1940's training base assists in Pearl Harbor counterattack

  • Published
  • By TSgt Ron Regina
  • 71st Flying Training Wing
If Dec. 7 doesn't ring a bell in your head, chances are you snoozed through history class in junior high, so allow me to assist: it was on this date in 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. This is a pivotal date in the history of our nation, as well as that of the rest of the world.
Although war had been raging in Europe for more than two years, the United States was making every effort not to get fully involved until it had no choice. Involvement was inevitable, however, and on Dec. 8, the day after the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan, followed three days later by a declaration of war on Germany.
American losses at Pearl Harbor were staggering: five out of eight battleships, three destroyers and seven other ships were either sunk or severely damaged. More than 200 aircraft on the ground were destroyed, and 2,400 Americans lost their lives. Twelve hundred more were wounded.
So how does this relate to events in Enid, Okla., at the time? Earlier that year, city leaders leaned forward and contacted the War Department, offering land for a new flying training installation. After learning of its requirements, the city secured 1,000 acres of farmland a few miles south of town, and in June 1941, the War Department chose Enid as a site for a basic military flying school. Construction began the following month.
By the day of the Japanese attack, construction at the airfield was rolling along at a feverish pace. As news of the attack made it to Enid, the yet-unfinished installation went on full alert. Sentries took post all around the airfield. The base had yet to receive a supply of ammunition, however, and men stood guard with empty rifles. On the night of
Dec. 7, the base received a supply of 300 rounds of ammunition.
The attack on Pearl Harbor jolted the American war machine into full-scale production. Planes began rolling off the assembly lines by the thousands, and the country needed pilots to fill the cockpits. Eight days after the declaration of war on Japan, the first 64 cadets to train here (Class 42-D) arrived from Sikeson, Mo. Two days later, they began a rigorous schedule of flying training in the BT-13A. Soon afterwards, other cadet classes began to arrive, and by early 1942, pilot training at Air Corps Basic Flying School, Enid, Okla., was in full swing. Pilot production continued through the end of the war in 1945.
Throughout the war years, the installation produced nearly 9,000 pilots. Many received recognition for their accomplishments. From the outset of American involvement in World War II, what later became Vance Air Force Base played a vital role in the security of our nation, a trend that continues to this day.