Ghosts of WW II Planes Still Roar Above Sebring
By John Lear
What used to be known as Hendricks Field has come to be called the Sebring Airport and for 362 days of the year, it is a fairly quiet airfield.
The other days of the year it plays host to the 12 Hours of Sebring race and is a swarming madhouse.
The activity was there during the war years too, but with a more serious purpose. Hendricks Field, as the airport was called, was established in 1941 as a training base for B-
The selection of Sebring as the site for such a base followed earlier news in July 1940 that a bid to establish an Army base in the area had failed.
A group of Sebring men had traveled to Washington to confer with Claude Pepper, one of the state’s senators. They learned, as the town learned through a telegram, that no army base was planned for the area.
In the spring of 1941, with Europe at war and war in the far east as well, a group of military men came to the area to see about establishing a training field.
On June 12, 1941, the news came that such a base was to be established. It was estimated that the base would have about 1,500 airmen, and 250 cadets and would sprawl over more than 9,000 acres.
On January 29, 1942, the first B-
At first, entire combat crew for the Flying Fortresses, as B-
According to accounts of the times, the field was noted for its success in training pilots within the time allotted. “Ideal weather conditions in this section enabled Hendricks Field to regularly keep ahead of schedule. It is known that only one day’s flying time for students had been lost in nearly four years of operation,” one account stated.
The conflicts overseas ended in 1945, but the conflicts over the airfield were just beginning. The base closed down in December 1945 and was turned over to the War Assets Administration. The agency and the City of Sebring had a hard time seeing eye-
The city council, according to accounts, feared that the airfield would cost too much to operate. Finally, in April 1946, the city agreed to take over the airport itself.
The buildings and equipment did not go to the city but were sold by the federal agency. Much of the equipment, according to accounts, was lost in the shuffle. Anything that was not nailed down was likely to be taken. One account states that “two buildings that were probably 150 feet long, 40 feet wide and two stories high, disappeared. They left the field in daylight, supposedly destined for the University of Florida, but they never arrived.
Some of the buildings were purchased by the city and when all of the confusion had cleared, what is now he Sebring Airport began to emerge.
Hendricks Field May Have Ghosts
But Nobody Minds Them Very Much
By Ash Wing, Tribune Staff Writer
From The Tampa Tribune, Monday, May 2, 1966 -
As far as the Air Force is concerned they say, Hendricks Field is old and abandoned. But as far as Sebring is concerned, it is a very much going business that provides a home for at least a dozen manufacturers and a base for dozens of private aircraft, plus boosting the economy of the area.
Renamed the Sebring Air Terminal after the war, the former air base that trained pilots to fly bombers now leaves people to the memory of bygone days. The runways are there, vacant hangars and a few barracks still are present. The most important item that remains is the Eighth Air Depot that provides maintenance, repairs and overhaul jobs for almost any type aircraft.
Industrially, the Sebring Air Terminal is a flourishing business. Among the businesses located there are: Webster-
Airport Manager N. B. Graybill and the Sebring City Council keep in constant touch with manufacturers looking for new locations and recently signed a long lease with a trailer manufacturer. -
Sebring Cattle Market