Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields:
Texas - Southeastern San Antonio area
© 2002, © 2014 by Paul Freeman. Revised 2/20/14.
Brooks Field / Brooks AFB (revised 2/20/14) - Martindale AAF (revised 5/26/13)
Martindale Army Airfield (MDA), San Antonio, TX
29.43 North / 98.38 West (East of Downtown San Antonio, TX)
A 10/25/43 aerial view looking north at “Randolph Field Auxiliary (Martindale Field)”
from the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock).
This airfield was built during WW2 as Martindale Auxiliary Army Airfield #4,
to serve as one of 8 satellite airfields for Randolph AAF (10 miles northeast),
which was the largest flight training facility in the world at the start of WW2.
Martindale was apparently built at some point in 1943,
as it was not yet depicted on the 1943 San Antonio Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy).
The earliest depiction of the field which has been located
was a 10/25/43 aerial view looking north at “Randolph Field Auxiliary (Martindale Field)”
from the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock).
It depicted Martindale as having 2 paved runways.
The 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock) described “Randolph Field Auxiliary (Martindale Field)”
as a 270 rectangular property having 2 paved 3,000' runways, oriented north/south & northwest/southeast.
The field was not said to have any hangars, to be owned by the U.S. Government, and operated by the Army Air Forces.
The earliest aeronautical chart depiction of Martindale AAF which has been located
was on the 1945 San Antonio Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
"Martindale AF" was depicted on the 1949 San Antonio Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy)
as having a 3,000' hard-surface runway.
"Martindale AAF (ARNG)" was depicted in the 1960 Jeppesen Airway Manual (courtesy of Chris Kennedy)
as having 2 (very wide) 3,000' paved runways: 13/31 & 17/35.
A 2/1/63 aerial photo showed Martindale to have 2 wide paved runways, with a ramp, hangar, and a single aircraft on the north side.
"Martindale AAF" was still depicted as an active airfield
on the January 1970 San Antonio Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy),
and depicted as having 2 paved runways, with the longest being 3,000'.
It was depicted as “Martindale AAF” on the 1976 USGS topo map.
The Martindale airfield was apparently abandoned at some point between 1976-83,
as it was labeled as an abandoned airfield on the 1983 USGS topo map.
Martindale was reactivated at some point between 1983-92
by the Texas Army National Guard for helicopter operations.
It was labeled "Martindale Army Airfield (National Guard)" on the 1992 USGS topo map.
As seen in the 1995 USGS aerial photo, Martindale's airfield was in extremely poor condition.
As can be seen in the circa 2000 aerial picture,
the ramp area had been extensively renovated at some point after 1995,
with multiple new helicopter pads having been built over the northern portion of the former Runway 13/31.
As of 2003, Martindale was still listed as an active military airfield in the Airfield Facility Directory.
An April 2005 photo by Josh Ream looking south from Martindale's approach end of Runway 17.
A circa 2006 aerial view looking north at the ramp which has been constructed over Martindale's former Runway 13/31,
showing several TX NG UH-60 Blackhawks.
A circa 2006 aerial view looking south, with the remains of Martindale's former Runway 17/35 on the left.
A 1/29/08 photo by Jerry Gunner of a Sikorsky UH-60A (88-26055) of the TX ArNG Company 'C' / 2-149th Aviation (AA) at Martindale AAF.
Brooks Field / Brooks AFB, San Antonio, TX
29.34 North / 98.44 West (Southeast of Austin, TX)
A circa 1918 photo of a hangar at Brooks Field (from the Fort Sam Houston Museum, courtesy of David Brooks).
This field was established in 1917 as Gosport Field, a facility to train flight instructors.
It was renamed Brooks Field in 1918.
Hangar 9 was built during this period.
In 1919 the army replaced the pilot school with a balloon & airship school.
A 1921 aerial view looking southwest at U.S. Army rigid airship RS-1 flying over Brooks Field.
A 1922 aerial view looking southwest at the arc of 16 hangars at Brooks Field.
A 1922 photo of the C-2 blimp at Brooks Field (from the Fort Sam Houston Museum, courtesy of David Brooks).
A 1922 photo of the C-2 blimp after it had been blown back against the hangar (from the Fort Sam Houston Museum, courtesy of David Brooks).
The caption on the back of the photo says it burned & was the last time the Army used hydrogen filled LTA craft [thereafter they used helium].
Following a series of accidents, the army closed the balloon & airship school in 1922.
From 1922-1931 Brooks served as the primary flying school for the Army Air Corps.
An undated photo of dozens of unidentified biplanes at Brooks Field (courtesy of Rex Ricks).
A 1923 photo of a row of PT-1s in front of the hangars at Brooks Field (from the Fort Sam Houston Museum, courtesy of David Brooks).
A 1924 aerial view looking southeast at Brooks Field,
showing the field's original arrangement with an arc of hangars along the north side of the field,
and a dirigible hangar in the center of the grass airfield area.
A colorized circa 1920s-1930s Army Air Corps photo looking northwest at Brooks AAF.
In 1929, Brooks was the site for the first successful mass parachute drop in the world.
The concept, conceived & implemented at Brooks,
confirmed the practicality of tactical paratrooper warfare.
Brooks Field, as depicted on the 1929 Beaumont – San Antonio Airway Map # 27 (courtesy of David Brooks).
Brooks Field, as depicted on the 1934 San Antonio Sectional Chart.
During the 1930s, Brooks was the center of aerial observation activity
and several units were trained in tactical observation.
A 1939 aerial view looking northwest at Brooks Field,
showing the addition of 3 paved runways in the center of the airfield.
In 1940, Brooks became the site for a special school for combat observers.
In 1941, advanced training in piloting single-engine aircraft was conducted
with emphasis on aerial observation skills.
Observation training was discontinued in 1943,
when Brooks became the home for training pilots in the new B-25 bomber.
This remained the mission of the base for the rest of World War II.
Brooks AAF, as depicted on the June 1943 San Antonio Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
A 1945 aerial view looking southeast at Brooks Field,
showing the radically reconfigured WW2 layout of the field,
with a large paved ramp & 2 large hangars having been built over the location of the 1930s-era runways,
and 3 new runways having been built somewhat further to the south.
The dirigible hangar had been removed at some point between 1939-45.
When pilot training at Brooks Field concluded at the end of World War II,
the base took on a new mission.
In 1951 in the midst of the Korean War, the Air Force established a reserve training center at Brooks.
The 907th Air Reserve Wing was assigned to the base.
Conceived originally as a troop carrier unit, the wing did not receive its first planes until the summer of 1952.
The planes were T-6 Texans, an indication of the 907th's new mission, pilot training.
A circa 1952-54 aerial view looking south at the ramp at Brooks AFB (from the Fort Sam Houston Museum, courtesy of David Brooks).
Almost before it began its new mission,
the 907th Air Reserve Wing was replaced by the 8707th Pilot Training Wing (Single-Engine).
On the first anniversary of its activation, the 8707th had 6 T-6s & 2 C-46 Commandos assigned.
That began to change in April 1953 when the wing acquired its first five North American T-28s.
In 1954 Colonel David "Tex" Hill,
a fighter pilot who made his reputation as a member of Chennault's Flying Tigers,
took over the wing's pilot training program.
At year's end the wing converted to C-46s & the 8707th was replaced by the 433d Troop Carrier Wing.
In 1956 reservists celebrated their 5th anniversary at Brooks
with the arrival of another aircraft, the C-119 transport.
Four years later, the 433rd Troop Carrier Wing moved to Kelly AFB.
From the time the Reserve first established a wing at Brooks in 1951,
whatever the numerical designation, the people of San Antonio have always referred to the unit as the Alamo Wing.
Brooks AFB was depicted on the August 1954 Edward's Plateau World Aeronautical Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy)
as having a 5,200' hard-surface runway.
Starting in the summer of 1959,
Brooks began a transition from a flight-training base to a center
for medical research, development, and education.
An era in aviation history ended in 1960, when the last plane took off from Brooks.
The aircraft was a C-131 Samaritan piloted by Col. L.B. Matthews,
commander of Det. 1, 1st Aeromedical Transport Group.
A 2/5/63 aerial photo showed the expansive airfield at Brooks shortly after the closure of its aviation operations.
The runways of the base were still depicted on the January 1970 San Antonio Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy),
but it was labeled as "Brooks AFB (Closed)".
Jack Lewis recalled, “My first duty station was Brooks Field.
I was with the 6906th Electronic Security Squadron on the back side of the base.
I was one of the 2.5 ton truck driving instructions & we used the runway (closed) at Brooks for drivers' training.
Brooks also had an electronically monitored little building about 25 - 30 yards from our building.
It was part of the aerospace medicine school there
and rumor had it that Moon rocks and other 'off-world' stuff was stored there.
It had a fence with vibration sensors around it.
When we started up the trucks for a morning class,
it would scare several of the ever present Jack Rabbits out of their holes, and they would run in all directions.
Many times they would run into the Moon rock security fence,
which caused the Security Police to scramble a squad car to look for intruders.
From the time the rabbit hit it till the SP's arrived was on the average less than 30 seconds,
so whatever they had in the building was important.”
A 1990 photo by John Voss of at least 2 F-105 Thunderchief fighters at the end of a closed runway at Brooks.
According to John, "The F-105s parked at Brooks AFB seemed to be derelict
and were simply parked there on one of the remote taxiways.
There appeared to be about a dozen of them."
According to Jack Lewis, “The F-105 Thunderchiefs were used for Battle Damage Repair classes.
They brought them in to the base around 1978-79 on flatbed trucks, and parked them where they still sit.
The aircraft repair students would put small explosive charges in them & make simulated battle damage,
then practice patching them with aluminum cans & rivets.
They also taught the fine art of 'duct taping' the holes as an expedient repair method to get the aircraft back into combat ASAP.
We called it 1000 MPH tape.”
The 1992 USGS topo map depicted the multiple runways, taxiways, ramps, and hangars of Brooks AFB.
A 1994 photo by Scott Murdock of Hangar 9.
Hangar 9 was built during the First World War, and is now named the Edward H. White II Memorial Museum,
and is a national historic landmark.
It is reputedly the oldest existing former USAAF hangar.
A 1994 photo by Scott Murdock of a closed runway at Brooks AFB.
A 1995 USGS aerial photo of the 6 F-105 Thunderchief fighters parked on the south end of the former north/south runway at Brooks.
In 1999, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Air Force to implement a Base Efficiency Project at Brooks AFB.
According to an article in the 4/12/03 issue of the Houston Chronicle (via Steve Cruse),
the Air Force handed over the 1,310-acre installation to the city of San Antonio in 2001,
with the City then leasing back land & facilities to the Air Force for its missions.
It is known under that new arrangement as Brooks City-Base.
Some view the commingling of military and nonmilitary research facilities as the wave of the future
for communities hoping to minimize the negative economic impact of base closures and realignments.
But the cost-conscious Pentagon has sounded an alarm
at the fledgling Brooks Development Authority, the entity that operates the city base.
The Department of Defense wants to consolidate research activities
that are scattered & duplicated among the service branches.
At the same time, Air Force planners want Brooks to dramatically enhance nonmilitary commerce at the base -
or risk losing the prestigious 311th Human Systems Wing & other military entities as the chief tenants.
As seen in a circa 2000 aerial photo,
the airfield facilities which still remained at Brooks include 3 runways (the largest is 5,300'), taxiways & a large paved ramp.
Unfortunately, the end finally came for the airfield facilities at Brooks AFB in 2004,
as yet another extensive airfield (paid for by the taxpayers) was completely removed,
never to be reused for aviation.
This was described in an article entitled "Runways at Brooks seeing final 'takeoff'"
by Anton Caputo in the 12/24/2004 issue of the San Antonio Express-News (courtesy of John Mechura):
"The ground shakes as a massive excavator methodically scrapes up person-sized pieces of concrete
and dumps them on a growing pile of rubble.
It's an exercise the machine will duplicate countless times over the next 2 months
as crews peel back the three, mile-long runways that have served the former Brooks AFB - now Brooks City-Base - since the 1940s.
Long gone are the military jets and planes that used to roll across this pavement.
Now the runways themselves will follow as the Brooks Development Authority
continues to sell & lease land around the Air Force research facility."
"'All of this will go - as far as the eye can see',
said Brooks Development Authority Environmental Coordinator Greg Hammer,
motioning to a wide expanse of concrete that seems to stretch to the horizon."
"The runway demolition project, which started in early December,
will remove the unneeded concrete to make room for the further development of Brooks City-Base.
The development authority has a master plan for transforming City-Base
into a high-tech research park with a new commercial corner that cuts into the runways.
But the 140,000 tons of concrete & asphalt won't go far.
M&M Contracting has imported a 55-ton crusher to turn the beefy slabs back into usable construction material.
The company is going to stockpile the crushed matter on site for future construction projects.
The most likely use of the pulverized material: as a base for the buildings to make up the 62-acre City Base Landing,
a 570,000-square-foot commercial development that includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Office Depot, Chili's, Starbucks and Broadway Bank.
If not, the material probably will be used as the foundation for new roads as the 1,300-acre City-Base is developed."
In 2005, it was reported that as part of the 2005 Base Realignment & Closure Commission,
the Air Force was going to divest itself in its remaining share of the Brooks City Base project,
thereby bringing to an end almost a century of military use of Brooks Field.
Scott Beadle reported in 2005, “I have been flying around San Antonio a lot lately.
I take my students to Stinson Field to practice touch & go's.
The pattern there take me right over Brooks.
I can report that the runways have all been torn up.
The main ramp is still intact & is being used as a large parking lot.
There are numerous military activities going on at Brooks including what looks like a field hospital.”
A circa 2006 aerial view looking north at Brooks' Hangar 9,
along with an F-100 Super Saber mounted on a pylon at the bottom of the photo.
A circa 2000-2009 photo of a F-100F, dubbed “Weightless 2”, mounted on a pylon in front of Brooks' Hangar 9.
The F-100F had been used from 1955-58, by the USAF's School of Aviation Medicine research team
to explore problems associated with weightlessness during flights staged at Edwards & Kelly AFBs.
A February 2014 photo by Mark Jenkins (courtesy of Dan MacPherson) of the historic sign in front of Brooks' Hangar 9.
Mark observed, “Sounds like the hangar has been condemned, but is still standing.”
A February 2014 photo by Mark Jenkins (courtesy of Dan MacPherson) of Brooks' historic Hangar 9.
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