Nebraska Historical Marker: Alliance Army Air Field

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Nebraska Historical Marker: Alliance Army Air Field

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Location

Perkins Rd, Rural, Alliance County, Nebraska

View this marker's location 42.091251, -102.8180

View a map of all Nebraska historical markers, Browse Historical Marker Map

Marker Text

In the spring of 1942 the U.S. Army selected a site one mile south of here for an airfield. The dry climate and open landscape afforded ideal flying conditions. Ample water, cheap land, and Alliance's new power plant, new hospital, and railroad division point were other attractions. Five thousand construction workers descended upon Alliance, population 6,669, creating a housing shortage. By July four 9,000-foot runways had been completed. The 31,489-acre field's primary mission was to train aircrews of C-47 and C-53 transports and CG-4 gliders, along with the airborne troops they would carry into battle. The field contained some 775 buildings and housed 12,500 military personnel at its September 1943 peak. The 411th Base Headquarters Squadron, 403rd and 434th Troop Carrier Groups, 326th Glider Infantry, 507th Parachute Infantry, and 878th Airborne Engineers trained here before deployment to the European Theater. In June 1945 veteran troops arrived to train for the expected invasion of Japan. The field was declared surplus in December 1945, and most buildings were sold. Part of the field was transferred to Alliance for use as an airport.

Further Information

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Group of airmen looking at large map. (Nebraska State Historical Society)

After being authorized on April 14, 1942, the 4,205-acre Alliance Army Airfield was constructed between the summer of 1942 and August 1943 three miles southeast of Alliance. At the time, Alliance had a population of 6,669 people, so the 5,000 workers who helped construct and run the airfield caused a severe housing shortage within the town. Many workers had to live in garages, storerooms, cellars or attics. Eventually, the government built a sector of housing on the east side of Alliance, which became known as “Chimney Town” because of the rows of chimneys. The workers who came to Alliance came from all over the country. Many of them were Sioux Indians from the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations; others were Mexicans from the southwest and blacks from Wichita and Kansas City.

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Douglas C-47 near Alliance. (Nebraska State Historical Society)


The airfield was dedicated on August 22, 1943, with a crowd of 65,000 in attendance. There were 775 buildings on the site, including warehouses, chapels, barracks, mess halls and more. The field had its own waterworks, power plant and railroad spur. Since the field was used for training paratroopers and commandos, both of which used huge C-47 transport planes, the runways were very long; in all, there were 35, 503 feet of runways at the field.


Alliance was used to train paratroopers because it was believed that the Sandhills provided a softer landing surface than wooded areas. Troop Carrier Command ran the base until spring of 1944. At one point in that time, 14,000 paratroopers trained at the field. The field was also used to test CG-3 and CG-4 troop carrier gliders.


In the fall of 1944, the Second Air Force used the field to train B-29 pilots. In the summer of 1945, Troop Carrier Command resumed control of the field to prepare for the proposed invasion of Japan. These plans were abandoned in the wake of Japan’s surrender on September 6. The field was “temporarily” closed on October 31 and declared surplus in December. A Nebraska congressman, A. L. Miller, proposed that it become a permanent installation, but this plan was rejected. Disputes between the city and the Army left the state of the field in limbo for a time, but on July 16, 1953, the field became the Alliance Municipal Airport.


Of the 775 buildings constructed on the field, 240 were auctioned off by the government. Only 24 structures remain on the site. Seven fatal crashes occurred involving planes from Alliance. These seven crashes resulted in 33 deaths, the second most of any Nebraska airfield during World War II.


Bibliography

Goeres, Vince. Wings Over Nebraska: Historic Aviation Photographs. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society Books. 2010.

Kooiman, Barbara M. Aviation Development in Nebraska. Nebraska State Historical Society State Preservation Office and Nebraska Department of Aeronautics. Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. 2000.

Penry, Jerry. Nebraska’s Fatal Air Crashes of WWII. Milford: Blue Mound Press. 2009.


Marker program

See Nebraska Historical Marker Program for more information.