The Walnut Ridge Air Field The air field was designed for 5,114 military personnel and 976 civilians. The apron (ramp), covering 63 acres, was the second largest in Arkansas. There were 3 runways, and 4 large hangars for aircraft. The air field had its own water and sewer plant, a laundry to serve 10,000 personnel, and a 203 bed hospital.
Training Highlights Class 43-B began training at 1:00 P.M on October 12, 1942 in Vultee BT-13 and BT-15 Basic trainers. In just under 21 months, 5,310 students in 18 classes entered training and 4,641 graduated. The last class, 44-H, graduated June 27, 1944.
Forty-two (42) students and instructors were killed while training at the Walnut Ridge Army Air Forces Basic Flying School. By an eerie coincidence, 42 baby boys were born in the base hospital (and 40 girls.) The Base Hospital had a total of 4,411 admissions, including 437 civilians since September 28, 1942. Two-hundred-eighty-two (282) patients were transferred to other military hospitals. There were 408 surgical operations. 47 deaths were recorded including those killed in aircraft accidents.
Marine Corps Air Facility The Marine Corps moved inland to Walnut Ridge and Newport in September, 1944 during the Hurricane season. While in Walnut Ridge, they trained in F4U Corsairs and SBD-5 Dive Bombers. The Marines Planes and crews left Walnut Ridge on March 15, 1945. MCAF Walnut Ridge was disestablished July 31, 1945.
Other Uses The air field served as a temporary POW camp for German prisoners in 1945; and was home to a very important Civil Aeronautics Administration Flight Service Station from 1948 to ‘69. The former “air base” is probably most famous for its use by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in 1945 and ‘46 as an aircraft storage, sales and scrapping facility for surplus WWII airplanes. Several sources say 10,000 “warbirds” were flown to Walnut Ridge.
In September 1946 4,871 of the aircraft which remained unsold were purchased by Texas Railway Equipment Company. TREC built two smelters at Walnut Ridge and chopped-up and melted these planes over the next 18 months. TREC paid $1,838,798.19 for the airplanes… then sold the newly formed U.S. Air Force some needed spare parts salvaged from these planes for $3.5 million.