More Casper Army Air Base
By Dick Perue
Earlier this month we compiled a couple Postcards featuring history of the Casper Army Air Base. This week, we conclude this series with the following excerpts from WyoHistory.Org.
Many eligible local bachelorettes, as they would have been known at the time, found themselves married to the airmen of the base.
Joye Kading met the man who would become her husband when she worked at the base, and she remembered they often went on double dates and enjoyed dancing.
She recalled, “We, the fellows, young – 18, 19, 20 years old – wherever they went, they liked to date and dance, and they called them the ‘G.I. Wolves’ because they were always looking for girls to dance with. The cartoonists in the newspaper would draw pictures of the men in uniform, but their faces would be wolves.”
The Women’s Army Corps (WACs) also had members stationed in Casper. Kading remembered they had their own beauty shop and other facilities on the base.
“None of ’em had been out of their hometowns,” she said. “When they got to Wyoming, the first thing they did when they realized they were in this western state, they had to have cowboy boots, cowboys hats, tight trousers and everything.”
Pilot training was tough. Crews endured countless hours of advanced instruction in navigation, gunnery, bombing, armaments, flight engineering and flying. Training in aerial gunnery, air-to-ground gunnery, formation flying, night navigation and of course, bombing, were standard.
In one record-setting month, crews flew more than 7,500 hours at Casper Army Air Base. The remains of these activities are scattered across the high plains of Wyoming in the form of spent .50-caliber bullets, shells and links, 100-pound practice bomb fragments and the wreckage of more than 70 aircraft.
At the height of training, more than one million .50-caliber rounds and 1,000 100-pound training bombs would be expended per month.
One hundred forty Casper Army Air Base aviators perished in 90 plane crashes between September 1942 and March 1945. Most of the crashes were in Wyoming, but many occurred out of state when the fliers were on longer training flights.
The Casper Army Air Base closed in 1945 when the war ended. Today, the site of the old bomber base is largely intact with 90 of the original buildings still standing, including all six of the original hangars.
Visitors to the Wyoming Veterans Memorial museum in the base’s former Servicemen’s Club encounter a variety of stories including a gunnery instructor who gained his experience against the Japanese fleet during the Battle of Midway, a base commander who was known as the best machine gunner in the world and a bomber navigator who was blown out of his B-17 and held prisoner in Germany.
In addition, there are accounts of the tragedy of the Casper Mountain bomber crash as well as renowned test pilot Chuck Yeager’s recounted adventures at the base.
The museum archives contain in-depth history. Personal stories of crewmen, staff and civilians are constantly rotated through the air base exhibits and are available for research. Visitors can still view the Servicemen’s Club murals painted by the soldiers.
Artifacts in the collection include documents, photographs, maps and several personal items of people who served at the base as well as flying gear, aircraft parts and wreckage.
Author’s note: While serving in the Air Force with the Wyoming Air National Guard from 1959 until 1965, I spent more than 20 weekends training as an information specialist at the Casper Army Air Base, before being transferred to Cheyenne to write news items and help publish a newsletter. – Airman First Class Robert R. Perue, also known as Dick.