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Biggs Field

Military site : airfield

Detailed history

Biggs Field, originally opened as Camp Owen Beirne in 1920, was an adjunct to Ft. Bliss, located at El Paso, Texas. It was originally used as a docking station for airships (dirigibles), but lighter than air ships were soon abandoned, although their hanger remained for years afterwords. In 1926, Owen Beirne was renamed “Biggs,” after a nearby landing strip of the same name had been closed. Lt. James "Buster" Biggs had been a local flyer who had lost his life in France during the First World War.

In 1942, the field underwent a massive construction project in order to accommodate four engine bombers (B-17s and B-24s). At the expanded Biggs Field, cadets were trained in all aspects of heavy bomber operation, gunnery, bombing, navigating, radio operation, and piloting. The constant construction in the native desert environment made the field a dusty foreshadowing of the bomber fields in Libya. Writing on 2 Feb. 1943, Cadet Jack Dieterle said, “The wind she blows like hell — you won't dare chew gum around here for fear of wearing out your teeth in a week what with the whole damn state of Texas blowing all over the place. There is so much sand in the air in my room that you can snap your fingers and a big sheet of blue static electricity will leap across the room. It is necessary to keep physically fit in order to turn back the ants on your bed at night what with two or three tons of that good for nothing Texas soil on it.”

The bomb groups that were formed and trained at Biggs were, 94th Bombardment Group, 1 November 1942 - 1 January 1943 (B-17s), 380th Bombardment Group, 2 December 1942 - 4 March 1943 (B-24s), 389th Bombardment Group, 1 February-18 April 1943 (B-24s), and 392nd Bombardment Group, 1 March - 18 April 1943 (B-24s). Eventually, runways were made to accommodate the very large B-29 bombers being used in the Pacific theater.

After the war, when the U. S. Army Air Corps became the U. S. Air Force, the field became Biggs Air Force Base, where both the Tactical and the Strategic Air Commands were established. In 1966, the Air Force closed the base, and it reverted back to the Army. By 1973, Biggs Field had become the largest active Army airfield in the world, and was even used as a layover point for the Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

English Heritage's record description

Not yet known

Service

Units

  • 94th Bomb Group

    94th Bomb Group

    Group
    Activated 15 June 1942 at MacDill Field, Florida. Initial organization and training at Pendleton Field, Oregon on 29 June 1942. Primary flight training at Davis-Monthan Field in Arizona from 28 Aug. 42 to 31 Oct. 42; then at Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas...

  • 389th Bomb Group

    389th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 389th Bomb Group, known in more familiar terms as "the Sky Scorpions", flew strategic bombing missions in B-24 Liberators from Hethel, England. They also sent detachments to join bases in North Africa at Benghazi No. 10, Libya, between 3 July 1943...

  • 392nd Bomb Group

    392nd Bomb Group

    Group
    The 392nd Bomb Group flew B-24 Liberators out of Wendling, Norfolk from August 1943 until April 1945. They were the first Group allocated B-24H Liberators, the first B-24 series fitted with a nose turret on the production line. The adaptation increased...

People

  • Jack Dieterle

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    After completing his training as a bomber pilot at Biggs Field in Texas, his squadron, the 566ᵀᴴ BS of the 389ᵀᴴ BG, was established at Hethel Field in Norwich early in 1943. ...

  • Howard Kirk

    Military | Pilot | 94th Bomb Group
    Crew of the Shakeroo II, 42-39833, on the memorial at the Rougham Control Tower Museum.

Aircraft

  • 42-40722 The Little Gramper

    B-24 Liberator
    B-24 Liberator 42-40723 'The Little Gramper' 566th BS, 389th BG, 8th AF, flew on 1st Aug 43 Ploesti oil refinery raid piloted by Lt Jack W Dieterle, returning safely to Libya. Transferred to the 491st Bomb Group 15 May 44. Noted as War Weary repainted...

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
17 March 2019 18:48:55 Dieterle Changes to history
Sources

Richard Dieterle, minor rewording and typo correction.

Date Contributor Update
17 March 2019 17:59:51 Dieterle Changes to person associations and aircraft associations
Sources

Richard Dieterle, connecting to Biggs Field referenced under Howard Kirk.

Date Contributor Update
17 March 2019 17:38:56 Dieterle Changes to media associations
Sources

Richard Dieterle, public domain photograph.

Date Contributor Update
17 March 2019 17:20:31 Dieterle Created entry with name, latitude, longitude, usaaf from date, usaaf to date, construction date and history
Sources

Richard Dieterle, from "Biggs Army Airfield" site (https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmXoypizjW3WknFiJnKLwHCnL72vedxjQkDDP1mXWo6uco/wiki...), and "Biggs Air Force Base, El Paso, Texas" site (http://www.angelfire.com/dc/jinxx1/images/BiggsAFB.html).

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