Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dale Mabry Airfield Project Paper #20

Project: Part 1 Construction of Dale Mabry Airfield began in November of 1929, although the original 200 acres of land used for the airfield were purchased a year earlier by the City of Tallahassee from citizens Simon Mann, Lane Ross, and their neighbors at the time. Named after the late local Tallahassee World War One veteran Dale Mabry, it became an army base, in preparation for the Second World War, in January of 1941 thanks to the efforts of U.S. Senator Claude Pepper, as well as then-Florida Governor Spessard Holland. By the end of the airfield would expand to over 1,700 acres, site to 133 total buildings. Mabry expanded as far out as Alligator Point and Sopchoppy for training, as well as creating satellite fields in the southern/coastal sites of Thomasville and Harris Neck in Georgia. Overall, more than 8,000 men trained to become pilots, with around 12 dying in training accidents. Interestingly, some Chinese and French men were also trained to fly planes at and around Mabry Airfield.In addition to the soldiers in training, hundreds of civilians found jobs at the airfield, too.
Even though the runways were closed to commercial airlines for the military’s use and training, both the Eastern Airlines and the National Airlines made use of them during war time. There were also 150 prisoners of war kept as workers at Dale Mabry Airfield during World War Two. Mabry Airfield was officially labeled inactive in 1945. Following the end of the war, many soldiers returned home and took advantage of the educational benefits of the GI Bill. There were so many veterans trying to attend college, however, that many schools were overwhelmed by the number of applications. One measure to correct the problem happened right here in Tallahassee, where the Florida State College for Women became coed to accommodate for the influx of new students, transforming into the Florida State University we know today. With the airfield freshly vacant, FSCW built housing facilities for the veterans now going to college there. Another college, TCC, was subsequently built over the retired airfield. In fact, surrounding roads like Appleyard Drive, Pensacola Street, and Jackson Bluff Road were once part of Dale Mabry Airfield. In addition to TCC, a number of other buildings, including the site of the Florida Highway Patrol Training Academy, were built on top of the airfield. Tallahassee Regional Airport was also constructed after the closing of the airfield, although not on site like TCC. In 2001 TCC also sanctioned a commemorative plaque to Dale Mabry on campus, while the City of Tallahassee created a sculpture in honor of Mabry at the Tallahassee Regional Airport two years later.

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