page has a few views of Biggs taken at
different time periods. New ones will
be added as time and resources permit.
I am always looking for photos to add.
This aerial photo
shows Biggs Army Airfield in February,
1941. The view is looking towards
the East with the old "balloon"
(airship) hangar in the lower left
center of the photo. This hangar
was built post WWI and survived into the
mid 1950s. It was built with a
North South orientation, yet the
prevailing wind is West to East, so
airship operations were very
restricted. Most of its life it
was used to house aircraft and not
airships. A large transportation
facility was built upon this location in
the late 1990s. To the East of the
hangar are several aircraft, an A-20 and
six O-47s . Above and to the right
is a hangar under construction that
would later house the 4758th DSES and
today is utilized by Raytheon. To
the left and above the airship hangar is
a structure that looks like a castle,
but I really don't know what it
is. It could possibly be a
restaurant that was built in 1939.
John Paul Jones)
C-2 non rigid airship being moved into the airship
hangar at Biggs (left and center) and in front of
the massive hangar at Brooks Army Air Field,
Texas. The C-2 was later destroyed while being
taken out of a similar hangar at Brooks AAF when the
envelope caught and was torn on the hangar. At
that time hydrogen was used for lift and the leaking
hydrogen caught fire destroying the airship.
An unidentified Curtiss A-3 Falcon in front
of the balloon hangar. My first inclination is
that the aircraft suffered a fire, however the tires
and other parts of the airframe are not damaged.
What caused the damage is anyone's guess. (John
A martin B-10B of the 1st
Observation Squadron transient at Biggs in 1941. (Paul
BC-1A trainer of the 120th Observation
Squadron (Colorado ANG) at Biggs with
the airship hangar as a
backdrop. (USAAF via John Paul
An A-20A that
appears to have suffered a gear up
landing rests on the ramp to the
Northwest of the Airship hangar.
The main gear doors are closed, which
leads me to believe that the main gear
would not extend versus an accidental
gear retraction while taxiing, which
would have damaged the doors and most
likely left them visible in the
photo. Also the propeller blades
while bent are not curled back which
would indicate they were wind milling
on landing. This was most likely
a dead stick, wheels up landing.
The A-20 also served with the 120th
OS. (Photo stolen from David
An O-47 taking off
from Biggs around the beginning of
WWII. Note the field condition
and the similar location to the A-20
in the above shot. This aircraft
is most likely part of the 120th
Observation Squadron. (Colorado
It is not
always appreciated that on the eve of
the Second World War the United States
Navy and the United States Marine
Corps were still operating biplanes in
front line service. Though their
days were numbered Curtiss SBC
Helldivers and Grumman F3Fs were only
at last being replaced in 1941.
The photo of the
SBC-4 above is not dated, so it is
next to impossible to determine when
it was taken. The barren area
behind it would remain unchanged for
decades. This photo was taken
very close to the color photo of a
B-24d further down the page.
Occasionally, it is
possible to put a face to an individual
whose contribution is unknown or
forgotten. One of those
individuals is Joyce E. Geier. She
was enlisted in the Army Air Force and
was a photographer at Biggs Army Air
Field in 1944. Later she
became a lifeguard for the base swimming
pool. She went on to live a
full life and
an interesting biography
Joyce was published in the
Massillon Independent . She
( March 7, 2012) lives with her
husband Jack in Orlando, Florida.
series of photos are most likely part of
a shoot of a training mission. It
would be interesting to know how the
crew members are posing with Joyce and
what their eventual fate was.
first photo of Joyce in the above
panel was taken along with the
one at the top of the section.
second photo is taken in front of
last photo is most likely part of
the series below.
During World War Two
many celebrities toured base both state
side and overseas to boost morale.
One of such visitors to Biggs was Ginger
in the segment are provided by D.
As far removed from World War Two as we are
today it is easy to forget what a desperate struggle
that war was and what an effort the free nations had
to put forth to achieve victory. That Allied
victory provided the opportunity for us to grow up in
a world where we were able to more choose our own
paths and a world that was somewhat safer from those
tyrants that will always wish to control the lives of
others. Biggs played a major part in
America's war effort during World War Two, being a
major training base for B-17 and B-24 crews. It
is an unfortunate fact that many crew who trained at
Biggs did not come home. Many
others became POWs.
The above photo is of 2nd Lt. Waldo J.
Oldham's B-17 crew. Lt. Oldham flew with the
350th Bomb Squadron, 100th Bomb Group. The 100th
BG was often know as the "Bloody Hundredth" due to heavy
losses taken during the Summer of 1943. While the
Hundredth did not fly the most missions, or even take
the highest causalities, the unit was representative of
the effort of the Army Air Forces during the war.Lt
Oldham and his crew are shown in a photograph taken at
Biggs AAF on 11 August, 1944 and while the 100th was not
based at Biggs many crew that did train at Biggs later
flew with that group. On February 3, 1945 the B-17
"Dixie's Delight" was shot down over Germany and Lt.
Oldham and his crew were taken prisoner.
Fortunately the war would be over in May. A first
hand account can be found here.
Standing from left; Ross J. Purdy,
Howard R. Leach, Waldo J. Oldham, the Pilot, and Carl D.
Dunn: Kneeling from left: Richard G. Chapple, Tom E.
Ramsey, Fred Eizenlord, Ralph J. Kalberloh and William
E. Charlton. (Courtesy of the 100th Bomb
indebted to Michael P. Faley and the 100th Bomb Group
for the above photograph and account of the crew.
trained at Biggs as part of the 459th Bomb Squadron, 330th
Bomb Group. The list reads "Front Row S/Sgt H
F Zoller, S/Sgt D L Ela, S/Sgt John H. Grinde, S/Sgt John
R. Hughes Rear Row Lt. W Rossi,, Lt. R. A. Curelli, Lt.
Vic Torrou, Lt. J. Papadopulos." Two crew members
did not sign the photo and one is missing from the
photo. The other two crew members were Wesley L.
Zimmerman and Raymond Shafer. On August 16, 1943
this crew was flying a mission over Italy in a B-24D
(41-23778) named "Lady
Luck" when flak set fire to the aircraft.
The fire eventually reached the fuel tanks and the
airplane exploded. Wesley Zimmerman was the only
survivor. A more complete account can
here, written by Zoller's nephew Bob.
B-24D taxing at Biggs, a common sight during the war.
and most of those below were taken by
Cpl. Clarence E. Schurwan, USAAF. Cpl. Schurwan
had been at both Alamogordo AAF (present day Holloman AFB) and
Biggs. The photos were provided by Paul M. Webber M.D.,
and show a bustling field during the intense training
conducted during WWI. The time period is roughly 1943
and the location is towards the West end of the field, a
little to the North of the above aerial photo, with the
Franklin Mountains making a good background. It is
interesting also in that in the foreground are two B-17s ,
where as Biggs mainly trained B-24 crews. In the
background are two B-24s and to the left what looks like a
behind that is a B-25. The first B-17 in line is
42-2538, the second B-17 is serial 42-5461. Both
are B-17Fs and even though they were probably about a year
old, they were also probably high time airframes by the time
this photo was taken. The first one is stripped of
turrets, while the second is not.
As already stated, Biggs mainly
trained B-24s with these two B-24Ds being typical. With
the puddles on the ground and the thunderhead in the
background the most likely time period would be late summer.
By today's standard's Privately Owned
Vehicles (POVs) were allowed very close to the flight line and
as can be seen from the tar paper shack, facilities were
Both of these shots are enlargements
of from the above photos, showing airfield equipment.
The one on the left being the ubiquitous Jeep and the one on
the right a WC-51 Dodge Weapons Carrier. Both carry the
"EL RTU" markings, which stand for either "El Paso
Replacement Training Unit", or "Biggs Replacement Training
Unit". During late WWII Biggs based aircraft carried the
letters EL on the top portion of the fin. (Paul Webber)
Some general photos from the
Clarence Schurwan collection:
A B-17C from the 19th Bombardment
Group, most likely during the fall of 1941. The aircraft
was transient at Biggs, the group was based at Albuquerque,
New Mexico at the time.
The second photo is Bell Aircraft's
The Aircuda was
envisioned as a bomber destroyer, but in reality was a dismal
failure and in actual wartime single engine aircraft made the
best "bomber destroyers". It is still a futuristic
looking aircraft for its day.
The P-12E is a "hack" for the 8th
Corps Area Organized Reserve. (Second P-12 photo courtesy of
John Paul Jones)
A double trailer fuel truck parked
in front of a C-47.
Shorty, a war wear B-24D serial number 42-40400 was a
demonstrator aircraft used by the 2nd Air Force to promote
The last two photos show mechanics
"wrenching" on a B-24. As can be seen from these
two photos most maintenance work is done in the open.
The work stand is labeled "579th Bomb Squadron" and notice
that one of the mechanics is wearing a sidearm.
An O-43A during a stopover at Biggs.
The SAAD acronym on the tail stands for the San Antonio Air
Taken during one spring dust storms that
are so common in the Southwest, this photo shows a number of
aircraft probably waiting for the air to clear. In
the foreground are at least eight P-40s, behind which are a
P-36, an O-43A, two C-39s and a B-17B. The
paint job on the P-36 is fairly worn while the P-40s look
fresh. The best guess is that they were on a delivery
flight on the eve of WWII.
An early summer morning in 1942 finds C-54
41-20143 preparing for a flight. The C-54 was a fairly
new plane in the AAF inventory at this time and it is possible
that this one had just left the factory at Santa
Monica. Most likely it had RONed at Biggs on the way
to a life of hard work.
The C-123B was also used extensively for support by
SAC. 54-0655 is shown at Biggs in 1964. "655"
was assigned to Biggs AFB. The photo to the left shows
a preflight and the one to the right is during engine start
This aerial photo show Biggs about
1947. The base was little changed from World War II at
this point. The photo is taken from the South looking
North. The Balloon Hangar is out of view to the lower
left and the B-36 hangar has yet to be built. (USAF)
This is what the facilities looked like
about 1947. The view is towards the Northeast and the
balloon hangar is out of view to the lower left.
Col, Robert Scott on a wartime stopover at
Biggs. (John Paul Jones)
One of the many overlooked needs on
any airfield are the various support duties. Here is a
ubiquitous Air Force tug at Biggs AFB during the late
1950s. This vehicle is an MB-2 that was produced by
several manufacturers, with Euclid being the best known.
They were often called "Ukes" by ground personnel. The
MB-2 continued in production for many years and the later
models changed somewhat in appearance. This "retired"
MB-2 continues to soldier on in civilian service at the
Midland, Texas airport.
Airfield security has always been a
priority, but with SAC it was an obsession. Throughout
the late 40s, the 50s and even into the 60s the USAF used many
elderly M8 and M20 Greyhound
armored cars. The photo shows an M20. These
vehicles were normally painted in "Air Force Blue", or
"Strata Blue" (FS 15045).
Fire trucks have been
a constant presence at air fields since the dawn of aviation
and like aircraft they evolved as time went by.
first photo above shows a REO (left) and a
Sterling DDS-235 truck at Biggs in the early 50s. These
were World War Two vintage trucks and would be replaced
by newer designs during the 1950s. The WWII
designation was Class 150 (CARDOX), but by this time
both had been re-designated as O-1. (USAF)
second photo shows the Central Fire Station and a group
of fire fighters. The truck to the left in the
photo appears to be similar to many civil fire trucks,
while the one on the right is a Ward La France Type 750A . If personal experience is any indicator
many of the individuals continued careers as fire
fighters after leaving the service. (USAF)
third photo is of Fire Station number 2. It is too
bad that this photo is backlit as many details are
lost. The first truck in that photo appears to be
based on an M34 chassis while the second could be an
International. There is an O-11A and two O-1
trucks. On the right appears to be an M37 Weapons
final photo is of an O-11A. This type would remain
in service for many years. (USAF)
I am indebted to Art Williams for his
help in properly identifying the fire fighting equipment
in the above photos. I do not claim to be an
authority on everything and my original incorrect
labeling of some of the above pieces of equipment
attests to that. It is most often only through the
help of many enthusiasts that the best information is
recorded. So, the current text is a corrected
text. Here are some great tidbits from his email:
Photo #1: The two Sterling’s referred to in the photo is actually 1 REO on the left and 1
Sterling on the right. The REO is verified
by the serial number 508551 on the door. That makes it
the 45th one built out
of a block of 125 REO’s. Also, at
the time of the photos, both trucks were deemed by the
Air Force to be Type 0-1. That can be seen on the
Sterling’s door. Prior to that ( WWII) they were both designated as
Class 150 (Cardox) . When the “type” system was adopted by the AF, they became
the 0-1. Both
trucks shared the same Cardox rear body. Only the chassis’s were different. They were both made around 1942
Photo#2: The pumper truck on the right
identified as a Ward LaFrance MB-5, is actually a Ward
LaFrance Type 750A (a structural pumper) . The MB-5 was a small
Navy crash truck built by Ward LaFrance. There were three different AF
contracts of the 750A made.
Photo #3: The crash truck referred
to as a Type 0-10, is actually a Type 0-11A made entirely by American LaFrance. (the early 0-10 were made by ALF, but Marmon-Herrington finished the 0-10 contract so ALF could build the 0-11A) The truck just to the left of the
0-11A is an old Class 155 crash truck. At the time of
this photo, the Air Force now renamed it to be the
truck on the right, next to the 0-11A, is the REO again, and next to it
#4: The truck mentioned to be an 0-10, is the
same 0-11A in photo 3. It is an early production model
of the 0-11A.
(and it carries the early P
The first photo above is a page scanned
from a 1954 yearbook for the 810th Air Division. The
panel shows several scenes at Biggs fire stations.
The second photo shows a P-2 truck in
1964. By this time it was common to refer to fire trucks
as "Crash and Rescue". (USAF)
The current flight line station was
built in the 1960s and is in use by the US Army. This is
a 1987 photo, but it looks the same today.
Construction is an ongoing process at most
military bases and during the 1950s that was a constant at
For many years construction at Biggs had
been minimal, but as of this writing (2008) Biggs AAF is
experiencing a building boom due to BRAC that is unprecedented
AH-1G on display at El Paso International Airport in
September, 1978. This Cobra was based at Biggs, but had flown
over to ELP for a display of military aircraft. The
last digit of the serial is not clear on the negative, but
the full serial appears to be "70-15981".
For a brief time in the early 1970s a few UH-34As called
Biggs home. 53-4547 was damaged in a hard landing
and later became a display at the 3rd ACR museum.
For some reason the serial painted on the side was changed
to "57-6141" which was the serial of an L-20A (later
The UH-1 Iroquois,
or "Huey" as
it is usually known, has
been around since the early 1960s and in most people's minds
is inseparable from the Vietnam War. All three in the
above photos are UH-1Hs, the first being 68-15624. The
two white and orange ones are 73-21724 and 74-22367.
Both are based at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New
Mexico, but fly between Biggs, Ft Bliss and White Sands on a
daily basis. All three helos are at Biggs in the photos.
Though the "Huey" will be around for some
years to come, the UH-60 has replaced a great many.
UH-60A 84-23967 was on display at the 2004 Amigo
Airshow. The Blackhawk
was operating out of Biggs in the MAST role at the
The two panels above are from two different
yearbooks at different times. The one on the left is
from a 1954 book on the 810th Air Division and the one on the
right is from a 1964 book on the 95th Bomb Wing. The
chapel and the theater survived until the 1990s.
A more contemporary photo (1989) shows
what I call the "B-17" hangars". They were just as
likely built to house B-24s. Biggs had two of
these hangars (note slight differences) that survived until
This vintage photo dates from 1947 and
shows the hangar to the right above as the backdrop for a
review by Lieutenant General Elwood Richard
Quesada. General Quesada was the Commanding General of
the Tactical Air Command at the time. He had a long and
distinguished career in the AAF and later USAF, retiring in
1951. Early in his career he was one of the crew members
of the "Question Mark"
flight in 1929, The General passed away February 9,
Two large hangars were built in the post
WWII era to house 97th BW B-29s, one on the East end of the
field and the other towards the West. . They are both
still in use, but unfortunately the B-29s are long gone.
The hangar on the right is the one to the East, it houses
the Threat System Management Office (TSMO) the Army's
version of DSES. That unit operates several former
Soviet aircraft: An-2, Mi-2, Mi-4, Mi-24 and several
others. The hangars look pretty much the same today as
they do in these 1987 photos, for that matter they
haven't changed a great deal since Biggs was an active Air
hangar on the field is what is often
called the "B-52 hangar". In
reality is was built in 1953 for the
95th Bomb Wing's B-36s. It is on
the West end of the Biggs ramp and
houses several offices including the
U.S. Border Patrol. The first
photo was taken during the 1989 Amigo
Airshow and shows three 188th TFS, New
Mexico ANG ("Tacos") A-7Ds. Over
the years this hangar has been the
backdrop to a great many photos.
In an email Joe Kinman added this
about the hangar: "I had a good laugh when you
referred to the large B-52 hanger, we called it VHB hangar
(Vertical Hanging Bay-door hangar) ...there were more U-2s
in that hangar than B-52s."
stationed at Biggs from
The next two photos were taken in
September, 2007 and nothing has changed.
As large as the VHB
hangar is it is not big enough for a
B-36 (or a B-52, or KC-135) to fit
completely inside. As can be seen
in the above photos there are cutouts
for the tail of the airplane to stick
out when "inside" the hangar.
(Pima Air and Space Museum)
A view of the old Air
Force era Operations building with one
of the B-29 hangars in the
background. 1987 photo.
based at Biggs, these C-82s are at Biggs during the late
1940s. The closest aircraft is C-82A 44-23033.
This aircraft survived at least until the late 1990s at the
Tucson International Airport and is shown in the second
photo at that location in 1987. (USAF)
A couple of Air Rescue Service SC-47Bs
(43-16157 & 43-16277) operating out of Biggs during
pilot survival training operations in the late 1940s.
Like the C-82s above, the C-47s were not based at
In April, 2008 I received the following email from Robert
Finch that provided some background for the C-47
was really surprised to see the photographs of the Air
Rescue paratroops being dropped in the desert Northeast of
Biggs AFB in early 1948. I took those photos with a
K-20 camera from the backseat of al L-5. We only dropped
six men that day (pathfinders) because after we took off
the wind came up to about 50 mph, and the last two guys
were really banged up by being dragged across the desert
when they landed. They radioed for us to stop dropping men
and return to Biggs. I still have the original 8"x10"
photos of the ones in your website, along with the ones
taken from the ground showing me in the L-5 as we went
down to take a close look at the injured men. The
pilot of the L-5 really had his hands full getting us back
to Biggs, with the wind blowing us all over the sky. He
flew it right down to the middle of the East-West main
runway, and we hardly rolled at all after
touchdown. I was in the 85th
Squadron, assigned to the photo lab of the 47th Bomb Group
from October 1947 to June 1948."
Helicopters were just starting to come
into their own in the immediate postwar era. The
Sikorsky S-51 was purchased by the USAAF (USAF in October,
1947) as the R-5 and by the USN as either the HO2S (YR-5A),
or the HO3S (R-5F). In 1948 with a change in
aircraft designations, helicopters were re-designated from
an R designation to an H designation. The photos of
the two Air Rescue Service R-5As above were taken at
Biggs about the time that the R-5 became the H-5 and they
illustrate transitional color schemes as well.
43-46641 on the left appears to be painted in yellow and
43-46650 on the right appears to be painted in olive
drab. Yellow would become the standard color for
several years. One has to wonder what point the airman
standing (with his hand on the main wheel) next to the R-5
on the right serves. (USAF)
in the post WWII era airships occasionally made an
appearance at Biggs. Here is the USN's M-2 blimp on a
cross country stop at Biggs in 1946. (USAF)
This photo is from the 1964 yearbook on
the 95th BW, but there is no sure way to tell when it was
actually taken. The B-57 most surely belongs to the
4758th DSES, but what unit the A-26 is with is anybody's
guess. It could very well be based at Holloman AFB,
but that is just speculation. The B-47E would have to
be one of the last few in service if the photo is indeed
from 1964. It is always possible that it is a stock
photo and if so it could show a 97th BW B-47. This
photo is taken towards the East end of the ramp. The
TSMO hangar is out of the picture towards the right.
serves as a transient point for many
aircraft. A regular site has been
one of NASA's two B747 Shuttle
carriers. N905NA (B747-123 serial
20107) delivered the Space Shuttle Enterprise
in March, 1979. The
combination stopped at Biggs on its way
to Kelly AFB and was delayed to to rain
at the destination and a dust storm in
El Paso. The 747 had been acquired
from American Airlines and at that point
in time the letters were still faintly
visible stained into the Aluminum
finish. N911NA (B747-SR-46
serial 20781) is shown with the Shuttle
during a 1991 visit.. 905
is shown again at the 2003 and 2006
Guppy (B377SGT-F) is shown during
"touch-and-goes" at Biggs in January,
An RAF Lincoln B.2
(RF523) of the Empire Air Armaments
School during a 1947 visit to
Biggs. RAF Commodore H.D.
Spreckley, O.B.E. and Col. Newton
Longfellow USAF are shown in front of Thor II
during that visit. Col. Longfellow
was the CO of the 47th BW at that time.
The Amigo Airsho has been an annual event at Biggs
since 1981 and continues to draw some interesting aircraft.
This Beech D17S Staggerwing
(N5447N) displayed at the 2007 show is registered to
Perlan Aviation. It had formerly belonged to Malcom
McGregor and is still christened Lady McGregor.
Biggs still hosts B-52s from time to time, though the
tall tailed B-52Bs are long gone it is always good to
see a B-52 come "home". The first photo shows
B-52H (60-0060) of the 5th BW during a deployment in
1982. The second shows a 379th BW B-52G
during the summer of 1987 and the final photo
shows a Griffiss AFB based B-52G (57-6516) of the
416th BW arriving at Biggs in 1989.
In late 1988 the 379th BW made a
deployment to Biggs.
Biggs AFB main gate in 1947.
The entrance at the time was off Fred Wilson road,
versus the later entrance at the intersection of Fred
Wilson and Airport rd. The rock pillars were
still in place until 2009, though that gate was long
gone. The photo is poor quality due to being
spread across two pages of a book on the 47th
BW. The dark line through the right portion is
where the binding of the book split the photo.
This photo shows the main gate in
1953. This is the present location (2007),
though the guard shack is long gone, replaced with a
more imposing structure. The totem pole is a
device used in a safety campaign to implore base
personnel to "Get To The Top by Flying Safely Aircraft
Safety Campaign for 53". (USAF)
The main gate remained unchanged
until removed by the Army in the 1970s. This
photo is about 1960. It is little changed from
the 1953 photo. Too bad the totem pole is
Air and Space Museum)
Any organization only functions
through the effort of those involved. Their
stories, experiences and remembrances are important to
history and well, "how things work". I am trying
to collect the experiences (however long or short they
might be) of the people who served at Biggs.
Some are sprinkled though this page and others and
some will be tacked on here, at the end.
Here are some recollections I received from Gary Jones
in April, 2008: " I just finished reading
a very good book ("Jimmy Stewart Bomber pilot,") and
thought a lot about my time in the 95th A&E maint
I arrived at Biggs in Sept 1958 as an E-5 re-trainee
from ground radio maintenance into bomb-navigation
systems maintenance. There were several of us who
re-trained at AF request. We attended FTD at Biggs and
went right to work on the B-36 A/C. All of us were
very happy to be working on airplanes.( I think). Soon
all of the 36's were gone. I remember working long and
hard on the very last one which went to Ft. Worth as a
monument to the Convair plant. When the last one left
we went back to FTD to get ready for the B-52's. I was
there on the flightline the day the first 3
arrived. I recall the tug operator connected the
tow bar to one and attempted to back it into position
and struck the A/C radome with the front of the tug
cab. (it was a B-36 towbar). Sounded like a rifle shot
and we now had a plane which wouldn't fly until it was
If I recall correctly those B-52's came from Limestone
Maine and were in rough shape. We worked like
beavers getting them ready and up to snuff.
Lot's of interesting things occurred there, a U-2 made
an overnight visit and was quickly rolled into the big
hanger. A C-133 cargo plane ran into ice over Alice TX
for about 15 seconds and he made an emergency landing
at Biggs and stayed around for quite awhile
getting repair to sheet metal and windscreen damaged
by the hail I removed the badly damaged radome and
replaced it with another. Years later while working in
Saudi Arabia I was telling a friend about the C-133
visit and he said he was the Flight engineer on that
plane at the time.
I left Biggs Feb 1960 and spent the rest
of my AF time working of fighter A/C( F-105, F-4D,E).
I retired July 1974(E-8), and now live north of
Thanks, Gary Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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