Saturday, September 28, 2013

Breedlove's Finney glider school opened June 1, 1942

Supplementing Aulyne King Breedlove’s interview in 1957 to Sylvan Dunn of Southwest Collections/Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University, are the archived newspapers of the Plainview Evening Herald on microfilm. These microfilm rolls of the Herald are also located at Southwest Collections, with another set entrusted to Unger Memorial Library in Plainview.

The first mention of a glider school being located at Plainview in the Herald was on Friday, May 22, 1942. The article stated that plans for an Army Air Corps Primary Training school at Plainview had been on-going for the past two weeks and were finalized May 21. The school was scheduled to open June 1, 1942.

Clent Breedlove, veteran pilot and former manager of the Lubbock Municipal Airport, was to be in charge of the glider school as a civilian contractor and director.

The Herald went on to say that school would provide a 30-day course in special phases of flying, using light planes. At peak capacity, the school was expected to handle 160 students per month, with 40 graduating each week after the first month.

The contract glider school would have from three to six regular Army officers posted at the airfield along with from three to six civil service employees and from 25 to 30 pilot instructors.

As for the students, they would be enlisted men who previously had some primary training. At Finney Field, they would receive 30 hours of flight training and 60 hours of ground school.

As for their quarters, both the officers and men were to be housed at the Hilton Hotel in Plainview, and special provisions were going to be made for their room and board. Army jeeps and transport trucks would shuttle them back and forth from the airfield.

The Plainview Municipal Airport was to be the main base of operations, and the planes would be kept there as well, said the Herald.

In a recent interview, Doug McDonough, current editor of the Plainview Herald, explained that in 1942 the Plainview Municipal Airport was located north of Plainview at Finney Field, just to the west of the Amarillo Highway, US-87.

In addition to the main base at Finney Field, there would be three other airfields in the area that were contracted for glider training.

A 309-acre tract 9 miles southwest of the airport was one site. The second airfield was 160 acres in size and was to be located 6 miles northwest of Finney Field. The last airfield was also 160 acres and would be located 8 miles northeast of the airport. These would be the auxiliary airfields.

The article went on to say that the glider school at Finney Field was one of two in Texas and among 19 that were to be established in the United States by June 1. Big Spring was host to the other Texas glider school. The Plainview glider school at Finney Field was to be the third largest out of the 19, according to the Herald.

Charles Day said in a recent interview that there actually were only 18 contract glider schools in the United States during WWII. The discrepancy in the number of contract glider schools may be attributable to a change in plans by the government, or simply a misquote by the Herald in 1942. Day also noted that although the Army planned to have these contract schools open by June 1, not all of them met the deadline. Day is the secretary of the National WWII Glider Pilots Association and resides in Wisconsin.

Capt. G.A. Gilbert of the West Coast Air Corps Training Center was sent from Albuquerque, N.M., to Plainview to take temporary charge of the airfield and receive the planes which would be used in training. Capt. Gilbert was to be in charge of the airfield until the regular Army officers from the WCACTC arrived to take over command duties.

Although the training at Finney Field was expected to be tied in with glider training elsewhere in the nation, no gliders or sailplanes were to be located there. Instead, only light planes were going to be used at Plainview for training.

The Army would furnish the planes, said the Herald, and Breedlove was to be responsible for their maintenance and fueling. Breedlove’s contract would be for 90 days, stated the article.

The Herald also showed an article originally published on May 21 in Santa Ana, Calif., which gave many details about the glider program on a national level.

The Army Air Corps planned to train 3,000 glider pilots who would participate in commando raids. The gliders would be towed by American Flying Fortresses and other powerful aircraft. Each glider would have a complement of 15 men armed with rifles, machine guns and even light cannon.

The article stated that the number of gliders that each Flying Fortress could tow was a military secret. However, the article stated that transport planes in the German Luftwaffe towed anywhere from three to six gliders each, and that the Flying Fortress was a much more powerful plane than the German transport planes.

Regarding the capacity and specifications of the Army gliders in May 1942, Day believes that some of the information about gliders in the article from Santa Ana picked up by the Herald is possibly pure conjecture on the part of the reporter.

Day commented that “there were only two XCG-4 gliders delivered to Wright Field, the second of which was being flight tested in the middle of May to the middle of June, 1942 at Clinton County Army Air Field, Wilmington, Ohio.

“The second glider, with a dorsal fin, was not approved for production until around June 22, 1942,” stated Day.

“All the information concerning gliders and what they would do or carry was classified ‘Secret’ and was possibly sometimes exaggerated, or was stated in a misleading way by the Army and by any newspaper articles written about U.S. tugs and U.S. combat gliders,” said Day.

More information about the glider pilots of WWII can be found online at the National WWII Glider Pilots website at

Readers are also asked to visit the Silent Wings Museum website at and for more details about the glider program of WWII.

Anyone with information about the Plainview Pre-Glider School at Finney Field should contact John McCullough at 806-793-4448 or email

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