Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dale Mabry Airfield Project Paper #5

 February 21, 1922 the Army semi-rigid airship Roma crashed in Norfolk, Virginia. The Army Captain that died in the crash was Captain Dale Mabry. Then in 1928 land was bought for around $7,000 to build Tallahassee’s first municipal airport. The 200 acres was finally named after Captain Dale Mabry and the airports first manager was Ivan Monroe.

Ivan started giving flying lessons to the public in the 1930’s on four sod runways. During this time the Army was building a fighter pilot training school on the field with three additional runways. They started more construction in October 1940. They built a railroad and drainage improvements to take control over the swamp conditions. 

While all of these two schools were going on U.S. Senator Claude Pepper and Florida’s Governor Spessard Holland was pushing for the airport to become and army base. Dale Mabry Field officially became an Army base on January 24, 1941. The field was used for training during World War Two. Not only did American soldiers train here but also the Free French and the Free Chinese. The soldiers took off and landed at Dale Mabry Field and used other places for bombing practice. The now army base grew to 1,720 acres and they had built 133 buildings. 

The base became a small city it had barracks, hospitals, a church and even a bowling alley. However, America was having big race issues and there were different building for white and black soldiers. The different races slept and ate in different buildings.

 The segregation between buildings was eliminated in 1948. However that did not stop the soldiers from being racist towards each other. There were about 8,000 pilots training at Dale Mabry Fields during WWII. During the time of training more than a dozen pilots died because of training accidents.

Dale Mabry Fields was declared inactive in 1945 and made back into a public airport after the war. Eventually Tallahassee Regional Airport was built and Dale Mabry Fields was abandoned in 1961. 

There were fires to some of the buildings and which they were then torn down. It is now the home to Tallahassee Community College, Florida Highway Patrol Training Academy, and other public and private places. There are still visible parts of the airport like asphalt and concrete pads are still visible.

A part of one of the runways can still be seen on Tallahassee Community College grounds, which is used for overflow parking.