The Columbia Army Air Base was established by United States War Department in West Columbia, South Carolina for training flight crews. Airmen flew on bombing missions at warfronts across the globe. These images were scanned from the personal collection of William Hamson, who served as an air base photographer from 1942 to 1945. A brief history of the Columbia Army Air Base is provided below, along with sources for additional information.
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Additional images from Columbia Army Air Base
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Brief history of the Columbia Army Air Base
In 1941, with World War II raging in Europe, Congress established the Army Air Forces. That same year, the War Department acquired the Lexington County Airport, a small airstrip which city and county officials had recently begun to construct for airmail and commercial flights. The War Department established the Columbia Army Air Base at this location for training B-25 crews. Army and civilian engineers improved this site with runways, hangars, barracks, a church, officer’s quarters, and other facilities necessary for training and housing Army airmen.
In February 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a secret air retaliation mission was launched under the command of Jimmy Doolittle. Doolittle’s Raiders began their training at the Columbia Army Air Base before being moved to Elgin Airfield in Florida, which had greater security. From Elgin the Raiders headed off for their daring mission to bomb Japan, becoming the first successful air attack of the United States during the war.
Army airmen continued to train at the Columbia Army Air Base throughout the war. The CAAB had practice bombing ranges at nearby Lake Murray and Pontiac as well as Poorman’s, located north of Charleston, S.C. Once trained, CAAB airmen flew on bombing missions at warfronts across the globe. A historic marker at the site lists the names of 230 aviators who died during training at CAAB from 1941-1945.
When the war ended, the air base was sold back to Lexington County. In 1947, Delta flew the first commercial flight from Lexington County Airport, as it was then called. The site of the old air base in now the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
Additional sources about the Columbia Army Air Base
- Columbia Army Air Base, 1945 (yearbook). View in Catalog
- Flach, Tim. “Fatal flights not forgotten”. The State, May 20, 2013.
- Haynie, Rachel. Cornfield to airfield : a history of Columbia Army Air Base. Beckley, W.V.: Ellerbe Press, 2011. View in Catalog
- Maxey, Russell. Airports of Columbia : a history in photographs & headlines. Columbia, S.C.: Palmetto Publishing Company, 1987. View in Catalog
- Moniz, David. “The Air Force at 50 : A history written in the sky”. The State, September 19, 1997.