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Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base

Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base

Location Class:
Built: 1943 | Abandoned: Dec. 31, 1969
Status: AbandonedPrivate Property
Photojournalist: Michael SchwarzJeff Hodge

Clinton Naval Air Station

After eight months of construction on the alfalfa fields just south of Foss the war project was finally complete and the Clinton Naval Air Station was activated on June 1, 1943. The entire site and its buildings cost $8,500,000, equating to $14,204,777 in 2022. N.R. Patterson was overseer of all the construction done by contractors Dunning-James-Patterson and project manager of the site. Work started on September 28, 1942, and because of World War 2, attempts to expedite the work were always high on the list of priorities. In order to save some time a gasoline truck was sent out to make rounds and fill up trucks and equipment to save them from having to go to the gas station.
The massive overtaking of the land couldn’t have been done without the help of purchasing agent A.T. Schyler and dozens of different companies helping out, having a total of 34 sub-contractors. Those subcontractors include: Frigidaire Division, General Motors Corporation of OKC, Globe Automatic Sprinkler company of PA, Wallace and Tiernan Chlorinators of OKC, Hirsch-Swan Refrigeration Corporation of OKC, J.M. Sturdevant Roofing, Perkins Electric both of OKC, Kansas City Plumbing and Heating, Ed Bose Landscaping, Oklahoma Electric Supply Company, Sherman Machine and Ironworks, Wetherbee Electric Company, Oller Heating Company, Phillips Roofing Company, R.E. Mattison Company, G.C. Wyatt Drilling Company, Jackson Squire and Updegraff Gravel, Fischer-Foster Plumbing, L.P McWhirter Drilling, Earl R Kelley Company, Fergus Construction Co., Horn Manufacturing, Superior Floor Company, Adams Plumbing and Roofing, Capitol Electric Company, Dolan Heating.
Some of the first and highest-ranking officers employed at the base were Lt.-Comdr John E. Foschbeck as executive officer, second in command from Alameda California. Lt.-Comdr Robert P. Bolton is a senior medical officer and Commander Swithenbank a supply officer.
The air station was made up of four six-thousand-foot-long runways, three hangars, twenty-four barracks, and numerous temporary facilities. In the following years, hundreds of more buildings would pop up on or near the base. But the need for them all in terms of the war would be short-lived. With the announcement of the war ending on September 2, 1945, it was only just a few days later that the Clinton Naval Air Station officials announced this would be the last naval class trained at the facility and it would then be closing. Its official deactivation date was June 1, 1946.

Clinton-Sherman Field

Just after the start of the year options were being looked into for acquisition of the base and making it a permanent installation. Soon after its closure in the summer discussions of the base being acquired by the state from the federal government ramped up. State officials and representatives from the Eighth Naval District me to discuss the possibilities. After a year and a half long deactivation, deconstruction and scrapping process, the deed was handed over to the City of Clinton. It was referred to as Clinton-Sherman Field during its time as a salvage lease. This contract though called for the city to return the deed to the government at a moment’s notice should a national emergency arise. Salvaging operations conducted by the Sherman Machine and Iron Works of 7,500 planes were taking the longest.
During the breakdown of the base farmers began to complain of hay shortages and posed the return of the land back to the city that was not being used on the base. The land had been contracted to the Sherman Machine and Iron Works Co for five years to conduct their salvage operation. An agreement was worked out and by August 10 1947 nearly 2,000 acres were returned to the owners. After the operation was over the base sat until talks of a revival spurred in the summer of 1950. Dr. Lloyd E. Church and Victor Wickersham, both candidates for the seventh district congress, called for reactivation of the base and two other bases in Altus and Frederick. The following is an excerpt from the message sent to Louis Johnson Secretary of Defense by Dr. Church, “In line with present national mobilization. I strongly recommend consideration of the former Clinton Naval Air Station at Burns Flat as a site for air force or naval air training center, if such fits into the present overall plan of defense and preparedness. Permanent buildings, hangars and airstrips ready for use.” 
But even with a standstill in reactivation, the base stayed prepared to contribute to war preparedness in 1951. Lamar Aereo Supply Corp., the lease operator of the base, was awarded a new Air Force sub-contract for the disassembling of several hundred B-29 motors. Mechanics, inspectors, bookkeepers and packers were all busy salvaging parts from the motors. The new activity at the base might have sparked some new interest in pushing the re-activation towards the end of that year with a legislative liaison officer from the AF coming to give a detailed engineer survey of the base. While this act alone was no commitment to reopening the grounds what they found in the survey seemed to convince those needed the following year as the re-activation of the base was finally announced after years of waiting.

Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base

It was renamed the Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base derived from the nearby town of Clinton and the Sherman Iron Works that had rented the property for years. and on May 1, 1952 a reenactment of the activation ceremony in 1943 was done on the grounds as congress was for $13,566 to build new facilities on the newly reactivated base. The town of Clinton was prepared for another boom in residents and schools to be full once again with children. They also began to prepare a plan for keeping the town as a rural trade center but bringing in other small industries to increase the local economy.
The navy had been assigned to the property, specifically Lt.-Comdr Paul W. Fagar as an officer in charge of construction for the Clinton AFB. But unfortunately, a new huge roadblock put a dent in plans to reopen with the project being halted the summer of 1953 as a result of budgetary and manpower shortages. All navy personnel and equipment was ordered to be removed from the base until further notice. A year later work picked back up with funds expected to come in around September. Lt. M.K. Sheehan became the new resident officer in charge of construction.
Formal transfer to the United States Air Force was made on March 15, 1955. The base was officially ready in the early months of 1956 with brand new buildings, runways and more. Already expansions were in the talks as a massive operation was underway and finally after ten years revival of the facilities was a success. The first tenant occupied the new base on December 10, 1957 when the Strategic Air Command activated the 4123rd Strategic Wing designed to conduct pilot training for B-52’s and the development of aircraft equipment.
The 70th Bombardment Wing, as well as the Sixth Bombardment Squadron and 902d Air Refueling Squadron, replaced the 4123d on February 1, 1963. With B-52s and KC-135s, the new units conducted strategic bombardment training and air refueling to meet air force global commitments. For several months in both 1968 and 1969, all winged aircraft, most aircrew and maintenance personnel, and some support personnel were loaned to other SAC units engaged in combat operations in the Far East and Southeast Asia.

The Clinton-Sherman AFB provided almost 3,000 jobs in its last year. Being one of the biggest job providers in Washita County. Its reach was far larger than Burns Flat reaching Elk City, Cordell, Sentinel, Dill City, and Clinton. So news of its closure rocked the entire area, hard with an expected $14.4 million annual loss in income. Thousands of people were about to lose their jobs, but the area out in rural Western Oklahoma’s school numbers were also about to drop. Just over the month-long Christmas break enrollment of one school in the area went from 1,700 to 250 students.

On December 7, 1965, word spread quickly that those in Washington D.C. had made the decision to close the base entirely within four years. It was all a part of an initiative to close and consolidate a portion of the 149 bases under the Department of Defense. Citizens rallied, even going to Washington to protest the closure on multiple occasions to no avail.

As another blow, the Department of Defense announced that they would also be phasing out B-52s, it’s legacy since 1954. As if to kick a dog when it’s already down they announced they would be relocating all KC-135 Stratotankers and AGM-26B Hound Dog missiles elsewhere. This would leave the base completely useless and excess government property.

clinton-sherman afb
“INTERESTED SPECTATOR at Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base’s Air Progress Day open house Sunday was Gov. Bellmon, right.”

The Clinton-Sherman AFB provided almost 3,000 jobs in its last year. Being one of the biggest job providers in Washita County. Its reach was far larger than Burns Flat reaching Elk City, Cordell, Sentinel, Dill City, and Clinton. So news of its closure rocked the entire area, hard with an expected $14.4 million annual loss in income. Thousands of people were about to lose their jobs, but the area out in rural Western Oklahoma’s school numbers were also about to drop. Just over the month-long Christmas break enrollment of one school in the area went from 1,700 to 250 students.

clinton-sherman afb
“Col. Lowman and his gloomy crew just before last take-off from Clinton-Sherman.” Creator: Unknown. December 12, 1969.

The base was officially closed and pretty much vacated on Dec. 31, 1969. Some activities have continued to go on there including the “Oklahoma Gateway to Space” Oklahoma Space Industry and Development Authority. They had petitioned for a permit to launch and land space vehicles in 2006 but have yet to do so.

This is private property, those that trespass will be FEDERALLY prosecuted



Granger, Frank. [Photograph 2012.201.B0295.0030]photograph1965; (https://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc439499/accessed June 6, 2022), The Gateway to Oklahoma History, https://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society.





















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Emily Cowan

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

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