The historical Walnut Ridge airport got its humble beginnings when the area was approved on April 15th, 1942 by Major General George E. Stratemeyer as the new site for an Army Airfield. After 57 days of construction the local farm ground was transformed into a functional airfield. The airfield was activated on August 15th, 1942 and this would be the new site where World War II pilots would be trained. On October 3, 1942 the airfield received its first aircraft which were Vultee BT-13 trainers. Then on October 5th, 1942 – pilot training began. It is prime, the airfield contained on average over 3000 military personnel and civilian employees numbered in the range of 2,000. In just over 21 months, 5,310 students entered training, and 4,641 graduated. Forty-two students and instructors were killed in training. The last class graduated June 27, 1944.
Geographical overview: Essentially a new city was built. At completion, there were three 5000 foot runways, a 63 acre apron, 4 hangers, an engineering building, and a 203 bed hospital. Several office buildings, storage buildings, shop buildings were built in addition to the water plant, the sewage plant, laundry facility, swimming pool, gym, mess halls, enlisted and officer quarters, WAC housing, motorpools, control tower, fire station, etc.
This airfield had many uses. On March 6th, 1945 it was used as a temporary prisoner of war camp. About 300 German prisoners were kept here.
At the end of the war, it became an airplane salvage facility. Through the years of 1945 and 1946 – about 10,000 planes were flown here for dismantling and disposal.
In the late 1940s and after the war, 1,866 acres were given back to the city of Walnut Ridge, and Williams Baptist College acquired 122 acres. The city still maintains the airport today, and is a wonderful place to come back and visit. The Museum is located directly in front of the terminal building. In looking at the museum artifacts and displays – it is easy to walk outside and see what was happening some 70 years ago in a time of great struggle and in our country’s time of need. Come see the historical WWII training facility, visit our museum and eat at our famous Parachute Inn located directly beside the terminal building. We hope you enjoy your visit and look forward to seeing you soon.