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Chapter 5 - Hendricks Field

Altvater Library > Sebring Air Terminal

Hendricks Field

    1.       Air Corps Basic Flying School:

    The School at Sebring was activated pursuant to letter AG 680 (C-19-41), June 23, 1941,  Subject: Establishment of Air Schools, effective 26 June 1941, and designated Air Corps Training Center, Maxwell Field, Alabama and given an exempted status and placed under the control of Chief of Air Corps.

    2.       Hendricks Field:

    Pursuant to letter AG 680.9 (1-5-42) MR-MAAF, 14 January, 1942, the Subject, Designation of Air Corps Fields, the school was re-designated Hendricks Field, (Basic Flying School).

    The field was named in honor of young Lieutenant Laird Woodruff Hendricks, who died while on temporary duty in London 28 July, 1941.  Lieutenant Hendricks was born in Ocala, Florida, June 3, 1916 and graduated from West Point in 1939.  He became a Second Lieutenant, Coast Artillery Corps, 12 June 1939 but transferred to the Air Corps 22 June, 1940.  He was a West Point classmate of Major Robert E. Greer, who later became Director of Training of the station.

    There was considerable discussion prior to the final designation as Hendricks Field, relative to a name for the new station.  The City of Sebring recommended “Sebring Field,” in honor of George E. Sebring, founder of Sebring, Florida, and Sebring, Ohio.  DeSoto City suggested Thomas Field, in honor of Lieutenant Morris E. Thomas of St. Petersburg, Florida, who died in an aviation accident near Saratoga Springs, New York.  DeSoto City offered as second choice “DeSoto Field” in honor of Hernando DeSoto, the great explorer, and as third choice suggested “Moody Field” in honor of Lieutenant George P. Moody, who also died in the service.

    A curious error occurred prior to the field’s final designation which resulted in the name “Kehoe Field” being used in certain early correspondence with the new station.  According to Major E. Greer, who was attached to the field at the time, use of this name dated from the passage through message center of a suggestion that the name “Kehoe” be used.  This was the result, according to Major Robert E. Greer, or a rumor which resulted in the message center, a clerk in this office evidently was the message in question and the rumor started at that time.  In any event, mail and telegrams soon began to arrive addressed to station personnel at “Kehoe Field. Sebring, Florida.”  The name was even used in a letter from the Adjutant General addressed to the station.  Following this, the Commanding General, Southeast Air Corps Training Center, wrote the office of the Adjutant General advising that no record of such designation had been received at that headquarters.

    It is interesting to note, also, that the name finally selected was not among those (listed above) forwarded as suggestions by the station to higher headquarters, a fact mentioned in First Endorsement, letter dated 13 March 1942 to the Commanding General of Southeast Air Corps Training Center from the Commanding Officer of Hendricks Field.

    As indicated in the extract, the facility subsequently known as Hendricks Field was activated on June 23, 1941, and was designated by that name on January 14, 1942.  The field was inactivated on December 31, 1945, surplused on January 25, 1946, and turned over to the City of Sebring on February on February 26, 1947, with military landing rights reserved by the Federal government.

                                                         Michael S. Alba, Lt. Col.  USAF

Through the efforts and kindness of Mrs. Frank Crowder and Congressman L. A. Bafalis,
this official history, as recorded at the Historical Research Center, is made available.

Ship #31 is a brand new B-17-F that flew out of Hendricks Field.  Photo courtesy of Sebring Historical Society.

Excerpt from the Highlands County News, 4/25/1946

Will Not Expend Funds Others Than Receipts From Field

    Hendricks Field will be leased (sic) by the City of Sebring with the distinct understanding that the city will not expend any funds, except revenues derived from subletting facilities at the field, the Sebring City Council decided Monday night at a special called meeting to discuss the matter with the aviation committee of the Chamber of Commerce.

    Allen Altvater, Executive Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, submitted a report on his negotiations for the field and with persons and organizations desiring concessions on the field.  He estimated that the probable income from the field at $55,500 per year plus profits derived from the sale of electricity.  Probable expenses on the field and its maintenance as required to produce the above income was estimated at $50,000.  It was stated that the expenses could be held down if the income did not come up to the estimate and if income was light the expenses would be relatively lower.

    His estimate did not take into consideration the possibility of the city using the sewage disposal plant at the field thereby obviating the necessity of the city building such a plant which the city council says is needed now and would cost in the neighborhood of $200,000.

    Mr. Altvater informed the council that the two larger organizations wishing to locate on the field will employ between 200-600 men and they are desperately in need of a place to locate at once to take care of their orders.  The Council authorized him to continue negotiations with the government and prospective users of the facilities at the field.  He left Tuesday for Jacksonville for a conference with government officials and will probably proceed to Washington to complete arrangements for the city to take over the field and report back to the City Council at an early date.

    It was pointed out by one member of the City Council that within the next few years the city would probably spend several thousand dollars to develop a municipal airport on the land acquired by the city for that purpose several years ago, if Hendricks Field was not available.  He emphasized the fact that might entail a financial obligation that would require the expenditure of funds other than funds derived directly from the airport.

Copy of a telegram dated February 11, 1946



                                 JAMES E. McCORMACK
                                 ASSIGNMENTS BRANCH
                                 WAR ASSETS ADMINISTRATION

Excerpt from the Highlands County News, 5/2/1946

Eighth Air Depot and Veterans’ Airlines Expected to Begin Operation

    The City of Sebring is on the final lap in the taking over and operating of Hendricks Field as a municipal airport, according to indications at a special meeting of the council held yesterday evening at five o’clock when William D. Spivey, of the Corps of Engineers appeared before them with revocable permit turning over the field to the city.

    The companies that have been in contact with Airport Manager A. C. Altvater are expected to be in operation at the field soon.  One of the companies, the Eighth Air Depot, will start work at the field Monday under the City’s right-of-entry permit until final work has been completed on the permit giving the field to the city.

    The revocable permit includes only that part of the field that is necessary to the operation and maintenance of the field and facilities.  Included in the permit and to be turned over to the city will be the landing strips, three hangars and practically all the buildings immediately adjacent to the landing area.

    Mr. Spivey, a former major in the Air Corps, told the three members of the council present at the special meeting that the War Department did not at this time know which field that they would want to keep, but that they were issuing revocable permits so that the city could go ahead with negotiations with the users of the field.

    Robert Kiel and George Dumont, heads of the veteran company, Eighth Air Depot, stated that they would immediately begin shipping material here for their repair establishment that they will set up on the field.  They expect to be in operation Monday.

    Veterans’ Airlines, the other company that has been seeking a base and lease to operate at Hendricks Field, announced Tuesday in Miami, according to the Miami Herald, that they had already leased Hendricks Field as a repair and maintenance base.  Manager Altvater stated last night that no final negotiations had been made with the company but that he believed that the company would go through with the plans they had proposed to him.

    Saunie Gravely, president of the Veterans’ Airlines, stated in the interview in Miami, that they had leased the cold storage facilities at the field to be used in processing fruit and vegetables to be shipped north by air.  Nothing could be verified locally about these leases to the company.

    The airline, organized last December by 40 veterans, with one plane now has five planes in operation and will soon purchase 15 additional C-54’s.  The company operates out of Newark, N.J., and flies along the eastern seaboard and also has a contract to carry supplies and medicines abroad for UNRRA.

    Gravely, a former sergeant stationed at Panama City as a flying instructor, said the firm would employ about 300 persons.  The Eighth Air Depot company is expected to gradually increase their employees until over 100 are employed in the overhaul and repair of airplanes and motors.

    The permit turning over the field to the city does not include the apartment or barracks buildings, which have to be negotiated for through the War Assets Corporation.

    The City Council is expected by the acceptance of the permit to maintain the fire department and the water and sewage disposal system at the field and to supply personnel for the operation of these facilities for the duration of the permit.

Excerpt from the Highlands County News, 5/9/1946

Veterans’ Airlines Heads to Arrive Tomorrow to Start Operations

    Work has been started at Hendricks Field by the Eighth Air Depot and representatives of the Veterans’ Airlines will be in town tomorrow to begin operations for that company at the field.  Little work can be done by the two companies at the field until the Army Air Forces clear the hangars so that they may be occupied.

    Saunie Gravely, president of the Veterans’ Airlines was in Sebring Saturday night with two of his key men, J. R. Taylor, assistant superintendent of maintenance, and Bob Krohm, district manager.  They were here to confer with Allen Altvater, airfield manager for the city, in regard to how soon they could occupy the field.  Taylor will return today or tomorrow to begin operations for the company as far as possible.

    George Harhan, personnel manager of the company, will probably arrive tomorrow to get personnel problems straightened out.  Mr. Gravely stated that all his key personnel are now with the company and will begin to arrive as operations progress and space is made available to the company.

    George Dumont, president of the Eighth Air Depot, said last night that little will be done by them for about six weeks until the machine shop could be put into operation.  Local personnel will be used but all highly skilled employees needed are either now on their way to Sebring or will be shortly.  Local employees will be hired by the company and be trained by them, but he warned that at present no one will be hired until space is provided where different kinds of maintenance can be done.

    Already here with Dumont are Robert Kiel and A. N. Dorman, all former members of the 8th Air Depot Group stationed in Africa.  Dumont was engineering officer for the group in Africa in charge of overhaul, and in the Mideast, Russia, India, China, Persian Gulf and Iran.  This group also furnished supplies in the invasion of Sicily.  Kiel, a former transport pilot, was stationed in Africa for 18 months.  He also was on the “fireball” runs, a C-87 transport run out of Miami to India.  Later, he was on a C-54 run in he southwest Pacific from California to Japan.

    Dorman, treasurer of the company, is a former test pilot for the 8th Air Group overseas and later transferred to the South Pacific where he commanded bases at Brisbane, Australia and Los Negros, New Georgia.

    Nucleus of the Eighth Air Depot will be skilled personnel of the 8th Depot Group overseas.  Remaining personnel will be hired locally.  Mr. Dumont said that quite a lot of work was on hand to be done but that it would be about six weeks before much could be done about it.  Most of the overhaul work that is before them now is for TACA, the largest airline company in South America.

    His company will do engine, accessory, instrument, propeller and general aircraft overhaul and modifications.  Eventually a parts depot will be established by them, Mr. Dumont said.

    The Veterans’ Airlines, Mr. Gravely said, have contacted Mr. Dorman of the Eighth Air Depot and will work in conjunction with them at the field.

    Taylor, who will be stationed here with the Veterans’ Airlines was a master mechanic in civil life before joining the Army.  Krohm was a navigator stationed in England.  On his first mission, his plane was shot down and he spent over a year behind barbed wire as a German prisoner.

    Mr. Gravely said that his company already had its key personnel that they needed but that they would use as many local employees as possible.  “We will announce in the local papers when we need personnel and the type of personnel we need,” he said.

    “We hope to get to work here as soon as possible but it all depends on the Army at Hendricks Field.  They have quite a lot of equipment stored in the buildings that we will use and we don’t know just when the space will be made available to us,” he head of the airlines said.

    At present, the airfield is still closed to the general public and a pass must be shown to get into the field.  The two companies are only operating at the present on the City of Sebring’s right-of-entry permit.

Mrs. Opal Harris breaks a bottle of orange juice christening a C-54 cargo plane
for Veterans’ Airlines, June 1946.

From left: A. W. Estes, Ford A. Heacock, A. C. Altvater, R. B. Collins, Mrs. Opal Harris,
Capt. Cal Quimby, and Mayor M. F. McGee.

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