Deming Army Air Field

New Mexico
1942 - September, 1946
   
    Deming, New Mexico is located about one hundred miles West from El Paso on I-10.  Until the interstate highway system became a reality in th early 1960s Deming was just a wide spot in the road.  Even with the railroad running through town it must have seemed pretty remote in 1943.

   

    The Bombardier School at the Deming Army Air Field was established in 1942 and closed up in September, 1946.  The first class of bombardiers graduated on March 6, 1943.  In the next three years an estimated 12,000 cadets passed through the Deming school.  With the end of World War II, the bombardier training program at Deming wound down, finally coming to an end in September, 1946.  Deming Army Air Field closed and the facility became the Deming Municipal Airport.  Currently (2005), some of the structures still stand, including three hangars.  The civilian operation has mostly moved to the North side of the field, with the South side becoming somewhat of a ghost town.

 

    The units at DAAF appear to be in the following Structure, with the 321st Bombardier Training Group containing the flying units (equipped with AT-11s) and the 322nd BTG encompassing all of the ancillary units:

 

Army Air Forces Bombardier School

Deming Army Air Field

 

388th Base Headquarters and Air Base Squadron

321st Bombardier Training Group

Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron

971st Bombardier Training Squadron

972nd Bombardier Training Squadron

974th Bombardier Training Squadron

975th Bombardier Training Squadron

976th Bombardier Training Squadron

977th Bombardier Training Squadron

322nd Bombardier Training Group

Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron

Detachment 19  858th Signal Service Company (Aviation)

909th Guard Squadron

2053rd Ordnance Company

Medical Detachment

Veterinary Detachment

419th Army Air Forces Band

375th Aviation Squadron

909th Quartermaster Platoon

1014th Quartermaster Platoon



    Most of the following photos are taken from a yearbook style book about the Deming Army Air Field published in 1943 by the Army And Navy Publishing Company of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  This type of book was published for the personnel stationed at various bases, but have become increasingly difficult to find.



Deming Army Air Field 1943


The entire purpose of the base,


 The Bombardier.


    A new class of cadets in 1943.  The base was just starting up, but would be cranking out graduates at a steady rate for the balance of the war.




A trio of AT-11s on a bombing mission in New Mexico.


    The most common bombardier trainer used by the Army Air Force during World War II was the Beech AT-11, like the C-45 it was a derivative of the classic Beech 18.

    In the first photo several AT-11s sit on the ramp awaiting further training flights.  The second, third and fourth panels show AT-11s  42-37241, 41-27600 and 41-27602 respectively.  The fifth panel is of an AT-11 on takeoff with a photographer along side the runway.  The last is of a formation of AT-11s forming up over the field, these are the same aircraft as in the photo above.

    The letter "D" was used for Deming (makes sense) and though I cannot find definite proof, I believe that the first number of the  aircraft code denotes the squadron:  1 for the  971st BTS, 2 for the 972nd and so on.  The cowlings of some of the aircraft also appear to be colored, but without color photographs it is next to impossible to interpret what that means, if anything.



    Three views of AT-11s in flight.  The first photo shows a three ship dropping practice bombs. All three have their bomb bays open.  The second photo is a closeup of the right wing aircraft from the first photo and better shows the bomb doors open.  Both the first and second photos are of Carlsbad AAF based aircraft.  The third photo shows eight silver AT-11s from an unidentified unit in formation with an Olive Drab B-18A. The first three AT-11s in the last photo are  41-27679,  41-27338 and 41. - 9530



    For every bombardier trainee there were a large number of support personnel necessary to keep the training aircraft in the air.  Whether that be the mechanics, fuelers, or ordinance groups.  There are also the personnel essential to every endeavor that seldom are recognized, like cooks, bakers and even truck drivers.  Two pages in the 1943 book are dedicated to Maintenance: "On these two pages maintenance crews are seen at various repair jobs.  This work is the Air Forces biggest behind the scenes job.  The life of its pilots and efficiency of the planes depends on the accuracy and skills of its maintenance crews."  Couldn't put it better myself.

    The above photos show mainly engine maintenance, though the AT-11 in the hangar is most likely going through a heavy check.  The second and third photos show the knuckle breaking, back aching work done to keep the Pratt and Whitney R-975 engines in shape.  Piston engines are a favorite with enthusiasts, but require a great many man hours to keep in prime condition.




    The first photo shows routine preflight, or post flight checks.  Most likely pre-flight as the Norden bombsight is mounted and "bagged" in the aircraft.  The bomb bay doors are also open (yes, the AT-11 did have a bomb bay).

    The second photo involves some sort of mechanic pow-wow, with a noticeable amount of oil on the overalls, which probably means serious work.

    In the third photo the mechanics seem to be servicing the brakes.  Unlike the bombardier in the nose of the aircraft, this is a real photo, not posed.

    Though it looks like these two mechanics are working on the tail surfaces, what I think they are really doing is signing off a logbook.  Some times that takes longer than the repair.



    Repositioning an aircraft by hand can be a tricky task, one has to wonder why they are not using the tug in the second photo.  The tug is a "Clartor-6 Aircraft Tractor" according to the USAAF.  Somehow tractor seems to imply "John Deere".  An AT-11 is being fueled in the third photo.  Someone else will clean the windshield and check the oil.







    There are also the personnel essential to every endeavor that are seldom recognized or appreciated, like cooks, bakers and even truck drivers.  The Army was still a segregated service in those days and most black soldiers were confined to those support jobs.  Jobs that the Army (and every other service for that matter) would not have been able to function without.  All American servicemen contributed and all should be recognized as well.

The first shot is of a formation of troops at inspection.  The second shows the ubiquitous "Deuce and half", in this case a GMC built CCKW-353.  Pool tables in the rec hall were pretty much universal in the military.  Armies (and Air Forces) have always run on paperwork.




Deming Army Air Field 2005


    Some of the structures and many of the foundations still remain.  Some, like the hangars, are still occasionally used, while others such as the former laundry are long abandoned.

    The first photo is of the laundry facility as it looked in May, 2005.  To the left is the steam plant with the remains of a water tower while the laundry is to the right.

    The three following photos show the foundation of the engineering building.  The small concrete structure is  the vault where either Norden bombsights, or small arms were repaired.

    The final photo is of one of the two remaining Norden bombsight vaults.  These would have been guarded during WWII.







    These six photos show the hangars as they appear today  (2005).  The three hangars are almost identical.  A fourth, larger wooden hangar was located to the left of the engineering building in the above series of photos, but it was torn down in the 1970s.

   


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Page Created 07-14-05

Updated 02-08-06

Clifford Bossie