Information gathered from Wikipedia and other sources.
The story of Venice Army Air Field begins in 1941 when influential citizens in Venice, Florida sent a telegram to the War Department offering 3,000 acres of land near the town of 500 citizens for use as an Army campsite. The War Department responded by sending a military detail to Venice to survey the site. The survey was successful and it was announced on 16 July 1941 that the site was selected for an “Anti-Aircraft Artillery Installation”. Further surveys were made by the United States Army that summer, but then nothing happened. For reasons never made clear, the land would never be used by anti-aircraft artillery.
In early 1942, the Army Air Forces became interested in the site and developing a training center on it. The plan was to establish a small training facility to accommodate about 1,000 men with a possibility of expanding it later. Its mission would not be for forces directly engaged in combat, but for the Air Service Command whose members would work in the rear echelon and would relieve combat squadrons of maintenance and housekeeping details at air bases behind the lines.
The trained unit would be designated a “Service Group” and would serve several combat units flying from different forward airstrips. The Service Group would be equipped with the necessary resources to fully support the combat units by providing station security, mess halls, aircraft parts supply, base administration, aircraft mechanics, communications, medical, finance, and all the other necessary support services needed, and also be mobile enough to follow the combat units.
With these requirements, Army Air Force construction personnel began arriving in Venice during May 1942 and within a short time, the first load of trucks loaded with tent frames began to arrive. This signaled the start of construction with began in early June. Within a short time, construction of two 5,000′ concrete runways aligned E/W (09/27) and NW/SE (14/32) began to the original design of the ground station and over the next several months the once overgrown and vacant land was converted into an Army Air Base. A third runway, aligned NE/SW (05/22) was later added in the spring of 1943. The ground station initially had few amenities, but eventually would be ready for it task of training personnel for the Service Groups.
The 27th Service Group would have the mission of training new Service Groups prior to their deployment to the overseas combat Air Forces. The advance element of the 27th, the 37th Service Squadron arrived at the station in July 1942 to perform guard duty and to prepare the base for an official opening. The Air Force opened the station, initially named the Service Group Training Center officially on 7 July, and it was placed under the jurisdiction of Air Service Command. Over the next several weeks, additional personnel were assigned (the Hq. & Hq. Sq. and the 826th QM Company. Later, the 1063rd Signal Co., the 90th Service Sq., and the 1728th, 1729th, 2064th and 2065th QM Companies)
Wartime tar paper barracks commonly found on temporary training airfields such as Venice AAF
A common type of building found were orderly rooms and ground training classrooms such as this
Although open, the station was far from ready to perform its mission. Early life at the Service Group Training Center is officially described as “rugged”. Necessity demanded that the skilled specialists of the 27th be put to work pulling stumps, cutting weeds and doing general clean-up jobs. No furloughs were given, and the men lived in tents.
During the balance of 1942, the primitive living condition at the base were improved. Construction of a large number of facilities based on standardized plans and architectural drawings, with the buildings designed to be the “cheapest, temporary character with structural stability only sufficient to meet the needs of the service which the structure is intended to fulfill during the period of its contemplated war use” was underway. To conserve critical materials, most facilities were constructed of wood, concrete, brick, gypsum board and concrete asbestos. Metal was sparsely used. The station was designed to be nearly self-sufficient, with not only hangars, but barracks, warehouses, hospitals, dental clinics, dining halls, and maintenance shops were needed. There were libraries, social clubs for officers, and enlisted men, and stores to buy living necessities. Finally, in December 1942, the first training unit, 80th Service Group arrived and the mission of the Service Group Training Center began.
However, it was found that the men of the 80th Service Group, had not received any technical training prior to their arrival at Venice. Training would have to be performed at Venice and as a result, their deployment overseas would have to be delayed. The school had to make significant changes to its curriculum that would include basic military indoctrination and technical instruction in the jobs the men would be to accommodate instruction on skills which the men were expected to have when deployed overseas. As a result, several new courses of instruction were added to the planned syllabus. As a result, when new units arrived for training, the training status of the men would be reviewed, and those requiring additional training were immediately assigned to the appropriate schools.
By the end of October 1943, seven service groups had been trained at Venice, and recognition of the school grew and curriculum changes were made by reports back from throughout the far-flung Service Command as turning out men who knew their jobs well. Days whirled by like kaleidoscopic visions as GIs worked hard at learning the skills needed to support the war by day, and filled the theatre, “Beer Garden” (built by the GI’s themselves) and the recreation centers of surrounding towns at night.
Upwards of 200 German prisoners of war were moved to Venice AAF in February 1945 . POWs were assigned various manual labor details. Some worked in the motor pool and others were permanently assigned performing various civil engineering duties such as electricians, plumbing, painting and other trades work, depending on their skills. Others worked in the mess halls, medical clinic or in the local Venice community and local farms in the area.
As the war began drawing to an end in Europe,and later in the summer of 1945 in the Pacific, the number of trainees and the level of activity at the base was reduced rapidly. With the Japanese surrender and the end of World War II most of the temporary training bases such as Venice Army Airfield were put on inactive status and eventually closed.
Third Air Force began the process of shutting down training activities completely, the field receiving the last class of pilot trainees from the closing Page Field in September. In October Venice AAF received notice that it also would be inactivated by the end of the month.
The field was decommissioned and the City of Venice Florida was granted a license to operate the airport on Many 20, 1946. On June 10, 1947, by Quit Claim Deed from the United States of America to the City of Venice under provisions of the Surplus Property Act of 1944, the City was designated as a sponsor to operate the facility.
Gary has been a writer/photographer for over thirty years. Specializing in nature and landscape photography, as well as studying native cultures.
His travels have taken him to most of the United States, as well as Australia, Belize, Egypt and the Canary Islands.
He has studied the Mayan culture of Central America as well as the aborigines of Australia. Photography has given him the opportunity to observe life in various parts of the world.
He has published several books about his adventures.
For more information, please consult his website,www.journeysthrulife.com.
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