continuing south, I had hoped to explore the remnants of Tuskegee AAFld, 32-29, 85-46.  This was the second training home (basic and advanced) of the Tuskegee Airmen after they completed the first part of their flying training at Moton Field.  I braved the muddy and rutted "road" just north of the former base, and I was very disappointed to find that all access to the former training field was fenced & gated with keep out signs.  Shame.  Some of the airfield area is used for surface mining, but the runway and road patterns are still quite visible in aerial photos.

Just a few miles away, Moton Field, 32-28, 85-41, is still used as the Tuskegee Municipal Airport (06A).  During W.W.II, this was a contract flying school operated by Tuskegee Institute, and was the initial (elementary) training location of the Tuskegee Airmen.  One of two original hangars still stands, along with a few other vintage buildings and the entry gates to the former flying school.  The old school area is separate from the present day FBO, and was fenced off with construction activity underway.  The National Park Service is working to make this a historic site.  This Navy jet stands watch near the present day FBO.  (Mark Morgan tells me this is an F9F-8T/TF-9J, the two-seat trainer variant of the F9F-8 50's-era fighter/bomber -- thanks Mark).  For more information and photos on Tuskegee AAFld and Moton Field, you might want to check out Lou Thole's book "Forgotten Fields of America, Volume II."

Heading west to Montgomery then south to Davenport, I braved another stretch of mud and ruts to find the former Davenport Gap Filler Annex, 32-00-14, 86-19-45.  The building still stands inside the fenced area, and the three concrete tower supports are still in place.  This was a gap filler radar site supporting Eufaula AFS, and was also known by the designator TM-199A.

Back through Montgomery and further north, I found Holtville Communications Site (GWEN 855), KXYL.  This leased site was established 29 Oct 1991, and received logistical support from Maxwell AFB.  USAF use ended in about 1999.  The 299-foot tower still stands, and the standard U.S. Government signs were still in place.

Just a few miles to the east, I located the U.S. Navy's Jordan Lake Space Surveillance Station, LWAD.  This is one of three transmitters in the system, and has been active since 1958.

Billeting was completely full at Maxwell AFB, 1362, PNQS, 32-23, 86-21.  I snagged the last available room in a local motel and headed to the Air University Library to get in some research.  Due to the timing of the various PME courses, business this evening was slow -- I was actually the only patron in the whole library for about two hours!  I found and copied several documents that will be useful in my research.

Thursday, 22 Mar 2001

First stop was Maxwell AFB, Gunter Annex, JUBJ, 32-24, 86-14 -- formerly Gunter AFB.  The western half of the base is still thriving, but the eastern half (the former flight line) was disposed of some time ago and is an industrial park.  I drove through the area but could see no signs of old airfield pavement.  One building of significance on Gunter is the old SAGE blockhouse, now home to the Defense Information Systems Agency Montgomery.

Just south of Maxwell AFB at 32-21-05, 86-21-25, is a group of warehouses built in W.W.II as a U.S. Army Quartermaster Depot.  In the late 1940s, it was assigned to Maxwell AFB for storage use under the name Montgomery Holding and Reconsignment Depot.  On 1 Apr 1954 it was designated Montgomery Air Force Station, 1748, and on 1 Jan 1963 was redesignated Maxwell Storage Annex, 1748, PPBE.  It was used in this capacity until at least 1975, but I don't know the actual inactivation or disposal dates.  Currently, it is home to several different businesses

A small part of the former depot property has become Abston Air Guard Station, ABAA, and is in active use with several buildings constructed on the east end of the former depot area.

North of the depot area, and on the east side of Air Base Road, is the Maxwell Family Housing Annex, PNQY, 32-21-40, 86-20-35.  This annex was assigned to Maxwell AFB on 1 May 1960, as Maxwell Heights Wherry Housing Project.  It is still commonly referred to as Maxwell Heights.

After fueling up on Maxwell, and stocking up on XB3 items at the BX, I pointed the car west and headed home.  Got in at 2230.  Total trip was six days and 2,420 miles.  The new Subaru Forester averaged 24.7 miles per gallon.