Monday, June 9, 2014

Military Monday: Randolph AFB, San Antonio, Texas, 1951

About ten days ago, I completed a series of posts for May about my father's military service in the early 1950s.  I was a bit sad to be done because I had used every photograph in my possession related to that service.  Imagine my joy on my most recent visit with him (he is 85) at the end of May, when he dug out a box with numerous items from his high school, college, and service days, including an awesome photo album he'd put together on that military service!

Here are a couple of my dad's photos from that album's first page, related to his pre-flight (air cadet) training at Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, which began February 27, 1951:

On the back of this photograph, Dad wrote, "Note the fine palms.  This building had the best training equipment for pilots in the Air Force.  That is Capt. Rogers' Cadillac on the far right."  A stamp on the back of the photo says April 16, 1951 (the date the film was processed and the print made), although Dad was only at Randolph through the end of March.

I found a photograph of this building at the Portal to Texas History, dated June 8, 1935 (more historic photos of Randolph AFB can be found on this site as well).  A Tour of Historic Randolph, published by the Office of History and Research, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command of the Air Force in May 1995, describes this building as follows:

At the southern base of Main Circle is the Aviation Cadet complex, a focal point of training at Randolph in the 1930s. Facing the street is the Academic Building (Building 900). San Antonio architect Ralph Cameron designed the building, which was completed in 1931 at a cost of $151,000. Here the cadets went through ground school and received instruction in a variety of subjects including weather and the use of the radio. Besides classrooms, the building also contained office space for the instructors and a well-stocked technical library. Today it is the headquarters for Air Education and Training Command with offices for the commander and his immediate staff, as well as for a sizable portion of the Plans and Operations staff.

Building 900 is also known as Martin Hall:

Named in honor of Major General Frederick L. Martin, an aviation pioneer who served as the first Commanding Officer of Randolph Field from 1931-1934. Just a major at the time, Martin moved from Kelly Field to Randolph in September 1931. Martin later served as commander of the AAF [Army Air Forces] Central Technical Training Command during World War II, but he is best remembered for leading the first "round-the-world" flight in 1924.

On the back of this photo (also stamped April 16, 1951), Dad wrote:

Pre-Flight Barracks (now B.O.Q. [bachelor officers' quarters] for B-29 pilots).  These barracks were very clean and cool and our end room on the 2nd floor, which is not shown in this picture, had the best view.

Here's what the Tour of Historic Randolph has to say about the barracks:

Flanking the Academic Building were the cadet barracks (Buildings 901, 902, 903 and 907). Buildings 901 and 902 were designed by San Antonio architect Emmett T. Jackson and completed in 1931 at a cost of $132,000 each. Both barracks were converted into offices in the late 1950s. Building 902 was extensively renovated in 1992, and contractors filled in the original open arcade. Buildings 903 and 907 were built in 1939 at a cost of $169,000 each. Each barracks had 54 two-man rooms that opened onto arcade verandas that provided some respite from the grueling South Texas sun. Twelve ornamental medallions bearing the Army Air Corps insignia--a white star against a blue background with a small red disc in the center of the star--adorn the front of each building just above the window line on the second floor. Each barracks also had its own orderly room and separate recreation rooms for upperclassmen and lowerclassmen stocked with newspapers, magazines, radios, and pianos. Outside the barracks were tennis, basketball, and handball courts, plus a large swimming pool.

Randolph Field Historic District is a 405-acre area within the Air Force Base that includes 350 buildings, sites, and structures in the Mission Revival, Spanish Colonial RevivalSpanish Renaissance Revival, and Streamline Moderne or Art Deco styles. It was nominated and declared a National Historic Landmark District in 2001.

For those of you going to San Antonio for the Federation of Genealogical Societies' 2014 Conference (#FGS2014) in late August, you won't be surprised to learn that San Antonio is Military City USA.  Besides Randolph, there are a number of other bases and forts in the area, some of which have museums and other areas open to the public.  In addition, a number of San Antonio hotels, restaurants, and attractions offer discounts for active and retired military personnel.

© Amanda Pape - 2014 - click here to e-mail me.

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