Was Griffiss Air Force base supposed to be in Texas and the Rome Air Depot supposed to be named Carswell Air Force Base?
That’s the legend according to Peter M. Leonard in his new book "Griffiss Air Force Base," an Arcadia Publishing
Images of America series book released Monday.
Leonard, 32, a life-long resident of Rome, wrote "Rome Revisted," which was published by Arcadia in 2007.
He said he was told that when the base closed in 1995, "all of the history department’s holdings including photographs were sent to the trash dumpsters." However, he collected photos chiefly from the Rome Historical Society, Kevin Kelley and Margo Studios to tell the story of the base where construction was started in the summer of 1941.
More than 200 photos are included in the book.
In the caption under a photo of Lt. Col. Townsend E. Griffiss (1900-1942), the first American aviator to be killed in World War II, Leonard tells about how the base, first established as the Rome Air Depot, got its new name.
When the Air Force was formed from the Army Air Corps in 1947, all army air depots were to have their designations changed to air force base. "In January 1948, the Fort Worth Air Base (Texas) name changed to Griffiss Air Force Base. Legend has it that the signage and paperwork for Griffiss was mistakenly sent to Rome Air Force Base, which was actually supposed to be named Carswell Air Force Base. On Sept. 20, 1948, that is how Rome became the home of Griffiss Air Force Base."
He explains how troops were already assigned before the
base was finished, being housed in buildings at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse before moving to the Air Depot in November 1942, although the runway had been in operation since that February.
The book includes insignias and the types of planes flown by various units at the base over the years. It includes information about the 100th Aviation Squadron, a black squadron that was stationed here and won prizes for representing the base in a boxing competition in Madison Square Garden in 1943. Also, there are photos of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which later became known as WAC.
Sections are: Air Depot Comes to Town, Air Defense
Command, Strategic Air Command Takes Over and Supporting the Mission.
Readers learn that after the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, the completion of the Rome Air Depot was made a priority by the war department and construction continued through the harsh winter and was completed in record time. One advantage, both during construction and once in use, is that railroad tracks came right to the supply buildings, bringing materials during construction and then when the buildings were used to support the war effort.
A couple women mechanics working on a B-17 engine represent the "Rosie the Riveter" aspect of women doing "men’s work" during the war so the men could be oversees in action. Some of the war-era documents are shown with the "Keep ‘em Flying" slogan a special emphasis here where airplanes were being repaired.
One thousand engines were overhauled here, the book notes, while 15,000 people were trained as air mechanics.
The giant concrete statue is seen in a couple of photos.
Leonard includes a portrait of his dad in the book and another photo of his dad’s boots and lower legs as he guarded a KC-135, a photo that won awards in the Eighth Air Force.
He said he’s always had an interest in local and miltary history and hopes the book will be the starting point for others "to appreciate the role Griffiss Air Force Base played in the history of the world."
"Griffiss Air Force Base," by Peter M. Leonard, 128 pages, 6 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches, softcover, $19.99. Images of America series from Arcadia Publishing, 420 Wando Park Blvd., Mount Pleasant, SC 29464. Phone 843-853-2070. www.arcadiapublishing.com