Inside the Capitol

Saturday, October 15, 2005

10-28 NM's Contributions to WWII

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Besides sacrificing a higher rate of its servicemen during World War II than any other state, New Mexico also helped in many other ways.
We already have talked about New Mexico being a national leader in War Bond drives. Today let me tell you about the number of facilities and amount of land in New Mexico devoted to the war effort.
Because of our good weather and wide-open spaces, New Mexico hosted some 50 military installations.
These included seven major air bases with adjacent bombing ranges, nine additional bombing and gunnery ranges, seven supplemental civilian airports, three forts from the days of the Indian Wars, three major prisoner of war and interment centers and some secret facilities.
The following is a brief description of those installations. Since many of us still have our long-term memories intact, these may bring back memories.
Major air bases were established at Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Clovis, Deming, Fort Sumner, Albuquerque and Roswell. Alamogordo is still operational as Holloman Air Force Base. Its bombing range is now White Sands Missile Range.
Carlsbad trained all bombardier instructors for the entire Army Air Corps. It was deactivated after the war and is now the Cavern City Air Terminal.
Clovis handled all the big bombers and remained operational after the war as Cannon Air Force Base. Deming trained most of the Army Air Corps bombardiers at its large range southwest of town. Today it functions as an industrial park and civilian airport.
Fort Sumner was primarily a glider school. Today the field serves as its airport. Albuquerque's airfield expanded greatly during the war into a major defense installation handling many missions, including chemical warfare training. Today it is Kirtland Air Force Base.
Roswell handled basic and advanced flight training, bombing and gunnery. After the war, it was home to the 509th Composite Group that dropped the atom bombs on Japan. It became Walker Air Force Base and was deactivated in 1968. It is now the Roswell Industrial Air Park.
Additional bombing and gunnery ranges were located near Las Cruces, El Paso, Quemado, Los Alamos and what is now Rio Rancho.
Other New Mexico air fields were located at Hobbs, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Lordsburg, Raton and Tucumcari. These fields were built by the Army to military standards but only for backup purposes. The only two used for anything other than as civilian airports were Las Vegas, for Naval pre-flight training and Lordsburg, to serve the large prisoner of war camp.
Three nearly-century-old forts were put to use. Fort Bayard as a hospital and cemetery, Fort Stanton as a hospital and interment center and Fort Wingate as an ordinance depot. We called them powder houses back then.
Camp Luna, near Las Vegas, was used for militia training and Camp Reid, near Clovis, was appropriated from the Santa Fe Railroad to teach soldiers how to operate captured European railroads. It was returned to the Santa Fe Railroad after the war.
Prisoner of War camps were located in Roswell, Lordsburg and Santa Fe. Roswell handled about 4,000 Germans. Lordsburg handled 1,500 Japanese and 4,000 Italians.
Santa Fe had some German and Italian prisoners, but most were Japanese-American detainees from the West Coast. Santa Fe also had Bruns military hospital and still has a national cemetery.
Branch POW camps were established to help bring in crops.
They were located in Artesia, Dexter, Mayhill, Albuquerque, Melrose, Clayton Carlsbad, Portales, Santa Fe, Clovis, Las Cruces, Hatch, Fort Bayard, Deming, Anthony, Alamogordo, Fort Sumner, Fort Stanton and High Rolls.
And then we had our secret facilities. Chief among them was Los Alamos, where the world's first atom bombs were developed. Uranium for these bombs was secretly mined at Ambrosia Lake, east of Gallup. The Fat Man bomb was tested at Trinity Site, west of Carrizozo. And before the war was over, the Manhattan Engineer district took over little-known Sandia Base, which remains an active research facility.
FRI, 10-28-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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