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The population of Madras almost doubled with the influx of military personnel

PHOTO COURTESY OF BOWMAN MUSEUM
 - A B-17 bomber rests inside a WWII hangar at Madras Air Base.

The United States' involvement in World War II led to a need for combat training of Army Air Force pilots and crews.

Training operations were scattered throughout most of the West in isolated regions. In January of 1943, the Army Air Force announced that the war effort would include a training base in Madras.

The Air Force ordered plans to build two hangars to support the combat training of air crews, primarily for the Boeing B-17F "Flying Fortress" bombers. It was established as a training facility for the 318th Squadron of the 88th Bombing Group of the Second Air Force.

Construction of runways, taxi-strips and supporting auxiliary buildings was begun. The new facility was known as the Madras Army Airfield. The rapid acceleration of activity led to an influx of several hundred officers and pilots as well as construction workers. This led to a strain on the infrastructure of the Madras community as there was a need for housing and transportation needs from the community to the air base.

The community of Madras welcomed the arrival of the military and tried to accommodate their needs as much as possible. The population of Madras almost doubled with the influx of military personnel.

There was a significant number of aircraft flying out of the Madras base, and planes were almost constantly in the air, and the rumble of aircraft engines was a common sound. It was a very busy place.

An USO center was established in Madras to offer recreational activities for the military crews. Although it did present a challenge to the community, it also brought a significant economic boom with the large military presence.

The Fourth Air Force replaced the Second Air Force in 1944 and brought a change of mission to the Madras Airfield. The base's operations shifted toward training for smaller fighter planes, including the Bell P-39Q Airacobra, Bell P-63 Kingcobra and Lockheed P-38 Lightning.

The base soon became an aircraft maintenance operation. Aircrew training was moved to the Redmond Air Base. Flight instruction ceased in Madras. As the war effort began to decline, the Madras Air Base was declared as "surplus to the needs of the Army" in November of 1945.

City of Madras and Jefferson County officials began a campaign to obtain ownership and control of the base. On April 3, 1947, Madras Army Airfield was transferred to local leadership.


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