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THE ALABAMA HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

Historical Marker Program

Lawrence County

A County Older Than the State-Lawrence County

Created by Territorial Legislature in 1818 from lands ceded by Cherokee and Chickasaw Indians. Named for U.S. Navy hero of War of 1812 Capt. James Lawrence. Fatally wounded, his famous command was, "Don't give up the ship." County seat since 1820 has been at Moulton which was named for hero of Creek Indian War, 1813-14.
[Before 1965: Lawrence Co. Courthouse, Moulton]

Side 1
Courtland Army Air Field (CAAF): Beginnings


Following the onset of WWII the Army Air Corps initiated an ambitious pilot training program.  During its most active period, this program would train over 100,000 pilots per year.  To meet this demand, more than 450 air fields were constructed or improved across the US.  North Alabama was considered a desirable location for a large training base because it possessed a climate that permitted year-round flight instruction and enjoyed low congestion of airways.  Of three potential North Alabama locations surveyed, the Courtland area was considered the best overall choice. In April 1942, the site was officially selected through a board headed by Colonel Aubrey Hornsby and Lt Colonel Joseph Duckworth.  Within an 8-month period, runways, roads, and most of the buildings were constructed on 2200 acres of land acquired from the Bynum and Shackelford estates.  Four smaller auxiliary air fields were built nearby for flight emergencies and to provide greater training flexibility.  CAAF was activated on 14 Dec 1942 under the command of the Southeast Air Corps Training Center.  The first cadet class arrived on 26 Jan 1943.

SPONSORED BY THE COURTLAND HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

[2011: Courtland]

Side 2
Courtland Army Air Field (CAAF): Flight Schools

Cadet pilots attended four schools: Preflight, Primary, Basic and Advanced.  Courtland Army Air Field began service as a Basic Flight School. Signal Corps training supplemented the flight school.  The Basic Flight School included ground school classroom facilities in addition to flight instruction.  Cadet performance at Basic determined progressive paths toward advanced fighter or bomber training, or involved transfer to other schools that addressed topics such as navigation and aerial photography.  The arrangement of four interlocking 5000-ft runways made CAAF an ideal site to accommodate both day and night training schedules 7 days per week and in a variety of wind conditions.  Up to 700 cadets and 240 aircraft were posted at CAAF.  The primary Basic Flight School training aircraft was the single-engine BT-13A Valiant.  As Air Corps training needs evolved, the Basic Flight School was replaced by a Four-Engine Specialized School in September 1944.  This involved the transfer to Courtland of personnel and B-24 Liberator bombers from Chanute Field, Illinois.  Twin-engine trainers such as the Beechcraft AT-10 and the Cessna UC-78 also saw service at CAAF.

SPONSORED BY THE COURTLAND HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

Side 1
Courtland Army Air Field (CAAF): Facilities


At its greatest strength, CAAF was home to 4600 officers, enlisted servicemen, and cadets.  During the war years it was the largest population center within Lawrence County.  Over 370 structures were constructed, including aircraft hangars, operations buildings, warehouses, barracks, mess halls, maintenance facilities, water supply/sewage treatment facilities, a weather station, and a hospital.  To help accommodate the sudden influx of personnel during construction and following activation, locals opened their homes to servicemen and their wives.  Electricity was supplied by TVA, and a railroad spur was constructed to accept delivery of materials and fuel.  A small arms range and a chemical/gas chamber were onsite to support training requirements. Other facilities that provided day-to-day needs and recreation included a PX, officers/enlisted clubs, a chapel, and two theaters.  An Army band posted at the base also toured local communities to boost morale and support War Bond drives.  As schedules allowed, servicemen took advantage of leisure opportunities on the nearby Tennessee River.

SPONSORED BY THE COURTLAND HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

[2011: Courtland]

Side 2
Courtland Army Air Field (CAFF): Deactivation

Demand for pilot training fell during 1943-44, and many airfields were gradually deactivated nationwide.  As an emergency temporary construction, CAAF was also slated for closure, and was officially deactivated on 30 June 1945.  Over the next three decades, most of the buildings were removed or destroyed.  By request of the Ala Air National Guard, a steel-framed hangar was moved to the Birmingham Municipal Airport around 1950.  Until the mid-1980s the CAAF property was used as a poultry farm, an auto race course, an auction facility, and a home for crop duster aircraft.  Proposed uses included a horse race track, a coal gasification plant, and a prison, but none of those materialized.  Lawrence County acquired the land in 1985 for use as an industrial park and a public airport was activated using two of the original runways.  The 1990s saw a rebirth of the site with the advent of several light industrial businesses and a Lockheed-Martin missile assembly plant.  US Army aviation returned to the site when the Redstone Test Center began using the property for helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft testing in 2010.

SPONSORED BY THE COURTLAND HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

Home of General Joseph Wheeler

1836-1906. "Fighting Joe Wheeler" Confederate Cavalry Commander of Army of Tennessee. Major-General Cavalry U.S.A. in Spanish American War. Soldier-Statesman-Author-Planter. One of Alabama's representatives in the Statuary Hall in Washington.
[Before 1965: Ala. Hwy 20, Wheeler]

 

Shackleford's Red Rovers

Dr. Jack Shackelford, Courtland physician, named captain of Volunteer company to aid Texas in seeking independence. In first action Rovers were with regiment cut off, captured near Goliad, March 20, 1836. Surrendered on promise of return to U.S. On March 27, regiment and others, 365 men, executed at Goliad by order of General Santa Ana. Shackelford and three other doctors spared. He later escaped, returned to Courtland. His son and nephew among those executed. Only 8 of 60 Rovers survived. Incident, plus Alamo, rallied U.S. support.
*Captain J. Shackelford, *Lt. William C. Francis, Sgt. F. G. Shackelford, Sgt. A. J. Foley, *Sgt. J. D. Hamilton, Sgt. C. M. Short, Cpl. J. H. Barkley, Cpl. H. H. Bentley, Cpl. David Moore, Cpl. Andrew Winter, Patrick H. Anderson, John N. Barnhill, Joseph Blackwell, *George W. Brooks, *L. M. Brooks, T. E. Burbridge, F. T. Burt, J. W. Cain, Thomas Cantwell, Seth Clark, John G. Coe, *D. Cooper, Harvey Cox, R. T. Davidson, George L. Davis, H. D. Day, A. Dickson, Alfred Dorsey, H. L. Douglas, W. C. Douglas, J. W. Duncan, James E. Ellis, Samuel Farley, *Joseph Fenner, Robert Fenner, J. G. Ferguson, E. B. Franklin, D. Gamble, M. C. Garner, I. E. Grimes, William Gunter, William Hemphill, John Hyser, John Jackson, John N. Jackson, H. W. Jones, John Kelly, Charles McKinley, John H. Miller, D. A. Murdock, William Quinn, W. F. Savage, J. N. Seaton, W. S. Shackelford, *Wilson Simpson, B. Strunk, James Vaughan, Wm. E. Vaughan, James S. Wilder, Robert W. Wilson.
*Escaped at execution, on patrol, or on leave when unit captured.

[Before 1965: Courtland]


Other Lawrence County pages:

Back to Historical Marker Index

http://www.archives.alabama.gov/aha/markers/lawrence.html

Updated: September 13, 2012