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USS Idaho Ships

Histories Of The Ships Bearing The Name USS Idaho

Idaho I

Idaho I

USS IDAHO I

USS IDAHO Steam Sloop served from 1866 to 1873

She began life as a wooden steam sloop but was later converted to a full-rigged sailing ship and recommissioned. “The converted Idaho was one of the fastest sailing ships of her day, and sailed 1 November 1867 for Rio de Janeiro. From there she continued the long voyage to the Far East, arriving at Nagasaki 18 May 1868. The ship remained there for 15 months as a store and hospital ship for the Asiatic Squadron.”

Her full history can be read on the US Navy webpage at: IDAHO I

Additional photographs of her can be viewed at: IDAHO I photos


Idaho II

Idaho II

USS IDAHO II

USS IDAHO BB24 Mississippi Class Battleship which served from 1908 to 1914

She conducted operations in multiple ports and visited “Gravesend, England, (16 November-7 December 1910), then Brest, France (9-30 December), her officers and men receiving ‘a most cordial welcome’ at both places.” She was sold to Greece and continued service under the name Lemnos until April 1941.

Her history as the USS Idaho can be read on the US Navy webpage at: IDAHO II

Additional photographs of her can be viewed at: IDAHO II photos


Idaho III

Idaho III

USS IDAHO III

USS IDAHO SP-545 Motor Boat which served from 1917 to 1918

She was assigned to the 4th Naval District for patrol and general duties, serving on harbor entrance patrol and submarine net patrol in the Cape May and Philadelphia areas. Her full history can be read on the US Navy webpage at: IDAHO III Additional photographs of her can be viewed at: IDAHO III photos

USS IDAHO BB42 Bombarding Okinawa, 1 April 1945

USS IDAHO BB42 Bombarding Okinawa, 1 April 1945

USS IDAHO IV

USS IDAHO BB42 New Mexico Class Battleship which served from 1919 to 1946

She was stationed at Hvalfjordur, Iceland when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Her WWII service included the Aleutians, Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, Saipan, the Philippine Sea, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa and she witnessed the surrender signing aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. The U.S.S. Idaho received seven battle stars for her World War II service.

Her full history can be read on the US Navy webpage at: IDAHO IV

Additional photographs of her can be viewed at: IDAHO IV photos

Also affectionately referred to as “The Big Spud” a former crewmember webpage can be viewed at: http://www.ussidaho.com/


USS IDAHO SSN 799

USS IDAHO SSN 799

USS IDAHO V

USS IDAHO SSN 799 is scheduled to be commissioned Summer 2023

She will be a submarine, known as SSN-799 (Virginia Class). Her keel was laid on August 24, 2020. The video of the ceremony can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/450907712

Click here for an article about the keel ceremony: https://www.kpvi.com/..._news/keel-laying-ceremony-for-future-uss-idaho-submarine/article_8c41789a-e660-11ea-8a1a-7bddb71ca289.html

After the keel was laid, a former crewmember of the USS IDAHO BB42 reached out to the new crew. Click here for the article: https://www.idahostatejournal.com/...ed-on-previous-uss-idaho-reaches-out-to-crew-of/article_755f0611-b078-5466-b66c-a22d5b735207.html

Click here for two Idaho stories about the new USS IDAHO: https://www.kmvt.com/2020/09/01/fifth-edition-of-the-uss-idaho-underway/ https://www.kivitv.com/news/native-idahoans-will-serve-on-the-navys-u-s-s-idaho-nuclear-submarine

Commander Nicholas Meyers assumed command of the new USS IDAHO on August 21, 2020. Click here for an article about and photo of the Pre-Commissioning Unit and assumption of command: https://localnews8.com/news/local-news/2020/08/25/uss-idaho-officially-under-construction/

The new USS IDAHO was named on August 23, 2015. Click here for two articles announcing the new ship: https://www.naval-technology.com/uncategorised/newsus-navy-christens-newest-virginia-class-attack-submarine-as-uss-idaho-4655173/

https://www.marinetechnologynews.com/news/submarine-named-idaho-519726


Idaho Naval History Brief Summaries

Idaho has a rich Navy military history. Click the link to go directly to the article.

U.S. Navy Acoustic Research Detachment (1949-current) Bayview, Idaho
Once touted as "the U.S. Submarine force's most important body of water" by Admiral Edmund Giambastiani, former US Submarine Forces Commander.

Farragut Naval Training Station and Hospital (1942-1946) Athol, Idaho
The largest city in Idaho in 1942 and the second largest of seven navy bootcamps in WWII

U.S. Naval Proving Ground (1942- 1949) currently known as INL, Arco, Idaho
What eventually became the Idaho National Lab, this was originally a Navy artillery range and the home of the first Nuclear Prototype Submarine reactor and the home of Naval Prototype Training Unit where 40,000 sailors trained on nuclear power plant operations from 1949 to 1995

Naval Prototype Training Unit – (1949 – 1995) Idaho Falls, Idaho
Submarine nuclear power capabilities began right here in Idaho at what was then the Navy Arco Proving ground and what is now the Idaho National Laboratory. All of the nuclear personnel from the first nuclear submarine, USS Natilus trained in Idaho.

Naval Operational Support Center ( - current) Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho
Originally located along the Boise River in what is now the Boise Discovery Center, NOSC Boise began in 1963 and moved to its current location on Gowen Field in 1988.

Naval ROTC Unit University of Idaho
Shortly before WWII ended, the Navy established an ROTC unit at the University of Idaho.

U.S. Navy Radio School (1942-1945) University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho
The Navy training station at Farragut wasn’t the only place in Idaho that taught radiomen their skills. The University of Idaho also had a Navy radioman school.

U.S. Navy Convalescent Hospital (1943-1946) Sun Valley, Ketchum, Idaho
Today’s Sun Valley Resort was called the Challenger Inn in 1943. Owned by Union Pacific, it served as a Navy Convalescent Hospital during WWII.

Pocatello Naval Ordnance Plant (1942-1961) Pocatello, Idaho
When the Navy ships fighting in WWII needed their battleship guns repaired, many of those guns came to Idaho for and then were tested at the Navy artilery range or Arco Proving Ground.

Navy Reserve Facility Pocatello (1959-2005) Pocatello Idaho
Along with Boise, the Navy also had a reserve facililty in Pocatello that was known for some of the highest numbers in the nation for Direct Commissioned Officers.

CAA (now called FAA) Air Cadet Training School (1943-1944) Lewiston, Idaho

U.S. Navy V-12 School (1943-1945) Pocatello, Idaho
The V-12 Program provided young men who grew up with little hope of ever going to college a chance to do just that. When the V-12 Program ended in 1946, it had produced more than 60,000 Navy and Marine Corps officers. One of those schools was in Pocatello, Idaho.

1955 All-Idaho Navy Company
In January 1955, eighty Idaho men became part of an all-Idaho navy unit. The unit received a special plaque from the Training Command "for exceptional and competitive performance".

Idaho has a a rich military history and a great deal of Navy history. The Naval History and Heritage Command is in agreement as they published this image on their webpage. Click here to read the accompanying article: NHHC article (of note, there are more than 9 ships with Idaho ties, they are listed on the US Navy Ships Named for Idaho Cities, Counties, and Icons page)

Idaho's Naval History

Idaho's Naval History



Farragut Naval Training Station and Hospital (1942-1946) Athol, Idaho

As the United States entered World War II, the Secretary of the Navy desired to establish a naval training facility away from coastal areas, in his words, “far from coastal bombings” which he believed would occur. The site of Lake Pend Oreille, in scenic northern Idaho, was selected and the announcement was made on March 28, 1942. Urban legend has it that it was Eleanor Roosevelt who selected the site but this is not true, it was a delegation of three senior naval officers.

The Station encompassed 4,050 acres at the southern tip of Lake Pend Oreille. The lake itself was described in 1945 by the Station’s Commander Kelley as “ranges up to 2270 feet in depth, is nearly 50 miles long, from 2 to 12 miles wide, and has about 500 miles of shoreline.” The lake is so deep that it does not freeze over during winter.

On April 10, 1942, the contract for the project was awarded to the Walter Butler company for construction of the Station and on April 23rd, they broke ground on the project. On May 30, 1942 it was announced that the Station would be named Farragut in honor of Admiral David G. Farragut, a Civil War Naval Hero.

On July 24, 1942, Captain I.C. Sowell became the first commanding officer at Farragut and on the 31st, the first camp, Area “C” as it was called, was completed. Captain Sowell formally commissioned the Station on September 15, 1942. That same day, Area “C” was renamed Camp Bennion in honor of Mervyn S. Bennion, Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. West Virginia who was killed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Camp Bennion was the first camp to open and begin training recruits. On September 17, the first recruits, 61 total, arrived.

On September 21, President Roosevelt made a secret visit to the Station accompanied by Rear Admiral McIntyre and Idaho’s Governor Chase Clark. By September 30, there were 1,000 recruits or “Boots” in training.

On October 6, 1942, the second camp was commissioned. It was called Camp Ward in honor of Seaman First Class James R. Ward who died on December 7, 1941 aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

On November 3, 1942, the third camp was commissioned. It was called Camp Waldron in honor of Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the battle at Midway in June 1942.

By November 18, 1942, there were 10,000 recruits in training. On December 1, 1942, the fourth camp was commissioned. It was called Camp Hill in honor of Chief Boatswain Edwin J. Hill who was killed in action on December 7, 1941 aboard the U.S.S. Nevada at Pearl Harbor and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

On December 19, 1942, the fifth camp was commissioned. It was called Camp Scott in honor of Rear Admiral Norman Scott for his actions on November 13, 1942 aboard the U.S.S. Atlanta during the battle of the Solomons and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. By December 31, 1942, there were 17, 581 recruits in training.

On March 25, 1943, the sixth camp was commissioned. It was called Camp Peterson in honor of Chief Water Tender Oscar V. Peterson for his actions aboard the U.S.S. Neosho during the battle of the Coral Sea and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. At the time of the camps naming, Peterson was believed to have been from Richfield, Idaho. He was not but his widow moved there with their two sons shortly after Peterson’s death. Camp Peterson was the service school camp and was not a recruit training camp. There were several service schools at Camp Peterson; Cooks, radiomen, quartermasters, gunner’s mates to name a few.

On April 1, 1943, Captain Sowell was detached from the Station and Captain J.G. Atkins assumed temporary command. On June 9, 1943, Captain Frank H. Kelley assumed the duties of Commandant. He would be the Stations commander for the duration.

On June 26, 1944, the seventh and final camp was commissioned. It was called Camp Gilmore in honor of Commander Howard W. Gilmore for is actions aboard the U.S.S. Growler January 10 - February 1943 and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Camp Gilmore was used for additional training and was not a recruit training camp.

Each of the training camps accommodated 5,000 “boots” each. The typical company was 120 recruits with 20 companies forming a regiment. Each camp was laid out in an oval configuration and was virtually self-sufficient. Each camp had between 20 and 22 two-story barracks, a mess hall, administration building, parade ground or drill field, sick bay and dispensary, recreation building and a drill hall with a swimming pool.

The “boots” were busy with training but they were also involved in other activities. There were stage shows put on by the recruits, camp choirs, baseball teams, football teams, even bands that the “boots” participated in.

When the “boots” completed their training a company photograph was taken and the men were promoted shortly thereafter to either Seaman First Class or Fireman First Class depending on their rating.

The Station had its own newspaper, The Farragut News, and its own very busy post office. By April 1943, the post office was handling over 3,000,000 pieces of mail not counting parcel post and magazines. Each camp had a branch post office as did the hospital.

There was also a tailor shop, a cobbler shop, a telephone system, a laundry for the Ships Service aka full-time staff. The laundry used over 2,500 pounds of soap per month, processing over 225,000 pieces of laundry and dry cleaning each week. (The “boots” did their own laundry)

Women were not trained at the Station but WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) came onboard in 1943 and took part in the daily operation of the facility to relieve sailors for overseas duty and other war efforts. The WAVES had their own sports teams and were even allowed to fire at the outdoor range if they qualified.

Many of the Ship Service personnel resided in Farragut Village which included all the basic necessities to include a civilian dispensary, an auditorium, a school for their children and playgrounds.

On November 20, 1944, the Station received notification that “Service training requirements are such that it will be inadvisable to continue input of recruits to subject station after 1 December 1944. Service School inputs will also be discontinued during the month of December. This discontinuance of inputs will lead to a decommissioning of the Training Center in the spring of 1945.”

On December 4, 1944, the last recruit, Randall W. Cline from Kuna, Idaho, entered Farragut. He brought the total number of recruits processed to 293,383. The last recruit company, 6031-1944 graduated on March 10, 1945 and on March 14, 1945 the Recruit Training Command discontinued.

The Hospital. On May 28, 1942, plans were released for $4,500,000 for a naval hospital to be constructed at the location of the new naval training Station. Construction began on April 23, 1942, with an initial projected cost in WWII dollars of $20,000,000 for 20,000 men. It was later raised to $57,000,000 for 30,000 men but there were also other additions and expansions.

The hospital occupied 170 acres. The hospital was designed as a 1,000-bed facility but was soon expanded by the addition of 750 more beds. The hospital was commissioned and placed in operation on January 15, 1943 with Captain, Harry S. Harding in command.

FNTS Hospital

FNTS Hospital

Aerial photo of the hospital taken by the Army Air Corps from Geiger Field, Spokane, WA The hospital received its first patients on January 25th. It was the largest and most modern hospital in the northwest and contained all the modern equipment necessary for the practice of medicine and surgery.

On December 10, 1943, a Prosthetic Dental Laboratory contact was awarded to R.D. Merrill Construction Company. The project cost was projected at $186,673. Over 11,000 surgical procedures were performed while the hospital was active and hospital dentists provided for more than 58,500 individual sittings or visits. The laboratory performed more than 317,500 tests; the Pharmacy compounded and dispensed nearly 88,000 prescriptions.

The number of beds the hospital had varies depending on the source but a report by Commodore Kelley dated August 14, 1945, stated that the hospital originally had 1,477 beds but was expanded in 1944 to an overload capacity of approximately 3,800 beds.

Patients with only minor ills or injuries were treated in the sick bays and dispensaries in the training camps. There were 12 identical dispensaries to serve the original six camps and one Station personnel dispensary. There was also a dispensary in the outgoing unit and one at Camp Gilmore. The more serious and long convalescent cases were transferred to the main hospital.

In conjunction with the hospital, a school for training hospital corpsmen was established however it was operated under a separate command from the main training Station. It was reported that at Farragut there were more medical and dental officers on duty than there were in the entire US Navy prior to Pearl Harbor. The Hospital Corpsman School, commissioned at the same time as the hospital, provided Basic A school training for more than 17,000 hospital corpsmen.

The hospital had its own commissary, post office, fire department, switchboard, library, Chaplain department, Red Cross office, maintenance department, dental department, pharmacy, to name a few of its services.

The hospital, initially built to care for recruits, changed missions in 1944 when thousands of sailors and marines injured and wounded in the Pacific Theater, arrived in waves for treatment and rehabilitation. In April 1945, Camp Bennion, one of the Station’s training camps took on a new mission. It was transferred to the hospital, became the overflow area for the hospital and began treating the large number of men wounded in the Pacific Theater, some of them neuro-psychiatric patients. In addition, an additional 1,600 beds became available.

The actual hospital census on September 1, 1945, was 3,542. This is also believed to be its peak census. The hospital cared for military dependents as well. The Farragut News, the training stations newspaper, reported that as of November 15, 1944, there had been 389 babies born at the hospital. From January 15, 1943 to November 7, 1945, a total of 43,498 patients had been admitted to the hospital.

On June 19, 1945, members of the hospital staff oversaw the commissioning of the Hayden Lake Convalescent home. The home was, according to multiple newspaper articles, donated to the navy by the then current owner of the property Mr. & Mrs. C. P. Lund. The Elks Lodge was also involved. The facility was described as an estate of 785 acres and the residence had “30 rooms including a ballroom, nine fireplaces and seven bathrooms.” An article in the Spokane Chronicle noted that “30 convalescent patients from Farragut Naval hospital will get a day of free golf each Tuesday at Hayden Lake, Idaho.” It was good physical therapy. According to a photo of the facility in the Bedside Examiner, the hospitals newspaper, patients were “chosen to spend from a week to 10 days at the rest home.”

The Hayden Lake facility was short lived however as the Spokesman Review announced on September 26, 1945 that “the United States naval hospital at Farragut will discontinue sending convalescents to the now-named Hayden Lake Estates after October 15.” Today the Clark House On Hayden Lake as it is called, named for its original owner, serves as a bed and breakfast.

The hospital had two commanders. Captain Harry S. Harding September 24, 1943 - April 23, 1945 and Captain A.C. Smith April 23, 1945 – June 15, 1946.

The last corpsman class graduated on October 25, 1945 and the corpsman school was decommissioned October 31, 1945. The hospital itself was decommissioned June 15, 1946.

New Missions. With “boot” and service school training ended, the Station took on new missions. From August 29 through September 22, 1945 it served as a Separation Center where personnel were sent for discharge. The Center separated 609 individuals.

The Brig (Station prison) also took on an added roll when on March 23, 1945, it received the first 40 General Court Martial (GCM) prisoners. Another 40 arrived on the 30th. Still more GCM prisoners arrived and on September 1, 1945 the U.S. Naval Disciplinary Barracks was commissioned.

On February 9, 1945, 240 German prisoners of war arrived at the Station and were interred at the Butler Overflow area, the area where Butler Construction had their administrative offices during construction. These were Germans captured by US troops in Europe and Africa and as there were no neutral countries in Europe in which to confine them, they were brought to the United States. The POW’s performed a variety of jobs to include groundskeepers, bakers, storekeepers, cooks, laborers and even forest firefighters. The official number of POW’s at the Station is 850 but one report/roster places the number at 926. The POW camp was inactivated on April 25, 1946.

In June 1945, a Personnel Effects Distribution Center was established in Camp Hill. Staffed by roughly 70 personnel, their mission was to receive from overseas the effects of men killed in the war, inventory them for objectionable or censorable matter and government issued equipment, launder the clothing, polish the buttons and jewelry, and put the items in storage until the next of kin’s wishes were received regarding disposition.

On June 15, 1946, in a gray mist and drizzling rain, the Farragut Naval Training Station was decommissioned. Perhaps the feelings of those present were best expressed by Commander Kelley, “It is a gloomy day to wind up a gloomy business.”

Epilogue. Although the Station was only operational between 1942 and 1946, during that time, it was the largest city in Idaho, the largest business in Idaho, and the second largest US Naval Training Station. It trained sailors from at least 23 different states and by June 15, 1946, the day its doors closed, a total of 293,383 recruits or ‘boots’, over 25,943 service school sailors and over 17,000 hospital corpsmen had passed through its doors.

The Station was required to provide monthly reports of the visitors and activities the senior Station personnel were involved in. These reports, sometimes referred to as War Diaries, noted the arrival of wounded from the Pacific Theater, German POWs, naval prisoners being sent to the Brig and various celebrities and VIP’s. The celebrities included actress Rita Hayworth on July 31, 1945, band leader Jan Garber and his orchestra on November 9, 1945, and musician and band leader Eddie Miller on December 3, 1945. Although there is no evidence that he visited or performed at the Station, the August 3, 1945 Bedside Examiner, noted that Bing Crosby sent a “new type crutch” to the hospital for the patients.

The former training station became Farragut College and Technical Institute in 1946 whose focus was on the returning veterans. Commander Kelley was its board of directors’ president. The College was short lived however as veterans transitioned back to the civilian world. The college closed the summer of 1949 due to lack of funds and low enrollment despite a golf fundraiser which included comedian Bob Hope in May 1949.

Other organizations were interested in the facilities. The Idaho Falls Post-Register announced on September 30, 1949 that Idaho’s Congressional delegation was pursuing the General Service Administration to “grant all former Farragut land” which included the former college to the Idaho Fish and Game Department. The December 28, 1949 Twin Falls Times-News reported that the Air Force was looking at turning the former training station into a USAF academy. There was even a proposal to convert the former Brig to a “youth reformatory” for juvenile boys too young for the state prison in Boise.

On December 4, 1949, the Idaho State Journal announced that bids had been let for the dismantling of the Station. The Good Hope Wrecking company was the successful bidder on 18 of the 28 items on the November sale. Many of the buildings were either torn down or relocated to surrounding communities. Ultimately, Idaho’s Fish and Game was the victor on the land issue. The announcement was made in The Post-Register on November 23, 1949 that all but 155 acres would be turned over to the fish and wild life service of Idaho. From 1952 until 1965, the former home of Commander Kelley was the headquarters for the Idaho’s Fish and Game Headquarters at the Farragut Wildlife Management Area. In 1965, the former training station became Farragut State Park.

Visitors can drive on the original roads and view two of the remaining landmarks, the water towers, which are still in use today. The original Brig is now a museum open to visitors during the summer season, normally Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day.

At least three of those who trained at the Station earned a place in history.

Robert E. Bush graduated with Camp Hill’s Company 28-44, Regiment 4, Battalion 15, on February 15, 1944. He then continued his training at Farragut, graduating from the Hospital Corpsman School on or about April 28, 1944. He went on to become a Navy medical corpsman and during the Battle of Okinawa and at the age of 18, became the youngest sailor to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II.

Fredrick F. Lester graduated on December 21, 1943, with Camp Ward’s Company 954-43, Regiment 2, Battalion 7. He served as a Navy medical corpsman during the Battle of Okinawa where he earned the Medal of Honor on June 8, 1945. Regrettably, it was a posthumous award.

John H. Bradley trained at Farragut although his graduation date is unknown. On February 21, 1945, while serving as a hospital corpsman with a Marine Rifle platoon, he earned the Navy Cross for heroism. He was also one of the flag raisers at Iwo Jima and is in the photograph of the first flag raising. His story was made into a book as well as a motion picture Flags Of Our Fathers.

At least one member of the Ships Service earned a place in history. Don W. Samuelson, employed as a weapons instructor and gunsmith went on to become a state senator and then Governor of Idaho serving from January 2, 1967 to January 4, 1971.

Other notable Farragut veterans include William W. Laxson who went on to become the state surgeon for the Idaho Army National Guard and Leo F. Buscaglia who went on to become a successful writer and motivational speaker; often referred to as “Dr. Love.”

Many of the Farragut veterans have and had fond memories of their time and friendships at the former Station. From 1986 until 2015 they held an annual reunion there.

To learn more about the former training station, see the book Images of America, Farragut Naval Training Station by Gayle Alvarez and Dennis Woolford. It also includes many vintage photographs.

Idaho’s Public Broadcasting Station KSPS published a documentary on Farragut in 2010. Click here to watch it. It runs about 56 minutes.

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The Navy ROTC program at the University of Idaho began just as WWII was drawing to a close. The July 27, 1945 Spokane Chronicle, noted that a group of seven naval officers were inspecting the campus with a goal of establishing a Navy ROTC unit. The seven included five officers from Washington, DC and two from the 13th Naval district in Seattle.

The ROTC program was created on November 1, 1945 and began training cadets in 1947. The program was a four-year training course for Naval ROTC students with its first commanding officer being Capt. Stephen H. Ambruster, a WWII veteran and former commander of the submarine Robalo. Ambruster relinquished command in August 1948 when he was transferred to the command of the USS Monongahela. He was replaced by Capt. Church A. Chappell, also a WWII veteran.

While enrolled in the program, the cadets held the rank of Midshipman, nicknamed ‘Middies’. After completing their education, the graduates were commissioned as officers in either the Navy or Marines and spent two years on active duty. Their commissions were equivalent to the graduates of the Naval Academy in Annapolis. The first University of Idaho graduating class commissioned approximately 200 officers in 1951.

A few notable moments in the Unit’s history include:

In 1965 Iranian Navy Midshipmen were admitted into the program.

In 1970 the Unit was damaged by arson purportedly by anti-war activists.

1972 saw the admission of the program’s first female midshipmen.

Some of the notable individuals who attended or taught at the University of Idaho include:

Lieutenant General Ross E Rowell, one of the pioneers of Marine Aviation, completed his education at the University of Idaho in 1908.

Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipient William McGonagle joined the university as an instructor in Naval Weapons, Operations and Tactics, and Naval Leadership from January 1959 - July 1961. He also served as Commanding Officer and received a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University while teaching there.

Roderick L. Mayer, an F-4 phantom pilot, helped develop the first book for space navigation. CDR Mayer would fly more than 70 combat missions during the Vietnam War and later be shot down. He was promoted posthumously to the rank of CDR.

Navy Captain Jeffery S. Ashby helped develop the F/A-18 aircraft and flew the F-18 in multiple combat missions. At the age of 40, Ashby was selected as an astronaut candidate in December 1994. He went on to pilot space shuttle mission’s STS-93, STS-100, and commanded STS-112.

James F. Amos was named the 35th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps. General Amos would hold both positions of Commandant and assistant Commandant during his career in the military.

Medal of Honor recipient Reginald Rodney Myers graduated from the University of Idaho in June 1941 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. At the time, he was with the Army ROTC program and attained the rank of cadet colonel. He accepted a regular commission in the USMC later that year. A special thank you to Commander Anthony Rabaiotti, MSC, USN, Executive Officer & Associate Professor of Naval Science for much of the preceding information.

This emblem, for Naval ROTC at the University of Idaho, dates back to the 1970s. Image courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command.

NROTC Insignia

NROTC Insignia

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Navy Sailors at graduation

Navy Sailors at graduation

During WWII, the University of Idaho reached out to the military for assistance when a curriculum revision did not resolve their financial problems. “The result was the establishment of a navy radio school on the campus and later an army technical training school. Sailors and soldiers were moved to the campus in numbers for specialized training. University dormitories were taken over to house them and classroom buildings were converted for army and navy use. A decrease in enrollment and an accelerated schedule left little time for anything but studies and extracurricular activities suffered.”

Navy Sailors taking code

Navy Sailors taking code

The University’s newspaper, The Idaho Argonaut, announced various dances and activities that included the sailors and soldiers. It also stated, “all facilities open to the civilian students have been made available to the Army and Navy men, and this, in addition to their page in the Argonaut, their football teams, and their representative on the student activities board, has made the three parts of the student body into a single organization.” This included church services. The Argonaut also noted various celebrities who visited the university and entertained the men and the army soldiers were invited to join various academic engineering groups.

U.S. Sailors, shown during inspection, were trained on the campus to be radio operators.

U.S. Sailors, shown during inspection, were trained on the campus to be radio operators.

The Idaho Argonaut announced in its March 27, 1942 edition that the 13th naval command had informed the universities administration that Idaho had been selected as a site for a training school for naval radio operators. The first contingent of roughly 150 sailors would arrive mid-April. This date proved to be premature.

An idle moment when

An idle moment when "gobs" sun themselves in front of Sweet Hall.

The May 19, 1942 Argonaut announced that a fundraising dance would be held to raise funds for recreational equipment for the Navy. A second article in the same paper announced that the first 47 sailors had arrived just a few days before. Publication of future arrivals was not allowed as “movement of troops in wartime is a military secret.”

Mess time and sailors pass through the Sweet-Chrisman kitchen to get their rations.

Mess time and sailors pass through the Sweet-Chrisman kitchen to get their rations.

The school was set up so that a company of roughly 70 men graduated and were replaced every two weeks during the 19 weeks course of instruction. Most of the sailors came to the university after receiving their boot training at Idaho’s U.S. Naval Training Station at Farragut. Farragut’s muster rolls coded the school as NTS Moscow Idaho. “…the trainees attend class eight hours a day in radio theory and maintenance, naval radio procedure, hand sending and receiving, typing, codes, telephone and interphone talking and receiving, with physical training scheduled after classes. Upon successful completion of their 19-weeks course the trainees are graduated as first class seamen and assigned to a fleet unit or to a shore radio station.” Nineteen civilian instructors gave the fundamentals and more advanced phases of radio operating to the trainees, along with eight Navy radiomen.

Officers confer during an inspection.

Officers confer during an inspection.

The sailors set to graduate at the time of the university’s annual commencement were included in the university’s graduation ceremonies. “Two hundred navy men will attend commencement exercises Monday and will sit in a body to the right of candidates receiving degrees…Commander J.A. Buchanan, in charge of the group here and naval liaison officers, will have a place in the academic procession.”

This photo, illustrating the inclusion of the navy radio men in the university commencement ceremony, was included in the university’s 1943 yearbook The Gem of the Mountains with the following caption: “As graduating classmates and naval trainees watch, ROTC seniors receive army commissions at Idaho’s first war-time commencement since World War I. In the background are the Stars and Stripes and service flags of two world wars.” In May of 1942, a baseball game was scheduled between Idaho varsity and “a navy team selected from the naval trainees here. The approval of the commanding officer was being sought last night. If approval is given the game will begin at 4 p.m.” The decision was not announced but was likely approved. Several Argonaut editions mention “navy radio school” men participating in sports such as basketball, baseball and track. The men did very well in track, the newspaper reported that the navy radio school “torpedoed” the Vandal harriers in a cross country race. There are also multiple reports of a navy band which went by the name Coffee Pot Parade. The two dormitories the university turned over to the Navy were Willis Sweet and Chrisman halls. Classes were held in “several university buildings.” The two dormitories were not enough to handle the large number of sailors. In October 1942, the university announced that the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp at Moscow was being transferred to the university primarily for its housing facilities. “Every month a new quota of sailors arrives before the old class can graduate and depart, thus causing us to be overcrowded…so it is our intention to move two of the barracks adjacent to Chrisman hall to accommodate all the men during this overlapping period.” The capacity of the school has been listed at both 600 and 700. The Universities 1943 yearbook The Gem Of The Mountains holds a few photos of the sailors.

The 1944 Gem noted that photos of the sailors were not available that year as “strict naval regulations make it very much more difficult to get pictures of the Gobs, and a shorter training period made it much more difficult for the Navy group to amalgamate with the civilian student body.”

The September 28, 1944 Argonaut announced that the Navy’s school would be closing sometime during the next six months. A Navy commission was to visit the school regarding disposition of the equipment which the university hoped to acquire. The withdrawal of the Navy was scheduled to be complete by January 15, 1945. This was a nationwide withdrawal and Idaho was one of the last states to train the radiomen. The November 16, 1944 Argonaut carried a headline on page 1 that read, “Sailors Evacuate Art Building”, their departure had begun.

The January 15, 1945 date was firm. Lt. Comdr. Glen B. Lantz made the announcement in the December 7th Argonaut. “Because of the adequate facilities of training schools now established at regular Naval bases, special units placed in universities throughout the country are unnecessary at this time. Idaho’s Naval radio school, one of the numerous contract schools created to train the radio men needed by the Navy, will close January 15, when final training of the present four companies is completed. Concluding his general announcement, Commander Lantz, in praise of the university, said, ‘Idaho was a mighty fine place for a radio school.’”

Commander Lantz didn’t take command of the school until March 1944. The first commanding officer was Lt. Cmdr J.A. Buchanan who served until September 1942. He was succeeded by Lt. Cmdr George H. Hamilton who was followed by Lt. Cmdr Glen B. Lantz. Lantz was promoted to Commander in early January 1945.

Farwell tributes were printed in the Argonaut. “Anchors Aweigh. It’s goodbye and goodbye again-not a broken record but rather a little off the record farewell to those boys in blue who have for almost two years been living at Willis street, and who have become a regular part of campus life. It’s been the Navy band that has played for our dances, Navy men who have taken our women to those dances, and Navy men who almost knock us off the sidewalk in their rush to make the best of their short liberties. They have helped form some of the best of campus life….But before all of you Navy men leave, take a little time out to read a few words concerning our appreciation for your activity and cooperation with campus functions. For when you do weigh anchor, you’ll take a definite part of Idaho with you.”

Another tribute ended with, “Godspeed, Sailors But while the Navy will be gone in body, they will long remain a part of the Idaho campus, for students and faculty members will not soon forget the expressions of 4,400 faces, or will the campus walks soon forget the steady rhythm of 8800 feet marching to the musical cadence, ‘by your left, right, left…’ They have left a permanent mark on the Idaho campus and in the hearts of many coeds who can look at 4,400 faces, see that special one, smile and whisper ‘Godspeed’…and across the campus the whisper will echo, ‘Godspeed.’”

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Pocatello Naval Ordnance Plant (1942-1961) Pocatello, Idaho

In 1947, the navy published a two-volume book entitled Building the Navy's Bases in World War II. Volume I includes details on the construction of the Pocatello Naval Ordnance Plant and reads as follows: “The naval ordnance plant at Pocatello, Idaho, was established April 1, 1942, on a level tract of 211 acres, approximately 3 miles north of the town of Pocatello. The site was selected when it was decided that a gun relining shop to serve the West Coast navy yards should be located east of the Coast Range.

“Construction was begun in the spring of 1942 and continued throughout 1943, with some portions of the plant in usable condition by the middle of the year. The station was commissioned August 2, 1943.

“The principal buildings constructed during that period were the big gun shop, 352 by 840 feet and 74 feet high, capable of relining the biggest guns of the fleet, the small gun shop, and an ordnance storehouse, together with the quarters, shops, and other facilities required for the efficient operation of the station. Later, a proof shop was added.

“Still later, the scope of the plant was increased by the construction of three heavy-materials store houses, each 352 by 605 feet, for the storage of guns and gun mounts. Each building was completely equipped with compressed air and electric power in several voltages, for use in exercising the gun mounts while in storage.

“Altogether, 50 buildings were erected on the station, all except a few of them being of permanent construction. Worthy of special mention was the construction of two furnace pits in the big gun shop. These pits, 44 feet in diameter and 86 feet deep, were constructed by sinking open caissons. The walls were of reinforced concrete. The big gun shop was also equipped with a 250-ton bridge crane, with an 83-foot span, the top of the crane rail being 45 feet above the floor.

“Late in the fall of 1942, construction was started on the naval proving ground, to be used for proof firing of guns reconditioned at Pocatello. The site selected was at Arco, 60 miles northwest of Pocatello, on a tract of 173,131 acres of comparatively level terrain. In addition to the gun emplacements and gun storage area, there were constructed 27 permanent buildings, including quarters for operating personnel, an administration building, warehouses, maintenance shops, and magazines for the storage of powder required for proof purposes.

“Work at Arco was substantially complete by the late summer of 1943, and the station was commissioned August 2nd.” An article in the September 12, 1943 edition of Idaho Falls’ The Post-Register stated that “Foremen for the Morrison-Knudsen Construction company indicate remaining work at the Pocatello naval ordnance plant and the Arco naval proving ground will be complete by Christmas.”

The facility was divided into two sections: the residential area and the proof area. The book Proving The Principle by Susan M. Stacy provides more detail about the plant. “The eighty-five-acre proof area was north of the residential area and fenced; anyone entering had to pass a guardhouse. It contained a battery of gun emplacements, a concussion wall and control tower, and magazines for smokeless powder, fuzes, [sic] and charges. An office building, railroad trackage, oil storage tanks, electrical substation, and other facilities supported the operations. A locomotive hauled the guns and other loads from place to place around the proof area. Most of the buildings were made of reinforced concrete to withstand the vibration and shock from the guns and potential munitions explosions.”

The area included a concussion wall. “The concussion wall, designed to absorb blast and protect those who fired the guns, was a particularly formidable piece of architecture. Standing between the gun emplacements and the residential area to the south, it was 315 feet long, 8 feet thick, and 15 ½ feet high. Its rebar was doubled and placed in a close eight-inch grid. Those in the control tower behind the wall could peer out of narrow window slits at the emplacements, each painted with a letter to make up the slogan ‘SAFETY FIRST.’”

“Less than half a mile from the concussion wall was the residential area, divided into two sections by the railroad spur coming in from the Union Pacific branch. The officers and several civilian families lived on the west side of the tracks in brick houses with white shutters. The Navy built for permanence, planting the grounds with trees and shrubs. The northern-most dwelling, the one with a matching garage, was reserved for the commanding officer. The southern-most was a barracks and mess for up to fourteen enlisted marines. Beyond the barracks were a kennel for the marines’ patrol dogs and a well-supplied commissary, which the civilians called “the store.”

“The main landmark for ‘the Base’ was an elevated water tank perched on a wooden tower in the residential area. Officially, the railroad siding and village were named “Scoville” after Commander John A. Scoville, the Officer in Charge of Construction of the Pocatello plant and the proving ground. The Navy named the main roads Lincoln Boulevard, Farragut Avenue, and Portland Avenue, a legacy that remained—along with the name Scoville—after the Navy left the site.”

“The Navy shipped first-run movies to the residents twice a week. These were shown in the locomotive shed next to the spur line. On movie nights, the locomotive was parked outside, displaced by the movie projector and rows of benches. The versatile building also served as a fire station and garage.”

The first guns relined and repaired at the Pocatello Naval Ordnance plan were test fired on the Arco range on November 20, 1943 and the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper covered the story. “The guns were treated in the small gun shop and was of ‘small caliber,’ Captain Walter E. Brown said. The plant will soon handle 14-inch and 16-inch guns.”

A second Salt Lake Tribune article in April 1944 went into great detail about the plant and included photographs of the facility. It read, “From the Yellowstone highway the ordnance plant is the principal landmark north of Pocatello. The simply designed and modern gray buildings are the largest industrial unit in the area, the newest and the most handsome. When the plant reaches full operation status this year, approximately 1000 civilian workemen and women will be employed.”

“The civilian staff rapidly adapted to the plant’s pleasant efficiency, now boast of their jobs to the employees of the long established Pocatello railroad shops and yards. Highly respected by them Is Captain Walter E. Brown, vigorous veteran of both world wars and the Mexican and Nicaraguan campaigns, ordnance plant commanding officer of whom they say they must restrain themselves not to salute at his presence. Production officer is brisk moustached [sic] Lieutenant Louis De J. Tim, Princeton man, who works with Master Mechanics H. W. Morley and Owen E. Crump, experts with more than 25 years of work with ordnance behind them. Lieutenant Commander Dan Blume ls executive officer.

“Activity at the plant, as directed by them, can be outlined as follows: At the big gun shop, a 120-foot high, 300x720-foot building, [where] the bulk of relining work is done. From the smallest caliber pieces to the 16-inch behemoths, this shop can return to service any gun sent to it by the fleet for repair. Relining consists of removing the inner sleeve of the multiple-layered gun and either regrooving the riflings or substituting a new liner as the innermost sleeve is called.

“The thousands of pounds of explosive pressure spiraling steel sheels [sic] through the precision-bored barrel in time cuts firing accuracy and the guns must be brought from their battle positions for speedy repair and return to the fleet. Their arrival and departure is kept as secret as troop movements, for obvious reasons.

“To hold the guns while the liner Is removed and reinserted, a 120-foot deep concrete pit has been sunk in the big gun shop floor. Ponderous hoists overhead move the guns about. All work is done with constant control of temperatures of metals and of the shop atmosphere. The plant operates on a 16-hour basis, but when guns are under treatment, even temperatures are maintained the clock around [sic]."

Ordnance Plant 1

Ordnance Plant 1

Photo from 9 April 1944 Salt Lake Tribune

“Crews in the small gun shop, a less impressive but Important unit west of the big one, work with smaller ordnance and handle most of the lathe work. The 300x600-foot warehouse adjacent to the Pole Line road where It gives autoists a close-up view of the plant's architecture houses all parts and equipment in reserve, waiting shipment or use in the shops. Even temperatures also are maintained here because of the delicate instruments in storage.

“Now all but completed, a $2,500,000 proof shop begun last July is already being used in its completed end for work with factory-new guns while construction crews finished the rest of the structure, now a common practice in hurry-up war industry expansion. In the proof shop, new guns will be mounted after assembling and testing or manufacture from forgings shipped in from eastern steel mills.

Ordnance Plant 2

Ordnance Plant 2

Photo from 9 April 1944 Salt Lake Tribune “To test firing consistency, the ordnance pieces are taken by rail to the Arco desert 40 miles northwest where they are fired across the sagebrush desert to determine consistency in firing. The guns rest in concrete abutments from where officers and civilian ordnance men observe the guns hurling shells into lava rock and sand as they will soon fire against enemy craft and shore positions.

“Quantity of work being done here is a secret; it is enough to say the ordnance plant is one of two of its kind in the nation, the other being on the east coast, near Washington D.C., and of the two the Pocatello facility is newer and closer to the Pacific fleet action.”

In July 1944, the plant expansion was announced. “The office of the secretary of navy today announced approval of a $5,610,000 project for construction of three new storehouses, a boiler plant, a WAVE quarters and additions to existing railroad tracks, roads and fences at the Pocatello, Ida., naval ordnance plant.”

Click her for a photo of a gun being refurbished in the Pocatello Navy Ordnance Plant: Big Gun Refurbish

The facility had marine guards who liked their facilities. The Salt Lake Tribune stated the following in September 1944, “Pocatello naval ordnance plant, known to naval personnel as the center for relining of big guns from the Pacific battles, also is famous among marines-for its modern barracks.

“Leathernecks with years of service behind them, veterans of all but the most recent Pacific land engagements, swear that the mottled red brick barracks is one of the very best in the entire marine corps-‘Which is saying a lot,’ they will add. To motorists who can easily view the building from Yellowstone highway, which passes the grounds, the attractive quarters have more the appearance of a well-designed, simple apartment house than a military structure.

“Inside, much of the same impression can be had. From the well-equipped galley to the upstairs two-deck bunks, simplicity and maximum comfort are stressed.

“Capt. John A. Jordan, commanding officer of the marine detachment, which also guards Arco naval proving grounds 40 miles northwest, said his men maintain a bowling alley in the basement, motion picture projection room on the main floor, visitors’ reception room and a pool table for their spare time. Marines held two dances in the projection room, with Pocatello girls as their dates, and were complimented on the affairs.

“Utility is stressed as much as comfort. The men eat on benches arranged compactly, with planks extending on each side of the table serving as seats for men facing each other. The galley is compact, as are the sleeping quarters. Lockers are arranged in two rows against the north and south walls of the long room. Large windows let in necessary light for men ironing their clothes or performing other barracks duties in the daytime.

“A tailor shop in the building keeps uniforms in trim for the particular marines. The barracks receive praise especially from those veterans who have slept in mud on Pacific islands and saw their motion pictures outside at night, and from those fresh from boot camp, where life is rigorous and comfort is not considered.”

The staff at the Pocatello plant also found time to construct a navy gun on donated time. The project was announced in April 1945 in the Salt Lake Tribune. “A log book was ready Wednesday at Pocatello naval ordnance plant to accompany the gun, Pocatello, built on donated time by plant workers as a contribution to the navy and in behalf of the city of Pocatello [sic].

“Battles in which the gun takes part, and any toll of enemy ships or planes, will be written into the log, Capt. Walter E. Brown, plant commander, promised. A five-inch shiny steel gun, Pocatello has been on display in the show window of Hill Bros. garage, in the 100 block, S. Arthur ave., since it was dedicated in Pocatello’s behalf by Capt Brown, with an appreciation speech by Mayor C.D. (Dinty) Moore.

“The gun will go into Pacific battle as a symbol of the patriotism of ordnance plant workers, Capt. Brown declared. He called it a ‘sample of real patriotism, the kind which asks no reward for the effort behind it.” The Pocatello was tooled from the rough forging sent from an eastern steel plant, on the delicate lathes and smaller machinery in the small gun shop at the plant two miles north of Pocatello, where workmen have been working on new and battle-worn five-inchers since the facility went into service in the summer of 1943. The plan also handles other navy ordnance from the biggest 16-inch cannon to the smallest deck guns.

“Pocatello already is represented on the seas by a frigate, the S.S. Pocatello, built in 1943 in Kaiser shipyards on the California coast. The frigate has been on constant Pacific duty since it was commissioned, and this city is to receive a report on its service when the war ends.”

The peak employment during World War II was about 1,240 employees. The number 1,268 was used in a 1958 Idaho State Journal newspaper article.

The Pocatello plant was designed to continue operations when the war ended and it did. Thanks to a 1993 College Thesis, "The Disestablishment of the NOP: Conspiracy or Necessity?" by Derk B. Mitton, courtesy of Special Collections, Eli M. Oboler Library, Idaho State University, we learn some of the post WWII history of the plant.

Quoting part of the thesis, “The Pocatello NOP survived the initial post war cuts and continued operations following the war. In September of 1945, the Navy informed the Pocatello Tribune that the local gun plant would "be maintained during peacetime." Due to the enormous investment the Navy had in these naval ordnance plants, the Navy would "retain these plants as standbys for future ordnance construction, when and if there be a need." The Navy public relations officer stated that the Pocatello plant would continue "for sometime much as it did prior to …" the Japanese surrender. The Navy kept their word and the plant continued operations; however, as the work loads decreased, civilian employment was gradually reduced until the plant was placed on stand-by in May of 1950.”

The shutdown was short lived. The Korean War broke out shortly after the plant was mothballed and by the end of 1950, the plant was back in operation. The civilian employment peaked at 960 men and women which was below its authorized strength.

Pocatello’s Idaho State Journal announced in August 1953 that “Quad 40 mm anti-aircraft guns at the Naval Ordnance plant here will be viewed by Idaho residents touring the Blackfoot fair. The exhibit will be part of the Navy-Marine corps display at the five-day fair.”

After the Korean armistice, speculation about the plant’s future began and the “Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance was unable to give a definite answer.” The long drawn out and often times bitter end of the plant began. Mr. Mitton’s 1993 thesis covers the drama in detail. The machinist’ lodge, the Chamber of Commerce and the Idaho congressional delegation were all actively involved in trying to keep the plant open. Initially they were successful but with a reduced work force. The number provided by Mr. Mitton is 700 employees beginning 1 February 1954.

The respite again was short lived. The navy informed Idaho’s Senator Dwarshak in December 1958 that the Naval Ordnance Plant, NOP as it was then called, would be closed. The Idaho State Journal printed the letter. “I regret to inform you that it will be necessary to disestablish the Naval Ordnance Plant by June 30, 1964, and to dispose of the property as excess to the needs of the Bureau of Ordnance.”

The letter continued with “As soon as present manufacturing orders are completed, machine tools and facilities will be laid up and all industrial operations will cease. The Naval Ordnance Plant will continue to operate as a secondary stock point in the ordnance supply system until stocks on hand are disposed of…Stocks that cannot be disposed of by these means, if still required, will be shipped out shortly before June 30, 1964.

“Personnel not engaged in work directly associated with security, the management and disposal of inventories and the operation and minimum essential maintenance of utilities and facilities will be separated before July 1, 1959.” The number of employees was given as 446. Albeit the navy projected the closure date for 1964, the facility closed on 1 July 1961. The facility was eventually sold to private investors.

During the Vietnam war, the facility once again worked with the navy’s big guns but the facility was not owned by the navy. A new federal agency had acquired the property and was using it to extend the range of the guns for use in clearing 200-hard-diameter landing zones in the jungles of Vietnam. The time frame for this was 1968 to 1970.

Epilogue As mentioned in the above vignette, the book Proving The Principle by Susan M. Stacy includes a chapter on the Pocatello Navy Ordnance Plant. The book is online at the INL webpage at https://factsheets.inl.gov/FactSheets/PtP-chapter02.pdf. It includes several vintage photographs. The Sailors attending the University of Idaho’s V-12 school visited the Pocatello Ordnance Plant in 1945. Photos taken during their visit are on-line in the University’s yearbook, renamed the Dittybag in honor of the V-12 Sailors. Click here to view them: http://libpublic2.eol.isu.edu/wickiup/dittybag/1945-2-3.htm (Announcements, pg 18)

The gun named the Pocatello is believed to have been assigned to the USS Amberjack (SS-522). Construction of the ship was begun in 1944 but the ship was not commissioned until 1946. The disposition of the gun and its log book is currently unknown.

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Navy Reserve Facility Pocatello (1959-2005) Pocatello Idaho

In early September 1959, a Navy Reserve unit was established in Pocatello, Idaho. It was the U.S. Navy Reserve Electronics Unit and was located at Phillips Field, the original name of the Pocatello airport. Pocatello’s newspaper, The Idaho State Journal made the announcement in its August 30, 1959 edition stating that the unit would be activated at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday. This puts the activation date as September 2, 1959. “All Navy veterans, reservists and others interested in the new unit are invited. It will be commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Clair Anderson with Lt. Jg. Jack E. Bonner the executive officer.”

In January 1961, the unit received radio equipment which would not only be used for Navy training, but it would also be available for Civil Defense purposes in the event of an enemy attack or national emergency and it could be used in case of a local disaster or emergency. The Idaho State Journal made the announcement on January 31, 1961 and noted that the Navy unit was comprised of 40 enlisted men and five officers. The Pocatello “station” was one of 40 such stations in the northwest. The article included photos but they are not reproducible due to low resolution.

The March 18, 1962 edition of the Idaho State Journal ran a full-page recruiting article for the unit now called the Naval Reserve Electronic Division 13-26, which was sponsored “As a Tribute To The Naval Reserve” by several local businesses. The unit met on Wednesdays from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. and young men as well as WWII and Korean War veterans were invited to “affiliate with Division 13-26.” The article also listed the names of those in the unit. It noted that the equipment in use was valued at $100,000 (equivalent to $856,580.00 in 2020 dollars) and a separate generator enabled the equipment to be operated during a power outage.

In July 1963, the Burley, Idaho newspaper, The Herald-Bulletin announced that a new armed forces reserve center in Pocatello would be used by both the Army and Navy Reserve. It was to be named for James E. Johnson, a Korean War Medal of Honor recipient who was from Pocatello. The target dedication date was December 7, 1963. (For more information on Johnson, please see the section on Idaho’s Medal of Honor Recipients.)

The new facility was located right next to the former Naval Ordnance Plant; the newspaper referred to the area as the Thiokol Plant. The center comprised 4.5 acres and four buildings; a main building, maintenance shop, heating plant and drill hall. The Army would occupy the lower floor of the main building, the Navy would occupy the upper floor.

The dedication went off as scheduled. Sgt James E. Johnson’s step mother Gladys Johnson was there to unveil the plaque honoring him and his sacrifice. The story was on the front page of the December 8, 1963 Idaho State Journal. Units assigned to Johnson Hall, the former Marine Barracks of the Naval Ordnance Plant, now included two Navy units. They were Navy Electronics Unit 13-26 and Naval Reserve Intelligence Unit 13-1-4. The Army units were elements of the 372 Quartermaster Battalion, Company C, 321 Engineer Battalion and a Logistical Command unit.

By October 1964, the Navy was settled into its new facility and was preparing for a competition inspection. The unit was trying for the Admiral Hooper Trophy. The unit also had a new commander, Lt. Commander Martin E. Hill of Idaho Falls.

In March 1966, preliminary plans were made to add a Naval Construction Battalion often called Seabees. A special three-person team, two Commanders and a Chief Petty Officer arrived to pursue the possibility. In April 1967, the unit, NRCB 13-10, was officially established and a commissioning ceremony was held April 15, 1967. It was a detachment to Boise’s Seabee Division but it had recruited enough personnel to qualify as a division. The unit had a strength of 25 and it brought the total number of Navy units at Pocatello to three. The communication unit was no longer listed but there was now a surface division (Pocatello Naval Reserve Surface Division 13-25) and the intelligence unit.

During the 1960s, the Idaho State Journal often ran articles announcing openings in the Navy Reserve Units.

In July, 1974, the Pocatello reserve units were transferred from the 13th Naval District in Seattle to the 9th District in Denver. This was attributed to a reduction in the number of Naval Districts, likely due to the winding down of the Vietnam war.

By the mid-1980s, the Reserve Center was showing its age and a new facility was needed. Congress provided the funding and the old Center was torn down and a new $4 million facility was constructed. The decision was made to rededicate the new facility in honor of James E. Johnson. The dedication took place on July 8, 1989 and Johnson’s surviving family including his daughter and remarried widow were in attendance.

Front of Naval Reserve Facility Pocatello November 1997

Front of Naval Reserve Facility Pocatello November 1997

This photo of the Naval Reserve Facility in Pocatello was taken in November 1997. Photograph courtesy of Marty Sattison

In 2005, the Department of Defense launched an effort to “create a leaner, most cost-effective force.” This meant closure of military facilities under what was called BRAC or Base Realignment and Closure.

A listing of 23 navy and marine reserve facilities was published and Idaho’s Navy Reserve facility in Pocatello was on the list. The Times News, a Twin Falls paper published a nationwide list of facilities recommended for closure. Burley, Idaho’s South Idaho Press, reported that there were 7 full-time staff members at the Pocatello reserve facility. A follow-up article in the Times News on August 25th noted that a federal commission had acted on the list. Some facilities were spared, most were not. The Pocatello facility was closed by June 2006, several individuals drilling there were transferred in June 2006 to other Naval Reserve Centers, including Boise.

Some of the units that that called Pocatello home during its tenure include Naval Intelligence Command, USS Proteus (AS-19) Det 122, USS McKee (AS-41), USS Frank Cable (replaced Proteus when she was decommissioned), Naval Weapons Station Concord Det 722, Readiness Unit 2218, Volunteer Training Unit 2218G, and an EDO (Engineering Duty Officer) unit.

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CAA (now called FAA) Air Cadet Training School (1943-1944) Lewiston, Idaho

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Civilian Pilot Training Act of 1939 into law. One of the things the new law did was open up pilot training to many who would never have had a chance to learn to fly. The act allowed the FAA’s predecessor agency, the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA), to expand an experimental program, authorized in December 1938, to train civilian pilots through educational institutions.

This all-out push for more pilots made it possible for hundreds of women and African-Americans to enter the world of flying. The first year of the program, CAA contracted with 435 universities, which trained over 9,000 men and women in every state of the union as well as in Puerto Rico and the territories of Hawaii and Alaska.

CAA divided the training into two parts: 72 hours of ground school and a minimum of 35 to a maximum of 50 hours of flight instruction. The CAA accepted applicants from universities, colleges, technological institutes, 4-year teachers colleges, and junior colleges. Each institution signed a contract with CAA to train a fixed number of students. The schools had to be within 10 miles, or 30 minutes legal driving time (not to exceed 45 miles per hour), of an airport. The airport had to meet very specific requirements. The school trained men and women, racial discrimination was not allowed.

On December 7, 1942, the program became the CAA War Training Service, a designation that recognized changes already in progress to align the program more closely with the needs of the armed services. Beginning July 1, 1942, and lasting until the following December 15, CAA provided training only to members of the inactive reserve of either the Army Air Forces or the Naval Reserve. On December 15, the Navy placed its CAA program trainees on active duty. The Army did the same in the summer of 1943.

In all, some 300,000 pilots were trained in the War Training Service phase of the program, which lasted until June 30, 1944, for the Army and August 4, 1944, for the Navy. By the time the Civilian Pilot Training Program/War Training Service ended in 1944, the program had operated at 1,132 colleges and universities and 1,460 flight schools, and had trained over 435,000 pilots.

At least two universities in Idaho were involved in the program. North Idaho Junior College in Coeur d’Alene for the Army and Lewiston State Normal School in Lewiston for the Navy. Click here for the full FAA fact sheet on the CAA program: The CAA Helps America Prepare for World WarII (PDF)

From the 1942 Elesenes, published by the Associated Students of Lewiston State Normal School, Lewiston, Idaho, we learn that the students were grounded following the outbreak of WWII but after they had furnished proof of citizenship, they were allowed to resume flying.

As with many universities, Lewiston State Normal School’s male student population plummeted when WWII broke out. The number of men enrolled dropped from 40 to just 15. The CAA program expanded and the physical fitness trainer Coach Stonebraker or ‘Stoney’ as he was called, “was kept busy training Navy and Marine cadets most of the year, and the regular men students had to fit in to the CAA physical education program from the beginning of the winter quarter on.” The obstacle course was noted as being one of the best in the Northwest.

Navy Obstacle Course

Navy Obstacle Course

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the cadets had a half hour of drill sessions. The cadets spent half of their time at the airport and half at the Normal School in class. The Elesenes also reported that “Thirty men students each in the fall and spring- twenty enrolled in the elementary courses and ten in the secondary- kept Lewiston Normal in the front ranks of colleges with Civilian Pilot Training programs. Under the able tutelage of Pilot Bert Zimmerly and his instructors, and the guidance of Mr. Croson as coordinator, the fledglings found their wings. As we went to press several graduates from the secondary class had already begun serving their country”

Again, quoting the Elesenes, “During what is known as the elementary period of flight instruction, which comprises thirty-five hours in the air, he learns numerous safety rules and regulations-for the protection of himself and others-the rigid traffic laws, how to start a motor, how to wear a parachute and how to use it, and how to taxi, for it is important to know how to handle the plane even on the ground when wind is a factor.

“Then comes the first flight, after which the training becomes more involved. Since this flying was straight and on the level with no tricks, as soon as possible turns are introduced-simple at first, then precision turns--a sharp turn at a given point. Then come coordination exercises such as making S turns and elementary figure eights.

“These are followed by glides, climbs and more difficult turns, until the cadet is able to fly a rectangular course around ground objects, right and left. After this learning about stalls and steep power turns is introduced.

Navy Student Pilot

Navy Student Pilot

“Intermediate training, eighteen to twenty-three hours in the air supplemented with ground work, continue this instruction in a more intensified form. The boys are then ready for pre-flight school.” The runway was gravel and 3,800 feet in length; 740 feet above sea level.

The 1944 Elesenes was dedicated to the Navy cadets. “To you, who will fly the skyways across the Pacific and over the Atlantic and crush the heart from the Axis, we say, “Best of luck always.” “Though you “blew in” and “flew out,” we’ve enjoyed knowing you and we are proud to have had you with us.”

Navy Company D

Navy Company D

Between 1938 and 1944, Zimmerly and Lewiston Normal School trained 1,500 flyers for military duty. This is believed to be the most of any of the 133 Navy-Civil Aviation Administration air training units that operated during WWII.

A special thank you to Johanna Björk, Lewis-Clark State College, for assistance with this vignette.

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1955 All-Idaho Navy Company

In January 1955, eighty Idaho men became part of an all-Idaho navy unit. They were sworn in by Rear Admiral William C. Sprecht, Retired, on either the 17th or 18th of January under the statehouse rotunda. Governor Robert E. Smylie presented them with an Idaho state flag.

Company 041 as they became known, completed their training at San Diego, California and returned to Idaho in early April, 1955 on a two-week leave.

Pocatello, Idaho’s April 3, 1955 Idaho State Journal reported that a similar unit was formed in Utah and the two units had “a friendly rivalry to see which state could turn out the better sailors. Official results were not yet available, the recruiting station said, but it appeared that the Idaho company finished boot well ahead of the Utah company as far as proficiency is concerned.” The Twin Falls newspaper, The Times-News, reported that the Idaho company made a final score of 3.66 out of a possible 4 in competition with 32 other companies.

The Navy recruit training command presented a plaque to the Idaho unit “for exceptional and competitive performance” during their training in San Diego. Shortly after the units return to Idaho, Thomas Reedy, a member of the unit, and Lieutenant Commander Frank W. Olson representing the Navy recruiting officials, presented the plaque and the state of Idaho flag they had previously received, to Governor Smylie. Local Navy recruiters stated that this was the first time the Navy recruit training command had issued such a plaque to any training company.

The entire inscription reads, “Awarded by the recruit training committee to the all-Idaho company 0041, recruited in January, 1955, for exceptional competitive performance during their training at the naval training center, San Diego, California.”

The staff at the Idaho State Historical Society is working to determine what became of the plaque.

The Company Commander of Company 041 was James L. Hosick, ADC. The known names of the All-Idaho unit members are:

Masters, Lyle E., Apprentice Chief
Smith, Richard H., Honorman
Albiston, Leroy A.
Allen, Jr., Joseph E.
Allred, Glenn D.
Anderson, Dennis A.
Anderson, Glen E.
Archibald, Bobbie J.
Barnes, Dean L.
Beams, Charles C.
Bell, Dennie K.
Beverland, Clinton H.
Bowles, Robert R.
Brown, Kenneth R.
Carpenter, John W.
Casto, Willis D.
Caudle, Kenneth A.
Clark, Bobby O.
Coates, Leroy E.
Crist, Dale R.
Dalling, Larry G.
Dixey, Jr., Ralph F.
Dudley, Merlin W.
Dutton, Billy J.
Etter, Donald C.
Faris, Edgar A.
Gardner, Jared B.
Gray, Merle E.
Gregg, Delbert A.
Hambleton, Robert
Harris, Jack S.
Harwood, Farrell
Hegsted, George E.
Hendricks, William
Howell, Melvin S.
Johansen, Donald
Kammeyer, William
Kavulich, Billy J.
Keck, Albert B.
Keller, Jerald W.
Kidd, Denis A.
Kimball, Darrell H.
Knighton, Bernard J.
Knudsen, Gerald G.
Krause, Donald L.
Matthews, Dale J.
Matthews, Donald L.
Mench, Kenneth D.
Miles, Paul L.
Morris, Jackie L.
Myers, Terrance R.
Nelson, Jackie L.
Park, Bernard F.
Park, Jerry E.
Parker, Zane W.
Randall, Garth M.
Reedy, Thomas
Rice, Garrett B.
Rudolph, Jimmy
Schmeckpeper, D.H.R.
Shields, Leonard L.
Stacey, Robert L.
Steider, Robert L.
Stevenson, Robert M.
Strength, Donald F.
Sullivan, Donald D.
Thurman, Robert R.
Vallier, Donald J.
Van Sickle, Alan D.
Weathers, Norman E.
Webb, Stanley F.
Weeks, Dennis G.
Young, Orville L.


Idaho National Guard

There are two components of the Idaho National Guard. They are the:

Idaho Army National Guard (1891 - current)

Idaho Air National Guard (1946 - current)

Idaho Army National Guard (1891 - current)

The Idaho National Guard was established 129 years ago, on March 14th, 1891, when the state legislature approved the organization to serve as the state’s militia. Since that time, the Idaho National Guard has served in every major U.S. conflict.

Today, more than 3,000 Soldiers and 1,300 Airmen make up the Idaho National Guard that includes the Idaho Army National Guard and the Idaho Air National Guard with a presence in nearly two dozen communities throughout the state.

From the IDNG Webpage: A Brief History of the Idaho National Guard

While Idaho was still a territory in the 1860s, volunteers formed militia companies to respond to disputes between the state’s earliest settlers and its native population. A more formal territorial militia, created by the territory governor, existed from 1877-79. These units were dissolved when they were no longer needed.

When Idaho became a state in 1890, the state’s constitution required Idaho to establish a permanent state militia. The First Regiment of Idaho Infantry was organized in 1890 and the legislature approved the formation of the Idaho National Guard on March 14, 1891, to serve as the state’s militia.

The Idaho Army National Guard first deployed on May 7, 1898 when the First Infantry Regiment of the United States was activated and sent to the Philippines to fight in the Spanish-American War. The Idaho Guard was activated again in 1916 in response to increasing border disputes with the Mexican government and sent to Nogales, Arizona, for more than five months. The Idaho National Guard also served in World War I and World War II.

During World War II, every unit in the state was activated and Idaho Soldiers fought in both the Pacific and European theaters. The 116th Engineer Battalion was the only National Guard unit in the country to participate in the Korea and Vietnam conflicts. The 148th Field Artillery Battalion and the 25th Army Band were also activated during the Korean conflict.

Only one unit, the 148th Public Affairs Detachment, participated in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. The detachment served with the 3rd Armored Division.

Since September 11, 2001, Idaho National Guard units have deployed several times around the world in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

Idaho Air National Guard (1946 - current)

In December 1945, the War Department released information that stated “operation of a national guard air force of perhaps 200 first-line planes would require facilities much greater than pre-war days and suggest[ed] the use of airfields now being abandoned by the army.” Idaho’s Adjutant General Brigadier General Mervin G. McConnel stated that he “expects to see the establishment of an Idaho national guard air force as soon as congress takes up national guard matters.” He was correct. “The postwar pressures to reduce the national budget along with an emphasis on maintaining fewer active duty forces forced a national decision to use ‘reserve components’ to fill the gaps.” [Excerpt from First Class or Not At All by William C. Miller, IDANG, Ret]

In 1946, Idaho’s Adjutant General Harry Abendroth (General McConnell resigned the position in April 1946, after a severe heart attack) reached out to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas G. Lanphier Jr., to organize an Air National Guard unit for Idaho. Lanphier at that time was working at the Idaho Daily Statesman as its managing editor. Lanphier was no stranger to the military or its aircraft. He was a WWII veteran pilot who flew 97 combat missions out of Guadalcanal and was selected for the special mission that shot down Admiral Yamamoto’s airplane. It was Yamamoto who planned the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Lanphier shared credit for the successful Yamamoto mission with Rex Barber; both were awarded the Navy Cross for the action. (Click here for a biography on Lanphier: https://museum.mil.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/61/2019/09/2ndQtr2005.pdf )

Lanphier accepted General Abendroth’s request and got right down to business recruiting pilots and other personnel for the new unit. He even recruited a young Bernard Fisher who went on to earn the very first Air Force Medal of Honor in Vietnam. (Click here for a short article on Col Fisher: https://museum.mil.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/61/2019/09/2ndQtr2000a.pdf )

The 405th Fighter Bomber Squadron was formed on May 25, 1943. It served during WWII earning the Presidential Unit Citation for action against Germany. The 405th was deactivated in November 1945 and their number and history were adopted by the new Idaho unit which became the 190th Fighter Squadron. Lanphier was appointed Lieutenant Colonel and assigned as the 190th Fighter Squadron’s Commanding Officer on August 13, 1946.

After the Army Air Base at Gowen Field was shutdown, Gowen Field was turned over to the city of Boise. The 190th founders were able to coordinate an agreement between the City of Boise and the Army Corps of Engineers for use of hangars, shops and other buildings at Gowen Field. The lease was formalized in 1950 and a similar lease exists today. [Historical note: the Air Force did not become a separate service until 1947. Until then, it was under the jurisdiction of the Army.]

The Idaho Air National Guard celebrates its birthday as October 13, 1946. That date is the date that the future pilots of the new unit received their federal recognition.

Click here for a short history on the Idaho Air National Guard. https://www.124thfighterwing.ang.af.mil/Portals/23/documents/AFD-100723-055.pdf?ver=2016-11-02-093923-950 The link includes photographs of several of the plane’s it has flown over the years. For further reading and in depth in formation on the Idaho Air National Guard, please see the book First Class Or Not At All, Idaho Air National Guard 1946-1975 by William C. Miller, Col, IDANG, Retired.


Idaho Army Forces

321st Engineer Engineer Battalion (Army Reserve) Boise, Idaho

CAA (now called FAA) Air Cadet Training School (1943-1944) Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

U.S. Army ASTU School (1943-1944) University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho

U.S. Army Forts

321st Engineer Engineer Battalion (Army Reserve) Boise, Idaho)
The 321st Engineers are stationed at Gowen Field. Click here for their history Lineage and Honors: https://history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/eng/0321enbn.htm

CAA (now called FAA) Air Cadet Training School (1943-1944) Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

For the early history of this program, please see CAA under Navy history.

The May 19, 1944 The Panhandler, North Idaho Junior Colleges’ student newspaper, reported “In March, 1943, the College was given a contract by the War Training Service to house, feed, and give the ground instruction to some 47 cross-country students per month. There were 94 students in regular attendance, with half the students completing the two months’ course and transferring to the link trainer school.

“Seven buildings of the Beauty Bay CCC camp were transported to the Junior College campus and were remodeled into barracks and classrooms. The west end of the industrial arts building became the mess hall. P.A. Christianson, as coordinator of the group, supervised ground school instruction and flight schedules. O.E. Lee handled the housing and food problems. The course was discontinued January 15, 1944.” The article noted that it was “a first-class army camp.” The program graduated over 300 students.

A special thank you to Ann Johnston, NIC Library, for assistance with this vignette.

U.S. Army ASTU School (1943-1944) University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho

During WWII, the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho hosted 2 military training schools, one for the Navy and one for the Army. On March 11, 1943, The University newspaper, The Idaho Argonaut, announced that “Three army officers inspected campus facilities yesterday and there is a possibility that the army will take over some of the women’s dormitories for the housing or [sic] army engineers which might come to Idaho.” The intent was to establish an army specialized training program unit at the university. The April 8, 1943 edition of the paper announced that the first group of roughly 40 men would arrive that weekend.

The Universities annual yearbook, The Gem Of The Mountains stated, “[An] Integral part of the University of Idaho in 1943-1944 was the Army Specialized Training Unit of Engineers and Language Students, who dwelt in Hays, Lindley, and Forney Halls. The Gem of the Mountains could not be complete without a considerable share of its pages devoted to the Army. Due largely to a highly cooperative group of officers, the ASTU made possible an almost normal schedule of social events. And despite any initial difficulty in Army-Student relations, by the time Uncle Sam shipped out the boys in O.D., the students felt that Idaho was losing an important part of itself, and many soldiers evidence reluctance in leaving the school that had been their home for so many months.”

The Army unit was specifically ASTU 3926. Commanding it was Lieutenant Colonel William Hale, a WWI veteran who was recalled to active duty from retirement in 1940. Hale was actually the units second commander, taking the helm in September 1943 when the previous commander, Colonel C.W. Jones, was transferred. The unit was made up of three companies and reached full strength in October 1943. The men then “began a new 12-week term.” The October 14, 1943 Argonaut went on to say that “within the limits of Army regulations and discipline, the ASTP men will be allowed to participate in extra-curricular affairs, and are regarded by the university administration as an integral part of the student body.” (The acronyms ASTU and ASTP are used interchangeably.)

The engineering students were housed in Hays and Lindley halls, the language students were housed at Forney hall. The 1944 yearbook Gem Of The Mountains notes that the unit had a 25-piece band and an 11-piece dance band. The Gem also noted that members of the ASTU wrote for the University newspaper and had at least three football teams. There is no mention of how many men went through the ASTU training but the September 30, 1943 Argonaut announced that the men would be awarded a certificate showing the number of terms completed, courses taken, and college or university attended. As the ASTP curricula was at college undergraduate or graduate level, it was the opinion of the ASTP committee that College credits would be granted should the service member decide to return to college after his military service.

ASTU on parade

ASTU on parade

This photo ran in the October 28, 1943 Argonaut. The caption reads “Marching in formal parade, soldiers of the ASTU opened the football season Saturday with a pre-game military ceremony. Company A can be seen executing a right face preparatory to crossing the field to pass Cadet Lt. Col. Shea in review. In the foreground is the ASTU band. The parade was the first of this semester and it was commanded entirely by cadet officers. Other inter-company games will be opened by this colorful military spectacle.”

The Army Specialized Training Unit was not unique to Idaho. Various U.S. newspapers mention similar units in other states, specifically New Hampshire, Colorado, California, and Montana. The November 24, 1943 Argonaut pictured the ASTU Patch which “will identify all ASTU men across the nation. This blue and gold patch will soon adorn the left shoulder of Idaho ASTU men.”

ASTU Patch

ASTU Patch

The first ASTU graduation was scheduled for April 1, 1944; roughly 250 men were scheduled to receive certificates. The date later changed to March 25th. The March 16th Argonaut reported that the number 250 included “106 language students, 43 advanced engineers, 41 communication men (term 4 engineers), and 60 Term 3 basic engineers.” The Argonaut also reported that the ASTU would produce its own yearbook in 1944. The yearbook was called the Astude and was made a part of the university’s 1944 Gem of the Mountains.

The banner headline of the March 23, 1944 Argonaut read “GI’s Retreat From Moscow”. The article read, “All Idaho AST men, with the exception of 13 selected for pre-medical and pre-dental training, will leave for new stations during the week of March 27.” The March 30th edition reported that most of the student body and many of the townsfolk came out to bid them farewell. The pep band and a student procession paraded from the student union to the railroad depot and a short program was held before the men left. The men were given packages of cigarettes which the 1944 Gem reported as “a souvenir package of cigarettes when the ASTU left Idaho.”

U.S. Army Forts
There were several military forts, sometimes called camps, in Idaho. Below is a short history on the more significant ones.

Camp Lyon

Camp Lyon is often listed as an Idaho fort but was actually on the state line between Idaho and Oregon with most of the buildings in Oregon. It was established in 1865 and was active through early 1869. The Idaho State Historical Society has an information sheet on it. Click here to read it: https://history.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/0357.pdf

Camp Three Forks aka Camp Winthrop

The following is courtesy of Ken Swanson, Idaho State Historical Society, Retired. Conflicts with the Northern Paiute Indian tribe were an ongoing problem for Idaho settlers. The discovery of gold in southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon only increased the tensions. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the regular Army troops were sent east and the job of protecting emigrants fell to volunteer units raised in Oregon and Washington. The campaigns of volunteer soldiers from 1864, through 1866, had failed to bring the Northern Paiutes under control and the post-Civil War regulars inherited the unfinished task. Units of the 1st U.S. Calvary and the 14th U.S. Infantry began to replace Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada volunteers in the area in 1866. Their objective was to subdue the Paiute’s “Snakes” as they were often referred to.

One of the strongholds of the Snakes was the upper reaches of the Owyhee River and its tributaries. To encounter the success of the Snake raids, and carry the fight to them, a new post was established near the Three Forks of the Owyhee River. The camp, originally called Camp Winthrop, was founded on 26 September 1866. Under the command of Captain (Brevet Lt. Col) John J. Coppinger, Companies “A” and “E” of the 14th Infantry began work on what was to become their home for the next five years. The site chosen was on Soldier Creek at the southwest edge of South Mountain, about 15 miles from the confluence of the Three Forks of the Owyhee’s.

The camp commandant, Coppinger, possessed a distinguished military record. He was a Civil War veteran and was twice brevetted. Coppinger was also known as a strict disciplinarian, yet lenient to those who tried to reform. There were very few desertions from his command, and most of those returned after their flings in Silver City or Boise.

Camp Three Forks was built to furnish accommodations for two companies of infantry and consisted of seven buildings arranged in the form of a hollow square; other buildings were located by the creel. The parade grounds were formed by the buildings which were all one story high and built of rough hewn logs.

Edward Colmache, post surgeon, describes the conditions of the buildings in an 1869 report. “The walls are chinked and daubed with mud. The roofs are covered with shingles, insufficient in number and badly put on, allowing rain and snow to penetrate into the interior of the buildings. The floors are of undressed lumber, and are barely raised from the ground, the sleepers lying directly on the surface. The warming of every room in each building is by large open fireplaces, built of granite. The windows are of the ‘dormer-window’ pattern, and with the doors, all open toward the square. Being thus all placed on one side of the buildings, they allow of no cross draughts; and were it not for the chance openings found in the roofs and walls, and the wide chimneys, the buildings would be uninhabitable for the want of proper ventilation. Each room has one window and one door opening directly on the parade ground.”

This problem was later remedied by cutting windows and doors into the walls on the sides away from the parade ground. The largest building at the camp was the enlisted men’s barracks on the south side of the parade ground. It was 260 feet long by 20 feet wide and divided in the center by a strong partition into day rooms and barracks for each company. Company kitchens and mess rooms were located at each end. Additional light was gained by substituting panes of glass for roof shingles. To the rear of this was a large wash and bathhouse.

The east side of the square was formed by two buildings. The more northerly one measured 65 feet by 20 feet and was divided into dispensary, ward with eight beds, hospital kitchen and mess rooms, and the camp bakery. The other building was 65 by 18 feet and was divided equally into six rooms which were used by the post laundresses.

The north side of the camp was also formed by two buildings. The more easterly structure measured 65 by 20 feet and was divided into three rooms. The rooms at each end measured 16 by 18 feet while the center room measured 28 by 18 feet. These were assigned as officers’ quarters. A lean-to added to this building served as kitchen, officers’ mess, and servants’ quarters. The other building was a small two-room house, 32 by 16 feet, also officer’s quarters.

The west side of the parade ground was occupied by two buildings. The largest measured 65 by 20 feet and was divided into the quarter-master’s harness room and saddler shop, post surgeon’s quarters, and the guard room. The other building measured 65 by 18 feet and was used as the quartermaster and commissary warehouse.

In the ravine to the southeast were located the post blacksmith and carpenter shop, the sutler’s (post trader) store and home, and a building that served as quarters for the Indian scouts. The stable, granary, and hay shed were located further downstream to the west of the post. The stables housed both the quartermaster’s teams and horses for one company.

Camp Three Forks

Camp Three Forks

The post was fairly well completed by December and patrols, guard details and scouting parties were regularly sent out to protect the Humboldt stage road and outlying ranches. Detachments also went to sheep and Inskip ranches at this time. These details usually consisted of a corporal and three privates and were rotated about every two weeks back to camp.

In the winter of 1866, Coppinger began leading the troops at Camp Three Forks on extended scouts to the Three Forks and upper Owyhee country. These patrols consisted of men from both companies and Indian scouts. These patrols sometimes lasted a month or more. Smaller parties were regularly sent out in charge of a sergeant or corporal. Although these early scouting parties covered a lot of ground, they rarely encountered any sign of the Snakes.

In February 1867, the troops of Camp Three Forks were redesignated as the 23rd Infantry. The 23rd had been created from the 2nd Battalion of the 14th Infantry. The following month, a detachment of one sergeant, one corporal and ten privates left camp for the Owyhee Forks, with the order to establish a stone blockhouse at that location. This is the only time that there is a mention of trying to establish a permanent presence at the Three Forks. The futility of trying to maintain an isolated post at the bottom of the canyon soon became apparent and the project was abandoned. In April, Camp Winthrop was renamed Camp Three Forks Owyhee.

The scouting parties increased throughout the summer of 1867. Often over 100 troops were out on patrol. Small detachments were regularly sent out to Summit Springs, Rattlesnake Point, and Sheep Ranch, all on the Humboldt stage route. At this time there were about 200 soldiers assigned at Camp Three Forks, but this was soon to change.

President Johnson authorized all companies on the frontier have 100 privates. This brought the regular Army up to an unprecedented peak of 56,815 by September 1867. The effect of this increase was short lived. Most of the men serving at this time were Civil War veterans and their enlistments were expiring. Every month men were being discharged and no new recruits came to fill their places. The number of men at Camp Three Forks fell to about 120 by October 1868. In December they received 37 recruits from San Francisco to hold the post roster at 140 men until May of 1869.

By late 1868 the Snake War was over and the need for Camp Three Forks had ended. The civilian employees were let go, including the Indian scouts. The hard feelings against all Indians in that country required that a detachment of soldiers from the camp escort their recent Shoshoni and Cayuse comrades to Fort Boise.

The obvious reason for stationing troops in the Owyhee country had passed and the Army desperately needed troops for duty in other areas. With the purchase of Alaska from Russia, a new frontier was opened and increased demands made on an overextended Army. Company E was transferred from Camp Three Forks to duty at Sitka, Alaska in May 1869. Company A remained at the post, but there are no reports of scouts or patrols against hostile Indians. Coppinger was ordered to lead mapping parties in the Owyhee area at the direction of the War Department. He performed this duty admirably, mapping large sections of southern Idaho that had been previously unmapped or poorly mapped.

All though 1870 the number of troops continued to dwindle from expired enlistments and reassignments. By January 1871, the post roster was down to 60. On May 22, 1871, the rest of the men were ordered on their way to join the men in Alaska. A small detachment of nine men remained behind to look after government property until late summer. The post was abandoned and eventually sold at auction and became the Deary ranch in 1882.

Fort Boise aka Boise Barracks

As early as 1846, Congress authorized the establishment of military posts along the Oregon Trail to aid and protects emigrants. The posts established at this time were few in number and many miles apart. The war with Mexico prevented full implementation of this policy, and little was done to establish more posts during the 1850s.

The emigrants continued to travel across the territory that was to become Idaho in ever increasing numbers, and incidents of violence and theft between Indians and travelers increased proportionately. By 1860, detachments of United States Dragoons (heavy cavalry) escorted groups from Fort Hall to Old Boise and on to Fort Walla Walla. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the regular Army troops were sent east and the job of protecting emigrants fell to volunteer units raised in Oregon and Washington.

General Benjamin Alvord was charged with protecting emigration on the Oregon Trail as well as the booming mining camps on the Malheur, Owyhee, Boise, Salmon and Clearwater rivers. He assigned Colonel Ruben F. Maury and three companies of the 1st Oregon Calvary to patrol the middle Snake River in southern Idaho during the travel seasons of 1862 and 1863.

As part of this strengthened effort to protect emigrants, a new Fort Boise was founded on July 4, 1863 by Major Pinkney Lugenbeel and three companies of the 1st Washington Territorial Infantry and units of the Oregon Volunteer Calvary. The city of Boise was founded next to this new post three days later. From this new base, patrols were sent out and satellite camps were set up to combat the increasing hostilities between Indians and the newly arrived miners and settlers. The fort was renamed Boise Barracks in 1879 and remained active until 1912. It was then used by various governmental entities until permanently acquired by the Veterans Administration in 1938. In 1979, a historical walking tour of the fort was published. It highlighted structures such as Fort Boise Gatehouse, Cavalry Barn Medical Complex, and the Officers Row Quartermaster building.

The majority of the preceding information is provided by Ken Swanson, Idaho State Historical Society, Retired. The Idaho State Historical Society has an information sheet on Fort Boise/Boise Barracks. Click here to read it: https://history.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/0356.pdf

Fort Coeur d’ Alene aka Fort Sherman

Initially known as Camp Coeur d’Alene, Fort Sherman was established near the confluence of the Spokane River and Lake Coeur d’Alene in April 1878. The site was selected in 1877 by General William T. Sherman of Civil War fame. The officer assigned to the construction of the fort was Lieutenant Colonel Henry C. Merriam, a Civil War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient although he didn’t receive the award until 1894. Merriam was the forts first commander serving from April 16, 1878 to August 13, 1879.

The following is taken from exhibit captions during a 2014 visit to the Museum of North Idaho. An average of 250 troops carried out the mission of the Fort which was to keep the Mullan Road open (built between 1858 and 1862 connection Fort Benton, Montana and Fort Walla Walla, Washington), to keep peace between the settlers and Native Americans, watch the Canadian border and guard railroad and telegraph crews.

The Fort was comprised of 52 buildings including the commander’s and officer’ homes, barracks, stables, powder magazine, smithy and saddle shop, sawmill, post hall, bandstand and chapel. The forts hospital was built in accordance with the Surgeon General guidelines of 1876. It was a two-story building with attendant’s quarters, kitchen, mess and a surgery room on the first floor. The 12-bed patient ward was located on the second floor to facilitate ventilation through the roof and featured a wraparound veranda.

The Fort Sherman Chapel. Photo by Gayle Alvarez

The Fort Sherman Chapel. Photo by Gayle Alvarez

The chapel was built in 1880 as a Post library, reading room, school and lecture hall for military science classes as well as for religious services. General William T. Sherman worshipped at the Chapel while on inspection tour in 1883. The chapel served all denominations from the Coeur d’Alene area until they could build their own church. The chapel was later sold but is now owned by the Museum of North Idaho and is often a wedding venue.

Interior of Fort Sherman Chapel in Sep 2014.  Photo by Gayle Alvarez

Interior of Fort Sherman Chapel in Sep 2014. Photo by Gayle Alvarez

The City of Coeur d’Alene grew around the fort as mining, timber and railroads boomed and the lives of the soldiers and residents intertwined. Civilians provided services and goods to the fort. Many of Coeur d’Alene’s early settlers and investors were officers and soldiers from the fort. Pastimes included boating, swimming, cycling, fishing and baseball. Band concerts, theatrical productions, dances and parties were held at the Post Hall. The post also had its own band which performed at civic events, parades, and holiday celebrations. The fort was renamed Fort Sherman in April 1887.

The Spanish-American war signaled the end of the fort and by the early 1900s it was decommissioned. The buildings and property were sold at a public auction in 1905. On October 29, 1979 the Fort Sherman Officers Quarters and surrounding district were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Much of the former fort is now located on the campus of North Idaho College. Several of the forts original buildings remain including the powder house which holds a museum.

When the fort closed, those buried in the cemetery there were exhumed and reburied at Fort Wright, Washington.

The Idaho State Historical Society also has a factsheet on Ft. Sherman: https://history.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/0355.pdf

Fort Hall

Present day Fort Hall was established along the Oregon Trail near Lincoln Creek by the U.S. Army during May 1870. The garrison was responsible for the protection of the stage line and settlers passing through the region. The fort was established near the Fort Hall Indian Agency (Shoshone-Bannock tribes). It remained active until early 1883.

When the fort closed, those buried in the cemetery there were exhumed and moved to Ft. McPherson, Nebraska. The Idaho State Historical Society has an information sheet on Fort Hall. Click here to read it: https://history.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/0353.pdf

Fort Lapwai

News of the 1860 discovery of gold on a tributary of the Clearwater River near the present town of Orofino spread like wild fire. By the spring of 1861 thousands of men descended on the Nez Perce reservation. They were trespassing on Nez Perce land that had been set aside for a reservation in the Treaty of 1855.

Unable to stem the tide, civilian authorities called on the military to establish a fort on the reservation to protect the Nez Perce from the invading miners. Additionally, negotiations began that would lead to the Treaty of 1863 which shrunk the reservation and placed the gold fields outside of the reservation boundaries.

In the fall of 1862, two companies of volunteers arrived on a site two miles above Lapwai Creek to establish an army post that would become Fort Lapwai. Until 1885 the fort would be garrisoned providing an army presence on the reservation.

The fort played a key role in the events leading to the Flight of 1877 when General O.O. Howard, commanding officer of the Department of the Columbia, ordered Chief Joseph’s band to move from their homeland in the Wallowa’s of northeast Oregon to the reservation.

When the conflict began in June 1877, Fort Lapwai was the center of operations until the Nez Perce crossed the Bitterroot Mountains into western Montana. In the months following the last battle at Bear Paw in October 1877, the fort’s stockade held prisoners captured during the war and Nez Perce returning to the reservation after hostilities ended.

The bulk of the buildings, most of which are no longer standing, were built between 1862 and 1884. The post had barracks for enlisted personnel, quarters for officers, stables, warehouses, offices and corrals. The preceding is from The National Park Service’s webpage on Ft. Lapwai http://home.nps.gov/nepe/learn/historyculture/fort-lapwai.htm.

The fort was decommissioned on June 5, 1884, and turned over to the Indian Service. It then became a government Indian boarding school. The Northern Idaho Indian Agency moved to the site in 1904 from Spalding and three years later, a tuberculosis sanatorium and preventorium was established at the fort site, and the boarding school closed in 1912. In 1945, the tuberculous sanatorium was closed and soon a fire gutted the original wing of the school and destroys all the records. This link has a few historical photos of the former fort. https://www.legendsofamerica.com/fort-lapwai-idaho/

The Army closed Fort Lapwai in 1885 but continued funding for the cemetery. In 1890 the army ordered the disinterment of those buried there and they were reinterned at Walla Walla Washington. Those exhumed included soldiers killed in Idaho during the 1877 Nez Perce War.

(Historical Note: When Michael McCarthy, former First Sergeant to the soldiers killed during the Nez Perce War, learned of the reinternments, he launched a fundraising campaign to build a monument to them in the Walla Walla Cemetery. When the funds fell short of the needed amount, McCarthy pitched in the remainder. The book Forlorn Hope recorded that it is made of Vermont marble and stands 15 feet high. McCarthy was awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions at White Bird Canyon on the opening day of the Nez Perce War.)

The National Park Service protects an officer’s duplex at Fort Lapwai that was built in 1883. At the current time it is closed to the public. According to the Nez Perce County Museum https://www.nezpercecountymuseum.com/lapwai-idaho, the name Lapwai actually comes from the Nez Perce word “Thlap-Thlap,” which refers to a butterfly and the sound that its wings make. As a result of the abundance of butterflies in times past, the area has been referred to as the “Valley of Butterflies” and “Land or Place of the Butterfly.” For an overview of other Idaho forts, the Idaho State Historical Society has an information sheet at https://history.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/0063.pdf For further information on U.S. Army forts, see Forts of the United States; An Historical Dictionary, 16th through 19th Centuries by Bud Hannings, published by McFarland & Company, Inc., North Carolina, in 2006.


Idaho Air Force History

The Air Force did not become a separate service until 1947. Until then, the Air Bases or Air Fields as they were known, were under the jurisdiction of the Army. Idaho had three Army Air Bases during WWII. They were:

Gowen Field (1941-1945; 1946-current)

Pocatello Army Air Base/Air Field (1942-1945; 1954-1965)

Mountain Home Army Air Base, now Mountain Home Air Force Base (1942-1945; 1948-current)

Wilder Radar Bomb Scoring Site (1964-1993)
From 1964 until 1993, the Air Force operated a radar bomb scoring detachment at Wilder, Idaho to test the effectiveness of combat ready crews of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) bombers with simulated bomb drops.

Gowen Field (1941-1945; 1946-current)
On October 4, 1940, the Idaho Daily Statesman announced that Boise City officials and business men were making plans to raise $35,000 in matching funds “expected to be required as an initial outlay for materials to construct accommodations for a U.S. Army bombardment and service group to be based at the Boise airport.”

The base would be headquarters “for at least 54 twin-engined medium bombers” and approximately 260 officers and 1600 enlistment men. Additionally, a service element composed of approximately 40 officers and 700 enlistment men was to be included.

General Mervin G. McConnel

General Mervin G. McConnel

Photo courtesy of Idaho Military History Museum

Idaho National Guard Adjutant General Mervin G. McConnel was given much of the credit for the good news. “When attempts to bring a National Guard aviation unit to the Boise airport failed more than a year ago, Gen. McConnel emerged from the negotiations with an idea…he would write to Ninth Corps Army headquarters in San Francisco…to inquire about the possibilities of the Idaho capital being chosen as an Army base.” Click here to read a biography of MG McConnel: General McConnel Biography.pdf

Idaho’s Congressional Delegation had announced that the 42nd Bombardment Group and the 39th Air Base Group were to be stationed at the base. The base was projected to cost the Army between $1,000,000 and $1,500,000. In 2020 dollars, that equates to just over $18,000,000. Boise city had also agreed to “pave two runways, 6500 feet in length and 150 feet wide, with two-inch asphaltic covering. Sixty acres on the southwest corner of the airport is to be furnished for building sites and 600,000 square feet of hard-surfaced parking area provided.”

On December 3, 1940, Adjutant General Adams of the United States Army informed Boise Mayor James Straight that the construction of the Boise Air Base had been authorized. Boise was chosen because of “climatic and physical conditions.” The base was to consist of roughly 120 buildings which would provide facilities for housing, administration, feeding or messing as it was called, recreation and warehousing a troop garrison of 2500 officers and men. The authorized cost was $2,115,130. In order to provide additional living quarters for defense personnel, a housing complex which became known as Sergeant City was constructed with funding from the Federal Works Agency. It was located nearby at Overland and Latah.

On January 1, 1941, The Idaho Daily Statesman ran a full front-page article on the forthcoming base which included a map of the Boise Air Terminal and proposed location of the new base. The article stated that “Work Starts Soon.” On January 21, 1941, equipment was moved to the site and the task of clearing sagebrush began. In March, Governor Chase Clark broke ground by turning the first “spadefull of dust soil.” The construction contract went to Boise contractors Morrison-Knudsen and J.O. Jordan & Sons. The January 13, 1941 headline in The Ogden Standard-Examiner read, “Work Slated This Week On Boise Army Air Base.”

Quoting from Wings Over Idaho by Arthur A. Hart, “By mid-March, 1941, activity at the air base was feverish. Building permits had reached $2 million and were expected to continue to grow. The more than 1,000 men working on the project came from all over the state. Officials said 40 communities were represented on a monthly payroll that averaged $200 per man. Skilled carpenters got $250.”

On March 12, 1941, Colonel Robin A. Day assumed command and on April 15, 1941 the first original cadre of 20 soldiers from the 39th Air Base group arrived from Salt Lake. Quarters were not yet available so they were housed at Boise Barracks and had to carry drinking water back and forth to camp until April 25th when facilities were complete enough for them to move in.

The first station complement group, CASC unit 1984 was activated May 5, 1941 and a few weeks later, the first units arrived being the 42nd Bombardment Group which included the 75th, 76th, 77th Bombardment Squadrons and the 16th Reconnaissance Squadron. Idaho welcomed the new soldiers. A club for enlisted men was opened in Boise under the supervision of the Red Cross. It “provid[ed] a place where service men could dine, dance or just relax amid cheerful surroundings, and all at a price sized to fit a private’s pocketbook.” Additionally, the state fish and game department announced that servicemen would be able to procure resident hunting and fishing licenses.

With the installation looking more and more like an army air base, thoughts turned to an appropriate name. Initially the name would be Boise Air Base as the facility was leased, not actually owned by the government but this soon changed. Three names were sent to the Field Naming Board in Washington D.C. and in July 1941, the name Gowen Field was chosen in honor of Paul R. Gowen, a former Caldwell resident and West Point graduate who perished in a military plane crash in Panama after a motor in his twin-engine bomber failed. Headquarters Gowen Field, Boise Idaho General Order No. 8 dated July 29, 1941 made it official. Click here to read a biography of Paul Gowen: Paul Gowen Biography

Paul Gowen

Paul Gowen

Photo courtesy of Idaho Military History Museum

By August 1941, the record noted “construction had reached the stage where it was felt that development was adequate, ‘except for certain technical facilities and authorized items; to begin operation of the field as an Army Air Base.” The mission was to train bomber crews.

With the first group of soldiers installed at the base, officials began looking for a suitable piece of land to use for a bombing range. 2,560 acres of Federal Grazing Service land twenty miles south of the airport looked promising. Colonel Day assured the city that the site was located far enough away from the city to keep residents from hearing explosions. “So far as the public is concerned,...they'll never know we are practicing.”

At the beginning of December, the field was engaged in the training of medium bombardment crews for combat, reconnaissance crews for combat and the instruction of ground personnel to be sent out as cadre to form new groups under the expansion program of the Air Force.

When word came of the attack at Pearl Harbor the service members were quickly recalled to the base. Quoting from Wings Over Idaho, “Getting them there was no simple matter on a Sunday afternoon, with about a thousand men in town on pass. Roads to the base were jammed with cars and trucks taking them back with motorcycle police escorts. Hundreds more gathered at the Boise police station waiting for transportation. ‘Bombing planes from the field flying over the city, lent a realistic atmosphere to the day’s activities.’”

The record noted, “At the time of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Gowen Field was under operation on a fairly limited scale. After the declaration of war, the base was placed on a full 24-hour day schedule. Civilian, police and military groups in Boise and southwest Idaho moved swiftly into defense lines as the nation prepared for sabotage…A guard program was drawn up to provide for the protection of all important installations on the base and only visitors on official business were allowed to enter the base. Gowen Field was placed on an alert basis and all furloughs and leaves were canceled.”

War created the need for new rules and procedures. Absolute secrecy would be maintained on the movement of troops and planes. Security measures were increased against sabotage, attack, or espionage, and armed guards patrolled all perimeters. No automobiles could be parked near fences. Airplanes other than military would fly over the field at their own risk, and would be treated as enemy aircraft.

The announcement that any planes other than military aircraft flying over Gowen Field “would be regarded [as] enemy ships and fired upon” was widely carried and was nearly put to the test a few days later. Spotters at Gown Field air base picked up the sound of an approaching ship and, knowing no army bombers were flying, prepared to go into action.

It turned out that the plane held Mayor LaGuardia of New York City, national civilian defense coordinator, enroute to Washington D.C. A call between the base control tower and the United Air Lines served to identify the plane and the spotters were able to relax.

By mid December 1941 the new Base had “one runway, 150 feet wide is paved for 6,062 feet and graded an additional 2,000 feet. The shortest of the three runways is 4,500 feet. There are 20 acres of concrete parking space for planes and a hangar large enough for six two-motored bombers. More than 250 officers and 2,000 men are based at the field, which originally was constructed to house 63 planes. That number has not been reached as yet, but more ships are being added at intervals.” Initially the aircraft was the B-26 Martin bombers with several B-18s used as trainers. The first bombing range was close to reality. It was located in southwestern Ada county, 5½ miles southwest of Orchard, approximately 25 miles south of Boise, and 20 miles from Gowen Field. Training of bomber crews intensified and the inevitable training accidents began to occur. In January 1942, a Boise Valley unit of the Civil Air Patrol was organized and would be involved in searching for downed Gowen Field planes and personnel. In February the training changed from medium bombardment crews to heavy bombardment crews. The new aircraft was the B-17.

Gowen Field Aerial

Gowen Field Aerial

The morale office, also known as the athletic and recreation office, was opened in January of 1942, and was located in Building T-303. Building T-303 is the building on the top right side of the photograph with cars parked in front. The large building at the bottom center of the photograph was the Air Bases Headquarters. Photograph courtesy of Idaho Military History Museum.

In September 1942, the base began publishing its own newspaper, The Gowen Beacon. The 29th Bombardment Group which now called Gowen Field home, were used to form new units and by the close of 1942, the 29th BG had increased to 486 officers and 2,107 enlisted men. The record noted that during the year, the Group had ‘given birth’ to several new groups using the original cadre to form a nucleus of the infant units.

The historical record for 1943 also notes a number of unit activations including not only bombardment groups but guard squadrons, airdrome squadrons and engineer aviation units. “As the second year of war dawned at Gowen Field, it found that the infant base of the year before had mushroomed into a larger-scale training school." Several engineer companies, a guard squadron, a base headquarters squadron, a colored service company and the 14th Sub-Depot were also there at the time. [Historical note, it is important to remember that the military was segregated until President Truman issued a desegregation proclamation in 1948. Click here for the proclamation: Proclamation Pg 1 Proclamation Pg 2]

The training program of the Second Air Force at that time was to divide the schooling into three phases and to give each phase at a different station. Gowen Field gave only first phase training at that time, transferring the crews to another station for the completion of their instruction.

Actor and First Lieutenant Jimmy Stewart arrived at Gowen Field in February 1943. Anxious to remain undisturbed, Stewart told reporters he didn't want to be glamorized and would concentrate fully on his duties while at Gowen Field. As First Lieutenant, Stewart served as Operations Officer. The Idaho Military History Museum has a copy of a document he signed as such on exhibit. While at Gowen Field, Stewart was promoted to Captain.

Another significant event in 1943 was the arrival of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps or WACS who began arriving in May 1943. The WACs began working in the various sections on the base performing mainly clerical duties.

May 1943 saw approval of a Gowen Field library. The facility was to be 52’ by 92’ and completion was directed to be by October 16, 1943. This was actually an expansion of an existing library which was too small and shared space with two other organizations. The record also notes that a new gymnasium would be complete in July which would “include a regulation size basketball floor, a handball court, and a boxing ring as well as bleachers on either side of the building for spectators.” Another project was the construction of a .30 caliber rifle range with a 100, 300 and 300 yard firing line. The justification was based on the fact that along with Air Corp personnel, two (sometimes five) Aviation Engineer Battalions were on station that needed small arms training.

In June 1943, the base became a Liberator Field. The Base public relations office announced that Gowen Field was now a training center for Consolidated B-24 Liberators which would replace the B-17 Flying Fortress.

The archive noted, "The 29th Bombardment Group ceased to function as a training group on the twenty-third of December and the policy of sending out trained ground and flying personnel as cadre to form new organizations was discontinued. The training program was changed to include all three phases of training at each of the various schools. This removed one of the touchy spots in the previous set-up, second or third phase training stations often blaming any lack of proficiency of personnel on poor indoctrination given at a previous base.”

1943 also saw expansion of the base hospital. Initially opened in January 1943 as a 33-bed ward it grew in size as outbreaks of measles (April 1943) and scarlet fever (May 1943) began. The May bed count is listed as 346 and the record notes that some barracks were converted into hospital wards. December 1943 saw the establishment of the first Search and Rescue unit at Gowen Field. It was “organized to bring medical aid to Air crews making forced landings in remote areas inaccessible by ordinary means of transportation.”

The big news story of January 1944 was a production by Gowen Field’s WACS called Bombshell Review. The event premiered January 20 and 21st at Gowen Field’s theater number three. It was well received earning the headline ‘Smash Hit’. The show generated a lot of media coverage. February 1944 brought a new commander to Gowen Field. Col John R. Kane replaced Col. Lloyd Dalton. (Like many installations, Gowen Field saw a number of different commanders) Gowen Field was Col Kane’s first assignment stateside after serving 15 months overseas and earning the Medal of Honor in an August 1943 raid on Ploesti, Romania’s oil refineries. (See Medal of Honor section for more details on Col Kane).

March 1944 saw a new clinic building placed in operation. It included a laboratory, eye, ear, nose and throat clinic, a pharmacy, and obstetrical and orthopedic clinics. These facilities were required for the hospital to meet the official designation as an Army Air Force Regional Station Hospital. A new motor pool was also completed in March and the two existing motor pools were consolidated.

In April, the scoring of bombing and gunnery practices changed from tow-target mission to photographic scoring. The 21st Tow Target flight stationed at Gowen Field was dissolved and their personnel formed the nucleus of a new unit known as Section H.

Morale was high at the Base and there was a spirit of competition between the units. Competitions included “designation of ‘Honor Squadron’ for marching and general appearance in formal review, or in sponsoring the enlisted person selected as ‘Soldier of the Week.’” Crews in each phase of training compete for the honor of being awarded the “best crew title” and designation of ‘Honor Squadron’.

April 1944 saw the formation of a Non-Commissioned Officers club which included room for dancing, a dining room, a bar and a game room. The good weather also saw baseball and softball teams organized. The record also stated that “A total of 6614.33 training hours were flown and 2887 missions were accomplished”.

By the end of May 1944, 167 full crews were in training. This included 56 crews which arrived from Nebraska on the 19th to begin their first phase of training. Training hours flown increased to 8979.73.

In June 1944 the “Soldier of the Week” competition was changed to “Soldier of the Month” which enabled squadron commanders to make a more careful selection of candidates. The criteria was also modified to include barracks inspection, general conduct and military courtesy as well as appearance in formations and drill. A guidon was obtained and was awarded to the barracks having the highest number of credits accumulated at the end of each week. The guidon was “kept by the winning barracks until it is won by another barracks.”

Construction of a swimming pool for station personnel also began in June 1944. Photo courtesy of Idaho Military History Museum.

Gowen Field Pool Construction

Gowen Field Pool Construction

Also in June 1944, a rest camp, a sub-base of Gowen Field, was opened in McCall, Idaho. The camp was a former CCC post. “Convalescents are sent to McCall to complete the recovery usually provided by convalescent furloughs and permanent personnel are detailed to the rest camp in three-day shifts.” The camp was further described as “on the shore of Payette Lake and includes quarters, messing and recreational facilities for approximately 80 enlisted men and 20 officers. The usual tonic consists of three days detached service there, obtainable on request, but convalescents are often sent for longer periods of time to complete their recovery.”

This likely staged photo is captioned McCall Rest Camp, Gowen Fld, Ida with a date stamp of June 1945. Photo courtesy of Idaho Military History Museum.

McCall Rest Camp

McCall Rest Camp

By the end of June, 168 full crews were in training. July’s record shows that 10,054.63 crew training hours were flown but over 400 hours were lost due to shortages of aviation fuel. The record indicated that fuel shortages were an ongoing and nationwide issue.

In August 1944, an open house was held commemorating the 37th Anniversary of the Air Corps. “an estimated 3000 civilian guests, the largest number of visitors ever recorded at the base, spent an afternoon in conducted tours and climaxed their visit by watching the formal retreat ceremony in which all units on the base participated.”

The robust Base did have a few problems. The WAC supply system was bogged down and there was considerable delay in fulfilling requests for needed clothing. Laundry was another issue. “Letters were written to all laundries in the vicinity of this base, relative to contracts for officers and enlisted men’s laundry, as the firms now under contract have not been able to handle the laundry within the maximum time given.” All flying clothing repairs and reconditioning was accomplished under direct control and supervision of the Parachute Department. August saw an increase in air training hours reaching 11,629.84 hours.

Another open house was held in September, this one being for families. It was designated “Parents Day” and over 2,000 civilian relatives of military personnel visited Gowen Field for an all-day program. The September 16th Gowen Beacon reported that visitors were conducted on a tour of the non-restricted buildings on the entire installation. Two B-24 bombers were placed near the main hangar so the public could view them under military supervision. The Band played a concert and two drill teams gave a marching demonstration. Search and Rescue demonstrated how supplies could be dropped to stranded flyers and a cargo plane flew over and parachuted down some supplies. The program closed with a formal review and Colonel Kane presented awards to the best combat crew and the honor section of the month as well as several civilian awards.

October saw completion of the much anticipated Gowen Field swimming pool. It was formally dedicated on October 14th and “nine exhibition swimmers from San Francisco, including the world and national women’s free style champion swimmer, Ann Curtis, were guest artists on the program.” Colonel Kane named it the ‘Soldiers’ Pool’ and noted that the L shape would allow recreational swimming without interference with the swimming classes. “He testified to the importance of knowing how to bail out over water and said that he felt the time and energy expended in the contemplated classes would never be regretted.”

The October 21st Gowen Beacon announced that the Black unit or Section C as it was then called, had won the title Honor Section for three consecutive months. (Circa December 1943, the units at Gowen Field had undergone a reorganization and many had been given new unit designations; Section A, B, etc.)

Section C Honor Section

Section C Honor Section

The Gowen Beacon ran a large front-page photo of the unit passing in review. The historical record stated that “their physical training attendance for the month was 98%, and their mark of 94% received in the review was the highest ever awarded. The section was awarded a plaque from Colonel Kane at a formal review of troops.”

The record noted that flying weather was good in October and on the last day of the month, 169 crews were in training. Crews averaged 171 hours flown prior to movement to staging areas.

December 1944 saw the transfer of Colonel Kane to a new assignment. His departure “left Gowen Field with the reputation of ‘one of the best bases in the Second Air Force.’ Many times during his stay here representatives from other B-24 bases visited this field to study training and maintenance methods.” Col Kane was replaced by Colonel Bernard T. Caster. The historical recorded noted several ongoing strength and supply issues which were partially resolved with the closure of the Pocatello Army Air Field. Arrangements were made to transfer some of the civilian employees to Gowen Field to reduce the shortages at Gowen Field.

The big news in January 1945 was that Gowen Field was being transferred from the 2nd Air Force to the 4th Air Force. Gowen Field and Mountain Home were two of the four transfers. The transfer was tentatively scheduled to take place in March but actually took place on the 15th of February. The paperwork required was enormous but the archive noted, “This necessitated the transfer of personnel and “special orders consisting of 46 legal size pages printed on both sides, the preparation of which involved many man hours. In spite of the fact that this station was not officially notified of the transfer until 1700 on 15 February, formalities completing the severance were finished within 24 hours.”

The conversion to the 4th Air Force brought a new manning table which included more authorizations for both enlisted and officers. A TWX on March 14th authorized promotions which was a welcome relief as promotions had been frozen since December 1943.

The one noted unit casualty was the Base band which was inactivated the last day of January. A shortage of personnel forced the Dance Orchestra to disband on January 22, 1945. The responsibility for supplying music for parades and reviews fell to the Base Signal Officer. A public Address System and phonograph records were to be the means. (By May, the lack of a base band was becoming a morale issue and options included “borrow the Mountain Home band for parades” and “organize a local pick-up band composed of soldiers who possess musical talent and have played in dance orchestras before entering the service.” This would however have to be done as an additional duty. )

In late March, Gowen Field was contacted by Ontario, Oregon regarding what turned out to be a Japanese balloon bomb near Adrian, Oregon. Major George S. Spilver, Gowen Field’s Base Intelligence Officer and “a party from Gowen Field” traveled to Oregon to investigate. Two Gowen Field based B-24 planes also sighted the object, one of which was able to capture gun camera footage of it. The plane was able to guide Spilver to the spot where the balloon first landed. Along with the bomb, other components of it were also located. This was the first time that so much of a balloon bomb was recovered intact. The historical record states that the bomb was destroyed with tracer bullets near Reno Air Field after it ascended into the air after its second landing. Click here for an article by the Smithsonian about the Japanese Balloon bombs, it includes several photographs. Japanese Balloon Bombs by Smithsonian.

On April 12, 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died unexpectedly and on April 15, all available Gowen Field personnel took part in a memorial parade. As victory in Europe or V-E day had seemed imminent, the War Department had announced that enlisted personnel over the age of 42 could ask for discharge. By the end of May, 33 personnel had been discharged under the plan. The 8th of May brought the wonderful news that the war in Europe was at an end. “All Gowen Field personnel assembled in front of headquarters. This was one of the largest groups ever to assemble at the Field and included crews, many ambulatory patients and all civilian personnel. The Governor of Idaho, Charles C. Gossett was the official guest.” Photo courtesy of Idaho Military History Museum.

VE Day

VE Day

B-24 bomber crew training continued to be the primary mission of Gowen Field as the war in the Pacific theater was still ongoing. By the close of May, Gowen Field’s aircraft inventory included 29 B-24Js, 4 B-24Ds, 9 B-24Es, 1 TB-24D, 8 P-38s, 3 L-5s, 1 C-45F, 2 BF-13s, 2 C-47s, 2 AT-6Cs and 1 AT-6A.

Another Japanese balloon bomb was sighted in Oregon in May. The code word for them was “Paper”. An L-5 was dispatched to take photos and 2 P-38s were standing by at the Ontario Airport to intercept and attempt to shoot it down. The attempt was not successful and they returned to Gowen Field “without having made any further contact with the ‘paper.’”

The May historical recorded also noted that Gowen Field set a record for bomb bases of the Fourth Air Force in maintenance. The percentage of aircraft in commission was consistently the highest in the Fourth Air Force. The base was “commended by the Inspectors General for the job we were doing and setting an all-time high record for this Field in the number of hours flown without a fatality.”

Post V-E day meant a return to normal duties and prospects of a long, costly war in the Pacific. Then came word of the dropping of the atomic bombs and Japan’s acceptance of the Potsdam ultimatum; the war was over! “The sudden cessation of the war produced a riotous, boisterous, exuberant two day holiday celebration.” On August 15, Ceremonies were held in front of the base headquarters.

Word was awaited from higher headquarters as to what the changes to the base would be. On August 30, Commanding General Hale of the Fourth Air Force paid a visit and stated that no changes were forth coming. “The training program will continue until cancelled by higher headquarters.”

One thing that did change was crews from other bases came to Gowen Field for Proficiency training which caused a number of problems that the historical record detailed at length. Change was inevitable and word arrived in early September that the training program was to be “totally abandoned for the present and that the primary mission of the base was to be concentrated on the processing of prospective discharges through the newly established separation squadron.” On September 13, 1945, Gowen Field became one of 145 separation centers to aid the army in clearing the backlog of men awaiting discharge.

Dischargees Farwell

Dischargees Farwell

This photograph is captioned Chaplain Joop Bids Dischargees Farwell. Photo courtesy of Idaho Military History Museum.

On September 15, the Gowen Beacon announced that Gowen Field had received a Flying Safety Award. From July 15th to September 5th Gowen had the best flying record in the Fourth Air Force and won the Division’s Flying Safety campaign over all other Fourth Air Force Bases. During this period, 23,654 hours were flown without any fatal accidents and 12,746 hours without a major accident.

On October 21, 1945, Mountain Home Air Base became a sub-base of Gowen Field. This added “4198 officers and enlisted men from Mountain Home” to the Gowen Field morning report. By October 31, the number of discharged personnel from the new separation center was 296. It was anticipated that the number would eventually reach 300 per day. Thirty-five surplus aircraft were transferred to Kingman, Arizona. To create flying time for rated pilots, they were the ones who ferried the surplus aircraft.

With the transfer of Mountain Home personnel, Gowen Field once again had a band; dances, concerts and parades were back on the docket. (The September 1945 history of the MHAAF Band noted that they were very short on band members and were limited to “one small dance group.”)

On October 22, 1945, Gowen University opened. Courses offered included English, US History, Algebra, Geometry, Chemistry, Physics, English Composition, Trigonometry, French, Spanish, Accounting, Physics, Machine Shop Mathematics, Blueprint Reading, Small Business, Advertising and Bookkeeping. Instructors were those with extensive training in the subject or had practical experience at teaching. Roughly 500 were enrolled with 16 full time and 5 part-time instructors.

October 1945 is the last history in the archive. Thanks to various newspapers, we can fill in some of the missing pieces. Initially the base was going to stay open but by mid-October Boise’s newspaper, The Idaho Daily Statesman, was publishing reports that the base would be abandoned. Other papers picked up the story as well, the Separation center was scheduled to close on November 30th and “the move is preliminary to inactivation of the entire field, which will follow about January 1.”

A follow up article in the December 19 Spokesman-Review stated the Gowen Field soldiers were “being transferred as rapidly as possible” and that the inactivation will leave about 2000 men …which “will be transferred as rapidly as possible.” The Separation Center closed on November 29, 1945 “having discharged 5869 men [total], 3937 enlisted men and 1932 officers.” By March 1946, only a handful of men remained. Notices began going out regarding sale of desks, trailers and equipment and the word deactivation replaced inactivation.

In December 1945, the War Department released information “which said operation of a national guard air force of perhaps 200 first-line planes would require facilities much greater than pre-war days and suggest[ed] the use of airfields now being abandoned by the army.” Idaho’s Adjutant General Brigadier General Mervin G. McConnel stated that he “expects to see the establishment of an Idaho national guard air force as soon as congress takes up national guard matters.” He was correct. Gowen Field was handed over to the city and then re-leased to the Idaho National Guard but that is another chapter of Idaho’s military history.

Gowen Field like other military installations had several VIP and Hollywood visitors. In July 1943, the British ambassador to the United States, his wife, Lady Halifax, and their son, Lt. Richard Wood, made Boise, Idaho their first stop on a tour of the northwest. This was a notable visit and received a great deal of media coverage.

Other celebrities included Ann Sothern, film star and later television star; Sergeant Joe Louis, world heavyweight champion boxer, and Sgt. ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson, the future world welterweight and middleweight champion; ex-world heavyweight champion boxer and film actor Max Baer and his film actor brother, Buddy Baer also visited Gowen Field. Radio singing star and film star Frances Langford visited Gowen Field in August 1945, but her visit was somewhat overshadowed by the announcement that Japan had surrendered, thus ending the war.

Epilogue. In summing up the war years on Gowen field, the following quote is from the October 1945 historical archive: “From September 1, 1943 until training was discontinued at Gowen Field during the last days of September 1945, a total of 1,467 Combat Crews were trained in the CCTS [Combat Crew Training School] program. During that time a total of 192,173 training hours were flown in B-24 aircraft.

“To interpret this set of figures it might be said that a B-24 flying at the normal cruising speed for that type aircraft would have flown a total of 42,669,410 miles or a distance equivalent to 1,308 complete trips around the world at the Equator during these 192,173 training hours.”

“If we were to take the 35 bombing missions required for a tour of duty in the 8th Air Force…and estimating that each crew trained at Gowen Field completed one-half a tour, or 17.5 missions, it might be said that the crews trained here possibly flew as many as 25,700 combat missions. Projecting this assumption further and estimating that each crew dropped on each mission the normal bomb load of a B-24 flying from England (3 tons) Gowen crews could possibly have dropped as many as 154 million pounds of bombs, or a total bomb load that was more than 70 times the weight of bombs dropped on Britain during the worst thirty-day period of the Blitz.”

Boise’s newspaper the Idaho Daily Statesman printed the following: “Since Sept 1, 1943, when Gowen Field became a combat crew training school, 192,173 hours of flying time have been registered. At the rate of 150 miles an hour this would constitute 92,000,000 miles, or the approximate distance from the earth to the sun.”

To learn more about Gowen Field, see the book Images of Aviation, Gowen Field, by Yancy Mailes and Gary Keith. It also includes many vintage photographs.

Mountain Home Army Air Base, now Mountain Home Air Force Base (1942-1945; 1948-current)
Mountain Home Army Air Base did not come about until 1942. The historical record reads, “It was in June 1942 that the Army Air Corps training program touched Mountain Home for the first time. By then it had become apparent that additional bases for heavy bombardment training, constructed on a scale seldom before approached, were urgently required to support the rising crescendo of battle. On all fronts there was a need for more and bigger bombers.

“On 20 June 1942, the District Engineer of the United States Engineering Corps in Portland, Oregon, received telephonic instructions from the Division Engineer, followed by telegraphic instructions from the Commanding General, Second Air Force, to investigate immediately a proposed site for an air base in the vicinity of Jerome, Idaho. Subsequent investigation led to the choice of the present Mountain Home site, as an alternative.

“The decision was dictated by engineering advantages and low costs. Construction of the base dates from 30 November 1942. Contractors’ equipment was on the ground and dirt was flying as the year closed.” Mountain Home was the rail stop for the base and was recorded as 43 miles from Boise. The Base itself is 12 ½ miles from Mountain Home and 55 miles from Boise.

Work progressed rapidly. The historical record continues with: “The entire station, covering an area of nine square miles and costing $12,857,000 (project total, as of date of completion), was built in less than nine months. [In 2020 dollars, that construction cost equates to around $213,156,000.] Construction consistently ran ahead of schedule. The Base was functioning within four months of the beginning of construction. Runways were in use in seven months. Even as construction proceeded, officers and men began moving in.”

The official name of the base was Army Air Base, Mountain Home, Idaho; the date of organization was January 28, 1943 when Lieutenant Colonel Carlos L. Reavis was assigned to the base from Gowen Field where he had served as Gowen’s Base Administrative Inspector. Reavis assumed command of Mountain Home on January 29, 1943. On February 25, 1943, the base was assigned to the 15th Bombardment Training Wing.

More changes quickly followed. The first two enlisted men arrived at Mountain Home from the Air Base in Pocatello on February 9, 1943, others soon arrived from Gowen Field. On March 24, 1943, Col Arthur J. Melanson succeeded Lt Col Reavis as the new commander having been transferred there from Gowen Field. On May 15, 1943 the base was assigned to II Bomber Command.

On August 7, 1943 the field officially opened at 1516 o’clock Mountain Time. The first plane landed at 1527 (3:27 p.m.) that same day, a B-24 piloted by “Pilot Tipp”.

On August 21, 1943, the Army Air Forces accepted the Base from the Army Engineers and in the same ceremony, awarded J.A. Terteling & Sons of Boise, the general contractor who built the base, the Army-Navy “E” for excellence in construction achievement award.

Terteling Award

Terteling Award

Photo attributed to August 22, 1943 Idaho Statesman

The historical record notes other units activated and transferred to Mountain Home in rapid succession. The Bases newspaper The Sage (short for sagebrush) rolled out its first edition on May 26, 1943. In July, The Idaho Statesman began printing the paper at no cost to the Base. The last concrete was poured into the runways on June 19, 1943 and the Base Headquarters moved from their temporary location to their permanent buildings on the 9th of July. The Base Theater opened on July 15, 1943.

The rapid growth was noted in a strength report; on May 31, 1943 there were 35 officers and 161 enlisted personnel. By August 31, 1943 there were 558 officers and 3,811 enlisted personnel. The record also noted, “The Base was built for the training of heavy bombardment crews. All functions serve this end.” Much of the credit for the rapid development went to Col Melanson. The primary reason he was transferred from Gowen Field to Mountain Home was “to take advantage of your exceptional ability in organizing new air bases.”

On September 3, 1943 the base chapel opened and plans were formulated to establish a chapel choir. A few days later on the 14th, First Security Bank of Idaho opened an office on base adjacent to the Finance office.

Morale was not as high as it could have been due to the remoteness of the base. The enlisted men’s service club was not yet open, the Post Exchange was open but the cafeteria facilities were not and the publication of the base newspaper had recently been suspended. The city of Mountain Home was not large enough to provide a great deal of R&R, the record details other morale issues such as AWOLs, even a General Court Martial. Eventually Special Services was able to mediate some of this with weekly dances in the Service Club, periodic G.I. movies, Bingo, variety shows and various sports team competition. Hostesses for the dances were brought in from Boise, Mountain Home and Glens Ferry. This was also a large morale boost.

Although no specific date was given, the base newspaper resumed production again by the Idaho Daily Statesman. Late October, the hospital also began its own newspaper called Caduceus. The base was still undergoing growing pains and flare pots were still in use on one of the runways due to lighting contract issues. Facilities were still inadequate.

Thanksgiving celebrations improved morale and the men were allowed to invite guests to the holiday meal. A large number of promotions also added to a festive spirit. Several weddings also took place, the first on the base was held just a week before Thanksgiving. The base Band archive noted that the weather was so cold, outdoor playing was nearly impossible.

The base also finally had a new main gate. Up to this time, a tarpaper shack had functioned as the gate. In December the base became an Overseas Training Unit and Mountain Home Army Air Base became an Army Air Field. Lieutenant Colonel Clarence D. Barnhill replaced Colonel Melanson who had been transferred to Kansas as station commandant.

Melanson and Barnhill

Melanson and Barnhill

Photo from December 11, 1943 The Sage

Christmas was also a welcome event and the chapel services were well attended. General Orders No. 6 suspended all duties at the Field that day except “the necessary guard and fatigue”.

In January, the city of Mountain Home asked the Field for a parade and speakers for a Fourth War Loan rally which was held on January 25, 1944. “The field responded with a three blocks-long parade of men and equipment, a formation of airplanes which flew over the town during the parade.” The rally was a success, $10,000 bonds and stamps were sold ($147,686.00 in 2020 dollars). The first radio broadcast from the Field took place on January 31 when Boise’s KIDO made a special broadcast from the hospital. They interviewed six men who had seen extensive action overseas.

The Field’s hospital report noted that the hospital capacity was 169 beds and it also had a dental clinic. The hospital also provided convalescent training to recondition the sick physically with planned and organized physical rehabilitation. Included in this was an educational program. The hospital had a loud speaker system in each ward so patients could keep abreast of the latest news and listen to popular radio programs.

On February 18, 1944, the Field held an open house and over 400 citizens from Mountain Home braved the cold weather to see the review which was held on the ramp. Men and equipment participated. The open house created a very favorable impression with the people of Mountain Home. For most, this was the first time most had seen the Field since the opening ceremonies.

The Idaho Daily Statesman informed the Field early March that it once again could no longer print the Field’s paper, The Sage due to a shortage of help. The Special Services offices took on the task of producing the paper. Fortunately, this was short lived as a new publishing house was located in April. Along with the previously mentioned forms of entertainment, a baseball team was formed “with great interest.”

In May 1944 the Combat Crew Training School at Peterson Field, Colorado was transferred to Mountain Home Army Air Field. This filled many of the ongoing shortages at Mountain Home AAF. The first contingent of WACs also arrived though no specific date is given. Both greatly increased morale at the Field.

In June 1944 the Field officially changed from an Operational Training Unit to a Combat Crew Training School. The recent arrival of personnel from Colorado made the transition much smoother.

The Fifth War Loan Drive was held and the Field’s soldiers to include the WACs marched in a parade and bond rally in Mountain Home. The Field’s band provided the music. A few days after the rally, members of the Mountain Home Boy Scouts were the guests of the Field as a reward for their bond selling activities. They were given a tour of a B-24 and then taken to a baseball game between Mountain Home and Gowen Field. Both these events cemented the friendship between Mountain Home and the Field which still exists today.

On July 13, Major General Uzal G. Ent, Commanding General of the 2nd Air Force paid a visit to the Field and held a question and answer session. The Field received a letter of commendation shortly thereafter stating that it had the lowest accident rate for the month.

In October, Lieutenant Colonel Barnhill was transferred to Kansas and Colonel Sluman assumed command. This was the first of many changes in command.

To illustrate the number of people at the Field, the archive noted that during October 1944, 31,700 pounds of bread, 31,584 quarts of milk and 1,545 gallons of ice cream were consumed. As of October 31, 1944, there were 460 officers, 5 Warrant Officers and 3,234 enlisted assigned to the Field. Additionally, there were 707 civilians, 711 trainee officers and 1,038 trainee enlisted. The Field also officially became Mountain Home Army Air Field, Mountain Home. It was previously known as Army Air Field, Mountain Home.

In December 1944, Christmas festivities began in earnest and the club was decorated with wreaths and a “huge Christmas tree dominating the lounge. ‘Christmas goodies’ were on hand at all times and were given without charge to all enlisted men.” Christmas was a holiday for all and no flying was to be done. Weather was once again impacting training and only about 77% of flying hours were achieved.

The Combat Crew Training Station won the 2nd Air Force Safety Program Contest scoring more points than any other B-24 base in the 2nd Air Force. The Field underwent a constant turnover of personnel which created acute shortages of some specialties, even the Band had to cut back on its performances.

On February 15, 1945, the Field was transferred to the 4th Air Force which also brought a new commander in Colonel John H. Gibson. The Field’s personnel shortages were somewhat alleviated under the 4th Air Force structure and morale went up considerably.

The archive noted that Mountain Home’s Red Cross came to the field periodically to do sewing for the soldiers. Simple alterations, sewing on additional stripes and replacing the 2nd Air Force patch with the 4th Air Force patch were greatly appreciated.

Red Cross Ladies Sew For Soldiers

Red Cross Ladies Sew For Soldiers

Photo from the Fields newspaper The Sage

In April 1945, the Field received a commendation from the 4th Air Force. The Fields safety record as of April 15th was 11, 507 hours flown without a major aircraft accident. The Field also received word that no further B-24 crews would be assigned to the Field for training. The plan was to change to B-32 aircraft. The training for B-32s was anticipated to begin in June. Mountain Home Army Air Field would be the first CCTS to train B-32 crews. Planes and crews arrived and all began the transition to the new mission.

May 8, 1945 brought the wonderful news of Victory in Europe, VE day, and a celebration was held at the Field. The Field also announced that a Base Insignia for the Field had been designated. (The historical archive noted that rabbits were a continuous problem for the Field. This is likely why a rabbit was incorporated into the insignia)

MHAAF Insignia

MHAAF Insignia

General George C. Marshall was scheduled to visit the Field on May 30, 1945. It is unknown if he actually arrived, no further mention was made in the archive nor in various newspapers.

On June 25th, the Field received word that the B-32 crews were being transferred to Fort Worth, Texas and that the B-32 training had been “discontinued for this station.” The archive noted that they “departed in eight B-32 type aircraft.” Other B-32 crews were transferred in July.

The new mission would be the B-29 aircraft. The Field was also transferred back to the 2nd Air Force but it was to be for only about two months. In line with the transfer to 2nd Air Force, Colonel George A. Blakey assumed command of the Field on June 23rd. The archive also noted that all of this created a tremendous amount of confusion and extra work. By June 23, three B-29 aircraft were at the Field.

Also in June, a Japanese Balloon Bomb was reported to have landed near Grandview. The matter was reported to the Base Intelligence Officer. The archive contained no further details on this incident. (See Historical Note in Gowen Field History for background on Japanese Balloon bombs.)

In July the Field received word that “all combat crew personnel presently stationed at Mountain Home are being assigned to Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho.” They were then placed on temporary duty at Mountain Home. Upon completion of the assignment, they would be transferred to Salinas, California. B-29 crew training was to begin mid-August 1945. By the 31st of July, 26 B-29s were at the Field.

On August 14, came the joyous news that that Japan had surrendered unconditionally, the war was over! August 15th and 16th were proclaimed as holidays by President Truman. On August 24, the Field was transferred back to 4th Air Force and was designated as the 426th Army Air Forces Base Unit.

This also scrapped the B-29 training program and all the effort that had gone into setting it up. Those at the Field for this training, 50 crews, would be transferred to Salina, Kansas. They left on August 28th. There was also speculation that the Field would close but on August 31st it was announced that 84 B-24 crews would be arriving from Nevada the first part of September 1945 for proficiency training. Arrival of 116 more crews was announced on September 7th.

This too was short lived as on September 27 it was announced that all B-24 crew training to include proficiency and phase training at the Field would end. All enlisted combat crew trainees would be removed from flight status and most would be transferred to base permanent party. The following day it was announced by the 4th Air Force that the Separation program had priority over flying training. This appears to have been Nationwide.

On October 5, 1945, the Field was informed that it would be placed “on temporary inactive status as a sub-base of Gowen Field”. Personnel were to be moved to Gowen Field. Many of the Field’s aircraft were declared excess. Equipment and salvageable materials were to be turned in. The Field was being inactivated.

A historical report in the archive noted, “this base is inactivating October 5th (plus 30 days)”. On October 21, 1945, Mountain Home Air Base became a sub-base of Gowen Field. This added “4198 officers and enlisted men from Mountain Home” to the Gowen Field morning report.

The archive for October noted the transfers, turn-ins, discharges etc., as the Field shut down. The commissary was scheduled to close on October 20th. Beginning October 23rd, the letterhead read Headquarters, Gowen Field Sub Base, Mountain Home, Idaho. The last entry in the archive is dated November 5, 1945. The Field was in the final stages of shutdown but was not quite complete.

From the book Images of America, Mountain Home Air Force Base, we learn, “from the end of 1945 until August 1948, responsibility for the base changed hands from Gowen Field to Walla Walla Army Air Field in Washington State. Eventually, in December 1948, a small services squadron arrived and prepared the outpost for a grand reopening as Mountain Home Air Force Base.” This was short lived however as on April 25, 1950, the base was again placed on inactive status when the unit left. The base was vacant for about a year until an air resupply and communication unit arrived.

Today Mountain Home Air Force Base is home to the 366th Fighter Wing. Click here for the units that comprise the 366th FW and their respective missions: MHAFB Units

Although not included above, several celebrities visited the Field as they did throughout the country to raise morale and aid the war effort. Mountain Home visitors included: Sgt Max and Buddy Baer of boxing fame who made two visits, “Tiny Hill” and his orchestra, Ted Weems and his orchestra, and Curt Sykes Orchestra.

To learn more about Mountain Home Army Air Force/Air Force Base, see the book Images of America, Mountain Home Air Force Base by Yancy Miles. It also includes many vintage photographs.

Pocatello Army Air Base/Air Field (1942-1945; 1954-1965)
Early in May 1942, two Army Engineers made an inspection of a sagebrush-covered site nine miles northwest of Pocatello, Idaho. It was announced that construction would soon begin at this location on an Army Air Base, which would cost between $6,000,000 - $8,000,000.

The area examined was one and a half miles west of Pocatello’s McDougall Airport in Power County, and close to the American Falls Reservoir. It was an almost level stretch of land, known as “Michaud Flats.” Initially a site of about 1,500 acres was checked. This was later expanded to roughly 3,200 acres.

There were to be three runways, each approximately 7,000 feet long. The Base was to have a force of approximately 3,500 men and 400 officers. Construction was to be by private contract under the direction of the Army Engineers.

It was estimated that the Base would be finished by the 15th of October. By May 22, work was under way, the contractors were Morrison-Knudson and J.W. Brennan Construction. The Base was to be one of the bases which the 2nd Air Force would use for training heavy bombardment units and it would also employ between 400 to 600 civilians.

By August 5, most of the sagebrush had been cleared and workers had begun to lay runways. Some buildings had been finished and others were almost completed. On October 19, the Base Complement arrived by train from Pleasant Grove, Utah at 6:00 p.m. This is recorded as the date the Base was activated.

The base was still very much under construction; there was no post exchange, no theater, no recreation hall. Neither the Officers Mess nor the Consolidated Mess were organized. The weather was extremely cold and the bleak Idaho landscape looked very forbidding. However, the new men had not been forgotten by the people of Pocatello. The American Legion had made arrangements to serve coffee and doughnuts in the messhall for the new men.

Active operational training soon began and on October 27, the base was officially placed on a twenty-four hour per day, seven day a week basis. Ground classes were held at the base school building and regular and frequent flights were undertaken. A gunnery school had been set up and a low altitude bombing range was built near Rupert, Idaho.

A machine gun range two miles wide and six miles long was built near Aberdeen, in Bingham County, Idaho. This was also described as an air-to-ground machine gun range. On December 15, 1942, it was announced that effective immediately, a high-altitude bomb range near Arco, Idaho would be put into use. This range was about three miles wide and four miles long, located in Butte County, Idaho, about twenty miles southeast of Arco and about nine miles north of big Southern Butte.

The Arco Advertiser ran a story in its December 25, 1942 edition that stated in part, “Practice bombs containing quite a large amount of black powder will be dropped on the range from B-17 ‘Flying Fortresses’ flying at high altitudes. They will cause no material damage, …but will create quite a flash of flame and smoke when they explode. Bombardier trainees will thus be able to tell how close they come to their targets even at night.”

The Air Base rapidly became a much better place to live. Regular bus service was established between the Air Base and Pocatello with fares of 15¢ for one way and 25¢ for a round trip ticket. It wasn’t long before dances were being given for the enlisted men in Pocatello. The American Legion Post was credited with this.

The Post Exchange expanded and by November 1st, had moved into its permanent quarters. The Consolidated Mess and Officer’s Mess were soon operational. Plans included publication of a Base newspaper under the Special Services Officer. It was to be printed twice a month and was given the name Bombardier. The first issue ran on November 26, 1942.

Thanksgiving dinner was held at the Consolidated Mess with an extensive holiday menu. A Base theater soon opened and a base band was formed under the leadership of Chief Warrant Officer Crockett Baxter who had 35 years of experience as an Army band leader.

November 1942 was the stormiest on record at Pocatello and by December it made a severe impact on available flying time. Rumors circulated that the base would be closed down for the winter. Major General Robert Olds, Commanding General of the 2nd Air Force, issued a statement that weather conditions would not be allowed to interfere with the bomber crew training and if necessary, they would be moved to another part of the country. This proved to be the case when Secret orders arrived on December 21 transferring two Bomb Groups to Pyote, Texas.

Special efforts went into Christmas at the base. Trees from the Caribou National Forrest were decorated and placed in the day rooms, Officer’ Club and hospital. The people of Pocatello helped provide decorations and gifts and also helped entertain the soldiers. On Christmas Eve, seven minstrels went about the base singing Christmas carols. Services were held in the chapel.

The work schedule was scaled back for Christmas day and most of the men on the base were able to take it easy. The Christmas menu was also a feast and the menu comprised several lines of the archive. A New Year’s Eve dance at the Officers’ Club celebrated the new year and served as a farewell to the departing Bomb Groups.

1943 photo of Pocatello Air Base Main Gate

Pocatello AAB Main Gate

Pocatello AAB Main Gate

The Pocatello Army Air Base went on the air Jan. 29th over KSEI. The initial program featured the base dance orchestra. In April, the broadcast was revised to a weekly variety program and was broadcast from the Recreation Hall. When the enlisted men’s Service Club was completed, the show was moved there. It became known as “Pass In Review” and broadcast every Thursday at 9:30 p.m. It became very popular and the Public Relations Office received mail from “enthusiastic listeners all over southeastern Idaho.”

Although bomber crew training was suspended from January to April, the personnel at the base were not idle. Regular training was carried on for both officer and enlisted men which included a six-hour course in camouflage in January 1943 along with a special supply course. Physical training and chemical warfare training were also conducted.

The bomber crews made full use of the bombing ranges constructed the previous fall. “Being used in April were the Arco, Twin Butte and Taber bombing ranges, and two target ranges in the immediate vicinity of the base. On May 17, announcement was made of the opening of a new machine gun range just east of the base. Required weapons training for officers and enlisted men of the Base Complement was provided by the use of a range constructed on the site of an old C.C.C. Camp east of Pocatello.” Another new phase of training was Celestial Navigation-navigating by the stars.

The Field’s soldiers also formed sports teams. There was softball, volleyball, and a boxing team. The citizens of Pocatello extended the use of tennis and golf facilities to base personnel. The archives also mention base personnel participation in various city parades and rodeos. The also periodically received special visitors. Character actor Andy Devine visited the Base in May and in July, Fred Waring a musician, bandleader and radio and television personality dedicated his coast to coast program “Victory Tunes” to the Pocatello Army Air Base.

In September it became evident that the 1943 potato crop would be the largest on record and the farmers faced a severe labor shortage. The Air Base personnel stepped in to help. Three-day passes were made available for the express purpose of aiding the potato farmers. It also allowed the men to earn extra money. The archives also noted that some base personnel participated in War Bond drives throughout the area, even traveling to Jackson, Wyoming.

In October 1943, a new type of training was added to the Pocatello Army Air Base with the arrival of the 362nd Fighter Squadron. Their aircraft was the P-39. The 362nd was reported to be the first fighter squadron ever to be stationed in Idaho. Its time at the base was short, it completed its advanced training and departed on November 7th. October also saw the arrival of the 464th Bomb Group and the Headquarters of the 20th Tow Target Squadron.

The base held an open house on October 24, 1943. “Thousands of visitors from all over southeastern Idaho took advantage of the opportunity to look over the base, and many guests ate in the Consolidated Mess or the Officers Mess. They were entertained by a demonstration of formation flying by both bombers and fighters. All parts of the base except the restricted area were inspected.” At the review, medals were presented to several service members as well as two wives whose husbands were reported missing in action. The Bombardier ran a special fourteen-page anniversary issue.

For Christmas 1943, enlisted men were authorized to bring guests to the holiday meal. Wives, relatives, and guests were charged 75¢ for the meal. Officers and guests were also to be charged 75¢. This menu also filled several lines of the report and it noted “is it any wonder that many a civilian accepted an invitation to eat at the base rather than vice-versa? Ration books are not so liberal to allow for sumptuous feasts.” Also in December an ice-skating rink was established and skilled instructors gave free lessons.

To aid heavy bombardment training, an extension of the ramp was completed and turned over to the base mid-December. The ramp doubled the available parking capacity of the base and “its forty thousand feet have been put to good use.”

December 1943’s weather conditions were much better than the previous year. The archives noted that in December 1942 crews were able to complete less than 25% of their training. December 1943 saw only four days in which no flying could be done.

Traffic control tower photo from 14 June 1944 The Fighter Pilot

Pocatello AAB Control Tower

Pocatello AAB Control Tower

On or about January 5, 1944, actress Claire Carleton and actor Frank Sully visited the base. They toured the base, visited the hospital patients, even served food in the Consolidated Mess hall. They also took part in the evening “Pass in Review” radio broadcast.

The archives noted that flying weather in January 1944 was much better than January 1943 and the field was only closed in on one day. The 464th Bomb group completed their training and left late January and early February 1944. The 464th was the only OTU (Over Seas Training Unit) to receive all phases of its training at Pocatello. They were treated to a farewell party and a musical review entitled “Strictly G.I.” which was written, directed, and produced by one of the base’s band members.

February 21, 1944 brought a significant change to Pocatello Army Air Base. That date was the effective date for Headquarters 2nd Air Force’s General Order No. 23 which changed the assignment of Pocatello AAF and “all Second Air Force units stationed thereat” from the 15th Bombardment Operational Training Wing to the 72nd Fighter Wing. The first fighter group was expected the first part of March.

The 476th Fighter Group arrived on March 25, 1944. The new aircraft training program was for the P-47. The Base also picked up three C-78’s and two BT-13’s as well as a crash rescue boat. The Base units received new designations and now included a WAC (Women’s Air Corp) unit although the WAC unit wasn’t organized until June. The name of the installation also changed. On March 20, 1944 it went from Pocatello Army Air Base to Pocatello Army Air Field. The P-47’s that arrived were referred to as “war-weary” and required quite a bit of maintenance work.

Because of the existence of a reservoir containing 57,000 surface acres of water near the end of the air-field runways, the new Field commander then called Commandant, arranged for the formation of a rescue launch crew which was manned by a medical man, a maintenance man, and 2 assistants, who were under the supervision of the Post Engineer. Although not discussed in this vignette, the archives document several reports of aircraft mishaps, some of which were fatal. This was the case at many training bases across the U.S.

The archives noted that personnel were very active in sporting competitions and bowling, ice skating, roller skating and skiing were now available, some in the city of Pocatello and some at the Field. It also noted that the theatre finally had padded chairs not wooden benches and more people were attending the events there. Day rooms were also a welcome addition. The Field also had a very active band which performed both at the Field and the city of Pocatello.

The archive also recorded “Another interesting bit of entertainment was found in the Indian dance put on by 60 of the Bannock-Shoshone Indians at the Field Theater, featuring Willie George, who once traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show as Master of Ceremonies. This program included the Hop, Tree, War, Snake, and Owl dances to the tune of raw-hide drums band music played by the older men of the tribe. Talent for this fine program came from the neighboring Fort Hall Indian Reservation.”

The Field’s personnel were also able to follow the progress of the war. “Developments in the global war are placed at the finger tips of base personnel through the opening of a new war information center in the outer lobby of the Field Theater. Daily news bulletins are on display and changes on the various fronts are shown with the receipt of latest dispatch wires. Displayed there are the latest news maps together with pertinent books for the war orientation program on the field.”

In June the Field became officially identified as a ‘Fighter Pilot Training Station’ instead of a ‘Combat Crew training School.” The Field’s newspaper also changed its name from Bombardier to The Fighter Pilot.

First Pocatello Air Field Wedding photo from 21 June 1944 The Fighter Pilot

First Wedding

First Wedding

The later part of June (the dates vary by source), one WAC officer and four enlisted WACs arrived at the Field. By July, there were 39 enlisted WAC’s with 12 more on the way. They were the first WACs to be stationed at Pocatello Army Air Field. It was anticipated that others would soon follow and that a regular WAC section (unit) would be organized. By August, there were 61 WAC’s and 3 additional attached.

Photo from July 12, 1944 The Fighter Pilot

WACs

WACs

The maintenance issues with the P-47’s continued to be an issue into July. Landing gears were experiencing a lot of problems with loose nuts, bolts, rivets, washers to name a few, getting caught in the landing gear controls. The problem was severe enough that planes were grounded and factory inspectors, army inspectors and plant mechanics arrived from both Evansville and Farmingdale plants. Many of the planes also had multiple tech orders which had not been complied with further compounding the situation. It wasn’t until July 15 that the landing gear changes were complete.

In August 1944, an aviation unit from Mexico, the 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron, arrived at the Field for training. A new section was added to the Field which was called Section I. It was comprised of 2-3 officers and 20 enlisted men. These were the interpreters and instructors who would be used in training the Mexican unit. Three WACs also assisted with the interpretation and instruction. Up until August 4th, the responsibilities of the new section were classified Secret for most of the Field’s enlisted personnel.

The 201st Ground Echelon arrived on August 6. The unit came for instruction in American Army Air Forces methods of operating a combat squadron. The archives stated that Pocatello was “the only Field in the Second Air Force giving this Mexican training.” Six members of the 201st were in the medical field and received training at the Fields hospital.

When Instruction began it included aircraft maintenance “organization of the Army, Military sanitation, interior guard duty, Basic English, marksmanship and care of clothing. The students showed themselves very eager to learn.” On August 16, a group of the 201st arrived and were met by the Field’s band who “played the Mexican National Anthem as the group disembarked from the train, and several other Mexican numbers as the men were making preparations to go to their new quarters.”

The men of the 201st expressed themselves as feeling at home because the climate and altitude reminded them of Mexico City. The Fighter Pilot had multiple articles about the unit, even one in Spanish, however the archives don’t hold any unit photos.

On 15th and 16th of September, both the American and the Mexican personnel joined in a celebration of the Mexican Independence Holiday. There were a number of celebratory events and Carlos Grimm, Mexican Consul from Salt Lake City, was present for some of them.

The archives noted that three classes of fighter pilot trainees were in progress during September. The Mexican unit was still in training and received a visit on September 21st from Major General Gustavo Salinas, Commanding General of the Mexican Air Force. He was accompanied by General George P. Tourtellot, Commanding General and Colonel Frank H. Mears, Deputy Commander respectively of the 72nd Fighter Wing. General Salinas was “highly pleased with the organization and status of the Mexican personnel.”

Maj Gen Salinas

Maj Gen Salinas

The latter part of September, two Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS) were assigned to Pocatello Army Air Field. Gloria W. Heath arrived on September 23rd, Mildred W. Gorssman arrived October 12th. Both were assigned to the Tow Target section as co-pilots. They flew B-26s which had been adapted to serve as tow-target planes. Grossman had transferred from Gowen Field.

The Tow Target section was transferred to Texas in November and the women were reassigned to the Fields base operations as administrative pilots flying Basic Training planes. Their final mission at the Field was to ferry two Basic Trainers from Pocatello to Dalhart, Texas. They were then transferred to the unit at Dalhart pending deactivation of the WASP on December 20, 1944. The archive recorded, “Both young women assigned here were college graduates and gave the appearance of being persons with poise and character.”

In October 1944, “Twenty new P-47’s were received direct from the factory for assignment to the Mexican Squadron. Mexican personnel made their own acceptance and flight tests.”

“The training of the Mexican fighter pilots got underway on 22 October. These pilots had more flying experience than the AAF trainees, and proved to be well above average as a whole. They were not involved in any accidents during October. The training of the ground echelon of the 201st continued.” The only recorded accident by a member of the 201st was one of the pilot trainees ran out of gas and had to make an emergency landing about a mile from the field, heavily damaging the plane. This is believed to have occurred in early November 1944.

In November, the Field received word that the bulk of the personnel and equipment of the 265th AAF Base Unit at Pocatello would be transferred to Majors Field, Greenville, Texas. The direction was that “movement will be complete by 2400 30 November 1944.” This movement included pilot trainee sections, flying training and ground training personnel and flight line maintenance sections. It also transferred the 201st Mexican Fighter squadron to Greenville.

The P-47s and fighter planes were to transfer first with ground personnel traveling by train. The weather complicated things and the planes were weathered in but eventually the weather broke and the planes were able to take off.

The number of personnel transferred to Texas was 260 officers and 599 enlisted men and women. It is unclear if the 201st is part of this total. An additional 20 enlisted men were transferred to California. The Field was now under strength by about 362 personnel and it became necessary to reassign personnel from one department to another to keep all departments functioning properly.

Although it is not known if anybody at Pocatello Army Air Field was aware of it at the time, the transfer of the training unit to Texas spelled the beginning of the end of the Field. “In December Pocatello Army Air Field’s mission of training fighter pilots for the Army Air Forces was discontinued, and Second Air Force Headquarters reported the field as surplus to Headquarters Army Air Forces.” Pocatello Army Air Field became a transient air base.

After ensuring that “buildings and grounds be put in proper state of repair” by December 20, the units remaining at the Field were relieved from assignment to the 72nd Fighter Wing and placed under the jurisdiction of 2nd Air Force. “Twenty-eight enlisted men and one officer were selected to remain at this station as a cadre. The majority of the transfers to other 2nd Air Force and 72nd Fighter Wing stations took place between December 11-19, 1944.

Approximately 235 men were placed on temporary duty status to assist with closing down the Field. As soon as they were no longer needed by their respective department heads, they were shipped out. Activities at the Field were closed down progressively during December 1944 as the inactivation of the Field was accomplished. The last edition of The Fighter Pilot ran on December 6, inactivation orders came through just before the next edition was sent to the presses.

The Field’s hospital patients who could not be returned to duty were transferred to AAF Regional Hospital in Kearns, Utah. A small dispensary was set up in the WACs dayroom.

The civilian staff was also cut. A Burley, Idaho newspaper article noted that a “former local stenographer, has discontinued her work at Pocatello army air base, since the base was closed up Saturday.” Arrangements were also made to transfer some of the civilian employees to Gowen Field to reduce the personnel shortages at Gowen Field.

The last history in the archive is dated January 1, 1945 and it lists the Fields strength as of 31 December 1944 as 5 officers and 28 enlisted men for a total of 33 personnel. However, the final chapter of the Pocatello Army Air Field is, at present, a mystery.

Thanks to the book The First Fifty Years: Michaud Flats, U.S. Army Base, Pocatello Regional Airport, we learn the following: “On February 20, 1949, for the sum of $1.00, the $4,000,000 Base with the Main Buildings and the land were deeded to the City of Pocatello by the War Surplus Administration, (quick claim deed with no strings attached). The building which became the Municipal Terminal [Pocatello Regional Airport] had been the Instrument Shop for the old Base.” Most of the buildings were dismantled and sold.

(According to the Pocatello Airport’s webpage, “The airport and facilities were used for private aircraft operations between 1945 and 1949.” In 1951 the Pocatello airports municipal operations were moved to the former Pocatello Army Air Base location which was roughly two miles to the west.) “In January 1954, Pocatello was designated as the 943rd Air Reserve Squadron under the 256th Air Reserve Center in Boise. Members were considered part of the Air Force Ready Reserve. In 1955, Lt. Col. Clinton Murdock from Blackfoot, Idaho came up with an idea which was proposed at that time and which made its way up the chain of command until it was finally considered at Headquarters, U.S. Air Force in Washington D.C. The idea was that in time of enemy attacks, U.S. bombers who became airborne from their home bases would probably not be able to return to those bases as they would be likely enemy targets. Therefore, other secondary bases, to be called recovery bases, should be equipped and prepared to recover those bombers. Reserve Air Force members would train and make ready for this eventual[ity].

“The idea was adopted nation-wide, and Lt.Col. Murdock received national recognition as a result. Pocatello was designated as one of the recovery bases and local Air Force Reservists were given the mission of making the local base adequate for the mission. Over a period of time, fire engines were secured (from the Navy) and other equipment was stockpiled. This program was carried out over the entire United State[s]. Later, due to cutbacks in funding, the program was discontinued and local reservists kept the Pocatello unit alive until early 1965. At this time, the Reserve Air Force activity was disbanded.”

Lt. Col Murdock, Idaho State Journal, 16 April 1961

LtCol Murdock

LtCol Murdock

Epilogue The archives provide an insight to the happenings at the base/field but they don’t provide any numbers or names of those who passed through there. A document on the history of the INEL states that “Over 40,000 pilots were trained at the Pocatello Army Air Base and many flew day and night training missions over Twin Buttes Bombing Range and Arco High Altitude Bombing Range.”

The Base/Field had a photo section, a photo of the section appeared in the 22 September 1943 edition of the Bombardier. Unfortunately, not many of their photographs made it into the archive.

Although his name is not listed in the archives, it is confirmed that Maynard H. Smith who earned a Medal of Honor during WWII, trained at the base and was in fact promoted there before departing for the European Theater. He was there from early November 1942 until early February or early March 1943, being promoted to Staff Sergeant on December 1, 1942.


Wilder Radar Bomb Scoring Site (1964-1993)
In July 1963, Idaho Senator Frank Church announced that a radar bomb scoring detachment which had been temporarily stationed at multiple sites throughout Idaho and eastern Oregon, was to be established at Wilder, Idaho in the fall of 1964. Senator Church stated that he had been told by the Air Force that “about 70 men are included in the detachment, which has been stationed at Vale Ore., for several months.”

Although this was an Air Force facility, information about it is limited and there are reports that in 2005, the USAF records on the Radar Bomb Scoring Sites (RBS) were designated for destruction. A link to a USAF factsheet no longer works and contact with the USAF History office was unproductive.

In March 1966, Nampa, Idaho’s Idaho Free Press published a two-page article about the facility entitled “Spotlight on: The Beefeaters” which is quoted below with obvious typographical errors corrected. The article includes several photographs which unfortunately are not reproduceable due to the quality of the article. One of the photographs defines the mission of the facility: “To evaluate and determine the bombing, and electronic counter-measures reliability of Strategic Air Command aircrews under simulated combat conditions.”

“Situated high on a hill on the Wilder-Adrian Highway west of Wilder and overlooking the winding Snake River, is one of Uncle Sam’s most useful peacetime training devices, the Beefeater: Bomb Plot, one of many radar bomb scoring sites located throughout this country. Although the Air Force detachment has been in this area since 1961 and permanently located at Wilder since January of 1964, it is surprising how few people know of its existence or its function.

“When airmen from this detachment are in conversation with the local citizenry, these and other questions invariably are asked: What are you doing out there?, What does this mean to the local economy?, How many personnel do you have?, etc. Today, we are going to take the reader on a tour of the plot, introduce him to some of the personnel and instruct him in some of the facts of RBS simulated bomb missions and the sonic boom.

“The detachment was organized in November, 1960, at Houston, Tex. Following a brief location in Astoria, Ore., the men and equipment moved to the Caldwell-Nampa area. They were first set up at Lake Lowell, then moved to Emmett, Payette and Vale before establishing the permanent site at Wilder.

“How permanent are you? “We are as permanent as any military installation can be,” is the reply given by Major Raymond Davis, commander of the detachment. “These other sites were operated under a temporary basis and were never meant to be anything more.”

“Quoting these facts, the major proves just how permanent the local site is: “The detachment size is 2.65 acres, owned by the U.S. Government. The pad is 200 by 200 feet and the access road is owned in a joint tenancy with Canyon County. Estimated dollar value of equipment and real estate is in excess of 2 million dollars.

“All wooden structures were constructed by detachment personnel with all the materials being purchased on the local market. Within the next year there are plans to erect $10,000 worth of new building and pad equipment.

“The mission behind all this expensive equipment, operated by highly trained men, is to test the effectiveness of all combat ready crews of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) bombers. Readiness of these crews must be kept at its zenith in peacetime in order to fulfill any future war-time mission.

“Radar bomb scoring began in 1946 with 888 bomb releases for the year against a site in the San Diego area. Current operations see SAC bomber crews completing more than 20,000 simulated bomb drops monthly. During early phases of bomb scoring crews aimed at circles drawn on sand or other surfaces, then dropped sand bags or dummy bombs on these targets. Today highly sophisticated electronic apparatus scores the accuracy of the SAC crews. The target can be any object within the ‘eyes’ of scanning radar devices.

“This electronic equipment used to score the accuracy of the ‘bomb’ drops is maintained and operated entirely by the local personnel. Radar bomb scoring permits bomber crews to receive invaluable training in the use of radar bombing against realistic targets, day and night in all kinds of weather. Using a combination of radio and radar contact between aircraft and RBS site, the effectiveness of combat crews is scored without having to drop a single bomb.

“The RBS radars ‘lock on’ automatically on a plotting board. Just before the simulated release of the bomb, the aircraft transmits a tone to the RBS site by radio and indicates its point of simulated bomb release by stopping the tone. The target and the radar site have been precisely plotted on the tracking board prior to this action.

“This computation allows RBS personnel to determine exactly if the target was hit, and it not, by how far and in what direction it was missed. A SAC-Federal Aviation Agency agreement assures a great degree of safety in the exercise of low-level flying, since civilian aircraft are informed which planned routes are in use by SAC bombers. During bad weather, no civilian aircraft are cleared along or through the routes while they are being used by the bombers.

“Since there can be no one in this area, except perhaps a deaf person, who has missed hearing the sonic booms which are frequently made by bombers flying over the Wilder plot, a note should be made about these booms.

“Many of these window-rattling blasts, which resemble the loud sound of a nearby thunderclap, are caused by B-58 bombers. When the aircraft exceeds the speed of sound, it pushes molecules of air ahead of it and the molecules are compressed to the point where shock waves are formed around the aircraft’s fuselage in a cone-shaped wave that reaches the ground with the resultant boom.

“Loud and disconcerting as they are, sonic booms cannot cause damage to primary building structure or direct personal injury. Of the 89 men stationed with the local unit, 83 are married and [together they] have more than 100 children. Pay roll exceed $40,000 per month while lights, phone and other expenses to keep the site operative exceed $2,500 each month.

“It is well known that some of the attractive features of a military career are the fringe benefits. Although there is no base exchange or commissary connected with the Wilder site many of the families prefer this type of location because it gives them an opportunity to blend their lives into the local community.

“Complete medical care that one would have available at a large base cannot be furnished for an outfit this size; however, the men and their dependents receive hospitalization locally on a medi-care plan. Also a full-time medic co-ordinate is stationed with the unit. TSgt. Alvin Downing is qualified to administer shots and handle numerous other medical problems which arise. In approximately six more years he plans to retire from active military service and make his home here in Treasure Valley.

“The detachment provides various types of entertainment and recreational equipment for the use of the airmen and their dependents. The unit now has 3 tents, 6 sleeping bags, 2 boats with motors and other necessary camping gear which can be checked out for use on a first come first served basis.

“For the golfer, memberships are purchased in the Caldwell Golf Association. These may be used by the men, free of charge, and two sets of clubs are provided for those who have none of their own. In the summertime a softball team is sponsored to play in one of the local leagues. Uniforms, equipment and membership fees are furnished for players.

“This last autumn the avid hunters and marksmen formed a Beefeater Rod and Gun Club, named for the site which wears this name officially in all Air Force records. An area below the hill, on which the pad is located, has been prepared for target practice for members of this club.

“For the hobbyist and do-it-yourselfer, automotive and electronic equipment may be checked from entertainment centers. Although many of the personnel and their families are busy just being ‘families,’ many more are actively engaged in serving their communities in whatever capacity they can.

“Major Davis, of Dallas, Tex., assumed his duties as commander of the Beefeater Bomb Plot in June last year, following the retirement of Major Richard Severin. He lives in Caldwell with his wife, Imy, daughter, Debb and dachshund, Katrina. The Davises are members of the Caldwell Memorial Hospital Association.

“Second in command is Captain Ronald L. Norton, a bachelor, who has been located here since April 1964. Norton spends a lot of his spare time meeting and working with the Boise Association of Model Railroaders, a Treasure Valley Club of which he is a member, along with 13 other model railroad hobbyists. He will leave this area this month to report for a new assignment in Japan.” The article went on to name other personnel at the installation and their various community involvements.

In May 1993, Wilder received the news that the facility was to close as part of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission or BRAC. The Twin Falls newspaper, The Times-News carried the story. “The commander of the Air Force’s Wilder Radar Bomb Scoring Site, scheduled to close in mid-1994, said he and his men will be sorry to leave southwestern Idaho. ‘Of all the radar detachments across the United States, we’ve had the absolute best community relations,’ Lt. Col. James Prideaux said Friday [May 28, 1993]. ‘This is where our friends are, our lives. It’s going to be hard to leave.’

The May 29, 1993 The Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho reported, “The Air Force announced the shutdown Thursday. It is among changes affecting 42 states that take into account base closings and realignments already underway as well as the 1993 Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which is due to report to Congress on July 1. The changes reflect efforts to save money, reduce the overall size of the Air Force and adjust to post-Cold War needs.”

The article noted that the installation then employed 46 active duty and two civilian personnel. It was also credited with putting an estimated $3.2 million per year into the areas economy which included over $1 million in payroll and housing allowances.

An Air Force public affairs officer in South Dakota, which also had an RBS, stated that “The inactivation is a result of reduced strategic requirements, low utilization rates and operating restrictions.” The Air Force would transfer the military personnel to other units and the civilian workers “probably also would be given an opportunity to be assigned elsewhere.”

Two former commanders at the site, Ned Kerr and Jim Scherer, had settled in Canyon county after retirement. Kerr who commanded the site from 1975-1978 stated “I’m sorry to see that it’s going to close because I think its been mutually beneficial between the Air Force and Canyon County, economically and socially.”

Epilogue: Along with the various RBS scattered throughout the United States, the Air Force also had RBS railroad trains which traveled around the country. There are no known visits to Idaho but there was a report that one of the trains was to make a stop in Spokane, Washington in 1968. There is a YouTube video of one such train at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6UjTHiIw04 The video is vintage film and runs about 18 minutes.

Wilder, Idaho has also served as home to various units of the Idaho Army National Guard. Some of these units date as far back as 1927. There are no units currently stationed there but the National Guard’s anti-drug team has an office there and the Idaho Office of Emergency Management uses it as a COOP (Continuity of Operations) site. (This paragraph courtesy of Captain Robert J. Taylor, Idaho Army National Guard Historian)


Idaho Marine Corps History

Company C, 4th Tank Battalion, USMC Reserve, Gowen Field, Idaho

USMC Idaho Platoons
The USMC had three Idaho platoons. These men were sworn in together, left for basic training together and were in the same platoon throughout their basic training.

Company C, 4th Tank Battalion, USMC Reserve, Gowen Field, Idaho

Company C, 4th Tank Battalion, USMC Reserve was stationed at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho until August 2020.

Company C, which was formed on July 22, 1942, had been based at Gowen Field, the state’s National Guard base, before its August 14, 2020 deactivation. The company fought in the Pacific theater during World War II and in the Korean War. It returned to Boise as a rife company in 1954, and was designated a tank company in 1962. It saw action during Desert Storm and extensive combat in Iraq in 2005.

A small number of Marines will remain at Gowen Field until a decision is made about future units to be assigned to the site, and they will continue to host the annual Toys for Tots program and conduct funeral honors for Marine veterans.

Articles with photos of the Marines can be viewed at: https://www.imd.idaho.gov/39-former-marine-reservists-enlist-into-the-idaho-army-national-guard/ https://www.stripes.com/marines-make-excellent-soldiers-over-half-a-marine-tank-company-just-joined-the-army-national-guard-1.645277

USMC Idaho Platoons

The USMC had three Idaho platoons. One in 1946, one in 1968 and one in 1969. Below is a short history on each of them.

1946 The first known Idaho Platoon was sworn in circa August 31, 1946 on the steps of the Idaho state capitol by Governor Arnold Williams. The platoon was 66 members strong and they departed for recruit training in San Diego, California the next day.

A 1968 article noted that a banquet was given in their honor but no specifics as to where it was held. They graduated early October 1946 and several returned to Idaho on furlough.

The Times-News in Twin Falls also announced that photos of the men were available at the Orpheum theater. The photos included their first two weeks in the corps, assembling of the platoon at the Boise armory and their first week of recruit training. Known members of the 1946 Idaho Platoon:

Bush, Leland D.
Case, Keith L.
Coleman, Jr., Claude L.
Crow, Wayne T.
Gobel, Kenneth D.
Goodrich, James O.
Huffaker, Donald W.
Jackson, Ray Dean
Jones, Laurel Joaquin
Kimball, Everett
Koch, Glen A.
Netz, Earl E.
Paddock, Todd R.
Schroeder, William R.
Spencer, James L.
Pettygrove, Dick N.
Varela, Joe Raymond
Warren, Ralph E.
Wayment, Wesley S.
Williams, Jr., William Wiley
Wood, Earl L.
Yelton, Elwood Dee

1968 The 1968 Idaho platoon is the best documented with the most information about the group. The men and their families were treated to a concert in Julia Davis Park by the third Marine Aircraft Wing Band the night before their enlistment. The next day, August 2, 1968, at 11:30 a.m., the men paraded down Main street and up Capitol Boulevard to the state Capitol. There is a very grainy photo of the men carrying a large banner which reads United States Marine Corps, Idaho Platoon. One newspaper article reports that the Marine Band accompanied them in the parade.

On the steps of the Capitol, a full program was held and several dignitaries were in attendance. Acting Governor, Senator Bill Young, was the featured speaker. After the swearing in, “The Marine Hymn” was played and a state flag was presented to the group by Senator Young and Miss Karen Ryder, Miss Idaho, 1968. The program listed the last names and hometowns of each of the men. That same day at 4:00 p.m., the platoon left for basic training at San Diego, California’s Camp Pendleton.

The men became Platoon 3056 and did very well in training, earning the hard-fought title of Honor Platoon. Ten of the men received meritorious promotions to the rank of private first class, an honor given to only 10%. Dale J. Sanders who hailed from Emmett was named the platoon’s Honor Man. Wayne Hanson was recognized as Hight Point man in physical fitness scoring 433 out of a possible 500 points. Richard W. May and Lionel Howard were recognized as rifle experts.

The platoon graduated on or about 9 October. Idaho Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa led a party of state officials to San Diego to witness the event. State Senator Dean Summers and Representative Marion Davidson accompanied him along with Miss Idaho, Karen Ryder. Jim Manderscheid, Vice President of First Security Bank and Keith Leedy of the Marine Corp League were also in attendance, Mr. Leedy presenting awards to members of the platoon.

The platoon held a reunion in 2003 and were given a “Welcome Home” proclamation by Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne. In 2005, the platoon held a mini reunion at the Idaho Military History Museum and donated their platoons information to the IMHS.

Members of the 1968 Idaho Platoon:

Sanders, Dale J. (Platoon Honorman and Blues Award)
Bailey, Arthur E.
Baldwin, II, James I.
Barnes, Thomas R.
Berkley, Jimmy R.
Bernard, Michael D.
Bowcutt, Ronald J.
Byrd, Victor L.
Campbell, John T.
Carpenter, Bruce L.
Carr, Ronnie D.
Christensen, Larry D.
Clark, Ronald D.
Clark, Terry B.
Clegg, Daniel R.
Coates, Eldon V.
Cooke, Michael R.
Cooper, Larry D.
Crockett, Lyndon L.
Crown, Billy L.
Coursey, Thomas D.
Doyle, Jr., John S.
Escobar, David G.
Fogg, Carroll L.
Free, Marion D.
Gardner, Ernest W.
Gibbs, John L.
Gregory, Robert R.
Griffith, Timothy C.
Hanson, Wayne R.
Heck, Frances R.
Henderson, Kenneth W.
Hooper, Jr., Angus L.
Howard, Lionel J.
Hunt, Stanley D.
James, Jr., Frank A.
Jennings, Thomas L.
LaBelle, Timothy J.
Maher, James H.
Mahon, James M.
Mample, Roger L.
Maness, Roscoe D.
May, Richard W.
McCammon, Karl C.
McCormack, III, Perry E.
McMurtrey, Michael W.
Miller, Jr., Otis H.
Morgan, William R.
Moser, Bernard J.
Mullin, Jay K.
Mullinix, Gale L.
Nebeker, John R. C.
Noble, Richard G.
Otto, Alexander A.
Page, Richard J.
Parrett, Jack A.
Patterson, Raymond L.
Paul, Lenny J.
Pearson, Carl L.
Peterson, Donald Z.
Pruett, Gordon L.
Richards, Brent J.
Robbins, Milton L.
Robertson, Jr., Edward W.
Rutledge, Jesse L.
Stafford, Michael S.
Tarkalson, David J.
Thompson, Scott M.
Trow, Robert C.
Turner, Melvin J.
Tyler, Kerry S.
Ulrich, Paul R.
Wakefield, Michael S.
Weeks, Norman R.
Wheeler, Jr., Thomas H.
Whitney, Randall N.
Wood, Glen L.
Worthington, Lyle D.
Wray, Paul S.
Zahm, Michael L.

1969

Plans began in late March 1969 for the third all-Idaho platoon. At the time, the idea was to have an annual all-Idaho platoon. The men, believed to be 72 or 73 in number, were sworn in on August 17, 1969 on the steps of the Capitol. The men participated in a short downtown parade along with a Marine Corps band from Twenty-Nine Palms, California, Miss Idaho, Diana Hopperstad and Miss Rodeo Idaho, Jackie Bodenhofer. The platoon left for training in San Diego, California after the ceremony. They became Platoon 1153.

The platoon graduated early November 1969. Robert T. Gentry from Soda Springs was named the platoons Honor Man. He was promoted to private first class and presented with a dress blue uniform. Six other members of the platoon were also promoted to private first class.

Known members of the 1969 platoon
Gentry, Robert T., Honorman
Adams, Larry J.
Baumgartner, Jr., Robert H.
Christian, James M.
Clements, Kenneth
Cleverly, Jesse
Espinola, Jose L.
Harrington, Donald R.
Houser, Jack
Hulet, Darrell
Myhre, Patrick L.


Idaho Submariners on Eternal Patrol

The following is a list of Idaho Submariners that died while in the service to their country, showing their name, rank, hometown, command, and date and location of death.

Jacobs, Arthur M. FC2, Blackfoot, USS A-7 (SS-8) 8/1/1917 Manila Bay, Philippines

Rose, Rudolf J. EM3C, Sandpoint, USS S-4 (SS-109) 12/17/1927 off Provincetown, MA

Chandler, Leroy E. SC1, Pocatello, USS Bonita (SS-165) 2/27/1935 Mare Island, CA

Shepherd, Clarence B. MM1, Paris, USS Nautilus (SS-168) 8/16/1938 Pier 3, Sub Base, Pearl Harbor, HI

Coffey, Robert L. EM2, Nezperce, USS Squalus (SS-192) 5/23/1939 Off New England Coast

Weld, Robert R. FC2, Kooskia, USS Squalus (SS-192) 5/23/1939 Off New England Coast

Parsons, Jr., Rolla RM2c, May, USS Argonaut (SS-166) 1/10/1943 Near Rabaul

Rolland, Harold L. GMC(PA), Chesterfield, USS Argonaut (SS-166) 1/10/1943 Near Rabaul

Christy, Frederic H. SC2c, Blackfoot, USS Triton (SS-201) 3/15/1943 Between Rabaul and Shortlands Basin

Eichmann, John H. Lieutenant, Boise, USS Triton (SS-201) 3/15/1943 Between Rabaul and Shortlands Basin

Osborn, Berl G. SC3c, Boise, USS Pickerel (SS-177) 4/3/1943 Off Honshu, Japan

Stevens, Rex M. S2c, Richfield, USS Runner (SS-275) 7/11/1943 North of Hokkaido, Japan

Stephens, John R. RM1c, Wilder, USS S-44 (SS-155) 10/7/1943 Off Paramushiru, Northern Kuriles

Neel, Percy TM2c, Grandview, USS Wahoo (SS-238) 10/11/1943 In La Perouse Strait, Northern Japan

Fackrell, Carl E. SM3c, Boise, USS Dorado (SS-248) 10/12/1943 In Western Atlantic

Moreton, Arnold F. EM1c, Rexburg, USS Sculpin (SS-191) 11/19/1943 North of Oroluk Island near Truk

Hicks, Melvin J. EM2c, Meridian, USS Capelin (SS-289) 12/2/1943 off Celebes

Stickle, Robert G. EM2c, Wendell, USS Capelin (SS-289) 12/2/1943 off Celebes

Hund, Carl M. GMC, Cavendish, USS Scorpion (SS-278) 2/1/1944 East China Sea or Yellow Sea

Stearns, Kirk C. EM1c, Pocatello, USS Tullibee (SS-284) 3/26/1944 north of Pelews

Ball, James R. S1c, Moreland, USS Gudgeon (SS-211) 4/18/1944 Off Iwo Jima

Rockwood, Arthur J. SC1c, Caldwell, USS Golet (SS-361) 6/14/1944 between Midway and Japan

Clifford, Marvin D. R. S1c, Shelley, USS Robalo (SS-273) 7/26/1944 Off the east coast of Balabac Island, PI

Bergman, Edwin F. RM1c, Burley, USS Tang (SS-306) 10/25/1944 Formosa Strait near Turnabout Island

Parker, John J. CCS, Coeur d' Alene, USS Tang (SS-306) 10/25/1944 Formosa Strait near Turnabout Island

Brannam, Allan R.MoMM2c, Caldwell, USS Albacore (SS-218) 11/7/1944 off northern Japan

Manning, Wallace S. MoMM2c, Boise or Wilder, USS Growler (SS-215) 11/8/1944 South China Sea

Rhodes, Henry E. SC1, Boise, USS Growler (SS-215) 11/8/1944 South China Sea

McKee, Eugene O. MOMM3, Filer, USS Scamp (SS-277) 11/16/1944 Off Inubo Saki near Tokyo Bay

Petty, Fremont BM2c, Weiser, USS Swordfish (SS-193) 1/12/1945 Near Yaku Island off Kyushu, Japan

Christian, Duane V. TM3c, Twin Falls, USS Barbel (SS-316) 2/4/1945 China Sea, near Palawan Passage

Crawford, Delmer L. GM1c(T), Marsing, USS Snook (SS-279) 4/9/1945 South China Sea

Wicklander, Max M. MoMM2c, Buhl, USS Lagarto (SS-371) 5/4/1945 Off Malay coast near the Gulf of Siam

Williams, Jay J. MoMM2c, Coeur d’ Alene, USS Bonefish (SS-223) 6/18/1945 Toyama Bay, Japan

Bell, George L. MoMM1c, Hill City, USS Bullhead (SS-332) 8/6/1945 West end of Lombok Strait

Middleton, Sidney L. MM1c, Nampa, USS Thresher (SSN-593) 4/10/1963 300 miles off coast of New England

Corey, Grant W. SA, Jerome, USS Guardfish (SSN-612) 7/25/1972 near mouth of Subic Bay, Philippines

Vauk, Ronald J. Lt Cmdr, Nampa, formerly USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723) 9/11/2001 Pentagon


Idaho Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. It is earned, not won, by performing a deed of personal bravery or self-sacrifice, above and beyond the call of duty, while a member of the Armed Services of the United States in actual combat with an enemy of the Nation.

The deed performed must meet very stringent guidelines. It must have no margin for doubt or error. The deed must be proved by incontestable evidence of at least two eye-witnesses; it must be so outstanding that it clearly distinguishes the gallantry of the individual beyond the call of duty from lesser forms of bravery; it must involve the risk of life; and it must be the type of deed which if not performed, would not subject the individual to any justified criticism. The Medal is presented by a high official in the name of the Congress of the United States. For this reason it is often called The Congressional Medal of Honor.

Eight Medals of Honor were EARNED in Idaho, 22 Medal of Honor Recipients are buried in Idaho (this includes four 'In Memory Of' Cenotaphs), 1 Medal of Honor Recipient is currently living in Idaho, and 4 Medal of Honor Recipients were born in Idaho but either moved to or enlisted in another state. That makes a total of 35 Medal of Honor Recipients with a direct Idaho attachment. (Several recipients are in more than one category.)

There has also come to light, information on other Medal of Honor Recipients with significant Idaho attachments other than those mentioned above. This brings the total to 48 Recipients with strong Idaho attachments. The following lists the Medal of Honor Recipients and their connection to Idaho (Accredited to Idaho meaning entered the service in Idaho-abbreviated Accd in table below, Born in Idaho, Living/Lived in Idaho, Buried in Idaho, Earned their Medal in Idaho)

Of note, the actual Medals of Honor of Civil War Recipient Gurdon H. Barter and Korean War Recipient David B. Bleak are now on exhibit at the Idaho Military History Museum in Boise, Idaho.

The following chart lists the recipients with Idaho attachments. Click the name to go directly to that recipients information.

RECIPIENTSVCCONFLICTACCDBORNLIVING/LivedBURIEDEARNED
BARTER, Gurdon H.NavyCivil War XX
CONAWAY, John WesleyArmyCivil War XX
HAYS, John H.ArmyCivil War XX
KEPHART, JamesArmyCivil War XX
MERRIAM, Henry ClayArmyCivil War X
BRYAN, William CharlesArmyIndian Campaigns X
CLARK, WilfredArmyIndian Campaigns X
GARLAND, HarryArmyIndian Campaigns X
GREEN, JohnArmyIndian Campaigns XX
HEISE, Richard ClamorArmyIndian Campaigns XX
HUMPHREY, Charles FrederickArmyIndian Campaigns X
JACKSON, JamesArmyIndian Campaigns X X
JONES, William H.ArmyIndian Campaigns X
LEONARD, Patrick ThomasArmyIndian Campaigns X
MAHER aka Meaher, NicholasArmyIndian Campaigns X
MCCARTHY, MichaelArmyIndian Campaigns X
OLIVER, FrancisArmyIndian Campaigns XX
PARNELL, William RussellArmyIndian Campaigns X X
SMITH, William H.ArmyIndian Campaigns X      
VARNUM, Charles AlbertArmyIndian Campaigns X
WILKENS, HenryArmyIndian Campaigns X
LONGFELLOW, Richard MosesArmyPhilippine Insurrection XX
FOSTER, Paul FrederickNavyVera Cruz (Mexico)@ X
GAUJOT, JulianArmyVera Cruz (Mexico) X
NEIBAUR, Thomas CroftArmyWorld War IXXXX
BAKER, Vernon JosephArmyWorld War II X
BOYINGTON, Gregory PappyUSMCWorld War II XX
BROSTROM, Leonard CarlArmyWorld War IIXXXX
BUSH, Robert EugeneNavyWorld War II X
JACKSON, Arthur J.USMC  World War II XX
KANE, John RileyArmy Air CorpsWorld War II X
LESTER, Fredrick FaulknerNavy ReserveWorld War II X
MAXWELL, Robert DaleArmyWorld War II XX
MCCARTER, Lloyd GeorgeArmyWorld War II X X
NAKAMURA, William KenzoArmyWorld War IIX X
PETERSON, Oscar VernerNavyWorld War II #
SMITH, Maynard HarrisonArmy Air CorpsWorld War II X
VAN NOY, Jr., Nathan K.ArmyWorld War IIXX X
BLEAK, David BruceArmy Korean WarXXXX
JOHNSON, James EdmundUSMCKorean War X **
LITTLETON, Herbert AUSMCKorean WarX XX
MYERS, Reginald RodneyUSMCKorean WarXX
SCHOONOVER, Dan D.ArmyKorean WarXX +
FISHER, Bernard FrancisUSAFVietnamX XX
FREEMAN, Ed W.ArmyVietnam XX
MCGONAGLE, William LorenNavyVietnam Era X
NORRIS, Thomas RollandNavyVietnam X
REASONER, Frank StanleyUSMCVietnamX XX
BENSON, JamesNavyInterim 1871-1898
CALLAGHAN, Daniel JudsonNavyWorld War II - Honorable Mention
GARY, Donald ArthurNavyWorld War II - Honorable Mention
HAMMERBERG, Owen Francis PatrickNAVYWorld War II - Honorable Mention
HILL, Edwin JosephNAVYWorld War II - Honorable Mention
SCOTT, NormanNavyWorld War II - Honorable Mention
SIJAN, Lance P.USAFVietnam - Honorable Mention

# Oscar Peterson was buried at sea and has an 'In Memory Of' Cenotaph in Richfield, Idaho

** James E. Johnson is MIA, Missing In Action. He has an ‘In Memory Of’ Cenotaph in Pocatello, Idaho, and Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery

@ Documents received from the Naval Academy confirm that Foster received his appointment to the Academy from Idaho Senator Dubois. Foster remains officially accredited to Kansas as the Navy would not consider a records correction without his family’s endorsement.

+ Schoonover is MIA, Missing In Action. He has an ‘In Memory Of’ Cenotaph in Morris Hill Cemetery, Boise, Idaho

Other noteworthy mentions:

John Chowning Gresham, an Indian Campaigns recipient, was from March 1908 to May 1908 "commanding post" at Boise Barracks, Idaho and from May 1908 until July 1908, commanded both "regiment and post" at the Barracks.

Lloyd Milton Brett, an Indian Campaigns recipient, served as Post Commander at Boise Barracks, Idaho from February to September 1910.

Hugh Jocelyn McGrath, a Philippines Insurrection recipient, was assigned to Fort Sherman, (Coeur d’ Alene) Idaho during September 1891 and again from September 1894 to August 1895.

Albert Leopold Mills, a Spanish American War recipient was stationed at Ft. Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho in 1882 and again in 1884.

Leon Robert Vance Jr., a WWII recipient, was stationed at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho for roughly one month in the fall of 1943.

Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright, a WWII recipient, was assigned to Boise Barracks, Idaho from February to June 1910. Also of note, his father also spent time in Idaho both assigned to Boise Barracks and during the Nez Perce War.

John Moran, an Indian Campaigns recipient, may be buried in eastern Idaho. Details are sketchy and varied but local history has him there. He is officially classified as "Lost to History."

Wilmon Whilldin Blackmar, a Civil War recipient and Commander-In-Chief of the GAR, died during a visit to Boise, Idaho, on Sunday, July 16, 1905.

David Charles Dolby, a Vietnam War recipient, died during a visit to Spirit Lake, Idaho on August 6, 2010.

Details are very limited but there is credible information that Chester H. West, a WWI recipient, lived in Idaho Falls, Idaho, for a period of time prior to enlisting in the military.

Also of note, Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, was a training center during WWII for B-17 and B-24 Bomber Crews. A number of units transitioned through Gowen Field and four Medal of Honor Recipients are associated with those units. They are:
Henry E. Erwin - 29th Bombardment Group, 52nd Bombardment Sqdn
Forrest L. Vosler - 303rd Bombardment Group, 358th Bombardment Sqdn
Jack W. Mathis - 303rd Bombardment Group, 359th Bombardment Sqdn
Horace S. Carswell - 308th Bombardment Group, 374th Bombardment Sqdn

And in closing, eastern Idaho’s Bingham County is named for Henry Harrison Bingham, a Civil War recipient. He never lived in Idaho but was a "longtime friend and political associate" of territorial Governor William M. Bunn.


US Navy Ships Named for Idaho Cities, Counties, and Icons

Along with the five USS Idaho vessels, several other US Navy ships have strong Idaho ties.

Idaho Cities With Ships Named For Them

USS Arco I (ARD-29) Floating Drydock 1944-1977

Her history can be read at Arco I

Photographs of her are available at Arco I photos

USS Arco II (ARDM-5) Auxiliary Repair Drydock 1983-Still in service in San Diego

Her history can be read at Arco II

Photographs of her are available at Arco II photos

USS Boise I (CL-47) Cruiser 1938-1946

Boise received eleven battle stars for her service in World War II.

Her history can be read at Boise I

Photographs of her are available at Boise I photos

A piece of her armor and her bell (photo below) are on exhibit at the Idaho Military History Museum USS Boise (CL-47) Bell photo courtesy of Idaho Military History Museum

Boise Bell

Boise Bell

A Ships bell is an important part of a ship. Bells have a centuries-long tradition of varied use in the navies and merchant fleets of the world. Signaling, keeping time, and sounding alarms are important in a ship's routine and readiness. Their functional and ceremonial uses have made them a symbol of considerable significance to the United States Navy. Click here to read an article from the Naval History and Heritage Command about Ships bells. Ships Bells

USS Boise II (SSN 764) Submarine 1992-Still in service

Her history can be read at Boise II

Photographs of her are available at Boise II photos

USS Genesee I (SwStr) 1862-1865

Her history can be read at Genesse I

There are no known photographs

USS Genesee II (AT-55) Tug boat 1917-1942

Genesee was awarded one battle star for World War II service. She was sunk to avoid capture, raised by the Japanese, sunk again by a US air attack in 1944.

Her history can be read at Genesse II

Photographs of her are available at Genesse II photos

USS Genesee III (AOG-8) Patapsco Class Gasoline Tanker 1943-1992

Genesee III earned one battle star for World War II service, one battle star for Korean War service, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal with five campaign stars for Vietnam War service.

Her history can be read at Genesse III

Photographs of her are available at Genesse III photos

USS Pocatello (PF-9) Patrol Frigate 1944-1946

Her history can be read at Pocatello I

Photographs of her are available at Pocatello I photos

USS Rexburg (PCER-855) Rescue Escort 1944-1970

Her history can be read at Rexburg I

Photographs of her are available at Rexburg I photos

USS Twin Falls (T-AGM-11) Missile Range Instrument Ship 1945-1972

Her history can be read at Twin Falls I

Photographs of her are available at Twin Falls I photos

Idaho Counties With Ships Named For Them

USS Benewah (APB-35) Self-propelled Barracks Ship 1945-1943

Benewah earned 11 battle stars during the Vietnam conflict.

Her history can be read at Benewah I

Photographs of her are available at Benewah I photos

USS Bingham (APA-225) Haskell Class Attack Transport 1944-1946

Bingham received one battle star for her World War II service.

Her history can be read at Bingham I

Photographs of her are available at Bingham I photos

USS Butte I (APA-68) Gilliam Class Attack Transport 1944 - 1946

Named for the counties in California, Idaho, and South Dakota. [Butte (AE-27) honors the city in Montana] Butte (APA-68) earned one battle star during World War II.

Her history can be read at Butte I

Photographs of her are available at Butte I photos

USS Cassia County (LST-527) Tank Landing Ship 1944-1956 (named Cassia County in 1955)

LST-527 earned one battle star for World War II service and two battle stars for Korean service. Her history can be read at Cassia County I

Photographs of her are available at Cassia County I photos

USS Clearwater County (LST-602) Tank Landing Ship 1944-1972 (named Clearwater County in 1955)

LST-602 earned one battle star for World War II service and two battle stars for Korean service. Her history can be read at Clearwater County I

Photographs of her are available at Clearwater County I photos

USS Custer (APA-40) Bayfield Class Attack Transport 1943-1946

Custer received five battle stars for World War II service.

Her history can be read at Custer County I

Photographs of her are available at Custer County I photos

USS Elmore (AP-87) Bayfield Class Attack Transport 1943-1946

Elmore received eight battle stars for World War II service.

Her history can be read at Elmore County I

Photographs of her are available at Elmore County I photos

USS Fremont (APA-44) Bayfield Class Attack Transport 1943-1973

Fremont received five battle stars for World War II service.

Her history can be read at Fremont County I

Photographs of her are available at Fremont County I photos

USS Jerome County (LST-848) Tank Landing Ship 1945-1970 (named Jerome County in 1955)

LST-848 earned one award of the Presidential Unit Citation, one award of the Meritorious Unit Commendation, and five battle stars for the Vietnam War.

Her history can be read at Jerome County I

Photographs of her are available at Jerome County I photos

USS Oneida III (converted Yacht/SP-509) 1898-1912

The previous two USS Oneida's precede Oneida County's existence

Her history can be read at Oneida County III

Photographs of her are available at Oneida County III photos

USS Oneida IV (S.P.-765) Tug boat 1918-1919 (Name changed several times)

Her history can be read at Oneida County IV

Photographs of her are available at Oneida County IV photos

USS Payette County (LST-1079) Tank Landing Ship 1945-1959 (named Payette County in 1955)

Her history can be read at Payette County I

Photographs of her are available at Payette County I photos

Idaho Rivers With Ships Named For Them

USS Owyhee River (LSMR-515) Landing Ship Medium Rocket 1945- 1973 (Named Owyhee River in 1955)

Her history can be read at Owyhee River I

Photographs of her are available at Owyhee River I photos

USS Red River (LSMR-522) Landing Ship Medium Rocket 1945-1973

Her history can be read at Red River I

Photographs of her are available at Red River I photos

Idaho Tribes And Native Americans With Ships Named For Them

USS Bannock (AT-81) Tug boat 1942-1977

Named for the Bannock Tribe Bannock received two battle stars for World War II service.

Her history can be read at Bannock Tribe I

Photographs of her are available at Bannock Tribe I photos

USS Sacagawea I (YT-326) Harbor tug 1942-1945 (Named Sacagawea in 1942, was acquired from Brazil, built in 1925)

Named for Sacagawea, a Shoshone Native American young woman who acted as guide and interpreter for Lewis and Clark on their expedition into the Northwest region of the United States.

Her history can be read at Sacagawea I

There are no known photographs

USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE-2) Dry cargo/Ammunition 2007 – Still in service

Her history can be read at Sacagawea II

Photographs of her are available at Sacagawea II photos

Idahoans With Ships Named For Them

USS Private Leonard C. Brostrom (T-AK-255) Cargo Ship. 1942-1980 Renamed for Brostrom in 1948.

Named for Leonard C. Brostrom, WWII Medal of Honor recipient from Preston, Idaho. Born, accredited to and buried in Idaho.

Her history can be read at Brostrom I

Photographs of her are available at Brostrom I photos

USS Maj. Bernard F. Fisher (T-AK-4396) Logistics Prepositioning Ship 1999– Still in service

Named for Bernard F. Fisher, VN Medal of Honor Recipient. Accredited to and buried in Idaho

History on Navy webpage no longer available

Photographs of her are available at Fisher I photos

and Fisher I photos II

USS Paul F. Foster (DD-964) Destroyer 1976–2003 Decommissioned in 2003 but still in operation as Self Defense Test Ship

Named for Paul F. Foster, Vera Cruz Medal of Honor Recipient who should be accredited to Idaho as he entered the Naval Academy from Weiser Idaho. Additionally, he received a Senatorial Appointment to the Academy from Idaho’s Senator Fred T. Dubois.

Her history can be read at Foster I

Photographs of her are available at Foster I photos

USS Peterson (DE-152) Destroyer Escort 1943-1965

Named for Oscar V. Peterson, WWII Medal of Honor recipient. Camp Peterson at the Farragut Naval Training Station was named for Peterson. Peterson has an 'In Memory Of' headstone in Richfield, Idaho next to his wife who is buried there.

Peterson received one battle star for World War II service.

Her history can be read at Peterson I

Photographs of her are available at Peterson I photos

USS Reasoner (DE-1063) Destroyer Escort 1971-1993

Named for Frank Stanley Reasoner, Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient. Reasoner is accredited to and buried in Idaho.

Her history can be read at Reasoner I

Photographs of her are available at Reasoner I photos

USS Lester (DE-1022) Destroyer Escort 1957-1973

Named for Fred Faulkner Lester, WWII Medal of Honor recipient. Lester trained at Idaho’s Farragut Naval Training Station.

Her history can be read at Lester I

Photographs of her are available at Lester I photos

USS Junior Van Noy Army Engineer Port Repair Ship 1944 – 1945

Served under several names prior to 1944 and after 1945.

Van Noy was an Army vs Navy ship so very little information is available. Named for Junior aka Nathan K. Van Noy Jr, WWII Medal of Honor recipient. Born, accredited to and buried in Idaho. No reputable information links.


Submarine Documentaries & Books

Blind Man's Bluff

History Channel Book 1998/Movie 2001 (1 hr 35 min)

A history of American submarine espionage during the Cold War. Produced by Will Lyman and Sherry Sontag, this unique documentary is the video counterpart to the book "Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage" authored by the producers. (c) 2000, The History Channel, A&E Networks and Will Lyman and Sherry Sontag.

Blind Man's Bluff shows for the first time how the navy sent submarines wired with self-destruct charges into the heart of Soviet seas to tap crucial underwater telephone cables. It unveils how the navy's own negligence might have been responsible for the loss of the USS Scorpion, a submarine that disappeared, all hands lost, 30 years ago. It tells the complete story of the audacious attempt to steal a Soviet submarine with the help of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes and how it was doomed from the start. And it reveals how the navy used the comforting notion of deep-sea rescue vehicles to hide operations that were more James Bond than Jacques Cousteau.

Webmasters Note:  Often when submariners are asked about the missions they served on or what they did on the submarine they will often say “I cannot talk about it but you can read this book”... Or in this case watch this documentary.


Steel Boats Iron Men

The Hoffman Collection 1989 (57 min)

A civilian film crew goes along on a routine sea patrol of the United States nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 709). Also, retired submarine commanders and military experts discuss the tactics and strategy of undersea warfare, from the early days of World War I to the revolutionary changes brought on by atomic power. Interviews with the crew of the Rickover help us understand why they endure the danger, loneliness and confinement of submarine service.

Webmasters Note: This documentary is somewhat dated in that it shows life onboard submarines in 1989 well before women began serving on submarines in 2011.

Currently, the Navy has 84 female officers and 219 enlisted female sailors serving on submarine crews. Female officers serve on 19 submarine crews, and female enlisted sailors are part of eight submarine crews. Nov 11, 2019.

The USS IDAHO SSN 799 will be a mixed-gender crew. Additionally, the Navy banned smoking on submarines in 2011. 

That said this documentary is widely considered one of the better documentaries describing life on submarines, at least through 2010.


Idaho Military History Documentaries & Books

Books on Idaho Military History

Farragut Naval Training Station, Images of America, Gayle E. Alvarez and Dennis Woolford, Arcadia Publishing, Mount Pleasant, SC, 2009

First Class or Not At All Idaho Air National Guard 1946-1975, William C. Miller, Independent Publishers, Boise, ID, 2009

Gowen Field, Images of Aviation, Yancy Mailes and Gary Keith, Arcadia Publishing, Mount Pleasant, SC, 2008

Idaho In World War II, Images of America, Students from Idaho State University’s MGT 4499/5599 Class, Arcadia Publishing, 2020

Mountain Home Air Force Base, Images of America, Yancy D. Mailes, Arcadia Publishing, Mount Pleasant, SC, 2007

The History of the Idaho National Guard, Orlan J. Svingen, Idaho National Guard, 1995 (covers the early history up through Desert Shield/Desert Storm)

The Big Spud, The USS Idaho in WWII, A War Diary by a Member of its VO Squadron, William Schumann, Merriam Press, Bennington, VT 2005

The First Fifty Years: Michaud Flats, US Army Base, Pocatello Regional Airport, Bessie M.S. Roberts-Wright, 1993

Wings Over Idaho, An Aviation History, Arthur A. Hart, Historic Boise, Inc., 1991


About the Historian

Gayle Alvarez

  • Founding member of Idaho Military Historical Society (IMHS) and Museum, served on the Board of Directors for 23 years.
  • Researched and Produced Pass In Review, the IMHS’ newsletter for 17 years.
  • Founding member and Board member of Medal of Honor Historical Society of the US. Have researched Idaho’s Medal of Honor recipients for 22 years.
  • Retired from Idaho Military Division after 34 years working in both Army and Air Force offices.
  • Served 13 years in the Idaho National Guard rising to rank of Sergeant First Class.
  • Co-author of Images of America, Farragut Naval Training Station
  • Editor and co-author of The History of the 148th Field Artillery 1940-1946, an Idaho unit that served in WWII.