News Journal, January 31, 1943. The head- line says "Crestview
Is Off Eglin's `Black List.' Click
in the picture to see large view.
Now, What could possibly
be behind that headline "Crestview Is Off Eglin's `Black List'?
Well, I'll just tell you.
The buildup at Eglin began slowly
in late 1939, sped up over the months, and was going full-out by
the end of 1942. The size of the base had expanded from about 1000
acres to near a half million acres, the largest military reservation
in the United States, if not in the world. By then Eglin was the
Army Air Force Proving Ground Command under the Southeast Army Air
Force Training Command at Maxwell Air Field, Alabama. Not only was
it engaged in dreaming up new combat techniques and equipment for
aircraft, but it was engaged in several training missions. One of
them was to train Aviation Engineers. Three battalion sized contingents
were in training at any one time with staggered completion dates.
All the enlisted personnel in
training were black. All the officers, whether doing the training
or being trained, were white. The training officers were all college
graduates with degrees in Civil Engineering or had experience with
large construction companies. Those officers being trained were
similarly qualified. The trainees were being instructed in the operation
of heavy construction equipment, methods for clearing an area for
construction of an airfield, the laying of runways, the use of explosives,
etc. They were equivalent to the Navy SeeBees. As a contingent completed
training it was immediately shipped out to an overseas destination
as an Aviation Engineer Battalion.
Eglin had acquired another distinction.
It had the best military provost marshal of all time. Forgive the
hype, I loved the guy. I don't remember, at the time of this incident,
whether he was Captain or Major Smith. I shall refer to him as a
Major. He had acquired the reputation of responding to anything
which affected military law enforcement within 15 minutes anywhere
in the area. And it was a large area. He had thereby acquired the
sobriquet "15Minute Smith". Wherever he went, he was accompanied
by four MPs, all six foot 200 pounders, and the best looking guys
in uniform that can be imagined. They were known as "the strong-arm
patrol". They were not 15Minute's bodyguards - they were law
The rest of this anecdote, except
where I was personally involved, was told to me by various participants
One of the engineer contingents
finished it's training and was immediately ordered overseas. They
were loaded into a convoy of 6x6s about 5 in the evening and headed
for the railhead at Crestview. The first vehicle in the convoy was
a jeep carrying a Lieutenant and a sergeant. Their function was
to show the way and lead to the point where the convoy was to park
and unload. When they arrived in Crestview, the jeep stopped at
the edge of the railroad track which crosses the main street and
as close to the right edge of the street as possible. The convoy,
of course, stopped and waited for further orders. The Lieutenant
ordered his driver to cross the railroad, proceed some distance
up Main Street and make a U-turn to go back to the convoy to oversee
the off-loading of men and equipment.
Now the main street is unusually
wide for a small town - about 50 feet. U-turns were quite commonly
made by the local populace. As the Lt and Sgt made the turn a Deputy
Town Marshal stopped them and placed them under arrest. The Lt tried
to explain why they had to make the turn. To no avail. Thus the
charge of "interference" with an officer. They were arrested
and taken to jail.
As usual, our hero, 15 Minute
Smith, arrived with his strong-arm patrol in the allotted 15 minutes.
They entered the jail where the town marshal and his deputy were
standing behind the counter.
Major Smith said to the marshal,
"I want my officer and sergeant out of your jail. "You
can't have them," he replied. "One more time - I want
them out of your jail." "No way." "Is that your
final word?" "You can bet on it."
"Git'em, boys." And
with that the strong arm patrol flew over the counter, grabbed the
marshal and deputy, de-armed them, removed their badges, took their
keys, opened the door to the cell, removed the Lt and Sgt, replaced
them with the marshals, and locked the cell door.
15Minute sent the Lt and the Sgt
out to their jeep and back to their job of entraining the engineers.
He instructed his men to set up a patrol around the jailhouse and
let no one enter the building without his instructions or those
of a higher authority. Those arriving for work the next morning
were denied admittance.
At the time I was a Warrant Officer
and Personnel Adjutant of the Proving Ground Command. Arriving early
for duty the next morning I saw Major Smith sitting in a chair next
to my desk. Then I noticed pistols, holsters, and badges on my desk.I
asked the Major, "What's going on?" He told me the astonishing
story. I told him that I thought he had goofed and that we must
immediately tell the Commanding General. He agreed but decided I
should do the telling while he waited in my office.
I went across the hall to the
office of the Administrative Adjutant, Lt Griezidieck, and told
him of the predicament. We went in to see General Grandison Gardner,
the commander of the Proving Ground. We expected him to go into
a rage when told. I told him the story. When finished, instead of
raging, he reared back in his chair and gave forth a great belly
laugh and said, "That's the funniest thing I've heard since
this war began". He then instructed Lt Griezidieck to immediately
put the town of Crestview "Off Limits" and have Major
Smith enforce it starting immediately. We told him we thought the
town fathers would be coming down to see him very soon. "That's
exactly the reason for putting the town off limits," said he.
It wasn't long before they arrived
acting as if they were outraged. They were standing in the hall
outside the General's Office. Lt Griezidieck asked them to wait
and went in to tell the General of their presence. He said, "Let
them cool their heels for a while." After about thirty minutes
they were ushered in. They rushed to his desk and all of them started
talking at once and in loud unmistakably angry tones. He let them
rave, then stood up and said to them, "Gentlemen, you didn't
come down here to tell me what to do, you came to ask me for something.
Well, I'm going to tell you what you are going to have to do. You
are going to get rid of that Marshal of yours and install one that
realizes there is a war on, that Eglin pumps money into your town,
and he must respect the military. When that is done Crestview will
be placed "On Limits". Good day, Gentlemen." That
is the "conference of town officials and Eglin Authorities"
described in the newspaper article.
And a new Marshall was installed
and Crestview and Eglin lived together happily ever after.
Eglin Army Air Field - Valparaiso,
Florida. Major Maxwell was in command. We ran the place - all 35
of us. At the time of this drama, that was the size of the personnel
complement of the Eglin Field Gunnery Range, a sub-unit of the 13th
Air Base Squadron, of Maxwell Field, Alabama. Our job was to furnish
facilities for Air Corps and National Guard Pursuit Squadrons to
fly in and try their hand at machine gunning ground targets - they
were actually on a T-shaped pier about a hundred yards off-shore.
PFC Rodman, our electrician, while
out on-the-village one night, found a small young dog, brought it
to the barracks, tied it outside, jumped in his bunk and promptly
forgot about the dog. We discovered it the next morning and what
a sight! The small amount of hair it had was black and the remainder
of its body was covered with red mange. Oh, and such sad eyes. Cpl
Hobbs, who lived off base, came by on the way to work, took the
dog to the truck repair shed, dunked the dog up to its nose in used
oil which cured the mange.
The dog soon became the field
mascot and was known as "Eglin Field Dog". With all the
attention he was getting - the finest food from the Mess Hall (you
say, "that ain't saying much?" let me tell you that for
us country boys who joined up during the depression, it was a helluva
lot better than what we had been getting at home), a once a week
bath, and the medical attention of Dr. Bell - a Private First Class
who was our only medical support, he became a beautifully sleek
black dog of medium size.
Eglin Field Dog soon decided that
the Field belonged to him. So, if he decided to lie in the middle
of the road, it was our responsibility to carefully avoid him. It
was his road!
The First Pursuit Squadron, Selfridge
Field, Michigan was deployed to Eglin for gunnery practice and training.
The squadron was a part of what was known as General Headquarters
Air Force (a high sounding title that I am not sure was official)
or GHQ Air Force. They came by air and highway bringing all of their
squadron equipment (not much - the military wasn't very well thought
of nor well supplied at that time) including their vehicles. The
squadron was commanded by Major "Pursuit" George. His
brother was Major "Bomber" George. Both became famous
during WWII. "Pursuit" was a strict disciplinarian and
would brook no monkey business as we were soon to realize.
On their second day with us, Eglin
Field Dog was lying in the middle of the main road on base alternately
snoozing and looking over his huge domain. One of the pursuit squadron
drivers came along, and when the dog failed to get up and move off
the road, we believed the driver deliberately ran over and killed
Eglin Field Dog.
Of the total permanent personnel
at Eglin only about 20 lived on base and in the single barracks.
When we learned of the tragedy all in the barracks acted as if one
of our most well thought of members had been killed. We took possession
of the pups mangled body. One who worked in the carpenter shop made
a wooden cross and burned into it these words: "Eglin Field
Dog - Murdered by GHQ AF" and the date.
The next morning all of us gathered
at the small weather station immediately across the road from the
small but neat Eglin headquarters building. Major Maxwell, the commander
and his adjutant, Lt J P McConnell (later to be Air Force Chief
of Staff) observed from the headquarters. We dug a grave and laid
Eglin Field Dog, wrapped in a new towel, to rest after one of our
complement, of better character said a few words of love for him
and commended his spirit to Dog Heaven. Then we implanted the cross
and sadly walked away. A few hours later we were called into formation
and told by Major Maxwell that Major "Pursuit" had seen
the cross and had flown into a rage about our demeaning of his outfit.
We were therefore ordered to remove it. We loudly objected to no
avail. After removing it, all of us went AWOL in a body. We were
gone three days, two of them fortunately being over a week end.
Major Maxwell was obviously on our side. Not once did he ever mention
our leaving without permission.
From the memoirs of JIM FAIRCLOTH,
Chief Warrant Officer, W-4, USAF (Ret)"
OF THE FOREIGN LEGION
In the pioneer days at Eglin
(1935-40), we who lived in barracks, had no means of transportation.
We had only one truck, used mainly for making the trip to Fort Barrancas
at Pensacola to pick up standard rations for the mess hall and other
items which could only be obtained in a large city. Fort Walton
Beach had a permanent population of a mere 300 at that time. Our
commander authorized the use of the vehicle to take us to and from
such places as Crestview, Ft Walton, or Mossy Head on Saturday nights.
Other than that, it was stay in
barracks or walk.
Pa Fink was the owner and operator
of Fink's Place, a combination general store, hamburger and juke
joint, and beer dispensary some five miles from base on Boggy Bayou
near Niceville. Several of us would quite often walk there and back
for an evening's entertainment. Pa Fink was glad to have our business
even though most of us were in the $21 - $42 dollar a month category.
There were times when we would buy a case of beer at the little
Post Exchange on base (we got it much cheaper) and carry it to Fink's.
Although Pa Fink didn't like it, especially when we asked him to
exchange the hot beers for cold ones, he put up with it because
we would spend the savings with him.
He did get angry with us when,
one night, one of our company threw an empty beer bottle through
the glass of the Juke box after the song "It Makes No Difference
Now" had played for about the twentieth time. Pa was a heavily
built fat man who wore suspenders and used a walking cane. I don't
think he needed the cane, it was more of a threat to those who got
out of order. After our impetuous fellow threw the beer bottle,
Pa Fink raised the cane high above his head to strike our man. The
suspenders broke, the pants fell, and the crowd broke out in hysterics.
Including the embarrassed Pa Fink.
Joe Brusky, the Mess Sergeant
was often with us on these outings. We usually wore our Air Corps
work coveralls. These coveralls had large front and rear pockets,
better to carry large work items. Wack, the 1st Cook, was also along
with Joe. On the long way home, after several beers, our pace was
laggard. Usually, about three miles into the trip, Joe would pull
out of his rear pocket a large package wrapped in newspaper, unwrap
it, and, behold, a large baloney sandwich, which he had made up
before leaving the mess hall, would appear. Large is a conservative
description. Only one who is familiar with the size of G I bread
as baked and sliced before WWII can appreciate just how large. It
Each time Joe pulled the unveiling,
Wack, the cook, would raise almighty hell. "Dammit Joe, why
do you pull this on us. You know we are all hungry as the devil."
exclaimed Wack. Wack's words were really much stronger than that.
Joe would reply, "Why, Wack!
You know I was a member of the French Foreign Legion. And we were
taught never to be caught off base without at least one ration in
Then one night while Joe was eating
his sandwich Wack said, "Joe, don't ever pull this again, if
you do I'm going to beat the hell out of you!"
About a week later, we had spent
the evening at Fink's and were plodding homeward about midnight.
Reaching the center of the bridge over the bayou between Fink's
and the base, Joe stopped and very carefully unveiled the ubiquitous
"Joe," screamed Wack,
"I told you never to do that again!"
Joe began his spiel, "Wack,
I told you I was a member of the ................". With that
Wack grabbed him by the seat of the pants and the scruff of his
neck, lifted Joe's 140 pounds high into the air and held him out
over the waters of the bayou. "Damn you Joe, I'm gonna drown
"Please, Wack, I can't swim!"
"Good, you'll drown quicker."
Wack turned him loose. Splash! It soon became obvious that Joe couldn't
swim. So, over the side went Wack, grabbed Joe and swam with him
the fifty yards or so. We never heard Joe mention the Foreign Legion
again and we all lived happily ever after.
From the memoirs of JIM FAIRCLOTH,
Chief Warrant Officer, W-4, USAF (Ret)"
Between the big wars (WWI
and WWII) the American military was shrunken to a level of complete
impotency. There was no way we could fight a war against even the
smallest power. The total military strength was less than that now
assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Eglin
AFB, Florida and the Pensacola Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida
combined. The pilots of the Navy and the Army Air Corps were small
in number and spent their off-duty time in agitating for more aircraft,
bases, and carriers. When the clouds of war finally appeared, the
responsibility fell upon their shoulders to train in military tactics
the thousands of pilots turned out by the basic flying schools,
both civilian and military. And they did an outstanding job. Major
Maughn was one of these unsung heroes.
DAWN TO DUSK MAUGHN
Our Mess Sergeant at Eglin was
Joe Brusky, a rough tough little guy who weighed about 140 pounds
and ran an outstanding mess hall. The food was excellent and the
coffee was abundant, available at any time of the day, and always
hot. No meal was ever served without Joe being there to supervise
the serving. The mess hall was strictly for enlisted troops. There
were no facilities for officers. There were only two officers assigned.
Occasionally the commander or his Lt would come over and eat, sit
alone at one of the 4 man tables, or at times invite one of the
non-commissioned officers to sit with him.
I would guess that Joe had about
15 years of service. He claimed that he had been a member of the
French Foreign Legion. I don't and never did doubt it. In short,
he was a colorful character.
Major Maughn was the first person
to fly from Los Angeles (or maybe San Francisco - probably March
Field) to New York all on the same day during daylight hours, thus
earning the nickname "Dawn to Dusk" Maughn. And he was
very proud of it, not hesitating to let people know of the
source of his glory.
He was stationed at Selfridge
Field, Michigan. The force was expanding and the big job at the
time was to train the many people joining the service just before
World War II. One of Major Maughn's duties was to train the new
pilot graduates from such places as Randolph Field, Texas. Part
of the training was in "cross-country" flight procedures.
So, one day about noon there arrived
at Eglin 15 brand new P-36's flown by 14 brand new 2d Lt pilots
and Major Maughn. After parking the aircraft and seeing to their
servicing and safety, the Major shepherded his charges to Joe Brusky's
Mess Hall. After they had entered the door, the Major announced
in a loud voice, "I'm Major MAUGHN, better known as Dawn to
Dusk. Where do the officers eat?" and Joe shouted back, "I'm
Joe Brusky, the Mess Sergeant, better known as Reveille to Retreat.
Grab a tray and get in line and don't piss about the chow."
And the Major did and didn't!
the memoirs of JIM FAIRCLOTH, Chief Warrant Officer, W-4, USAF (Ret)"
Chief Warrant Officer, W-4, USAF (Ret)
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