(Adapted in part from the 31st Wing Air Force Year Book - Turner Air Base, Albany, GA 1957 and in part from The Albany Herald, April 26, 1992).
Air Corps Advanced Flying School
Turner Air Force Base was originally known as the Air Corps Advanced Flying School (Twin Engine), Albany, Georgia. Opened in June of 1941, the first class graduated in October. But on 21 July 1941, the name changed and the installation was officially designated as Turner Field in honor of 2nd Lt. Sullivan Preston Turner, a native of Georgia who was killed in an airplane accident at Langley Field, Virginia on 23 May 1 940. (In January 1948, this designation was changed to Turner Air Force Base)
Construction of the base, under the supervision of Army Engineers on land leased to the U.S. Government by the city of Albany, was begun on 25 March 1941. Within the next six weeks, the first contingent of military personnel was sent from Maxwell Field to assist in the work. By mid-May, the work was well underway and the installation was activated. Lt. Col. (later Colonel) John B. Patrick was in charge of the advanced Flying School and had arrived to assume command of the base. By way of furthering preparation for the functioning of the field, a part of the Southeast Training Center, the 8th Air Base Squadron, the 94th, 95th and 96th School Squadrons, and various supporting units took station at the base between June and October.
America’s sudden entry into the war in December of 1941 called for an immediate increase in training facilities. Since permanent housing takes time to construct and there would soon be a drastic increase in training cadets and support personnel, 100 winterized tents and a 500 man latrine were constructed.
Although the building program had undergone expansion in the course of the summer and was by no means completed, classes were begun in August 1941. At the time, two types of training were offered: navigation training with about 20 cadets and advance pilot training which began with 29 pilots. With the outbreak of World War II, Turner Field was placed on a wartime footing.
Between March of 1941 and June of 1942, the Army expended $6,343,807.41 on construction. Included were 79 barracks buildings, nine mess halls, 16 day rooms, 16 supply rooms, 19 administration buildings, six warehouses and 20 school buildings along with recreation and utility facilities, a hospital, hangars, runways, taxi ways, aprons, control towers, repair shops, operations buildings, parade grounds, roads, sidewalks and parking lots. Then everything was fenced in.
The Military Left ... But Returned
After the end of hostilities, Turner Air Base was deactivated from 15 August 1946 until 1 September 1947. The 2621st AAF Base Unit arrived from Barksdale Field, Lousianna and acted as caretakers. During these months of inactive status, Turner was a part of the Air Training Command.
The Korean War Era, Operation Fox Peter One
Welcome to the B-52 Bombers & the Return of Turner Field to Strategic Air Command
With reactivation, Turner Air Base was transferred to the Tactical Air Command’s Ninth Air Force. On 20 November 1947, the 31st Fighter Group, a veteran unit that had served in Europe and the Mediterranean theaters in World War II and had only recently returned from a tour of duty in Germany, was stationed at Turner and became its principal operational component. Through the following years, this unit remained in assignment at Turner.
During this time, both Turner and the 31st wing were placed under different major air commands. In December 1948, they became associated with Continental Air Command and Fourteenth Air Force, remaining under this jurisdiction until July 1950. They then became under the Strategic Air Command’s Second Air Force. On 1 April 1957, Turner and the 31st Wing were reunited with the Tactical Air Command’s Ninth Air Force.
Almost simultaneously the Wing’s tactical vehicle, the Republic F-84F "Thunderstreak" was changed to the North American F-100 "Super Sabre". Aerial refueling capability for the Wing was increased as the KB-50 refueling aircraft replaced the KB-29. Prior to April 1, the Wing was rated as the foremost Strategic Fighter Wing in the SAC. The adoption of the new tactical and refueling aircraft immediately caused the wing to become non-combat ready. It began a long struggle to regain and maintain its high degree of readiness in the new and complex equipment.
Many other Air Force units were from time to time assigned to Turner, some temporarily and others for their life span. Foremost of these units was SAC’s 40th Air Force Division which was activated in March 1951 and inactivated on 1 April 1957. The 508th Strategic Fighter Wing lived its life span at Turner from July 1952 until May 1956. The 408th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, formed of personnel of the 508th and the 4025th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, which moved to Turner from a base in Ohio in May 1956 stayed until 1 April 1957. Upon the transfer of the 31st to the Ninth Air Force on that date, the 408th was transferred to Laughlin Air Force Base, Del Rio Texas.
From its reactivation in 1947, the principal mission of Turner Air Force Base was operation of tactical air wings for Combat Readiness. Air base groups were used in support of this mission. In 1947, the 357th AAF unit was followed by the 31st Air Base Group in March 1951 and the 811th Air Base Group in July 1951. (The latter was transferred to the 31st Air Base Group on 25th September 1957 and contributed immensely to its accomplishments.)
The base became the installation of the strategic Air Command, with the 484th Bombardment Wing and the 1370th Photo Mapping Wing assigned as tenant commands.
Welcome to the Navy
On July 1, 1967, the Base was commissioned by the Navy as the Naval Air Station, Albany. (see Naval Air Station).
Turner Air ... Auf Wiedersehen, Au Revoir, ‘Til we meet again
The base, then known as the Naval Air Station in Albany, closed for good in 1974. For Albany, it meant a loss of at least 3,000 jobs and sent the unemployment rate of the city soaring to 11 percent according to Lamar Clifton, then Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce.
Difficult Years at Turner
Community leaders accepted the major challenge for redevelopment of Turner Field, and by 1976, the first new industry (Kroger/Tara Foods) was acquired for one of the buildings, with major reconstruction and 80+ new jobs. This was very important, as Albany went to school on how to deal with "Uncle Sam" in such a major redevelopment effort. This was critical to further dealings concerning Miller Brewing and eight or ten other transactions that led to a textbook redevelopment effort, referred to by officials of the General Services Administration as a classic. Many former military installations, once closed by the Federal government have been fallow for years, and in some cases decades. But for Albany, Miller was a major segment of the three year period 1978-1980 that saw a virtual $3/4 billion capital expenditure for Albany, including Miller, Delco-Remy, Procter & Gamble expansion and several service and complimentary industries. (Lamar Clifton, A First State Legacy, page 17.)