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WWII Patch, AAF, AAF Proving Training Detachment, Eglin Army Air Field, Valparaiso, FL

WWII Patch, AAF, AAF Proving Training Detachment, Eglin Army Air Field, Valparaiso, FL

Product Information
WWII US Army Air Force Squadron Patch
USAAF Proving Training Detachment, Eglin Army Air Field, Valparaiso, FL
5.5 inches

Testing & training future pilots & aircrew for Fighter Fighting Bomb Bombing Bomber Bombardment and other squadrons.

Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) is a United States Air Force base located approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) southwest of Valparaiso, Florida. Eglin AFB was established in 1935 as the Valparaiso Bombing and Gunnery Base. It is named in honor of Lieutenant Colonel Fredrick I. Eglin (1891–1937), who was killed in a crash of his Northrop A-17 pursuit aircraft on a flight from Langley to Maxwell Field, Alabama.

The buildup at Eglin began slowly in late 1939, sped up over the months, and was going full-out by the end of 1942. The size of the base had expanded from about 1000 acres to near a half million acres, the largest military reservation in the United States, if not in the world. By then Eglin was the Army Air Force Proving Ground Command under the Southeast Army Air Force Training Command at Maxwell Air Field, Alabama. Not only was it engaged in dreaming up new combat techniques and equipment for aircraft, but it was engaged in several training missions. One of them was to train Aviation Engineers. Three battalion sized contingents were in training at any one time with staggered completion dates. <link to some great funny WWII Eglin anecdotes>

Previous Names

    * Established as Valparaiso Bombing and Gunnery Base, 14 June 1935
        (spelling changed on 1 February 1937 from "Valparaiso" to "Valpariso" and on 1 March 1947 back to "Valparaiso")
    * Eglin Field, 4 August 1937
    * Eglin Field Military Reservation, 1 October 1940
    * Eglin Field, 28 December 1944
    * Eglin Air Force Base, 24 June 1948–present

Major commands to which assigned
    * Air Corps Training Center, 9 June 1935 – 27 August 1940
    * Southeast Air Corps Training Center, 27 August 1940 – 1 April 1942
    * AAF Proving Ground Command, 1 April 1942 – 1 June 1945
    * AAF Center, 1 June 1945 – 8 March 1946

Major units assigned

    * AAAF Proving Ground Command, 4 January 1942-30 June 1946

Base operating units

    * 84th Service Sq (Det), 14 June 1935 – 1 September 1936
    * Section V, Eglin Field Section, 13th Air Base Sq, 1 September 1936 – 1 August 1940
    * Det 13th Air Base Sq, 1 August 1940 – 1 December 1940
    * 61st Air Base Gp, 1 December 1940 – 19 June 1942
    * 51st Base HQ and Air Base Sq, 19 June 1942 – 1 April 1944
    * 610th AAF Base Unit, 1 April 1944 – 30 June 1947

Operational history

The 1930s, What became Eglin Air Force Base had its beginnings with the creation in 1933 of the Valparaiso Airport, when an arrowhead-shaped parcel of 137 acres was cleared for use as an airdrome. In 1931, personnel of the Air Corps Tactical School (Maxwell Field, Alabama) while looking for a bombing and gunnery range, saw the potential of the sparsely populated forested areas surrounding Valparaiso and the vast expanse of the adjacent Gulf of Mexico., Local businessman and airplane buff James E. Plew saw the potential of a military payroll to boost the local area’s depression-stricken economy. He leased from the City of Valparaiso the 137 acres (0.6 km2) on which an airport was established in 1933, and in 1934, Plew offered the U.S. government a donation of 1,460 acres (6 km2) contiguous for the bombing and gunnery base. This leasehold became the headquarters for the Valparaiso Bombing and Gunnery Base activated on 14 June 1935, under the command of Captain Arnold H. Rich., Two unpaved runways, with a supply house at their intersection, were in use by 1935. "On 1 March 1935, application was made for a FERA grant to pave the runways and to build an office, a barracks 30 by 120, a mess hall and kitchen, and an oil storage building..." Eglin Air Force Base was initially established as the U.S. Army Air Corps' Valparaiso Bombing and Gunnery Base on 14 June 1935. On 4 August 1937, the installation was renamed Eglin Field in honor of Lt Col Frederick Irving Eglin (1891–1937). First rated as a military aviator in 1917, Lt Col Eglin helped train other Army flyers during World War I. On 1 January 1937, while assigned to General Headquarters, Air Force at Langley Field, VA, Colonel Eglin was killed in the crash of his Northrop A-17 pursuit aircraft on a flight from Langley to Maxwell Field, Alabama. A ceremony was held in June 1939 for the dedication and unveiling of a plaque honoring Valparaiso, Florida banker and businessman James E. Plew, as founder of Eglin Field. Embedded in the stone gate to the airfield, the plaque read "In memory of James E. Plew, 1862–1938, whose patriotism and generosity made this field possible." Captains Delmar T. Spivey and George W. Mundy, 23rd Composite Group, Maxwell Field, Alabama, flew two Curtiss YP-37s to Eglin Field for engine testing in December 1939, the first of thousands of service tests.

The 1940s, With the outbreak of war in Europe, a proving ground for aircraft armament was established at Eglin. The U.S. Forestry ceded to the War Department the Choctawhatchee National Forest on 18 October 1940. Hunters had to be reminded regularly that the base reservation was now off-limits in 1941–1942 and there was some local resentment at the handover. On 15 May 1941, the Air Corps Proving Ground (later the Proving Ground Command) was activated, and Eglin became the site for gunnery training for Army Air Forces fighter pilots, as well as a major testing center for aircraft, equipment, and tactics. The 23rd Composite Group moved from Orlando to Eglin Field, 1 July 1941. It comprised the 1st Pursuit Squadron, the 54th Bombardment Squadron (M), the 24th Bombardment Squadron (L), the 54th School Squadron, the 61st Air Base Group, and the 3rd Gunnery and Bombing Range Detachment. On Friday, 16 August 1940, the Okaloosa News-Journal, Crestview, Florida, reported that the Southern Bell Telephone Company was cutting a right-of-way for a line directly across the military reservation to connect the Eglin Field Army headquarters to the company line at Holt, Florida. The newspaper also stated that President Franklin Roosevelt had approved a plan on 14 August for a Works Projects Administration (WPA) expenditure of approximately $64,842 to make additional improvements at Eglin, including grading and surfacing a road to the machine gun range, clearing and grubbing 500 additional acres of landing field, and other work. A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was erected at Valparaiso, Florida from November 1940 to house 1,000-plus CCC workers engaged in base construction. On 1 October 1940, the installation was renamed the Eglin Field Military Reservation in recognition of its increased importance to the Air Corps and its increasing size, as characterized by the construction of numerous auxiliary airfields in Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties, the clearing of areas in the Choctawhatchee Forest for which was begun in January 1941. Clearing and grading for Auxiliary Field No.2 began 9 January, Auxiliary Field No. 3 on 23 January, and $800,000 allocated for the grading and paving of fields 1, 3, 5, and 6 on 24 April 1941. The Okaloosa News-Journal on Friday, 31 January 1941, listed the following construction: 30 enlisted men's barracks, eight day rooms, an enlisted men's mess building, a flying cadets mess building, four officers' quarters, eight supply rooms, eight administration buildings, a hospital, a post exchange, a motor repair shop, a theatre, four warehouses, six operations buildings, a Link trainer building, a parachute building, five magazines, and necessary utilities. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad laid a long sidetrack in Crestview, Florida to handle the number of oil tankcars required to supply the Asphault Products Company with material for the vast paving job of the new airfields. A fleet of trucks were operated round the clock to offload an estimated 180 car loads of petroleum product for the task. There were more than just a few vehicle accidents under the urgent tasking, some fatal. The clearing of Auxiliary Field No. 6 began 7 March 1942. Building construction at Auxiliary Field No. 7 began 14 March 1942. Appropriations of $202,536 were announced by Congressman Bob Sikes of Crestview in mid-April 1941 for construction and installation of water, sewage, electrical facilities, sidewalks, roads, fences, parking areas, landscaping and for the construction of a sewage disposal plant. Submitted to the WPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. in late March, the request received presidential approval in April. Work continued apace on some projects on a 24 hour a day basis. A severe housing shortage in the region for the burgeoning base-oriented expansion was partially alleviated by the construction of 100 units of the Plew Heights Defense Housing Project near Valparaiso for civil service employees and enlisted personnel. The Federal Works Agency, Division of Defense Housing, awarded the contract for the task to the Paul A. Miller Construction Company of Leesburg, Florida on 5 May 1941, with construction beginning on 8 May. The 11 November 1941 deadline for completion was beaten by almost a month. In June 1941, the Officers Club of Eglin Field made arrangements to take over the Valparaiso Inn, Valparaiso, Florida, as the "O Club". Doolittle Raiders would later lodge here during their training at Eglin., In June 1941, the Army Air Corps became the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) in order to provide the air arm a greater autonomy in which to expand more efficiently, and to provide a structure for the additional command echelons required by a vastly increased force. Although other nations already had separate air forces independent of the army or navy (such as the British Royal Air Force and the German Luftwaffe), the USAAF remained a part of the United States Army.

Following the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into World War II, Eglin became a major stateside installation in support of the war effort., Eglin became a major training location for the Doolittle Raid on the Japanese mainland. The 24 crews selected and led by Lieutenant Colonel James "Jimmy" Doolittle picked up modified North American B-25B Mitchell medium bombers in Minneapolis, Minnesota and flew them to Eglin beginning on 1 March 1942. "9–25 March: Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle and a B-25 detachment of 72 officers and 75 enlisted men from Lexington County Airport, Columbia, South Carolina, were at Eglin Field in rehearsals for the Tokyo raid." There the crews received intensive training for three weeks in simulated carrier deck takeoffs by Naval Aviators from nearby Naval Air Station Pensacola, as well as low-level and night flying, low altitude bombing, and over water navigation. Lt Col Doolittle stated in his after action report that an operational level of training was reached despite several days when flying was not possible due to rain and fog. One aircraft was heavily damaged in a takeoff accident at Eglin and another aircraft was taken off the mission because of a nose wheel shimmy that could not be repaired in time. On 25 March, the remaining 22 B-25s departed Eglin for McClellan Field, California, arriving on 27 March for final modifications at the Sacramento Air Depot. A total of 16 B-25s were subsequently flown to Naval Air Station Alameda, California on 31 March for embarkation aboard USS Hornet (CV 8). When now-promoted-to-General Doolittle toured the growing base in July 1942 with C.O. Grandison Gardner, the press made no mention of his recent, and still secret, training at Eglin.  A captured Japanese Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero, c/n 3372, originally coded 'V-172', of the 22nd Air Flotilla Fighter Unit, found after a forced-landing on a beach at Leichou Pantao, China, on 26 November 1941, and transported to the U.S., was test-flown at Eglin during mid-war. In March 1942, the base served as one of the sites for Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle to prepare his B-25 crews for their raid against Tokyo. A number of auxiliary fields were constructed on the Eglin reservation at this time, many of which are still in service in various roles, either in support of flight operations or special test activities., Operational suitability tests were conducted with a pair of P-38F Lightnings, 41-7536 and 41-7612, between 7 August 1942 and 26 January 1943. On 12 July 1943, Eglin suffered its worst loss of life when 17 personnel were killed in an explosives test at ~1700 hrs. Wartime censorship and the fact that 15 of the 17 were airmen of the African-American-staffed 867th Aviation Engineering Battalion contributed to the accident receiving virtually no publicity. The identities of the dead, including the two white officers supervising, were never released, and only one small newspaper article was published mentioning the incident. The Okaloosa News-Journal, Crestview, Florida, reported that the base "Public Relations office, who made the announcement, stated that the names of the men would not be released until the next of kin had been notified. Bodies of two officers were brought to McLaughlin Funeral Home in Crestview while those of the colored victims were taken to a parlor in Pensacola. No announcement has been made as to how the accident occurred [sic]." A documentary, the "Eglin 17", debuted at the 2009 African American Heritage Month luncheon at the Eglin Air Force Base Officer's Club on 18 February 2009, providing the story of the forgotten accident. "The cause and circumstances surrounding the incident remain 'clouded in mystery,' according to the documentary," although Lt. Col. Allen Howser (Ret.), featured in the documentary, recalled that it was part of an exercise to test fire a newly acquired explosive. At its wartime peak, the base employed more than 1,000 officers, 10,000 enlisted personnel and 4,000 civilians. In January 1944, the XP-60E-CU, 42-79425, was flown to Eglin Field for official trials, where Army Air Force pilots found that it did not compare favorably to later aircraft. The whole P-60 project is canceled in May 1944., Following the first flight of the Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly on 7 May 1944, the airplane was flown to Eglin Field, where it underwent extensive tests. In these tests it established outstanding records for availability, for flight and for efficiency. The type was not ordered into production, however., "In January 1944, Eglin became an important contributor to 'Operation Crossbow,' which called for the destruction of German missile launching facilities. Thousands worked around the clock for 12 days to construct a duplicate German V-1 facility. Subsequent bombing runs against this copycat facility taught Army Air Forces tacticians which attack angles and weapons would prove most effective against the German launchers." The first JB-2 launch at Eglin took place on 12 October 1944. The sole Northrop JB-1A Bat, unofficially known as the "Thunderbug" due to the improvised General Electric B-1 turbojets' "peculiar squeal", a jet-propelled flying wing spanning 28 feet, 4 inches to carry 2,000 lb. bombs in pods close to the engines, made its first powered, but unmanned, flight from Santa Rosa Island on 7 December 1944, launching from a pair of rails laid across the sand dunes. Makeshift B-1 turbojets do not live up to expectation, so JB-1s are completed with pulsejet power as JB-10s. On 28 December 1944, Eglin reverted to its original name of Eglin Field as part of a new standardization practice by the USAAF. With the creation of a separate United States Air Force in 1947, Eglin Field continued to retain its name until 24 June 1948, when it was renamed to its current designation as Eglin Air Force Base., At the time of the design of the super-heavy intercontinental Convair B-36 Peacemaker bomber in the mid-1940s, Eglin Field had one of only three runways in the world capable of withstanding the landing gear footprint of the original 110-inch single tire main gear design of the fully-loaded bomber (concrete at least 22 inches thick). The B-36 would undergo a redesign for a four-wheel main gear bogie with 56-inch tires to reduce this operational constraint and allow B-36s to operate from runways able to support B-29 Superfortresses. (The other two runways were at the Convair plant at Fort Worth, Texas, and at Fairfield-Suisun Field, California.), After the war, Eglin became a pioneer in developing the techniques for missile launching and handling; and the development of drone or pilotless aircraft beginning with the Republic-Ford JB-2 Loon, an American copy of the V-1. The 1st Experimental Guided Missiles Group was activated at Eglin Field, Florida on 6 February 1946. Pursuant to an order from the War Department, dated 25 January 1946, the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces Center at Eglin Field was directed to activate the Headquarters, 1st Experimental Guided Missiles Group, the 1st Experimental Guided Missiles Squadron and the 1st Experimental Air Service Squadron. The total authorized strength for the three organizations was 130 officers, one warrant officer and 714 enlisted men. Eglin's commander was directed to supply manpower for the units from his own resources, but, given the recent postwar demobilization, his ability to do so was extremely limited. Operations were conducted out of Auxiliary Field 3 (Duke Field). On 13 January 1947, a successful drone flight from Eglin to Washington, D.C. was conducted utilizing a QB-17 Flying Fortress. A QB-17G, 44-85648, was utilized in a ditching test program at Eglin in 1948 when it was landed in the water by radio control. Ironically, although nine of the approximately 43 surviving intact B-17s in the world were assigned to the 3200th and 3205th Drone Groups at Eglin, the example displayed at the Air Force Armament Museum is not one one of them, having been a former U.S. Navy PB-1W patrol model. On 31 March 1946, the Air Proving Ground Command completed the tactical suitability test of the JB-3 Tiamat, which destroyed 15 bridges during the Korean War. Between mid-1946 and January 1947, the Army Air Force evaluated two of the three Boeing XF8B Navy fighter prototypes at Eglin as a potential fighter-bomber, but nothing came of the idea, it being found to be inferior in the rôle to the P-47 Thunderbolt already in service.

Auxiliary fields
    * Auxiliary Field 1 is named Wagner Field for Maj. Walter J. Wagner, former commanding officer for the 1st Proving Ground, Eglin Field, who was killed 10 October 1943 in the crash of AT-6C-NT Texan, 41-32187, c/n 88-9677, at Auxiliary Field 2.
    * Auxiliary Field 2 is named Pierce Field for Lt. Col. George E. Pierce, killed 19 January 1942 while piloting B-25C-1 Mitchell,41-13118, which crashed into the Gulf of Mexico 2 miles (3.2 km) S of Destin, Florida. Joe Baugher cites date of 19 October 1942 for loss. Eglin Auxiliary Field 2 is named for Pierce.
    * Auxiliary Field 3 is named Duke Field for 1st Lt Robert L. Duke, killed in the crash of Curtiss A-25A-20-CS Shrike, 42-79823, near Spencer, Tennessee, on 29 December 1943. He was assigned as Assistant A-3 of Eglin Field.
    * Auxiliary Field 4 is named Peel Field for 2nd Lt. Garland O. Peel Jr., who died in the crash of Martin B-12AM, 33-262, 2 January 1942. He was a gunnery school instructor at Eglin. Peel Field was utilized for the filming of scenes for the 1944 film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.
    * Auxiliary Field 5 is named Piccolo Field for Capt. Anthony D. Piccolo, who died in the crash of AT-6A Texan, 41-16372, on 6 October 1942. Piccolo was the commanding officer of the 386th Single Engine Gunnery Training Squadron at Eglin. Today, the area is due north of Field Four and serves as a microwave station. On most base maps, it is identified as Site C-4.
    * Auxiliary Field 6 is named Biancur Field for 1st Lt. Andrew Biancur, a test pilot of the Medium Bombardment Section of the 1st Proving Ground Group, killed 8 January 1944 in the crash of YP-61-NO Black Widow, 41-18883, c/n 711, at Eglin Field. The U.S. Army Ranger facility Camp Rudder is located here.
    * Auxiliary Field 7 is named Epler Field for Col. Robin E. Epler, deputy commander (Technical) of the Air Proving Ground Command, Eglin Field, Florida, killed 28 January 1944 in the crash of A-20G-10-DO Havoc, 42-54016, one mile (1.6 km) NE of Crestview, Florida.
    * Auxiliary Field 8 is named Baldsiefen Field for 2nd Lt. Richard Edward Baldsiefen, a gunnery instructor at Eglin, killed 4 March 1942 along with Lt. John W. Smith, in the crash of AT-6A Texan, 41-528, which came down at Auxiliary Field 4.
    * Auxiliary Field 9 is named Hurlburt Field for Lt. Donald Wilson Hurlburt, killed 1 October 1943 when his Lockheed AT-18-LO Hudson gunnery trainer, 42-55591, c/n 414-7313, crashed during take-off at Eglin. After flying combat missions from Great Britain and receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Hurlburt was assigned in mid-1943 to the First Proving Ground Electronics Test Unit at Eglin Field. Field 9 was named in his honor by base commander General Grandison Gardner. Hurlburt's nephew was Captain Craig D. Button (noted for his mysterious flight and crash of an A-10 Thunderbolt on 2 April 1997). It should be noted that an official history of Eglin AFB's early years cites 2 October 1943 as the date of this accident.
    * Auxiliary Field 10 is named Dillon Field for Capt. Barclay H. Dillon, test pilot of the Fighter Section of the 1st Proving Ground Group, killed 2 October 1943 when P-38J-5-LO Lightning, 42-67103, crashed 8 miles (13 km) W of Milton, Florida. Field 10 was later named Eglin Dillon Airdrome. Now used primarily for U.S. Navy basic flight training, the Navy refers to it as Outlying Field Choctaw (OLF).

WASP flew as engineering test pilots and fixed gunnery tow target pilots, flying AT-6 ferrying; PQ-8, radio control gunnery targets, and A-20, B-25, P-39, P-47, B-29, UL-61, and A-36.

1102 WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) were stationed at 120 air bases and flew 60 million miles in every type military aircraft in the Army Air Force inventory, from the fastest fighters to the heaviest bombers. They towed targets for air-to-air gunnery and air-to-ground anti-aircraft practice, ferried aircraft, were instrument instructors for male pilots, flew weather, night tracking, simulated strafing and radar navigation missions, transported personnel and cargo and flew drones. They flew every type mission that any Army Air Force pilot flew except combat  missions.

Price: $99.50

Product Code: PatchAAF.0000.ProvingTrainingDetachment.EglinArmyAirField.Va
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