The Cimarron Field and Mustang Field Museum
Cimarron Field and Mustang Field History
•Cimarron Field History: Clarence E. Page Airport during World War II was Cimarron Field, one of about 62 contract Primary Flight Schools training pilots for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) / Army Air Forces. Clarence Page was one of the principal owners of the flight school. Cimarron Field was renamed Clarence E. Page Airport on Labor Day 1978.
•Civilian instructors taught military aviation cadets at the school. Primary Flight Training was the first course of flying for a potential pilot. 4,089 cadet pilots were graduated from Cimarron Field during its operation from March, 1941, eight months before Pearl Harbor, through August 1, 1944. Schools including Cimarron were gradually closing as the need for new pilots diminished.
•The aircraft type used at Cimarron was the Fairchild PT-19 Cornell, an open-cockpit aircraft with wood wings and tail and a fabric covered fuselage. Strategic materials such as aluminum were saved for combat and transport aircraft. Most of the PT-19s had no electrical system so starting was by hand crank. Communication between the instructor in the front and the cadet in the back was via the gosport system, whereby the instructor spoke into a funnel connected back to rubber tubes that went to each of the cadet’s ears. It was a one-way system!
•World War II Begins and U.S. Military Buildup: Hitler’s military invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, beginning World War II. The U.S. would not enter the war for over two years, when the Japanese carried out the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The U.S. initially declared neutrality in September, 1939. Its stated policy was to stay out of the war if possible but to keep the Axis Powers out of the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. soon loosened its neutrality stance by offering lend-lease military equipment aid first to Great Britain starting in March, 1941, and later to Russia and 43 other countries. In January, 1939, the USAAC was a very minimal force, ranking 7th in the world in military aircraft with only 1,700 aircraft including trainers and 1,600 officers and 18,000 enlisted men. By contrast, our future enemies had much larger air forces in 1939: Germany had 9,000 to 10,000 aircraft
•General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, Commander of the USAAC, sought to dramatically increase pilot training, with the eventual goal to train 200,000 pilots. Randolph Field, Texas, the Only USAAC pilot school, was woefully inadequate to train the pilots needed as its facilities could only train about 500 pilots annually. Hap Arnold devised a plan to let civilian pilot training schools conduct the first phase of Army pilot training, called Primary Flight Training. Contract Primary Schools began training pilots in late 1939 . Cimarron Field was among the first 26 schools. After the U.S. joined the war, the number of contract primary schools would swell to 62.
•Cimarron Field Early History: The construction site had to be out of the major air routes from Oklahoma City to Wichita and to Dallas, and from Oklahoma City to Amarillo. The 240 acres of land (later expanded to 400) was purchased in January, 1941. Buffalo wallows had to be filled in during the construction . Hangars, barracks, ground school buildings, the administration building, and canteen were all constructed over the next two months. The school was dedicated on March 23, 1941 and was ready to accept its first class of cadets later that month. Four auxiliary fields were constructed primarily to practice takeoffs and landings away from the busier Cimarron Field. Many classes of West Point Cadets trained at Cimarron. Only 3 of 62 schools were approved for that mission.
•Cimarron Field Was an Interesting Mix of Civilian and Military Personnel:
–Civilian : Primary flight instructors, ground school instructors, aircraft mechanics, office workers
–Military Contingent: Base Commanders Robert L. Johnston, Charles J. Long, and Finally Robert A. Stover. Army Check Pilots gave final flight test to pass or fail a cadet. Commandant of Cadets, Adjutant, doctors, and many others were military.
•Course of Training for a Cadet at Cimarron Field:
–Ground school courses in engines, navigation, aerodynamics, aircraft structures, mathematics, meteorology, etc.
–65 hours of flight instruction to be completed in 10 weeks including some aerobatics.
–Link Trainer instrument training.
•Cimarron Field Expansions: The USAAC/US Army Air Forces (after 6/20/41) asked Cimarron Field to step up the number of cadets training on several occasions. A third hangar was under construction in December, 1941, and a fourth would later be built. Hangars three and four still exist today while all other base buildings are gone.
•Mustang Field Is Built After Cimarron Expands to Its Capacity: The USAAF asked that the pilot output be increased at Cimarron again in the summer of 1942 . Cimarron had grown all it could, so a 2nd field named Mustang Field was constructed in El Reno. Four hangars were built there. It was also operated by Clarence Page and other investors.
•Training at Cimarron and Mustang Peaks: At the peak of training, each base had at least 500 cadets, 100 PT-19s, and sufficient instructors and mechanics. Cimarron Field statistics:
–First class graduated May, 1941 with 24 graduates. Last class graduated August, 1944 with 177 graduates.
–Total cadets enrolled 6,078 in 34 classes. Total cadets graduated 4,089 (67.3%) Total cadets washed out 1,989 (32.7%)
–At least 150 PT-19s crashed during training causing significant damage.
•Cimarron Field Fatalities: At least 10 in flying accidents, 1 hit by propeller on the ground, 1 laborer fell off of a ladder and was killed. Total of 12.
•Mustang Field Fatalitites:: At Least 11 killed in flying accidents.
•Cimarron Flight Training was Year Round: These open cockpit aircraft were flown all year round, including winter. Pilots wore heavy leather flying jackets and pants for flying in the winter. If the temperature was below 15 Degrees, flying was cancelled. With open cockpits, flying was cancelled if it rained.
•The Cimarron Field / Mustang Field Museum: This museum exists to honor the sacrifices of our Greatest Generation of Americans, especially the 23 killed at the two bases and the countless pilots who lost their lives in World War II after leaving Cimarron Field and Mustang Field.