Government Service



            Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) became one of the most popular of all the New Deal programs. In March of 1932 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) became president more that 25 percent of the population was unemployed, hungry and without hope.

Up until this time leaders of the Federal Government considered down-turns in the economy just a part of the economic cycles. The working man had no help from the government. The leaders preached aid would not be welcome by the laboring force, in fact, they would be offended. Their spirit of independence would be insulted. President Hoover, going against his principals, did give some of the industrial leaders monies that was supposed to have “trickled down” to their workers the help relive their hunger. Business leaders used this relief money to pay dividends.

On March 21, President Roosevelt sent to a joint session of Congress an employment bill. Eight days later the CCC came into existence. To finance it, the states were allotted one-half billion dollars. The money was to be spent to improve state and federal lands. Unemployed men between 18 and 25 from relief families were offered employment.

Separate programs operated for veterans and Native Americans. Veterans usually served in veterans groups. Spanish American War and World War I veterans were authorized in May of 1933; these enrollees had do\\not age or marital restriction. Thus some 250,000 veteran were able to rebuild lives.

A total of 200,000 African-Americans enrolled in the program. After 1935 they were segregated but received equal pay and housing and supervision under black leadership in 143 segregated camps. No women were enrolled.

Besides easing the unemployment situation, the CCC had a second goals, that of conservation our natural resources. Between 1933 and 1942, the life of the CCC, nearly 3 billion were planted, they constructed over 800 parks nationwide while upgrading most states parks, forest fire fighting methods were updated, and a network of service building and public roads were build in remote areas.

The idea of the CCC was tried on a smaller scale when FDR was governor of New York. Conservation had long been an interest to the President. More than any other New Deal program, the CCC is considered an extension of Roosevelt’s personal philosophy.

With the formation of the program’s legislation, FDR promised the law would provide 250,000 jobs. While maximum enrollment was 300,000, however, during the nine year course of its functioning over 2.5 men participated. During this time they were provided with shelter, clothing, and food. Of their $30 pay, $25 was sent home to their families.

Each enrollee volunteered an upon passing a physical exam and/or a period of conditioning was required to serve a minimum six-months with an option to serve as many as four periods or up to two years if outside employment is no available. Enrollees were eligible for “rate” positions to help with camp administration, senior leader, mess steward, store keeper, and two carks assistant leader, company clerk, assistant educational advisor and three second cooks. These men received additional pay ranging from $36 to $45 per month depending on their rating. Each camp was a complete community, including a newspaper.

Approximately 55% of enrollees were from rural communities, a majority of which were non-farm. 45%came from urban areas. Levels of education for the enrollee average 3% illiterate, 38% had less than eight years of school, 48% did not complete high school. 11% were high school graduates. At the time of entry, 70% were malnourished and poorly clothed. Few had work experience beyond occasional odd jobs. The CCC program is credited to a 55% reduction in crimes among young men. During the life of the program, 40,000 men learned to read and write.

The CCC camp was divided into work sections of 25 workers. Three-hundred possible types of work projects were performed. These jobs fell into ten general classifications. Structural improvements: bridges, fire lookout towers, service buildings: transportation; truck trails, minor roads, foot trails, and airport landing fields; erosion control: check dams, terracing, and vegetable covering; flood control; irrigation, drainage, dams, ditching, channel work, and rip rapping: forest culture; planting trees and shrubs, timber stand improvement, seed collections, and nursery work: forest protection: fire prevention, fire pre-suppression, firefighting, and insect and disease control: landscape and recreation; public camp and picnic ground development, lake and pond site clearing and development: range; stock driveways and predatory animals: wildlife; stream improvement, fish stocking, and food and cover planting: miscellaneous; emergency work, surveys, and mosquito control.

At least three CCC camps were located in the Bootheel. Basically, the men in these camps were involved in soil conservation. During the 1937 flood along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, these camps contributed part to the 1,240,000 man-days of emergency work. The Little River Drainage District benefited from the CCC labor. Drainage ditches were cleared of vegetation and channels were cleared.

The first and largest CCC Camp, Number 3729, was within the town of New Madrid. Operation started here June 29, 1935.

The Hayti Camp Number 3741 was located five miles southeast of town. It opened July 8, 1935.

Delta-Advance Camp Number 3748, four miles northwest of Delta opened July 16, 1935. On April 17, 1936, CCC workers were filling holes in the Division Channel Levee.

High water was still a threat to the Bootheel during the spring of 1937. Early May found emergency workers rushing to Charleston to close a levee break hundred of CCC and Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers joining local volunteers to help strengthen the levee against a second flood. On May 8th the river crested at 48-feet and the levee held.

In 1939, the CCC programs faced a major challenge. Changes both in the U.S. and in Europe especially after the growing threat of war boosted the growth of the economy. The president’s Lend-Lease program made jobs more plentiful in the armament industry and application for the CCC declined.

This New Deal Program was never officially terminated. Congress provided funding for shutting the remaining camps down in 1942 with the equipment being relocated for the war effort.

            Army Air Force Training Camps

In 1939, the military situation in the world, especially in Europe, became a real worry for President Roosevelt. In Asia, the Japanese invaded Mongolia in China. The use of air power by the China attracted FDR’s attention. However, in Europe, Hitler’s use of air power as it looked eastward at his neighbors gave the President a new cause for worry. Aircraft was being used in a new and deadly way in that they were, along with tanks and mechanical armor, as support for ground forces.

Roosevelt started talk to the auto and steel industries, and they were slowly converting to wartime production. In 1934 the American armed forces had 15, 621 aircraft of all types. During the next two years the number of aircraft increased by 1,242; 1937 saw the number increase by 1,709 to bring the number to 18,572; next year the number of all types of aircraft increased another 1,624.

 In 1938, the president made a push to increase the air power of the United States. Converting from civilian to military production by the American industry did not take long. While air plane production only increased by 2,190, it was more than any year before except between 1928 and 1929 when production rose by1,582 aircraft. In 1940, with industry making a conversion, 28,801 air planes rolled off the production lines. During the next year, production rose from 51,185 to 152,152, close to a 400% production jump. This is more airplanes that Germany had destroyed and damaged for the war which totaled 116,875. Total losses for the United States were nearly 45,000 during the war.

On April 3, 1939, Congress allocated $300-million ($4,860,000,000 relative value 2011) request by Roosevelt to expand the Air Corps half of this was to purchase planes to raise the inventory from 2,500 to 5,5.00 aircraft with the rest for new personnel, training facilities and bases.

Over the winter of 1938-1939, Arnold transferred a group of experienced officers to his headquarters. This group became an unofficial air staff assigned to lay out a plan that would increase the Air Corps to50,000 men by mid 1941.

Plans were made for increased aircraft production along with restructuring the Air Corps into total combat units, the raining of new personnel and construction of new bases. New combat groups were created by detaching cadres for the existing 15 existing groups to be the foundation for new groups with older experienced providing the basis of an average o9f three new groups. Expanded training programs were to replace the experienced personnel transferred to form the new groups.

The initial 25-Group Program for the air defense of North America as developed in April 1939 called for 12,00 pilots. On February 1940, the ten new combat groups were activated. Following the German successful invasion of France and the Low countries in May, 1940, a 54-Group Program was approved. The training program was failing to keep up with plans because of delays in acquiring the new infrastructure needed to support the, sites for which had to be identified, negotiated and approved before construction.

The Army Air Forces Training Command (AAFTC) (1943-1946) was a command of the United States Army Air Forces. This command was created as a result of the merger of the Army Ari Forces Flying Training Command and the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command

Pilots, navigators, mechanics, and other support personal were needed quickly to put this crafts into the air and keep them there.  Airfields and training schools popped up all over the county teaching a vast assortment of skill. The United States, Army Air Forces USAAF) established numerous airfields in Missouri to train pilots and aircrews.  

Missouri had ten such airports. In Southeast Missouri, three such major airfields were developed. There was Harvey Parks Air Field in Sikeston, Harris Airfield in Cape Girardeau, and Malden Army Air Field. In addition, several secondary fields were used to practice touch-and go landing and provide a place to land in case of an emergency.

Sikeston’s Harvey Parks Army Air Corps Training Base

By 1938, General “Hap” Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Corps, had seen the air arm of the military as the future of warfare. This foresight also recognized that the United States Army Air Corp was sadly unprepared for war in both the number of aircraft and officers. With the army’s ability to train only 750 pilots a year, the air corps needed to train 100 times that number in order to defeat the Axis powers, a conflict he knew was coming.

Oliver Parks was the energy behind getting the Army Air Force Training Station in Sikeston. Parks as fonder of the Parks Air College in St. Louis convinced General Arnold that the program at his civilian flight school could train military pilots for combat missions. Thus, General Arnold asked Parks and other flight schools operators to help fill the training void with their schools.

Civilian flight schools were training military pilots before Congress authorized this military/civilian partnership in June of 1939.  The eight businessmen that operated these flight schools did so at their expense without any guarantees of reimbursements from the government.

In June of 1940 ground was broken for the Missouri Institute of Aeronautics (MIA), a satellite of the St. Louis Parks Air College. The MIA was named for Oliver Parks’ brother who was killed in a plane crash. The Sikeston airfield opened in April, 1940, it was 6,600 by 5,280 feet of open turf field located two nautical miles (a nautical mile equals about 6,076 feet compared to a stature mile of 5,280 feet) northeast of the Sikeston central business district.

According to the contract, the government supplied students with training aircraft, clothes, textbooks and equipment. Schools were responsible for instructors, training sites, and facilities, aircraft maintenance, quarters, and mess halls. From the Air Corps, schools received a flat fee of $1,179 for each graduate and $18 per flying hour for students eliminated from training.

 On September 10th, three months after opening, the first class of 32 flying cadets entered the MIA’s ten-week primary flight training program. Here cadets were taught basic flight using two-seater training aircraft. At peak strength there were 56 schools in operation teaching fundamentals of flying.

Even after it had an official military designation, the Sikeston facilities were classified as a contract flying training unit assigned to the United States Army Air Forces Gulf Coast Training Center. The official military designation came in 1942 as the 309th Army Air Force Flying Training Detachment. Two years later it also became the 256th AAF Base Unit.

At first the cadets trained in Stearman PT-17 biplanes. In October of 1942 the Fairchild PT-19 single wing trainer arrived at Sikeston. In August, 1942, a simulator was added to the training which allowed for instrument training.

Three expansions were added to the facilities that included an administration building, classroom/academic building, mess hall a hospital, four barracks, three cadet hangers, a flight control building, a recreation building and sports facilities.

At the height of its train the MIA had 520 cadets and 170 planes. Of the 7,000 hopeful pilots entering training at Sikeston 5,000 graduated. During training, the pilots had several auxiliary air fields they could use. One of these auxiliary air fields may be listed twice under different names. Matthews, which was the sight of 15 accidents; West Auxiliary had 3 accidents; South Auxiliary, 1 accident; North Auxiliary, 1 accident; Bertrand Auxiliary, 5 accidents; Kewanee, 2 accidents. Harvey Parks had much more traffic, therefore the most accidents with 30 either on sight or within 12 miles of the field. All the listed fields were turf.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Samuel Johnson

A native of Lawton, Oklahoma, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Samuel Johnson was the most decorated P-47 Thunderbolt pilot of World War II. He passed Eddie Rickenbacker’s World War I record of 26 kills with 28. At one time he was credited with 28 kills, later reduced to 27 after some confusion about who really earned credit for that victory. Flying over Europe he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Distinguished Flying Cross Purple Heard, and three Air Medals besides several area service metals. 

Johnson began his military experience at Kelly Field in San Antonio. After Pearl Harbor, he was sent to Sikeston for Primary Flights training. The second flight training was called “Primary Flight Training” and their third assignment was called “Basic Flight Training.” At Sikeston he flew the Fairchild PT-19A, a 175 horsepower low-wing monoplane, and the flying open-cockpit Stearman PT-18, a 225 horsepower biplane.

At MIA, he did nearly 60 hours of Primary training in the more agile PT-18 Kaydet practicing aerobatic maneuvers; the snap roll, the slow roll, the barrel roll, and ect. All the training that included more than 175 landings was in the open-cockpit POT-18 in the dead of winter.

In February 1942, with the change in USFFA regulations requiring aviation cadets to be unmarried changing, Johnson married Barbara Morgan, his high school sweetheart. This marriage took place on February 21 at Benton immediately after Primary Flying Training.

He was interested in training as a multi-engines (bombers) pilot with plans to fly for commercial airlines after the war. His request was denied and he reported for more fighter aircraft training.

As a member of the 56th Fighter Group, 61 Fighter Squadron in Bridgeport, Connecticut his unit received the first production P-47B Thunderbolts as they effectively test flew a new fighter as they trained. Modifications were made as a result of more than 40 crashed with18 fatalities to make the P-47 an exceptionally rugged airframe and effective aircraft.

After making one combat run, Johnson still did not officially qualify as a P-47 combat pilot. Along with several other pilots, he was sent to fighter pilot’s gunnery school at Llanbedr, Wales for a two weeks course. They practiced shooting at towed target sleeves. His high score was 4.5%; passing was 5%. He slipped through the crack to become the second highest scoring ace of the European Theater of Operations) by a fighter pilot who technically should have washed out of flight school and never did qualified as a fighter pilot.  Gavreski who was the highest scoring ace almost washed out of fling training in 1941. Gabby Gavreski also flew with the 61st Fighter Wing, but in a different squadron.

Malden Army Airfield: 1942-1948

            The Air Corps/Army Air Forces Flying Training Command was established January23, 1942. Its mission was to train pilots, flying specialists and combat crews. About March 15, 1942, it was redesigned after n the army Air Forces became an autonomous arm of the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF).

Facing the challenge of a massive war time expansion, the command struggled. With the rate of expansion of housing, and training facilities, instructors as well as procurement of aircraft and other equipment the Army Air Force somehow did the job. During 1942 fifty new location for air fields were selected to implement the announced 75,000-pilot program. Local civic groups and congressman all lobbied for new bases.  

After a potential site was located, there was the negotiation for the land. Find alternate fields, build facilities (barracks, hangers, runways, repair facilities, medical and food facilities, fueling necessities, and, ect.), acquire trained personal and supplies from the quartermaster.

In the fall of 1941, an USAAF flight school site chosen at Malden was four miles north of the main business district. The 2,900 acres chosen had a few houses barns, trees, and cotton fields. Formally known a Malden Army Airfield (MAAF) and was activated on January 6, 1943 and assigned to the Eastern Flying Command as a basic (Level 1) flying training airfield.

Elevation was 264 feet with three asphalt runways; sea level, hard runways all 5,000 by 150 feet running N/S, NE/SW, and NW/SE.

Colonel Roy T. Wright, project officer, supervised construction, then maned commanding officer. Lt. Colonel Colbert Carmichael, executive officer and Major Howard J. Caquelin became adjutant. Major Webb C. Minor, Director of Training welcomed the first class of cadets in April or 1943.

In July of 1943 the first class of cadets graduated. Their training had included a rigorous basic training course including learning to land at night, to fly in formation, the use of the two-way radio, identification of enemy aircraft, and interpretation of weather forecast. The BT trainers were used in teaching navigation.

The BT trainer nicknamed “The Vibrator” by pilots because of their tendency to rattle the canopy and vibrate during flights. This was the basic trainer most widely used during World War II. The BT trainer was used in the second of the three stages of pilot training (primary, basic, and advanced) and was considerable more complex that the primary trainers.

Flying training was conducted by the 319th Aviation Group (Basic). Squadron were 1069, 1070, and 1072 Flying Training Squadrons were equipped with Fairchild PT-19’s as the primary trainer. On base were also PT-17 Stearmans, and a few P-40 Warhawks.(The Curtis P-40 Warhawk was an American single-engine, single-seat, all metal fighter and ground attack aircraft. It was used by most Allied powers during WWII and became the third most-produced American fighter, after the P-51, had P-47; by production en in November 1944, 13,738 had been built. The British and Soviet’s called a version of it the Tomahawk and another version was known as the Kittyhawk.

In later years of the war, Malden Army Air Base was the also used to train troop carriers and glider pilots. At its height, the military population MAAF was 3,000.

The facility was inactivated 15 June 1944 with the facility being transferred to I Troop Carrier Command. Here, its new mission was to train Troop Carrier Groups for missions in the Pacific Theater and the planned Invasion of Japan. The war ended before they had any pilots trained.

Dexter, was one of the six local auxiliary airfields in the vicinity for use in emergency and overflow landings. Elevation was 315 feet, with two asphalt runways; 4,500 x 100 feet running N/S and 4,500 X 300 NE/SW. Accident report show nine accidents accursed here. Dexter Auxiliary Field #1 was. It was located one mile southeast of the city. This field later became Dexter Municipal Airport.

Parma was the location of auxiliary field #2. At 286 feet above sea level, the runway for this airfield was turf some 5,700 x5,640 feet. No accidents were reported here. This airfield, located 3.8 miles north of town, no longer exist.

Auxiliary Air Field #3 was at Risco and was located two miles west of town. No evidence of the airfield remains. At 276 feet elevation, the runway was a 5,500 x 5,125 foot field. One accident was reported in this area.

Gideon Auxiliary Field #4 was 0.8 of a mile southeast of the city. Now the Municipal Airport has two asphalt runways, both 4,500 feet long, one runs N/S, the other NNW x SSE. No reported accidents in the area.

Advance Auxiliary Field #5 is another World War II airfield with no physical evidence remaining. One accident happened near here. At an elevation of 355 feet, it was located 0.8 of a mile west-south-west of the city.

Campbell, the site of Malden’s auxiliary field number six (has also been listed as #2) is now the city’s airport. It is located 3.5 miles east of Campbell with an elevation of 284 feet. The runway was turf; 7,380 by 4,800 feet. Two accidents were reported as happening here or close by.

At the Malden AAF, or within three miles of the base, there were 51 accidents. Flyers from Malden has accidences in Southeast Missouri at Harvey Park, Sikeston, Broseley (2 same day), Popular Bluff, Dudley, Frisk, and Bernie.

With inactivation, Malden AAF was turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers early in 1946. Then it was transferred to War Assets Administration who conveyed the facility to the Local government as an airport in 1948.

             Maiden Air Base 1951-1960 Anderson Air Activities

With the United States entering the Korean Conflict in 1950, once again the United States needed quickly to prepare for war.  The United States Air Force found it again needed more pilots than were available.

 Malden with its existing facilities was reactivated in 1951. Hangars had to be emptied of their stores of corn and hay before an intensive rehabilitation and remodeling brought the hangers and barracks up to government requirement.

The World War II Malden Army Air Force Base was reactivated on 11 July 1951 as Malden Air Base under the oversight of the U.S. Air Force Air Force Training Command. The mission, basically the same as when it opened in 1942, that of training pilots due to a shortage in the Air Force due to the Cold War. A civilian contractor, Anderson Air Activities of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had a contract to oversee nine bases throughout the country to trained pilots.

To head Anderson Air Activities at Malden was its founder, E. Merritt Anderson. An experienced pilot and aviation expert, Anderson had served as president of the Aeronautical Training Society, president of the Wisconsin Aviation Trades Association and vice-president of the National Aviation Trades Association. He served as an advisor on the (Wisconsin) Governor’s Aviation Legislative Committee and on the Steering Committee of the Beech Aircraft Corporation.

Anderson Air Activities opened its civilian personnel office at Malden Air Base on June 24th, 1951.

On July 11, 1951, the 3305th Training Squadron (Contract Flying) was officially designated and assigned to Malden Air Base.

The first pilot trainee arriving in August included aviation cadets, student offices, and European North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) students. Class 52-F was a mixed lot including 47 officers, 41 cadets, and 11 foreign students.

Everyone trained at Malden received 130 hours of flight training along with 167 hours of military training over a 26 weeks period. Also included in their training was 250 hours of academic subject including aircraft engineering, navigation, radio communication, weather, principles of flight, flying safety, flying instruments, aural and visual code, comprehension, and were require to pass an examination.

During the early years, students at Malden Air Base flew the small PA-18 and graduated to the T-6. This single-engine advanced trainer was used to train pilots of the United States Army Air forces, Navy, Royal Air Force and during World War II and into the 1950’s. During the Korean War and, to a lesser extent, the Vietnam War, were used as forward air control aircraft, as such, were designated T-6 “Mosquito’s.”

Flying skills were proven in night flights to Paducah, Kentucky along with other locations in the Midwest. Flying beneath the Ohio River Bridge at Cairo, Illinois, was not a part of the official training program was surely discouraged.

When officials announced, in 1957, the replacement of the T-28, a small plane, only 33 feet long with a wingspan of 40 feet 1 inch, with a top speed of 343 mph, with a twin jet T-37 trainer, a smaller aircraft, only 29.27 feet long with an wingspan of 33.79 feet, but with a thrust of 1,025 pounds, the Air Force decided the cost factor was too high. Therefore, Malden Air Base did not receive the new trainers.

With other training bases expansions they were able to meet the requirement of the Air Force. Thus, in late 1959, the government announces Malden Air Base would close in 1960.

            Jack Swigert

Many of the personnel training at Malden Air Base went on to make careers in the Air Force. Two however, stood out.

John Leonard “Jack” Swigert, Jr. (August 30, 1931 – December 27, 1982) was a NASA astronaut and one of the 24 people to have flown to the moon.

As a member of the Air Force from 1953 to 1956, he graduated from Pilot Training and Gunnery School before being assigned as a fighter pilot in Japan and Korea. After active duty, he joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard then the Connecticut Air Nation Guard, serving as a jet fighter pilot in both.

He was an engineering test pilot for American Aviation before joining NASA. From 1957 to 1964, he was also an engineering test pilot for Pratt and Whitney. He logged 7,200 hours flight time which included more than 5,725 in jet aircraft.

Joining NASA in April of 1966, Swigert was one of 19 astronauts chosen in the third group accepted and became part of NASA Astronaut Group 5. This was after he was overlooked in the second astronaut selection.

 He served as a backup member of the astronaut support crew on the Apollo 7 mission.

His next assignment was to the Apollo 13 backup crew. When the scheduled command module pilot, Thomas K Mattingly was exposed to German measles, 72 hours before launch time, Swigert replaced him.

Apollo 13, launched on April 11, 1970 was programmed for tens and was committed to our first landing in the hilly, upland Far Mauro region of the moon. Because of a failure of the Apollo 13 cryogenic oxygen system 55 hours into the flight, the original flight plan was modified in route to the moon. With instructions from Houston ground controllers, Swigert and fellow crewmen James A. Lovell, spacecraft commander and Fred W. Haise, lunar module pilot, converted their lunar module “Aquarius” into a effective lifeboat. This emergency activation and operation on lunar module systems conserved both electrical power and water in sufficient amoun6s to assure their safety and survival while in space and the return to earth.

During his first space flight, Mr. Swigert logged a total of 142 hours, 54 minutes.

Resigning from NASA and as staff director on the U.S. House of Representatives on Science and Technology, Swigert became Vice President of B, D. M. Corporation in Colorado. In 1982 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Before he was sworn in, he died on December 28, 1982.

            Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr.

Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. (October 2, 1935 – December 8, 1967) was an officer in the U.S. Air Force and the first African-American astronaut.

By age 20, he had a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry and had distinguished himself as
Cadet Commander in the Air Force ROTC (Reserved Officers Training Corps). In 1955, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve Program.

In 1954, he became an Air Force pilot after completing training at Malden Air Force Base. At the age of 25 he was an instructor pilot in the T-33 training aircraft for the German Air Force.

By age 30 Major Lawrence had earned a Doctorate Degree in Physical Chemistry from Ohio State.

The following year, he had two roles in the Air Force; that as pilot and as a research scientist for the Air Force Weapon’s Laboratory at Kirkland Air Force Base , New Mexico. By his 31st birthday, he was senior pilot with over 2,500 flying hours with 2,000 of those in jets.

During the mid 1960, it was observe that when a F-104 Starfighter Jet was flown with its landing gear extended, speed brakes down and drag chute open it increased the force of drag. This observation made it possible to test various theories regarding the gliding of a space vehicle to a landing on earth similar to the landing of the X-15 test aircraft. Major Lawrence was a major factor in this research.

As a test pilot, Major Lawrence flew several research flights in the F104 trying to test various theirs associated to un-powered flight. These flights led to the design of the Orbiter that permits it to glide from space to a landing after a space mission. The Orbiter, unlike a passenger jet aircraft it does not have engines mounted at the rear or under its wings that a pilot can use to control the aircraft. At an altitude of approximately 200 miles, the Orbiter “breaks out of its circular orbit” and glide back to earth for a landing.

The manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL), originally referred to as the Manned Orbital Laboratory, was part of the U.S. Air Force’s manned spaceflight program designed for military reconnaissance space plane project. The project was developed from several early NASSA and Air force concepts for manned space station to use as reconnaissance platform.

The MOL program became public knowledge December 10, 1963 and cancelled in June of 1969. This was at the height of the Apollo program when it became evident unmanned Corona reconnaissance satellites could accomplish the same thing and be much more cost effective.

Atop a Titan III booster and topped with a Gemini Spacecraft, the Douglas-built MOL station would support a crew of 2o during long duration military surveillance missions.

After two tries, Major Lawrence was accepted as a cadet into the MOL program. He was part of Group-3 being chosen in June of 1967. Others in the group; James A. Abrahamson, later to become Director of Strategic Defense Initiative; Robert T. Herres, who became Vice-Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff; and Donald H Peterson, Mission specialist on the STS-6 and make one flight on the April 1983 sixth flight of the Challenger.

Before Major Lawrence would make a flight, he was killed December 8, 1967. He was flying backseat as the instructor pilot in an F-104 Starfighter at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The flight was to test a trainee learning the steep-descent glide technique Major Lawrence help prefect. The trainee, Major Harvey J. Boyer, making a steep approach flared too late. The aircraft struck the ground hard, the main gear failed, it caught fire and rolled. The front-seat pilot ejected and survived with major injuries. After a moments delay to avoid hitting the front seat, the back seat ejected sideways, killing Major Lawrence instantly.

Had Lawrence lived, likely he would have been among the MOL astronauts who transferred to NASA after the programs was cancelled, all of whom flew on the Space Shuttle.

It is both fitting and proper that Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. be remembered for the gift of his talents to the early development of America’s space program. The early development and evolution to the American space program because men like him took risk and some paid with their lives.

            Harris Army Airfield, Cape Girardeau

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, now a city owned facility started life in 1943 as a United State Army Air Force (AAF) Training sight. Knows as Harris Army Airfield it was a primary (stage 1), pilot training airfield assigned to the AAF Flying Training Command, Southeast Training Center; later to become Eastern Flying Training Command.

Like Sikeston’s Harvey Parks. Airport, Harris Army Airfield was a contract flying Training center. It operated under contract to Cape Institution of Aeronautics, Inc. It operated under the umbrella of the St. Louis Parks Air College. Her civil instructors were under the control of USAAF 73rd Flying Detachment. The primary training aircraft was the Fairchild PT-19.

Located five nautical miles, six miles, southwest of the central business district of Cape Girardeau, the airport covers 557 acres at an elevation 342 feet about sea level. Two runways help service the airfield. The AAF constructed a asphalt NNE/SSW 2,000 x 100 foot runway and use the rest of the land, 2,200 x2,500 feet, as a second runway.

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport also has two runways. The primary runway is a concrete covered 6,499 x 150 foot, expanse. The second airstrip is an asphalt/concrete surface of 3.996 x 100 feet.

Harris Army Airfield had three auxiliary air fields. All were turf fields. All are now closed. Benton was the site of 12 accidents; Chaffee had nine, with Lee, all the way across Missouri, recording seven.

            Blytheville Army Air Force Airfield, Arkansas

Just across the state line in Arkansas was the2,600 acre Blytheville Army Airfield (BAAF). Here more advanced training took place with pilots training on two-engine aircraft, to fly bombers, and cargo planes and female WASP pilots trained to be co-pilots as B-25 and other aircraft. BAAF had auxiliary airfields in Hornersville, Cooter, and Steel, Missouri, as well as Manila and Luxora, Arkansas. The Blytheville Army Air Force Base closed in 1945, to open again during the Cold War.

Cooter Army Airfield was designated as BAAF Auxiliary # 5. It was the only BAAF auxiliary in Arkansas to have paved runways. On the 699 acre irregularly-shaped property, southwest of Cooter, were two asphalt 4,000 foot runways, oriented north/south and northeast/southeast. Hangers were never constructed here. As Cooter Airfield closed in 1953, evidently, to field was used during the meanwhile in some capacity after the base in Blytheville closed.

The other Auxiliary fields supporting the BAAF Base were all sod fields. Hornersville reported the most accidents with 12, Cooter next with ten, Steel had five. Other accidents, in Missouri but not at a Blytheville support field were Hayti and Gideon both reported two. Advance, support field for Malden, reported three accidents related to aircraft from Blytheville AAF.

Government Service

Civilians Conservation Corps (CCC)

Army Air Force Training Camps

Sikeston’s Harvey Park Army Air Corps Braining Base

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Samuel Jackson

Malden Army Air Field 1942-1948

Malden Airbase 1951-1960 Anderson Air Activities

Jack Sevigert

Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr.

Harris Army Airfield, Cape Girardeau

    Blytheville Army Air Force Airfield, Arkansas



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    Having grown up on Little River, I have been fascinated with it. Over the past several years, as a local historian, this area has been a special interest. 

     These areas have been treated much like step-children by Jefferson City and Little Rock. They seem to believe nothing has ever happened here.  Our history has been long and varied. Hope you enjoy my trip.  

    Near Puxico is the swampy Mingo Wildlife Refuge. One hundred and fifty year ago, most of the Little River Valley appeared that way. This valley covering two million acres was part of the largest wetland in America.

    Floods frequently intimated the Valley. Between 1815 and 2011, 15 major floods covered or threatened the area.

    Timber companies came in at the end of the 19th Century to clean cut the forest. Louis Houck, a Cape Girardeau lawyer and railroad builder, envisioned a rail network that covered the wetlands.

    Little River Drainage District (LRDD) Corporation was established in 1907 by an act of the Butler County (MO) Circuit Court. 

    Between 1909 and 1928 the LRDD dug nearly 1000 miles of ditches and constructed 30 miles of levees to drain 1.2 million acres of swamp and overflow land in Southeast Missouri. More dirt was moved than in building the Panama Canal.

    One surprise I had was the number of settlements in the area before 1811-1812. Another was the water connection between the Mississippi River and the St. Francis and I had no idea that Little River had enough current to run a grist mill.

    Norman Vickers


    January 2015
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    Little River's Geographic Past