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Columbus Army Flying School

Military site : airfield

Detailed history

The installation's history began 26 June 1941, when the War Department approved establishment of an Army Air Field for the Columbus, Mississippi area. Behind this approval were months of concerted efforts by the local residents. On the afternoon of 14 February 1941, 100 of the area's leading residents banded together to organize an association to secure defense industries.

The grassroots efforts bore fruit, aided by Mississippi's Congressional delegation. Six months before the Pearl Harbor attack, the War Department announced that a pilot training base would be established in Columbus. On 12 August 1941, Columbus officials leased the tract of land to the United States for $1 per year.

The base began as a training facility for pilots and crew of fighters and bombers. Planned as a twin-engine advanced flying school, the new air base came under the control of the Southeastern Air Corps Training Center at Maxwell Field, Alabama. The Mion Company began construction on 12 September 1941. On 13 January 1942, 100 enlisted men arrived to form the first skeleton organizations on the base. The airfield had many auxiliary landing fields to support pilot training:

Columbus Auxiliary Field 33°38′44″N 088°28′30″W
River Auxiliary Field 33°48′00″N 088°19′10″W
Caledonia Auxiliary Field 33°42′53″N 088°21′00″W
Waterworks Auxiliary Field 33°31′39″N 088°22′30″W
Columbus Municipal Airport (original) 32°26′46″N 084°58′18″W
Vaughn Auxiliary Field 33°22′52″N 088°22′01″W
Stinson Auxiliary Field 33°51′08″N 088°35′18″W
Starkville Auxiliary Field 33°26′11″N 088°50′53″W

World War II Columbus Field Postcard

Early 1942 airphoto of Kaye Field, later Columbus Army Airfield

Formation of Beechcraft AT-10s
No one designated or suggested a name for the new base until 22 January 1942. On that date, the War Department announced the installation would be named Kaye Field, in honor of Capt. Sam Kaye, a World War I flying ace from Columbus. That designation went into effect on 24 February. However, the name issue soon became one of confusion because another nearby base, Key Field in Meridian, Mississippi, had a similar-sounding name. To correct the problem, in March 1942, the War Department changed the name of the base from Kaye Field to Columbus Army Flying School.

Columbus was initially assigned to the AAF Southeast Training Center with the Army Air Force Pilot School (Advanced Twin-Engine) activated (phase 3 pilot training). The school's mission was to train cadets to fly transports and bombers. Pilot wings were awarded upon graduation and were sent on to group combat training by First, Second, Third or Fourth Air Force. Graduates were usually graded as Flight Officers (Warrant Officers); cadets who graduated at the top of their class were graded as Second Lieutenants.

The school used a number of trainers, including the AT-8, AT-9, AT-10, and B-25. Training squadrons assigned to Columbus were the 423d, 424th, 425th, 426th, 427th and 428th TE Flying Training Squadrons. For administrative travel, Columbus used the AT-6 and BC-1A.

The Columbus flying school received its first aircraft, nine Beech AT-10s and twenty-one AT-8s in early 1942. Barksdale Field, Louisiana, provided the first students. Twenty-five cadets arrived at Columbus in February 1942. They had already completed a considerable part of their training when the Air Corps moved them. The cadets entered training at Columbus on 9 February and graduated on 6 March.

During World War II, the training load gradually increased until Columbus was graduating 195 pilots per month. A total of 7,766 students came to Columbus for pilot training during the war. Of these, 7,412 graduated and received their wings and commissions. To accommodate the ever-increasing number of trainees and aircraft, and several satellite airfields were used as part of the Columbus Army Flying School.

On 8 January 1943, the War Department constituted and activated the 30th Flying Training Wing (Advanced Twin-Engine) at Columbus and assigned it to the AAF Eastern Flying Training Command.

Due to the efforts of Lt. Colonel Joseph Duckworth, the Columbus Army Flying School developed and perfected two systems of training, which was adopted by the command. The first was the Flying Evaluation Board. This board instituted tough new criteria to evaluate an instructor's proficiency. The second was the "full panel" attitude system of instrument flying, which is credited with revolutionizing training in blind flying. In addition to the three instruments already used, students were taught to use two gyro instruments, the magnetic compass, the rate-of-climb indicator, and the clock.

When the war ended in 1945, the base strength had reached a peak of 2,300 enlisted men, 300 officers, and an average of 250 pilot cadets per class. The end of hostilities significantly slowed training activities, so in 1946 the War Department directed the inactivation of the base.

English Heritage's record description

Not yet known



  • Richard Avison

    Military | Second Lieutenant | 351st Bomb Group

  • Addison Beane

    Military | Captain | Pilot | 493rd Bomb Group

  • Peter Belitsos

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 445th Bomb Group
    Co-pilot on Palmer Bruland's crew. Shot down 27 September 1944 in AC #4128922, Kassel. Prisoner of War (POW).

  • Walter Bibby

    Military | 490th Bomb Group

  • William Bradford

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 93rd Bomb Group
    Killed in Action (KIA) 13 August 1944 in B-24 the Flying Fool #4294991 in crash near Alecon AM/ PH

  • Richard Brantley

    Military | 93rd Bomb Group

  • Donald Buchholz

    Military | Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 493rd Bomb Group

  • Albert Burns

    Military | Lieutenant | Pilot | 95th Bomb Group

  • Clinton Cavett

    Military | Second Lieutenant | 351st Bomb Group

  • William Coene

    Military | First Lieutenant | 398th Bomb Group

Show more


Date Contributor Update
31 May 2018 03:48:09 TennyBelle Changes to person associations

Added more personnel from Document 33836

Date Contributor Update
30 May 2018 03:49:28 TennyBelle Changes to person associations

added people connections per list in Document 33836

Date Contributor Update
30 May 2018 02:49:26 TennyBelle Created entry with name, known as, latitude, longitude, usaaf from date, usaaf to date, construction date, history and media associations

Documents from a school graduates next of kin and Wikipedia