Wed, Jan. 29

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Civic Center housed members of Navy, not Air Force


Your recent story regarding the 65th anniversary of the completion of the Cottonwood Civic Center building contained an inaccuracy. It stated that in 1942, during World War II, the building was "donated" to the Air Force to house 110 cadets.

The U.S. Air Force was not organized until July 1947. Previously it was a branch of the Army, the Army Air Corps. The Cottonwood military trainees were actually members of the U.S. Navy.

There was a desperate lack of military pilots and war planes early in the war. The few available flyers were too badly needed elsewhere for them to train new ones. Within months of Pearl Harbor, the Roosevelt administration set up a nationwide CAA War Training Service. This program recruited experienced, usually older non-military eligible civilian pilots and aircraft mechanics to train the new military personnel.

The Cottonwood facility hired at least twelve, mostly local civilian pilots, three mechanics and one cook. The cadets were initially housed in the Civic Center building, and perhaps later in the now business buildings directly across on Balboa Street (but I am not sure of this). Does anyone have any memories or knowledge of this?

Training flights were at the then recently established Clemenceau (now the Cottonwood) airport in N3N Stearman planes. The dirt runway was then 3600 feet in length. All 16 military aircraft were crammed into one large hanger. This hanger was eventually destroyed when the heavy snow buildup of December 1968 crushed it and the 11 civilian planes housed within.

Donald E. Hahn


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