Alabama Revisited

Copyright © 2000-2010, Scott D. Murdock
4 Jun 2010 - Added additional photos, upgraded existing photos.

For family reasons, I needed to spend some time in northern Alabama.  Here is a summary of the sights I saw on the way there, in my free time, and on the return trip.

Friday, 10 Nov 2000

This was a long day with few targets.  The locations I visited are kind of out of the way, and I wasn't likely to be passing through the vicinity by chance.  So, I took a wide detour to include them on this trip.

After a 0600 departure from Arlington, TX, my first visit of the day was Cleveland Municipal Airport, Mississippi.  At 33-45-30, 90-45-00, this airport continues in operation today, FAA code RNV.  During W.W.II Cleveland School of Aviation operated an AAF contract flying school here.  I didn't see any obvious Army leftovers; most buildings looked much newer.

Just a short way up the road is the Bobo Communications Site GWEN 863, BXAG.  Marked with U.S. Govt signs, this is one of many GWEN sites the USAF inactivated in about 1999.

Another short drive north to 34-17-30, 90-30-30, and Fletcher Field.   Another W.W.II contract flying school, this one operated by Clarksdale School of Aviation.  This airport is also still operational, FAA code CKM.  This long hangar, this former operations building, and this double span hangar (my favorite 184-foot demountable type) were part of the AAF school.  This flagpole, now serving an Army Reserve Center, is also said to be W.W.II vintage (the flagpole base has a survey marker dated 1957, so it's at least that old).

Made a quick visit to Columbus AFB (EEPZ), 33-38-00, 88-26-30, FAA code CBM.  This is an active base under Air Education and Training Command.  I was hoping to get a billeting room, but they were full up.  Headed south into the town of Columbus and got a cheap room at an expensive price.  (Because of some big sporting event on Saturday, most motels in town had no vacancies this night.)

Saturday, 11 Nov 2000

After crossing the border into Alabama, the first item on the agenda was Marion County Airport (PFXK), FAA code HAB.  Located near Hamilton, AL, at 34-07, 88-00.  This airport served (on a joint-use basis, evidently) as an auxiliary field by Columbus AFB from 1969 to 1981.  The tower looks decidedly out of place on this small municipal airport, so I suspect it may have been brought in by the USAF.

Next stop was another communications site, this time Hackleburg Communications Site GWEN 868 (JVVM).  Like the Bobo site, this one served until about 1999.

Unexpectedly, I saw this former AT&T repeater hut along the side of the road near Landersville, at 34-28-23, 87-23-08.  I spent several hours in Huntsville then finished my day in Scottsboro.

Sunday, 12 Nov 2000

Bright and early, I headed down to Gadsden, AL.  An unplanned first stop was this AT&T repeater hut, near Flanders, at 34-13-32, 85-53-26.

Next stop was the former Camp Sibert AAFld, 33-58-30, 86-05-20.  It is now the Gadsden Municipal Airport (GAD), and I did not see any signs of former AAF use.

Adjacent to the airport sits Martin ANG Station (PJFS), home to a communications unit.

A few miles away, the former Gadsden Air Force Station (1747) is now an industrial park.  At 33-58-20, 85-56-15, this group of warehouses is home to various users.  Disused rails still run through the facility.  During W.W.II, this was known as AAF Specialized Depot #829.  It was inactivated in 1961.

From Gadsden, I headed to Huntsville for a few hours.  Then I backtracked and continued south toward Talladega.  The former Anniston AFB, 33-34, 86-04, is now the Talladega Municipal Airport (ASN) and Talladega Motor Speedway.  The racetrack is built on top of the runways -- if you ever see an aerial shot of this racetrack, notice the paved strips (runways) that cut across the infield.  Most of the AAF/USAF buildings have been demolished.  This large hangar and this water tower remain, and you can see some of the ramp area between the hangar and the racetrack berms.

Tuesday, 14 Nov 2000

Just across the border in Georgia sits the former Flintstone AFS (3282), 34-57-25, 85-22-55.  The twisting, climbing roads leading up Lookout Mountain reminded me of Germany.  I kept expecting to see a nice cozy Gasthouse around the bend!  The housing area is in good shape.  The rest of the former radar station is pretty well demolished.  The foundation of the operations building remains.  Operated by the 867th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron from about 1956 to 1960, this was site SM-165 in the long-range radar network. 

Another few miles to the north, and I was in Tennessee.  East of town, the Chatanooga airport, Lovell Field (NTEA) is home to an Air National Guard unit.  FAA code is CHA.  An F-101 pulls guard duty at the Air National Guard facility, 35-01-55, 85-12-01.

Wednesday, 15 Nov 2000

Another run into Tennessee, this time to Nashville.  I had coordinates for Manchester Intermediate Field, which had been stop 16-A on the Atlanta (AG) to Nashville (NA) airway back in the 1930s and 1940s.  The only physical clue I found was "Old Airport Road."  I took a photo looking roughly north at the cited location, 35-27, 86-01.  W.W.II airfield directories list this field as having Army use.

The former Sewart AFB is now Smyrna Airport (MQY). At 36-00,86-31, it is a mix of general aviation and Army National Guard aviation.  Several hangars, a fire station, the control tower, and some barracks look vintage USAF.  A museum sits among the older buildings. Other brick dormitories are used by the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center.  This field was known as Smyrna AAFld during W.W.II.  It was redesignated Smyrna AFB in 1948, then Sewart AFB in 1950.  It closed about 1970.

Several miles closer toward Nashville, the former Berry Field (VJLG) is now Nashville International Airport (BNA).  A few hangars stand that may date from Air Force use. The southern end of the field is home to a Tennessee Air National Guard airlift wing.  An RF-84F pulls guard duty by the main gate.  This field was used by Air Transport Command during W.W.II, then Air Defense Command briefly in the early 1950s.  It has been home to the Air National Guard since 1952.

Skirting Nashville proper to the east, I managed to find Old Hickory NEXRAD Site (SHPG) at 36-14-50, 86-33-45.  Although shown as a military installation in the DoD geographic locations database, this active site now appears to be controlled by the National Weather Service.

Continuing on north of Nashville, I stopped at the former Joelton AFS (3291, LUYH), 36-20-15, 86-51-35.  Operated by the 799th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron from about 1956 to 1960, this was long range radar site SM-145.  The FAA still operates an ARSR-1E radar on the west end of the former station.  Several Air Force buildings, and the station flagpole, still stand. The bulk of the station belongs to State of Tennessee, Department of Environment & Conservation, Nashville Field Operations.  The housing area is also state property and off-limits to tourists.

Since it was on the way home, I stopped at Arnold AFB (ANZY), FAA code AYX.  The signs refer to it as Arnold Engineering Development Center, perhaps an indication that local commanders chose not to ride the redesignation merry-go-round (Air Force Station, Air Force Base, Air Station, etc.) and just focused their signage on the mission.  I don't blame them!  An F-105 sits outside the main gate.  I didn't see much of the installation, but I did stock up on film and batteries at the BX.

Friday, 17 Nov 2000

I had a two-day return trip planned, but due to weather considerations I expedited the drive home in one day.  My only research stop was Delhi Gap Filler Annex, 32-19-41, 91-33-24, Louisiana.  I had a fix on the location from GSA disposal documents, so finding the access road was no problem.  There were no fences or gates, so I went up the road to the site.  The perimeter fence is gone, as is the building.  The foundation is extant, with some of the floor tiles still in place.  An old fence post is on the ground. Concrete footings for the radar tower remain next to, and just west of, the building foundation.