Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Wednesday, October 7, 1998
Airbase doubled city's size during WWII
EDITOR'S NOTE: These are the first two of four stories on
this past weekend's Pecos Army Air Field Reunion, held last
Thursday through Saturday. The other stories will appear in
By CLAUDE W. PORTER
"Coming back is like coming home. We weren't heroes, but we
made a bunch," observed James Turner of Lubbock.
Turner, who served as a flight instructor during the
operation of the base, made the comment on the occasion of
the third bi-annual reunion of personnel who served at Pecos
Army Air Field during World War II, held this past weekend
Registration for the reunion got underway at the Swiss Clock
Inn Hospitality Room last Thursday afternoon, and
approximately 50 people registered for the three-day event.
Pecos Army Air Field was activated for service on July 11,
1942. Base construction was still underway when the first
contingents of cadets arrived to begin their basic pilot
training. December 29, 1943, the base was designated as an
advanced pilot school for twin-engine aircraft.
The pilot training facility was attached to the Air Force's
West Coast Training Center, and later, The Western Flying
Training Command. It had four auxiliary fields.
As the war in Europe intensified, the desire of Pecos
residents increased to have a military base nearby. Efforts
were unsuccessful until the bombing attack by the Japanese
on Pearl Harbor. The Army Air Corps then launched a 50,000
pilot training program. The program was later expanded to
70,000. Pecos was chosen as one of five new training fields.
Formal announcement was made on March 25, 1942, of a local
military base. Construction contracts were let in May.
Construction and flying operations at the base were both
hampered until late 1943, when extensive measures had been
taken to control the wind-whipped dust in the area.
The Pecos Municipal Airport was the original site of Pecos
Army Air Field. The base included 400 acres of land situated
three miles south and slightly west of Pecos City, which had
a population of 4,855 in 1940. The land was purchased from
the proceeds of a $10,000 bond election, and cleared, fenced
and graded under a WPA contract.
The town learned that a 7,200 foot runway was required to
meet the needs of novice pilots. Another bond election was
held to raise an additional $50,000 to secure the needed
land. The size of the base was increased to 1,834.07 acres.
Three runways were constructed, including the 7,200 foot
strip and two others 6,200 feet long.
Structures on the base were chiefly "theater of operations"
type buildings. They were cheap, rapidly constructed,
single-story facilities covered with black tar-paper. Also,
two large hangers, extensive maintenance facilities, and
mess facilities were constructed.
Base living quarters were often barely adequate as the cadet
population swelled at the height of the war. Off-base
housing also was strained due to the close proximity of
other military installations in the area, especially, the
Army Air Field at Pyote, which was even larger than the
The first commander of Pecos Army Air Field was Colonel
Harry C. Wisehart, Army Air Corps. He arrived in Pecos from
Lamar Army Air Field, California, on June 28, 1942, as
project officer. The first military units to arrive were the
744th School Squadron (100 men), and the 31st Air Base
Squadron (18 men). They arrived by train from Gardner Army
Air Field, California, July 6, 1942. A week later, five more
School Squadrons arrived from LeMoone. They included the
747th, 748th, 749th, 750th, and 751st, each with 80 men.
The eventual population of the base swelled to over 4,000 at
its peak in April, 1943, rivaling the population of Pecos
City. An estimated 40,000 fliers trained here.
The first Pecos class was designated 43-A, and after nine
weeks of combined ground school and flight training,
graduated 133 cadets and student officers. Seventeen classes
of basic pilots (classes 43-A through 44C) at roughly
one-month intervals containing from 90 to 528 men were
trained at Pecos Army Air Field.
Basic pilot training ended at Pecos on January 7, 1944. The
base was converted to advanced pilot training and attached
to the 3027th Army Air Force's Base Unit. Advanced
twin-engine training was initiated.
Advanced classes ranged in size from 245 to 526 men. The
last advanced class (45-B) received silver wings and
commissions as second Lieutenants, or was appointed as
flight officers on April 15, 1945.
On August 28, 1943, Colonel Wisehart was replaced as
Commander at the Pecos base by Colonel Olin C. Bushey.
Succeeding Commanders in turn were Colonel Harry Fisher,
August 19, 1944; and Colonel Harold D. Smith, March 3, 1945.
Among the enlisted personnel serving at Pecos were 200 WAACS
(Women's Army Auxiliary Corps) and 290 black troops.
Civilian employees at the base numbered 604. Among the
civilian employees were 25 WASPS (Women Air Force Service
Efforts failed by the Town of Pecos City to develop a
continuing military or other federal use for the base after
its deactivation. The real estate was returned to municipal
control, and the improvements were sold or dismantled.
Except for the runway which is being used currently for
general aviation, there is little physical evidence of the
Those who returned to Pecos to reminisce and re-acquaint
themselves with former Army Air Corps buddies and towns
people may not think of themselves as heroes, but they
certainly may be characterized by a grateful community, if
not a grateful nation, as a living monument to the legacy of
freedom that we all enjoy.
In the immortal words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, "...I still
remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack
ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that 'Old
soldiers never die; they just fade away.' "
May we never let the memory fade - either for the heroes or
the men who prepared them for their destiny!
(Sources for information: West of the Pecos Museum; Brief
History of Pecos Army Air Field, 1942-1945, Prepared July
1985 for the Handbook of Texas, Second Edition, by James L.
Colwell; and personal interviews.)
Organizations helped with reunion
CLAUDE W. PORTER
West of the Pecos hospitality showed itself profusely to
approximately 50 registrants for the Pecos Army Air Field
reunion, which was held in Pecos last Thursday through
The Pecos Chamber of Commerce ambassadors were on hand to
help greet and register the guests as they arrived Thursday
afternoon at the Swiss Clock Inn Hospitality Room.
Volunteers were available throughout the Reunion to assist
attendees with whatever needs they required.
Chamber Manager, Tom Rivera, says, "Volunteers are always
appreciated, whether from the chamber or not, anytime we
have a community function."
Those attending the reunion were treated to a cocktail party
Thursday evening at the Pecos Valley Country Club. Saturday
morning a tour of Anchor West Frozen Foods was planned for
those interested. A salad luncheon was served at the West of
the Pecos Museum by Friends of the Museum.
Adding to the zest of the reunion Friday evening, the
Museum hosted a cookout for the 50 or so guests. The Pecos
Lions Club prepared and served hamburgers with all the
A painting from the World War II era, promoting the purchase
of War Bonds, was presented to the Museum by Bill Pitts of
Fort Smith, Arkansas. Pitts was stationed at Pecos Army Air
Field, and entertained for civic clubs and other groups
while in the area.
A Proclamation was read by Pecos Mayor, Dot Stafford,
proclaiming October 1, 2, and 3 as Pecos Army Air Field
Museum Director, Debra Thomas, presented a plaque of
appreciation to Pitts, who received it for the group of
veterans representing the former base personnel.
"The West of the Pecos Museum staff worked very hard on this
reunion," said Thomas, "but we could not have gotten
everything done without the help of all the local
volunteers. We thank each one."
Seven Lions Club members volunteered their time to cook and
serve the burgers. Lion Richard Crider stated, "We are glad
to help the museum and to help serve this reunion group. We
have helped in the previous reunions, also."
A big Saturday morning breakfast was served for the reunion
group at the Reeves County Civic Center by the Pecos Rotary
Club. Bob Curry, project director, plus 19 other Rotarians
answered the early morning call to mix the batter, cook the
pancakes, fry the bacon and sausage, and brew the coffee.
Rotarian Harold Elder welcomed the guests at the admission
table while Charlie Mitchell and Chek Kesey filled the
plates. Club members Ken Winkles, Jr., Jim Ivy, Randy
Reynolds, and Pecos Chief of Police Clay McKinney took their
turn at the grill. Two non-members, Randall Reynolds and Joe
Stafford, also worked the grill. Ben Meek, Kenneth Neal,
Doug Fernandes, Marlow Summitt, Bill Hubbs, Jean Badders,
and Oscar Saenz worked the floor and on clean-up detail.
City Mayor and Rotarian Dot Stafford tended the coffee pot,
assisted by Rotarian Jim Pattee.
According to Michael Wyles, Pecos Rotary Club President,
"Serving the reunion group fell as a part of an overall
fund-raising project. The focus of this event was to fund
contributions to the local food banks, which is a project of
Rotary International to relieve hunger. We want to express
our appreciation, not only to the reunion group, but all
those who participated in this event."
In a business meeting held at 9:30 Saturday morning at the
Swiss Clock Inn Hospitality Room, the next reunion was
scheduled for the month of May in the year 2000. The
sentiment was expressed that the event be held in Pecos. Any
other location would be unacceptable to those present. Art
and Shirley Howarth of San Diego, California, along with
Debra Thomas and the West of the Pecos Museum staff were
designated to coordinate the next meeting.
The grand finale of the reunion was a banquet served at the
Pecos Valley Country Club on Saturday evening. Musical
entertainment was provided by the Pecos High School Mariachi
Band, under the direction of Billy Goff.
Officials plan to halt drive-by gun incidents
By ROSIE FLORES
Law enforcement officials will be stepping up efforts to
control the problem of drive-by shooting incidents, several
of which have been reported during the past five weeks.
"We want to put a stop to this before someone gets hurt,"
said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez.
Gomez stated that beginning tonight any individual or car
that looks suspicious will be stopped and looked into and
possibly pulled into the Reeves County Sheriff's Department
or Pecos Police Department for further questioning.
"I know we'll be stepping on a lot of toes," said Gomez.
"But this is an effort to stop the incidents which have been
occuring recently, before they become a major problem and
somebody gets seriously hurt."
Gomez has teamed up with Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney
and his department and both have agreed that this effort
will be inplemented today and that the city's juvenile
curfew law, encated two years ago, will be enforced more
"We want to urge parents to try to keep track of their
teenagers after dark, because they will be stopped and
questioned," he said.
Anybody that looks suspicious will be interrogated. "If we
stop someone, we have advised our officers to go ahead and
shine their lights inside the car for any weapons or illegal
items," said Gomez.
"We're just going to get tougher, but it's for the good of
the community," he said.
Marfa Sector's apprehensions increases
Illegal immigrant apprehensions in the U.S. Border Patrol's
99-county Marfa Sector rose 13 percent during Fiscal Year
'98, said Chief Simon Garza.
A total of 14,509 undocumented immigrants were located and
removed from the country, he said. While most came from
Mexico, others were from Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil,
China, Iran, France, India, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Taiwan and
"Organized illegal immigrant smuggling has shown increases
during FY1998, which ended last Wednesday, Sept. 30. The
Anti-Smuggling Unit has reported a total of 247 smuggling
cases with 3,150 smuggled illegal immigrants being
apprehended," Garza said.
"The anti-smuggling unit said that smuggling charges have
ranged from $300 to $1,000 per person on average."
In addition, agents seized 47,193 pounds of marijuana, an
increase of 22 percent over the previous year. Cocaine
seizures totaled 512 pounds, bringing the value of seized
drugs to $54.1 million for the fiscal year.
Pecos is one of four locations for interior Border Patrol
stations. Others are in Fort Stockton, Midland and Lubbock.
Linewatch stations are located in Marfa, Presidio,
Sanderson, Sierra Blanca, Van Horn and Alpine. The Sector
includes 78 counties in West Texas and 21 counties in
Oklahoma, covering 115,000 square miles and 420 river border
miles between the United States and Mexico.
Garza extended his thanks for the cooperation from the
community, local and state law enforcement, and other
"It is critical to recognize that working together as a
team, we can accomplish a great deal," he said.
Balmorhea students to get lesson
Balmorhea ISD students will be participating in a state-wide
mock voting effort later this month, and will hear about the
plan from a representative from the Secretary of State's
office on Thursday.
Assistant Secretary of State Clark Kent Irving will speak to
students during an assembly at 8:30 a.m. in the Balmorhea
school auditorium, according to Balmorhea High School
teacher Doug Maynard. He said the visit is part of Texas'
`Project Vote,' which is "an effort to educate students on
the importance of voting.
"Under `Project Vote' the whole student body will be
informed about the issues in this year's election. At the
end of October, students will vote, and the results will be
sent to the Secretary of State's office in Austin and then
will be announced election night (Nov. 3)."
The students will cast ballots for all spots on the
election, from governor on down, and while the votes will
not officially count, Maynard said the effort is being done,
"to teach kids about the issues, and to teach kids who is a
good candidate and who is not. A lot of times, it's hard to
tell without looking at who the candidates are and what are
Attendance up for Fall Fair's concert
By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Free tickets to promote attendance at the Reeves County Fall
Fair Concert Saturday night paid off with a crowd of between
three and four thousand at the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena,
said Louis Matta, concert chairman.
Matta said he is waiting for revenue from out-of-town ticket
sales and bills for expenses to come in to determine whether
the concert made a profit for the Pecos Chamber of Commerce.
"Prospects are for us to break even, moneywise," Matta said.
"Everything is so expensive. We may have lost a little."
Area radio stations promoted the concert with advertising
and ticket giveaways, Matta said, "To get people here and
keep them coming back."
Although the concert's financial numbers are still not
known, Matta said attendance for Saturday's six-hour show
was three to four times what it was last year.
"From what I hear from other chamber members, beverage sales
were pretty good," he said.
Proposed 4A Sales Tax for Pecos already used
By ROSIE FLORES
While some bigger cities in Texas have been participating in
the 4A Sales Tax program for almost two decades, smaller
cities - including two of Pecos' neighboring towns - have
opted to join them in recent years.
The issue has become a major one for Pecos this fall, after
the Town of Pecos City Council agreed to a voter referendum
on adopting the 4A Sales tax plan, which would direct a
quarter of a cent of the city's current 1 1/2 cent sales tax
towards economic development.
The overall sales tax rate will remain the same, though
questions have been raised as to whether or not it might
results in a future sales tax increase. Supporters say a
boost in the city's economy from the plan would offset any
lost sales tax revenues, and voters will decide if they want
Pecos to adopt the plan as part of the November 3 elections.
Since 1989, voters in many Texas cities have had the option
of imposing a local sales and use tax to help finance their
communities' economic development efforts. The authority to
enact this tax, better known as the "economic development
sales tax," may be found in the Development Corporation Act
Cities may adopt an economic development sales tax under 4-A
or 4-B at a rate of 1/8, 1/4, 3/8 or 1/2 of one percent if
the new total rate of all local sales and use tax would not
exceed two percent. Cities also may limit the duration of
the tax and the use of the funds.
Approval of the plan would bring Pecos in line with both
Fort Stockton and Monahans, which already have adopted the
4A sales tax measure.
Fort Stockton adopted the proposal two years ago, and city
manager Chuy Garcia said, "We're still in the preliminary
stages of it, but we have gotten some things done."
Garcia said the group has been working on advertising in
magazines, attending trade shows and basically working on
implementing the program.
"We're competing with bigger cities that have been doing
this for the past 15-20 years," said Garcia. "They have
already implemented this sales tax and are using it," he
Garcia stated that a board is in place and is working on a
plan for the City of Fort Stockton.
"Since we're still at the preliminary stages, we haven't
seen a lot of changes yet," said Garcia, who still touted
"It's a good, positive thing and anything that we can do to
help our community is something important," Garcia said.
Fort Stockton's tax rate has remained the same in the past
few years. "Since we dropped the tax rate by 10 cents it has
remained at that level," he explained.
Garcia will be one of the guest speakers at a meeting on the
sales tax set for 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 15 at the Reeves
County Civic Center. Also from Fort Stockton will be local
official Pete Terrazas.
Other speakers will be Guy Andrews, chairman of the board of
the Odessa Chamber of Commerce and Carolyn Trip, immediate
past chairperson of the Odessa Chamber, both of whom have
worked very hard on the passage of the 4A Sales referendum
The Sample Ballot for the proposal at the Nov. 3 election
will read, "Special election to provide for the adoption of
a sales and use tax within the city for the promotion and
development of new and expanded business enterprises at the
rate of one-fourth of one percent and the adoption of an
additional sales and use tax within the city at the rate of
one-fourth of one percent to be used to reduce the property
Alnog with the 1/4 cent for economic development, 1/4 cent
of Pecos' sales tax would used to reduce property tax. One
half cent is now being used for property tax relief), which
equals the current 1/2 cent total. In order to reappropriate
any portion of the 1/2 cent sales tax for property tax
relief requires a vote of the people.
Originally the plan had called for 1/4 cent to be taken from
city sales tax and 1/8 of a cent from the Reeves County
Hospital District's half-cent sales tax, but that proposal
was later changed to drop the hospital district from the
Supporters of the proposal said if approved, a committee
would be formed within the community that would oversee the
projects, but would be held accountable by the city council.
If the council or the community is not happy with one or all
of the committee members they can be removed.
The five-member board of directors can propose the projects
and the budget, but ultimately the council will have the
final vote on these proposals. Members can be chosen to
serve on the committee for a period of up to six years, but
can be removed at any time.
If the proposal of adopting the sales tax passes in the
November election, it will take another election to do away
The tax is primarily intended for manufacturing and
industrial development, and cities must use the tax revenues
to focus on these areas.
School board to discuss use of Barstow campus
Leasing or selling the Barstow Elementary school building
will be discussed during the regular Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD
board meeting Thursday evening.
Board members will convene at 6 p.m. Thursday in the board
room, 1304 South Park Street to discuss several school
related items along with the future of the Barstow campus,
which was closed prior to the start of the current school
Under new business board members will discuss/approve the
transportation coordinator's position and appoint a
transportation coordinator for the school district.
Board members will also discuss/approve 1998-99 budget
amendment, listen to the second reading to approve local
district update resulting from policy review seminar held
July 23; listen to a report from juvenile deputy Hilda Woods
and hear the attendance report.
In addition, board members will discuss allowing the board's
designee to have the discretion to allow the return of an
alternative education program student to the regular campus
under TEC Section 37.009(e) at the 120-day review.
Under old business the group will discuss payment of health
insurance bills and possible litigation report and the teen
crime stoppers program report.
Also to be approved and discussed:
* Professional personnel: appointments.
* Closed session - As authorized by the Texas Open Meetings
Act, Texas Government Code, Section 551.101 et. seq.,
Section 551.074: Discussion personnel or hear complaints
* Tax report.
* Depository securities report.
* Investment transaction report.
* Reconciled bank balance report.
* Current bills and financial report.
* Cafeteria report.
* List of commodities.
* Time for next meeting.
* Calendar of events.
* Request for items for next agenda.
Water line fix on city's agenda
Town of Pecos City will meet Thursday at 7:30 a.m. to
discuss a request to replace a water line at 1110 North
Cedar Street and to discuss a request from Crockett Middle
School teacher Cindy Duke.
Other items up for discussion are deposit on beer bottles
and recommendations from insurance committee.
Council members will also discuss contracts with the grant
Regular items on the agenda include approval of minutes;
public comments and approval of accounts payable.
The meeting will be held in the council's chambers at City
PHA board to discuss lease for program
Pecos Housing Authority Board members will discuss and
approve a lease agreement with CCRC for the use of space the
building located at 1001 E. 10th Street for the elderly
Meals On Wheels Program during their regular monthly meeting
Under unfinished business the group will discuss CIAP 96
update; retirement plan for PHA/FLH employees and approval
CIAP 98 budget amendment.
Board members will discuss correspondence received from HUD
Director, Eileen Rogers, notification of comprehensive
improvement assistance program award, $1.3 million; a letter
from Mary Jane Ontiveros, CCRC, executive director,
termination of lease for day care services at the PHA
Building located at 1001 E. 10th Street and a letter from
Ontiveros on the elderly meals program site.
Other items to be discussed include monthly financial
statement, June 1998; monthly account payable, June 1998;
monthly occupancy status, June 1998 and rent roll and cash
In the Farm Labor Housing portion of the meeting the group
will discuss monthly financial statement, monthly account
payable, occupancy status and rent roll and cash journal.
The board will meet at 5 p.m. Thursday at the PHA offices at
600 Meadowbrook Drive.
High Tuesday, 74; overnight low, 45. Forecast for tonight,
clear. Lows in the mid 40s. Light southeast winds. Thursday,
sunny. Highs in the lower 80s. South winds 10-15 mph.
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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Copyright 1998 by Pecos Enterprise