Due to the escalation of WW2 in 1940, American Congress funded an increase in the strength of the US Army Air Corps from 29 to 54 combat groups and increased pilot training to 7,000 per year. The quickest way for the Air Corps to obtain additional bases was to utilise existing civil airports. Across the nation airports were commandeered for military usage in readiness for war.
On September 21, 1940, the Air Corps announced a $1.5 million project to build facilities at Daniel Field in Augusta, Georgia to support 100 to 110 pursuit aircraft and 2000 men. Because of technicalities in the land transfer, construction did not begin until March 1941. Once begun, a large construction program was needed to turn the civil airport into a military airfield. Construction involved runways and airplane hangars, with three concrete runways, several taxiways and a large parking apron and a control tower. Several large hangars were also constructed. Buildings were ultimately utilitarian and quickly assembled. Most base buildings, not meant for long-term use, were constructed of temporary or semi-permanent materials. Although some hangars had steel frames and the occasional brick or tile brick building could be seen, most support buildings sat on concrete foundations but were of frame construction clad in little more than plywood and tarpaper.
Although the Army initially planned on using Daniel for fighter aircraft, it was utilised instead mostly by transport and observation squadrons. This was due to the fact that Daniel's longest runway was a relatively short 4,200 ft (1,300 m). The geographical restrictions of ravines to the west and the city of Augusta to the east made the extension of the runways impractical. Aside from aircraft training, enlisted men were also given regular firearms and PT instruction.
Initially assigned to the Army Air Corps Southeast Air District ,the first units at Daniel Army Airfield the 14th and 15th Air Transport Squadrons of the 61st Transport Group arrived on July 12, 1941 from Kelly Field, near San Antonio, Texas. The 61st's group headquarters was formed at Olmsted Field, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The squadrons flew C-47 Skytrains, as well as Doulas C-39's, which was the Air Corp's version of the Douglas DC-2. After organisational training and flying a few paratroop operations, the 61st and its squadrons were sent to Lubbock Field in Texas.
During the week of October 20, Daniel Field hosted the 40th Pursuit Squadron which came to Daniel Field from Selfridge Field, Michigan which took part in III Interceptor Command exercises, flying P-39 Aircobras.
With the United States at war in 1942, activity at the airfield expanded dramatically. In early February. Five transport squadrons of the Air Force Combat Command 89th Transport Group, the 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, and 28th were activated at Daniel AAF. These squadrons were equipped with C-47s and Douglas DC-3's pressed into military service from the airlines. The 89th stay at Daniel was a short one. Only five weeks later the group moved on to Air Technical Service Command depot at Harding AAF, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Also during February, three observation squadrons, the 16th, 111th, 122nd, and 154th, arrived from various other bases and forming the Third Air Force 68th Observation Group. Pilots trained on Douglas O43-A, Vultee / Stinson O-49 / L-1 Vigilant and Douglas A-20B Havoc aircraft performing antisubmarine patrols along the South Carolina and Georgia coast.
In 1942, newly built Army Airfields were becoming available in the southeast and the Air Force no longer had the need for Daniel Field and its short runways. No other operational units were stationed at Daniel after August 1942. In February 1943, Daniel was reassigned to the Air Technical Service Command. The facilities became a repair and replacement depot for Third Air Force aircraft. Most of the military flying at Daniel was by transient aircraft undergoing 3d and 4th echelon heavy maintenance work.
Daniel also activated and trained 32 chemical warfare companies. Chemical companies were equipped and taught to use smoke pots, tear gas, chemical trailers, trucks, blasting caps, and how to fill aircraft spray tanks. During the last part of the war, Daniel was used to prepare vehicles for use in the planned Invasion of Japan. In addition, the field had a branch prisoner of war camp with about 1200 POWs working on the field and in the nearby forests.
By war's end, the Army's air operations at Daniel were discontinued, with the airfield being returned to full civil control on October 31, 1945.
We have made an exact reproduction of a late war Daniel Field t shirt, made from a superior quality 'slub yarn' cotton, they are constructed as per the original in terms of cut, seam-style and shade and feature a print taken from an original 40's Daniel Field AFB t shirt. You can find them HERE in the webshop.