The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By David Stevens
Editor 

5 things to know about Cannon

 

October 15, 2017



Happy birthday, Cannon Air Force Base — however old you are.

Five things you may not know about the history of the military installation located eight miles west of Clovis:

Let’s just say age doesn’t matter

• Cannon officials are celebrating two birthdays this year — the 10th anniversary of Cannon’s affiliation with Air Force Special Operations Command and the 70th anniversary of the base’s affiliation with the United States Air Force.

But the base’s military connections go back to 1942, or 75 years ago, when it was converted during World War II from a civilian airport.

So ... when should we celebrate a century?

• To add to the confusion about the base’s age, the history books tell us it didn’t become Cannon Air Force Base — named for WW II combat commander John Cannon — until 1957, and it was shuttered for about a year after a round of nationwide military base closings in 2005. Then in June 2006, the Department of Defense announced Cannon would become home to the Air Force’s 16th Special Operations Wing.

So Curry County’s military air base is somewhere between 75 and 69 years old, depending on whether you care to count the years it’s been closed since 1942.

Cannon Air Force Base is 60 or 59, depending on whether you want to count the year before AFSOC came along.

And the air field where Cannon sits today was born 89 years ago, when legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh selected the site as a stop on the coast-to-coast plane/train route for Transcontinental Air Transport.

TAT moved the Clovis stop to Amarillo after about a year, but the air strip remained for private fliers.

So, again, happy birthday, Cannon Air Force Base — however old you are.

How Fifty got started

• Clovis Army Air Field started as a glider training facility in late 1942. Bombers arrived in 1943 and remained until the base was deactivated in 1947. Then in 1948, the Clovis Chamber of Commerce began lobbying Congress to reopen the base.

U.S. Sen. Dennis Chavez, D-New Mexico, chaired the Senate Military Affairs Appropriations Committee at the time. Chavez suggested Clovis appoint three men to visit Washington and begin discussions with federal defense officials.

The Chamber asked 50 of its members to donate $50 each to offset costs for traveling to Washington. It called the group the Committee of Fifty.

Clovis Air Base reopened in July 1951.

A ‘homelike’ place for the boys to relax

• Eastern New Mexico residents from the beginning have made efforts to embrace personnel at the military base.

In 1942, for example, residents organized a drive to furnish “day rooms” at the base.

The day rooms, one adjacent to each squadron, were built for the soldiers’ recreation, but the Clovis News-Journal reported there was no government money available for furnishings.

“Instead of roaming the streets of Clovis after long hours of flight or ground duty, it is hoped that these boys will have an attractive spot where they can have comfortable chairs, adequate lighting facilities, and bright homelike curtains and floor coverings to make their jobs less arduous,” the newspaper reported.

Fundraising committee chairman Albert Vohs asked local civic groups, churches and individuals to pitch in as best they could.

“These day rooms are the only possible place on the base a soldier can sit down to read, write a letter, play a game,” Vohs wrote.

No-nonsense merry Christmas

• Maj. Edward R. Fuller was the first commander at Clovis’ air base.

A veteran flier from World War I, he arrived from Philadelphia in October 1942, before the Clovis base construction had been completed.

Fuller had retired from the Army after WWI, but volunteered to return after Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939.

He wrote a letter to Clovis base personnel just before Christmas of ’42 that offered little holiday cheer.

“In the midst of a grim and bitter war thrust upon the world by a combination of pagan, ruthless and godless powers, we approach another Christmas holiday season,” he wrote.

“... In former years, this season has brought most of you into happy reunions with your family and your loved ones, a kindly gathering around the family hearth where light shone not only from the merry Christmas candles but likewise from the tired eyes of age and the laughing eyes of little children.

“This blessing will be this year denied you.”

David Stevens is editor for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: dstevens@thenews.email

 

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