Copyright © 2002-2010, Scott D.
4 Jul 2010 - Added additional photos.
This report is dedicated to the memory of airfield researcher Tim Rose, who passed away while this trip was in progress.
This was a family trip, spun-up with only ten days notice. I drove solo from Texas to Iowa; then my dad and I drove to Maryland. There, we hooked up with my brother, and the three of us spent three days exploring old haunts from various assignments in the Maryland suburbs near Washington DC. Then, dad and I retraced our path to Iowa, and I continued back to Texas. The trip objectives were driven by family priorities, but in nine days and over 4,000 miles I managed to negotiate a few historical Air Force stops into the plan. Plus, for the coast defense fans, I included a few forts in the mix.
Tuesday, 17 Sep 2002
This day was a solo drive for me, from Texas to Iowa. My first stop was the former McConnell AF Missile Site #3 (7427, PRQU), at 37-41-55, 96-50-55. This was a Titan II site, squadron designation 533-3, now demolished. From outside the gate the access road, parking area, and raised terrain were the only visible clues to the property's history. I also found the nearby water system site at 37-41-12, 96-51-44.
Closer to Topeka, I looked for Forbes AF Missile Site #3 (7132). This was an Atlas E site, 548-3. The access road is now a private drive, so I just looked from the public road and moved on.
Near Lincoln, I looked for Lincoln AF Missile Site #6. This was an Atlas F site, 551-6. The property was gated, with a theodolite post now serving as a sturdy fence post. A Quonset hut and security gate were visible from outside the gate.
I spent the night at my dad's place in Iowa. This was a long day; 14 hours and 780 miles.
Wednesday, 18 Sep 2002
Getting an early start, dad and I headed east. We detoured in Rantoul, Illinois, to find our 1963 home in town and visit the base.
Chanute AFB (1274, DJDB), 40-18-00, 88-08-30, is home to a variety of aviation and non-aviation users. The airfield, closed by the USAF in 1971, is active again as Rantoul National Aviation Center - Frank Elliott Field Airport (TIP). Our primary objective on base was the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum. Located in one of the hangars, the museum is in space formerly used for missile maintenance training. Imagine my surprise when I noticed a Minuteman silo lid sprouting from the hangar floor! Visitors can go downstairs in the simulated silo. I felt right at home down below, with water dripping down from above! There were also a couple of vertical structures used for missile launch facility training, including one with a payload transporter/reentry vehicle van on top! It is a pretty nice museum, and I would like to visit again when I can spend more time. The base itself has lots of stately old buildings as well as some interesting training structures.
In the town of Rantoul, we found the remnants of Chanute Family Housing Annex (DJDX), 40-18-48, 88-08-35. This housing area had its start in W.W.II as Chapman Courts, built for civilian war workers under the Lanham Act. After the war, it was transferred to Chanute and remained an annex until base closure. Several other bases had former Lanham Act housing assigned, but I'm not aware of any that stayed on the Air Force books as long as this. After our time in Rantoul, we motored on and spent the night in Danville, Illinois.
Thursday, 19 Sep 2002
Another early start, and a lot of ground to cover. We didn't make any tourist stops, but instead headed direct to Columbia, Maryland. My entertainment for the day was playing ground forward air controller for my brother. He was due to meet us at the hotel, and when he didn't show I called his mobile number. Eric was "Somewhere between Washington and Baltimore, and getting lost fast." (Well, in fairness to my brother, it was rush hour traffic coming out of D.C., and he had received some flawed directions.) "Um, okay, let's call that your IP and go from there!" So, I set up shop under a streetlight, spread out maps on the hood of the van, balanced the GPS on the windshield wipers, and vectored my wayward brother to the target!
Friday, 20 Sep 2002
This was our Baltimore day. A visit to relatives started the day, and included a museum stop and lunch in the city. Afterwards, we headed east to Middle River. We drove by the Air National Guard facility adjacent to Martin State Airport (PJMS). This airport, as Glenn Martin Airfield, supported the neighboring aircraft plant during W.W.II. Signs referred to it as Warfield Air National Guard Base. It is home to the 175th Wing of the Maryland ANG, flying both A-10s and C-130s.
Just north of the airport, we saw the former Bengies Storage Site (BGTW), at 39-20-15, 76-24-50. This facility was Martin's Plant #2 during and after W.W.II, producing B-26s and B-57s. Eventually it was acquired by the USAF and served as the Air Force Publications Distribution Center. Now, it is owned by GSA and called Middle River Depot. That name can be seen on the water tower.
We had hoped to visit the Glenn L. Martin Aviation Museum, but arrived about 15 minutes after closing. Ah well, another day.
A last stop of the day was historic Fort McHenry, 39-15-48, 76-34-48, of national anthem fame. This is an "old school" masonry fort, with numerous gun positions and a central area with support facilities. My dad took a rest at the entrance, and Eric ended up in the jail!
Saturday, 21 Sep 2002
This was battlefield day. The main events on the schedule were Antietam and Gettysburg. Since we were in the neighborhood, we managed a few other stops.
Not far from Antietam, we located the former Funkstown Communications Site GWEN 857 (HNET). This site was operated by the USAF from the 1980s until about 1999. It's not accessible from public roads, but we got close enough to see the antenna.
We were near Hagerstown, so we detoured to see the former Air Force Plant #11 (2508), 39-42-16, 77-43-32. This was an aircraft production plant from about 1943 until 1966, operated by Fairchild Aviation. The government transferred ownership to Fairchild-Hiller in 1967, and in 1983 Fairchild donated the facility to the state of Maryland.
In the vicinity of Gettysburg, we found the former Bonneauville Communications Site GWEN 868 (BYUT), at 39-51-04, 77-11-19. Like Funkstown, this site was operational from the 1980s until about 1999. The antenna tower and equipment shelters have been removed, but a few remains exist behind the gate.
Since we were so close, we found the former Army installation Fort Ritchie (HKCN), 39-42-15, 77-29-30, where dad launched weather balloons many years ago. The recently-closed base is home to several new users. Lots of old buildings from the Army days remain.
We made a return visit to Middle River and toured the Glenn L. Martin Aviation Museum. Nice place, and dad was pleased to find the certificate naming Glenn L. Martin to the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame (dad was present at the ceremony, held at the Iowa Aviation Museum where he volunteers). We drove from the museum hangar to the static display aircraft parked at the south end of the runway. A pair of F-100s with Army markings made an interesting sight.
On the way home, we headed into downtown Baltimore in search of the former Air Research and Development Command Headquarters. From 1951 to 1958, this MAJCOM was housed in part of the Baltimore Sun building, at Baltimore and Charles Streets, approximately 39-17-20, 76-36-56. Well, we were too late in our quest. It seems the building has been demolished, and the property is now home to the Morris Mechanic Theater. My brother was driving for this one, and he gave a valiant effort as we circled (more or less) the block; dodging construction and pedestrians while checking the building facades against vintage photos.
Sunday, 22 Sep 2002
This was "find our former homes" day. We located a house in Oxon Hill, and three apartments in Suitland, where I lived many years ago as a dependent. While in Suitland, we drove past the Suitland Federal Center, where dad used to work in Federal Office Building #4 (WLNV), at 38-51-01, 76-55-50.
A half-century ago, dad lived in a dormitory on the the southwest part of the present federal center, at 38-50-38, 76-55-54. I suspect those dormitories were part of the Air Force's Suitland Hall Administrative Annex (2113, WLNP). This installation was also called Suitland Hall Dormitories or Suitland Hall Troop Housing Annex; it was assigned to Bolling AFB under Headquarters Command from about 1949 to 1956, then transferred to Andrews AFB under MATS. It was disposed of in 1977. If you can confirm the location and layout of Suitland Hall, I'd be pleased to hear from you. We drove by the area, but didn't stop for photos.
We also visited Fort Foote and Fort Washington, places my brother and I enjoyed visiting thirty years ago. Fort Foote, 38-46-00, 77-01-40, is an earthworks fort and somewhat overgrown. I used to ride my bike past the fort when I lived in Oxon Hill as a youngster. My dad took a look at the 15-inch Rodman gun.
Fort Washington, 38-42-51, 77-01-36, is a larger masonry fort with gun positions on an upper level, facilities below, and several batteries and supporting structures surrounding it. Battery Decatur is on your right as you approach the entrance to the main fort. Battery White is below the main fort.
Monday, 23 Sep 2002
Time for another early start, this time heading west. We made one tourist stop, noting the former Air Force Plant #85 (ACJV), 39-59-30, 82-53-20, in Columbus, Ohio. This was an aircraft plant in W.W.II, owned by the Defense Plant Corporation (who called it Plancor 18) and operated by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. In 1950, the plant transferred to the Navy, then back to the Air Force in 1982. At that time it became Air Force Plant #85, where Rockwell International produced parts for the B-1B aircraft. McDonnell-Douglas became the operator in 1988, and production for the Air Force ended in 1994. The Air Force sold the plant to a local investment group in 1997, and the facility is still used for industrial purposes.
We made it as far as Danville, Illinois, and stopped there for the night.
Tuesday, 24 Sep 2002
Another full day on the road, with a detour to find the Mechanicsville Communications Site GWEN 879 (PVSR). Still showing original USAF signs, this site was in service from the 1980s until about 1999.
We made it to dad's place in good time, arriving about 1600. With hours of daylight left, I opted not to quit for the night but instead transferred my gear back into my Forester and made a head start on my drive home. Near Lincoln, Nebraska, I looked for the former Lincoln AF Missile Site #3. This was an Atlas F site, 551-3. The access road was a private drive, leading to a nice post-USAF house, so I just glanced from the public road and pressed on.
I stopped for the night in Sabetha, Kansas; 2.5 hours and 111 miles closer to home.
Wednesday, 25 Sep 2002
Another early start, and boy how I looking forward to sleeping in my own bed! I made a slight detour near Topeka to look for Forbes Air Force Missile Site #5 (7133). The access road to this former Atlas E site, 548-5, was cabled and locked.
One last visit on this journey was the former McConnell AF Missile Site #11 (7749, PRRC). This former Titan II site, 532-2, sits at 37-15-18, 97-32-04. There were no fences, gates, or signs, so I was able to look around. Besides the access road with parking area, three concrete pads and a theodolite mounting post were the main evidence of missile site use.
Ending back in Texas, this day covered 668 miles in about 13 hours. I covered about 4,300 miles during this adventure. This was a fun trip with plenty of good father-and-sons time, but I must admit that riding in a vehicle for nine days straight is a bit much -- even for me!
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