Letter to the Editor

Airmen need to be remembered

Friday, September 3, 2004

Dear Editor,

One of Heritage Days' attractions is the Army Air Base north of McCook. It will be open with special ceremonies each day.

There is so much work to be done on the base and so few people to help -- so grab your duster, broom or mower and go out and help get the Air Base ready to welcome the airmen of World War II that were stationed at the base and that were able to make the trip to Nebraska.

During 2003 the McCook Army Air Base Historical Society has progressed with our goal to preserve and promote the air base at McCook, as well as the other 10 historic air base sites in Nebraska. At the current time we are working with the new landowners in the Sub Depot area.

In the early 1940s, the U.S. government began constructing training facilities for all branches of the military. Nebraska has 11 facilities. The first construction project at McCook was three runways, taxiways, apron, water tower, one hangar and 64 buildings. This project was started Sept. 16, 1942 and completed Dec. 15, 1042.

World War II escalated and McCook Army Air Base expanded with a second construction project which began Feb. 26, 1943 and included more barracks, mess halls, utility buildings, hospital unit, three hangars with apron widening and the taxiway. The project was completed by July 1, 1043. THe 425 Sub Depot was a part of the second project. This area included the largest hangar (No. 201), engineering building, Quartermaster buildings, the bomb site maintenance vault, parachute building, post engineer yard and motor pool. The sub depot area housed all the support services and supplies for the air base bomber crews for their final three month training before deployment overseas.

Mrs. Dorothy Nielsen worked in the parachute building. She remembers the parachute packs were brought in, taken apart and checked. If they were soiled, they were cleaned and hung to dry for 24 hours from the tall part of the building -- called the well. Eighteen to twenty parachutes could be cleaned and repacked each day. These ladies worked on the east side of the building and the fabric department sewed material for other projects on the west side. This fabric was taken to the engineering building or hangar 201 and utilized on airplane parts. Building 205 housed the supplies to finish the work of the fabric department. This building was constructed of cement block, had boiler heating, ventilation system on the roof and vapor proof electrical systems. Building 202 had a boiler for heat and steam cleaning and vapor proof electrical system. This building was used to clean B-24 and B-29 airplane engines.

Since we began working with the new landowners, we have cleaned up and cut trees around the building areas. The Timmerman family has refurbished the big hangar with new siding and roofing. Members are currently restoring the engine cleaning building. This building is the last of its kind in Nebraska.

We will then move to the paint and fabric building to begin roofing -- there are only two of these buildings remaining in Nebraska. These buildings will then be used to store donated items.

By working together we can accomplish both of our goals -- to preserve the buildings, taxiways and concrete foundations and make the property a valuable asset to the landowners. Our thanks to Norm Timmerman and the Timmerman family for working with us.

The lack of modern buildings and the isolation add to the historic significance of the McCook Army Air Base. McCook Army Air Base Historical Society continues to work on community and state support. With this support we can identify unique sites in Nebraska as tourist destinations to attract bus tours for those groups who like to visit World War II historic sites and museums and other attractions.

For tour information, contact us at (308) 345-6907.

We continue to work to establish the historic building site at McCook Army Air Base on the Historic Registry, make in a national landmark and honor those of all wars.

Pat Redfern

McCook Army Air Base

Historical Society

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