Killeen Sweep

Copyright © 2001-2010, Scott D. Murdock
19 Jun 2010 - Added additional photos.

This was a trip I've wanted to make for a few years, but just never found the time.  On this sunny Saturday between college semesters, I made the time!  This was a local excursion -- all sites described here are in Texas.

Saturday, 25 Aug 2001

Getting an early start at 0600, I headed south on I-35 past Waco to Temple; just north of W Nugent Road I looked for Temple Intermediate Field, 31-07-15, 97-22-00. Now an empty field, this was Site 40 on the JI-FV (Brownsville - Fort Worth) airway from the 1930s until sometime in 1944, when it became Site 7B on the DL-LV (Dallas - Louisville) airway. Airfield directories from 1943 and early 1944 show Army use, although a host base is not specified.

South on I-35 to US 190, West on US 190 to Fort Hood.  Working south then west, I found Radar Hill Road, which led to Killeen AFS, 3225, 31-03-00, 97-51-45.  This radar facility was activated in 1957 and served as an aircraft control and warning station.  In 1961, it transferred from ADC to ATC, and was used by Det 1, 3568 Navigator Training Squadron from James Connally AFB.  After driving up the access road, I explained the purpose of my visit to the security guard (still using the USAF guard shack) and he escorted me around and allowed photos of the old USAF buildings.  The foundation for one radar tower exists; I looked but could not find any evidence of other towers.  The operations building, a possible maintenance building (inferred by the overhead hoist system still in place), and a couple of administrative buildings still stand and are in use by the Army.  A communications building sits in the southeast corner of the site.

Working my way back east and north, I passed through the former Gray AFB, 1368, 31-04, 97-50.  I noticed that an Air Force unit (9th Air Support Operations Squadron) occupies one of the former Gray AFB dormitories.  The airfield itself is an Army restricted area, so no photos.  I believe this field was used by the Army in W.W.II, but the first USAF reference I have for this base is a listing for Camp Hood Airfield in the 1 Apr 49 USAF Installations directory; later that year it was redesignated Gray AFB.  The redesignation order refers to it as the former Camp Hood Air Force Base, but I don't find it listed as such in any other documents.  In early 1963, the USAF transferred the base back to the Army, and it is still operated as Robert Gray AAF (GRK).  The purpose of Gray AFB was to support Killeen Base.

As I headed north I saw the concertina wire of the outer perimeter to Killeen Base, MEJG, 31-05, 97-51.  Still used by the Army for munitions storage, this was one of the early (1948-1969) U.S. National Stockpile Sites for storing nuclear weapons.  This site, also known as "Baker," held both Army and USAF special weapons.

Backtrack north to US 190 and head east to Belton, then north on SR 317 to outskirts of McGregor.  West on "Bluebonnet Parkway" to the former Air Force Plant #66, 2539, 31-25, 97-27.  This was known as the Bluebonnet Ordnance Plant, built in the early days of W.W.II to produce bombs, boosters, and ammonium nitrate.  It shut down after the war, and in 1952 it was reactivated under the USAF.  Phillips Petroleum produced JATO bottles here.  By 1961, The Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation Corp. was operating the plant for the USAF.  In 1966, USAF transferred the plant to the Navy, who operated it until recently.  Now, some of the land has been turned over to the city of McGregor who leases it to various businesses.  But much of the land is still gated off as Navy property and is being remediated for environmental concerns.  The remediation contractor on duty allowed me to proceed through the main gate, past the initial "keep out" signs to the locked gates.  The plant had several production lines, and I photographed some of the buildings although I really can't identify them.  I did recognize the many munitions storage buildings (this type is the Richmond Magazine - a wartime substitute for earth-covered, concrete storage igloos), and this rail-loading platform (with berm to deflect an accidental explosion).  An interesting, though non-military, feature is this partially built space launch tower.  Beal Aerospace was planning to get into the commercial space launch business, but I'm told they went belly-up and just stopped work one day.

From McGregor, I headed into Waco and found Beverly Drive.  Based on the address, this building complex may have been 821A AAF Special Depot, at 31-30-29, 97-10-24.  This is unverified, just my best guess based on the W.W.II address of the depot.

A couple miles northeast, at 2904 Franklin Avenue, I believe the 3500th Field Printing Squadron was located in this strip mall, 31-32-10, 97-09-11.  I base this on the published address, but have not verified it through other sources.  Although merely leased space in a commercial shopping center, this was shown on layout maps of James Connally AFB in the same fashion as other, more conventional, annexes.

Continue east on Franklin, then north on 25th Street I found the lot which used to be HQ Flying Training Air Force, 1172 (later HQ 18AF, then HQ 12AF) at 31-33-33, 97-10-03.  This was a leased facility, which according to official sources, the Catholic Diocese of Austin built specifically for the Air Force's use.  It consisted of two, single-story, H-shaped buildings that have long since been removed.  Using a vintage photo from a Twelfth Air Force history, I was able to validate the location by matching up some concrete sidewalk remnants around the perimeter of the block, as well as some buildings seen in the background.  The site now has a convenience store in the center, with open lots on the north and south.  This installation was carried on the James Connally AFB real property account as an off-base annex.

Heading back to Franklin Avenue and east, I looked for 220 S Third Street, W.W.II location of 821st AAF Special Depot.  It may have been in this building, at 31-33-25, 97-07-43.   Now converted into an upscale eatery, this large industrial building seems to be the likely candidate based on its location.  But this is only my best guess, not verified by an official source.

Working my way out of Waco on South Third Street, I found the former James Connally Radio Beacon Annex #2, 6762, 31-30-14, 97-04-10.  This small (.88 acre) site served the USAF from 1959 to 1967, when the lease was transferred to the FAA.  The FAA still operates this site as the Robinson Non-directional Beacon (NDB).

I made a failed attempt to see Wardlow Auxiliary Field, 31-33-30, 97-02-30.  The road next to the field is now behind a locked gate, as a new road has bypassed the older one.  This was a sod allway field serving Waco AAFld during W.W.II.

Weaving my way north on back roads, I located the intersection of Old Mexia Road and Selby Lane.  This intersection, at approximately 31-35-52, 97-03-29, was the location of James Connally Weather Visibility Light #04, 7085.  (Approximately in the center of this photo, on the right side of the road.)  This one is an interesting anomaly.  While given an installation number, and treated as an installation (an off-base annex of James Connally AFB), there were zero acres involved.  This was a "no area license," granted the USAF by McClennan County, to install a 70' pole and equipment in the county road right-of-way.  I believe it is safe to say this is the smallest military installation I have visited!

At the intersection of US 84 and Selby Lane, sat James Connally Weather Visibility Light #03, 7084.  The highway has been widened since then, so I did not have a good feel for the exact location of this one.  As close as I can tell it was about 31-36-37, 97-03-57; but with the change in the road I'd be guessing if I tried to point to the exact spot of the 45' pole with visibility light.  Like #04 above, this was a no area license. 

Oops, time for strike two of the day.  Old Axtell Road was the location of James Connally Weather Visibility Light #05, 7086, 31-36-48, 97-02-40.  Another gated road, another site locked away from public view.  Like its companions, this pole with a light on top was in use from 1959 to 1968. 

Moving closer to the airport, I found the overgrown remains of James Connally TACAN Annex, 4712, 31-37-18, 97-04-03.  This one would have been hard to spot, without a layout map as a guide.

I had previously visited James Connally AFB, 1163, 31-38, 97-04.  But since I was here, I took a quick look around.  I photographed a few different hangars, the water tower, and this unidentified building.  Activated in 1941 as Waco Army Flying School, and known as Waco AAFld later during the war, this base operated until 1945.   Although declared surplus in 1946, it was withdrawn from surplus and assigned to Air Training Command in 1948 as Waco AFB.  Renamed James Connally AFB in 1950, it remained open until 1968.  A portion of the former airfield was established as Bergstrom Auxiliary Airfield, LSQW, in 1982 and used until 1987.  Most of the former base now belongs to Texas State Technical College, and the airport itself is known as TSTC Waco (CNW).

Weaving around the east side of the base, then back in line with the runway, I found James Connally ILS Middle Marker Annex.  Now an FAA navaid, it is still in use.

A few miles to the north, also aligned with the runway, is the companion piece in the ILS system,  James Connally ILS Outer Marker Annex, 6689.  This one is also still operated by the FAA.

Just a couple miles away, on East Crab Road, I located James Connally Radio Beacon Annex #1, 31-47-12, 97-03-07.   This one was hard to verify from the ground - the USAF building(s) have either been replaced or heavily altered.  Luckily I was able to match the location and shape of the property from a layout plan.

North on I-35, to Arlington.  I made one last exploration stop, about a mile from home.   Last Thursday night, the television news reported that two miniature practice bombs were found near Harris Road, west of Matlock, in Arlington.  They went on to say this was a former Naval airfield.  I had not been aware of this, but correspondent and author Mel Shettle was able to confirm this was Five-Points Outlying Field (OLF).  It served NAS Dallas, in Grand Prairie, during W.W.II.  A check of TerraServer imagery showed the outline of the field in a 1995 photo, centered on 32-37-25, 97-07-10.  The east half had been developed into a trailer park, but the west half showed the distinctive octagon star shape of the landing field.  I had hoped to see this myself from the ground, but I was too late.  The west half of the field is partly covered with new homes, and the rest has been recently graded and work begun on utilities and roads.  This field was also known as Five Points Field 22913, the numbers indicating it was on compass heading 229 from the main field, and 13 miles away.  Gosh, I may need to add Navy OLFs to my search list!

Arrived home at 1740, covering 464 miles in 11 hours, 40 minutes.