Manchester, New Hampshire Airport
(Grenier Army Air Field)
in WW II

compiled by

Tom Hildreth



The World War Two Years
Tom Hildreth

Manchester Airport in southern New Hampshire has grown to become one of the leading regional airline facilities in the country. The modern terminal and parking garage are both due to receive additional expansion, and recently completed improvements to runway 6-24 will now enable extensive work to continue on runway 17-35 which is the airport's longest. In the year 2000, 3.5 million passengers were expected to use this southern New Hampshire airport, which has successfully capitalized on congestion and surface transport problem at Boston's Logan Airport in Massachusetts. Recognizing the potential in this market, airlines serving Manchester are providing larger, quieter and more modern equipment such as the Boeing 757 and Airbus A320. Nearly 100 airline movements per day support these burgeoning passenger operations, which now include flights to Canada. Executive aviation has seen a boost in the form of the large new facility operated by Wiggins, located on the east side of the long runway opposite the new airline terminal.

During a crucial part of World War II, this airport was for the primary staging base for heavy bombers en route to the war in Germany. The North Atlantic Wing of the Air Transport Command, which was headquartered not far away in Manchester, ran this massive airlift operation. The sharp-eyed traveler today can still catch a glimpse of the airport's wartime history. A group of wooden two-story barracks still exists in the southwest corner of the property, not far from the UPS and Fedex facilities. Located among the tall pines in this area, these remnants of Grenier Army Air Field house a number of small businesses.

The success of Charles A. Lindbergh in crossing the Atlantic Ocean in his single-engine "Spirit of St. Louis" in 1927 sparked great interest in aviation worldwide. Manchester, like most American cities, embraced the aviation phenomenon with enthusiasm. On August 25 of that year a loan was approved for $15,000 to establish an airport in the Queen City. Construction of two 1800-ft. runways began on October 25, at what became known as Smith Field. The airport saw gradual improvement during the 1930s, including the federally-funded construction of a hangar and administration building for $500,000. During this time the runways were paved with asphalt. A Civilian Pilot Training program was begun in 1939 under the auspices of the Civil Aeronautics Administration. This led to a tremendous increase in flying activity at Smith Field. This program was run by Granite State Airways, and more than 100 pilots were turned out during 1939 and 1940.

As the war in Europe approached, neutral America belatedly recognized the threat posed by the axis powers. American industrial output rose to meet Allied demands for war materials, and American and military planners recognized the need to expand our meager network of military airfields. As far back as 1935, the Wilcox Act recommended construction of several very large new military airfields. One of these was to be located in the Northeast.

Manchester Police Chief James F. O'Neil had been a strong supporter of aviation in the area, and was one of the driving forces behind establishment of an airport in the city. When O'Neil learned that federal officials were looking for a location for a military airbase in the Northeast, he persuaded the Army to investigate the development of Manchester Airport into the huge airbase that was envisioned. Though the Army selected Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts to be the site of the proposed Northeast Airbase, they did not loose interest in Manchester. Transatlantic air travel was on the rise, and the fog problem at the Boston and New York airports enforced the belief that Manchester's inland location would provide a suitable alternate landing site.

On October 3, 1940, the War Department announced that the Manchester Airport would be developed as Manchester Army Air Base. Expansion efforts began immediately. The Works Project Administration (WPA) broke ground on October 7 under a $1.5 million allotment for base construction. During December, work began around the clock on the strengthening and expansion of the airfield's runway and tarmac areas. The D.A. Sullivan Company, of Northampton, Massachusetts, a firm that still exists today, and the Caye Construction Company of Brooklyn, New York, began construction of 118 air base buildings in late January 1941. The contract specified completion of the work within 90 days. These companies, working with the WPA, the Manchester Water Works, and the Army Corps of Engineers employed approximately a thousand men during the height of the construction phase.

Beginning in the dead of a New Hampshire winter, the rapid construction of the base was a remarkable feat. Heavy snow blanketed the site when the project began in late January 1941, but by June the empty field had been transformed into an airbase capable of housing more than 2,000 people. When Lt. Col. John I. Moore arrived on April 1 to take command of the new airbase, construction activities were in full swing. Runway and tarmac expansion, begun in the fall of 1940, had continued through the harsh winter. Within a week of Moore's arrival, the Caye Company had completed all 94 buildings in their contract, and on May 7, the D.A. Sullivan Company completed the 24 buildings for which they were responsible. Utility connections to the base were also being completed, and the Manchester Water Works and the Works Project Administration (WPA) finished water and sewer connections by April 21. An advertisement by the Public Service Company of New Hampshire, supplier of electricity to the base, showed a formation of trimotor aircraft flying over a power line and proclaimed, "So proudly we hail Manchester's new Army Air Base..."

Officers from the 33rd Air Base Group at Mitchell Field, Long Island arrived at Manchester to inspect the air base project on March 5, 1941. Lt. Col. John I. Moore arrived on April 1 to take command of the base. The first military aircraft stationed at the base, a single engine Northrop A-17 monoplane, arrived on April 25. The 242nd Quartermaster Company arrived on May 20, bringing the first troops to be assigned to the New Hampshire airbase. The 717th and 449th Ordnance Companies arrived by truck convoy from Langley Field, Virginia less than a week later. Members of the 45th Bomb Group (Light) under the command of Lt. Col. George A. McHenry began to arrive by troop train and truck from Savannah, Georgia, on June 18, 1941. Official Air Force records show that this group was comprised of the 78th, 79th, 80th and 433rd Bomb squadrons. Initially these units operated obsolete Martin B-10 and Douglas B-18 bombers as interim training aircraft, until the arrival of the Douglas A-20 Havoc later in the year.

By early July, the 125-bed base hospital had opened its doors under the command of Capt. William D. Willis, Base Surgeon. This facility was to be manned by a medical detachment of 125 people with 1Lt. Bertha Elsner acting as Chief Nurse. This hospital occupied fifteen different buildings, and would later be designated as an Air Evacuation Center for war casualties returning from combat in Europe.

Training of combat aircrew stationed at Manchester required access to a practice bomb range, and in 1941 the government acquired a plot of land near Joe English Mountain in New Boston, New Hampshire. By the end of the year work had begun to establish a bomb range in this hilly area 16 miles west of Manchester. Today, the Air Force's New Boston Satellite Tracking Station stands on a portion of the government property at this site, while the remainder of the range has been converted to recreational use.

Capt. Frederick C. Bothwell, a West Point graduate, commanded the 717th Ordnance Company (Aviation) Air Base, and was assigned as Base Ordnance Officer. His assistant was Lt. William J. Priest, who commanded the 449th Ordnance Company (Aviation) Bombardment. Lt. Priest led all Ordnance personnel on a three-day exercise to Bradley Field, Connecticut beginning on the 28th of August. The purpose of the trip was to familiarize the men with truck convoy movement and to study Ordnance functions involved in the supply and issue of material to pursuit squadrons. At that time the 57th Fighter Group at Bradley was operating Curtiss P-40 Warhawks.

Tactical and training activities at Manchester were controlled by the 33rd Air Base Group and its component 34th and 35th Air Base Squadrons. Other units assigned to the base at that time included the 1st Chemical Company, 17th Reconnaissance Squadron, 30th Signal Platoon, and the medical detachment. By October the arrival of small arms and automotive repair trucks allowed the Ordnance troops to begin training in earnest. They had also completed construction of a skeet range on base. An ample supply of practice bombs had arrived, which allowed munitions personnel to learn their serious trade. On October 9 the 578th Army Air Forces Band was activated on the base. The original cadre of four enlisted men, led by SSgt. Nathan Rosenstein, came from the 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts.

The events at Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, had an immediate impact on base activities. In a remembrance of Pearl Harbor day published in the Manchester Union Leader in December 1993, retired Col. William A. Whelton wrote of the unprepared posture of the base that fateful Sunday. All of the bombs present were small practice weapons incapable of being used effectively against an enemy, and there was no ammunition for the few machine guns that were on base. In desperation, Whelton flew to Westover Field where he hoped to find some ammunition. This lamentable situation changed almost immediately when the first squadron of A-20 Havoc light bombers arrived to equip the 45th Bomb Group following a 47-minute flight from Mitchel Field, New York.

By December 15 large quantities of live bombs were stored in the open at Manchester. The igloos for these weapons were not scheduled for completion until the end of January 1942. Ordnance personnel hastened to set up temporary bomb targets and a machine gun range in New Boston. By February, construction of a permanent bomb range was underway, with two of the three observation towers for range control about to be erected. . In certain respects the Havoc aircraft were unusual, as they were actually DB-7 export versions, originally intended for France. This temporarily created a problem for base munitions personnel, as the bomb suspension system had to be modified to make it compatible with American bombs.

German submarines had begun to take their toll of Allied shipping, and Manchester-based aircraft armed with USN 325-lb. depth bombs participated in the search for the U-boats. The stocks of bombs and ammunition on the base were growing rapidly. In fact, the quantities of large demolition bombs exceeded the capacity of the newly completed indoor storage and were placed in outdoor revetments. The 13th Anti-Submarine Squadron began operating from Grenier during the summer of 1942 with B-25B & C Mitchel bombers and a number of Lockheed B-34 Ventura aircraft. Typical patrol missions were 4-6 hours duration and usually involved convoy escort off the New England coast. The aircraft were normally armed with #325 depth charges. The 13th remained at Grenier until September 1943, by which time the unit was also operating B-24D Liberator bombers.

On February 22, Manchester Air Base was renamed Grenier Field after Manchester resident 2Lt. Jean D. Grenier. A popular athlete and graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Grenier had died in the crash of an Army A-12 aircraft in Utah while flying a mail route on February 16, 1934.The residents of the Manchester area had quickly become familiar to the drone of the bombers operating out of Grenier Field, but changes were soon to come. On May 16 1942, the 45th Bomb Group transferred to Dover, Delaware, a move that came on the heels of the 717th Ordnance Company's departure for Fort Dix, New Jersey. The airbase was still growing in size and capability at this time. A new ordnance area had just opened on the south side of the airfield, and armament personnel finally had a suitable shop for handling guns and ammunition. New munitions igloos allowed proper indoor storage of bombs for the first time, just as ordnance personnel began to ship some of the base's stockpile of these weapons to other airfields.

Grenier Field became involved in a bold Army Air Force plan known as Bolero in June, 1942. Bolero was a code name for the rapid buildup of American combat forces in England. Wartime transatlantic crossings by multi-engine aircraft had become routine, but the supply of fighter aircraft to England was a different matter. The most common method of crossing had been as deck cargo aboard surface vessels. Aside from being prohibitively slow and risky, this method exposed the relatively delicate airframes to manhandling and the corrosive effects of saltwater. An innovative plan was developed whereby the fighters would be ferried across the ocean in a series of short hops with navigational assistance provided by bombers. Most Bolero fighters departed from Presque Isle AAF, Maine, but during June 1942, the 52nd Fighter Group began to work up with Bell P-39 Airacobras at Manchester. Army Air Force leaders soon decided the P-39 was not an ideal fighter for the European theater, and the personnel of the 52nd went to England by ship. It wasn't until late in the year, after being reequipped with the legendary Spitfire fighter, that the 52nd began to operate from England as a combat fighter group.

The 578th Army Air Forces Band proved to be very popular throughout the greater Manchester area. Comprised of a full orchestra and a swing dance band the military musicians highlighted many Army Air Force recruiting drives in New Hampshire. Their itinerary included stops in the New Hampshire capitol city of Concord, a North Country appearance in the paper mill town of Berlin, and Bay State concerts in Boston and Ft. Devens. Washington sent out requests for recordings from the band, and the Grenier Field March, written by Assistant Conductor and clarinetist SSgt. John Pastor was submitted. No evaluation of the music was ever returned by headquarters, but this didn't faze the irrepressible musicians.

On September 25, 1942, the Manchester Union-Leader, in cooperation with local radio station WFEA, arranged for an overseas short wave broadcast of the Grenier Field Band as part of the "For the Boys" concert series. In October the band played at the 315th Fighter Squadron dance at the IOOF hall in Manchester. (The 315th was equipped with Curtiss P-40s and trained at Grenier for several months before departure to El Kabrit, Egypt as part of the 324th Fighter Group). Other talent was in town as well. Dorothy Lamour, a popular performer at the time who frequently accompanied Bob Hope made a flight line stage appearance at Grenier.

The month of July 1942 brought the inactivation of the 449th Ordnance Company, one of the first Army Air Force units to arrive at Manchester. Many members had already transferred out, leaving one officer and fifteen enlisted men who were incorporated into the 34th Base HQ and Air Base Squadron. At this time ordnance personnel assumed all motor vehicle maintenance responsibility, which was previously handled by the Base Quartermaster. The mettle of the ordnance personnel that remained was tested the following month when they were required to support the bombing and gunnery-training missions of a Heavy Bomb Group.

The recruiting drives brought results, and large numbers of inductees arrived in Manchester for basic training. Assigned to casual detachments, these recruits were quickly introduced to Army Air Force life. Large numbers of New England area women also arrived to be initiated into the Women's Army Corps. The groups of trainees varied greatly in size, some casual units were comprised of one or two hundred members, while others would exceed a thousand. When the training was completed, these units would be assigned a shipment number and depart the base in secrecy, usually headed for the port of Boston on a troop train. The Boston and Maine rail line that serviced the airbase maintained a busy timetable that offered sixteen round trips per day. Some incoming personnel shipments had been trained elsewhere, and while they often looked well-prepared on paper, officers at Grenier quickly learned clothing and equipment deficiencies were commonplace. Inspections were frequent, and in order to rectify the equipment problems quickly, it was necessary for airbase personnel to maintain a close relationship with the Boston Quartermaster, the source of replacement goods.

Grenier AAF remained under the control of the First Air Force at Mitchell Field, New York from mid-1942 to mid-1943. A significant portion of the personnel and aircraft assigned to the Eighth Air Force in England had passed through Grenier. The New Hampshire airbase was making a huge contribution to the war effort, which in turn helped open up the European Air Offensive on July 4, 1942. By the fall of that year antisubmarine patrols off the New England coast had led to a marked decrease in U-boat activity. By August 1943, the Navy had assumed responsibility for most of the antisubmarine missions previously flown by the Army Air Force. This resulted in a decline in flight operations at Grenier, and shifted the base's mission to the training of recruits.

Air Transport Command (ATC) personnel visited Grenier on December 4, 1943, and recommended the North Atlantic Wing (NAW) relocate there from Presque Isle AAF, Maine. The New Hampshire site offered several major advantages over the previous location. There were three 150 foot-wide paved runways at Grenier that ranged in length from 5500 feet to 7000 feet. The annual snowfall was considerably less than the Maine location, and close proximity to the coast made it a convenient alternate landing site for aircraft inbound from Europe. Manchester was not without shortcomings. Only one of the six hangars at Grenier could properly accommodate heavy bombers. No suitable building on base existed to house the Wing headquarters section, so the Reconstruction Finance Corporation offered the Hoyt Building at 497 Silver Street for this purpose. Known today as the Silver Towers, this historical edifice still stands in Manchester at that address.

Under the command of Colonel (later Brigadier General) Lawrence G. Fritz, NAW operations began at Grenier Field on January 1, 1944. Fritz had flown the North Atlantic route many times as vice president in charge of operations at TWA, and was an excellent choice for this position. Colonel John I. Moore, the original base commander at Manchester, had been in Washington on detached duty since August 1943. In Moore's absence, Colonel Roscoe C. Wriston took command of the airbase, and eventually passed these responsibilities to Colonel Marlowe M. Merrick. Grenier Field's main mission at this time was to equip and process transient heavy bombers and aircrew for overseas duty. Base personnel quickly aligned all of their efforts to support this critical role. Manchester soon became an Aerial Port Of Embarkation (APOE), and the first group of B-17s passed through the base on January 18. By the end of 1944, the North Atlantic Wing would supervise the shipment of nearly 9000 tactical aircraft to Europe and Africa from bases in the northeastern United States. A total of 170 B-17s arrived in Manchester in February, by which time extreme cold along the Northern Route had become a hazard. At Goose Bay, Labrador, fliers suffered frostbite as they serviced their aircraft. The majority of these young combat crewmen had recently trained at southern U.S. bases, and it became the responsibility of instructors at Grenier to quickly educate them on the hazards of winter flying.

Mishaps affected a small percentage of the aircraft that passed through Manchester. Some of these episodes were humorous, while others were tragic. One B-17 pilot gave the bail out order over Portland, Maine because of problems with the aircraft's autopilot. Upon further diagnosis of the problem, the officer rescinded the order, but the tail gunner had already hit the silk. After he landed unhurt in the town of Northrup, Maine, the gunner returned to Grenier to rejoin his crew for a less eventful departure. Disaster struck on April 24, when a B-24 took off from Manchester and crashed into Washtub Hill in Epsom, New Hampshire, with the loss of all ten aboard. The New Hampshire countryside would be the scene of other terrible crashes as hundreds of the bombers droned overhead in the coming months. Transient combat aircraft virtually poured into Manchester in June 1944. The monthly total was 572 tactical aircraft arrivals, with a one-day high of 107. Of the 270 B-17s that arrived, the majority came from Kearny, Nebraska, while most of the 189 B-24s came from Hamilton AAF, California, and Mitchel AAF, New York. These bombers consumed 789,042 gal. of 100/130 octane aviation fuel. Aircraft maintenance activities in support of these planes accounted for 22,800 man-hours. Grenier workers began to process U.S. Navy PBY Catalinas, B-24s, and PB4Y Privateers for overseas duty, and this pushed the July statistics far beyond those of June.

The Priorities and Traffic Office (P&T) acquired the use of the Northeast Airlines terminal on the north side of the airfield to expedite aerial movement of priority cargo and passengers. Two C-46 flights were routed through Manchester for this function. One flight ran from Newark, New Jersey to Presque Isle AAF, Maine, and the other from Boston, Massachusetts to the northern Maine base. The approach of a hurricane in September led to the evacuation of many Grenier-based planes to Montreal. The only damage on base occurred when a storage structure was toppled. During the storm, a Navy F6F Hellcat fighter made an emergency landing in Rockingham, New Hampshire. The aircraft was undamaged and the base recovery team simply folded its wings and towed it to Grenier via highway. The Station Hospital was very active from August to October 1944. Airbase medical staff gave physicals to 16,128 transient airmen, and performed 84 emergency surgeries. The station hospital assumed additional responsibilities when Grenier became an Air Evacuee Center for wounded personnel enroute to stateside hospitals from the European theater. The number of transient bombers began to decline after September 1944. Base production shops turned their attention to installation of bomb bay fuel tanks and weather observation equipment in the B-17s and B-25s used by the 1st Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. This unit was attached to the 8th Weather Region, headquartered at Grenier.

As the winter of 1944-1945 approached, cold weather again became a threat to flight crew safety on the Northern Route. Frostbite among aircrew became such a serious problem at Goose Bay that the Labrador airfield was temporarily closed. The cold weather also began to plague the aircraft, especially the B-24 Liberator. Held at Grenier due to cold weather landing gear malfunctions, shipments of these bombers were soon redirected to southern routes. The winter of 1944-45 brought record-breaking snowfall to Grenier Army Air Field in Manchester, New Hampshire. The season total was 73.4 inches, according to records kept by the 8th Weather Region at the airbase. This was the most in a single season since the airbase had opened, and according to local sources, the most the Granite State had seen in many years. Snowplow crews worked hard to keep the runways open to air traffic. In spite of these efforts, many weather-related mishaps took place. On January 5,1945, a B-17 hit a snowbank and lost its tail wheel during an attempted landing. As a precaution, the crew jettisoned the bomber's ball turret into Lake Messabesic while setting up for another approach. The pilot landed the Flying Fortress without further problems. In a different incident, a B-24 pilot claimed his aircraft received damage due to an obstruction on the runway. An investigation revealed a slightly different story. The Liberator pilot had made a landing approach into the glare of the low winter sun, and had put the big bomber down on the frozen ground between the runway lights and adjacent snowbank! A blizzard arrived on February 7, which added to the accumulated snow depths. The 135th Army Airways Communications Service (AACS) detachment had worked to install a new navigational and approach aids at the base radio range in South Londonderry. They were unable to reach areas of the site due to snowdrifts that exceeded a depth of 10 feet. The airbase sent down a bulldozer and a "Snogo" rotary plow to open up the access road to the radio shack.

The processing of tactical aircraft at Grenier Field had peaked during the summer of 1944, but there was still a substantial flow of bombers enroute to the European and Mediterranean theaters. Unusual aircraft occasionally showed up, as on February 23, when General Eisenhower's personal YC-108 transport arrived. This VIP aircraft, modified B-17F 42-6036, departed for Stephenville, Newfoundland the following day. The newest in transport aircraft arrived two days later when a Lockheed C-69 Constellation flew in from Washington National Airport. The sleek aircraft was given a close look by members of the North Atlantic Division (previously North Atlantic Wing), who were treated to an impressive aerial demonstration by the large aircraft in the afternoon.

By the end of March, 5,447 heavy bombers had passed through Manchester since the beginning of NAW operations 15 months earlier. Processing the 51,000 crewmen aboard these aircraft was a huge task. Many of the crewmen were given physical exams by base medical personnel. The staff at Grenier briefed the fliers on a wide range of operational subjects such as cruise control, ditching at sea, navigation techniques and radio procedures. Electrically-heated flight suits and box lunches were issued to all. The aircraft needed preparation also. Engine maintenance accounted for many thousands of man-hours. Flight controls had to be rigged and hydraulic leaks repaired while machine gun ammunition and other combat gear was taken aboard. For many of the aircraft the list of maintenance discrepancies was long.

March 10, 1945 marked the arrival of 37 aerial evacuees, the first since October of the previous year. Grenier medical staff provided care for the casualties, and placed them aboard C-47 transports for airlift to hospitals throughout the country. Though officially downgraded to dispensary status, the airbase hospital would process many of these cases in the coming months.

Although the airbase staff did their best to be hospitable to those who passed through, the experience of the transient crews was no picnic. The men were restricted to the base and not allowed to use the telephone. Most of them passed their spare time by writing letters or shopping at the Post Exchange. A few signed out athletic equipment and engaged in sports activities. Virtually all of the men quickly realized that the airbase had a sizable population of WACs. There were several well-attended dances at the club every week.

On April 7 Manchester received a message that alerted base personnel of significant change in the near future. All B-17s and B-24s not equipped with radar were to return to their point of origin. Bombers with radar were to proceed east with flight crew only, while bombardiers and gunners were to debark at Grenier. By the end of April, a subsequent directive grounded all eastbound tactical movements. On April 26, in compliance with the earlier directive, a group of bombers departed on a reverse course, back to bases in the Western United States.

An OTU (Operational Training Unit) for C-54 crewmen was activated at Grenier on May 7. Five Skymaster transports were assigned to the school. The OTU enjoyed a very brief existence. August 13 was the date of the final class. In that short time span 53 first pilots, 50 co-pilots, 29 navigators and 67 aerial engineers learned the trade of transport crewmen in New Hampshire skies. The latter group included 9 members of the Royal Air Force.

A manning problem developed at Air Transport Command (ATC) headquarters in the spring of 1945. Many troops of the command had served overseas for long periods and were due for rotation to stateside airfields. At Grenier, the majority of troops had not performed overseas duty. There were 1,402 men and women in uniform at Manchester at the end of April. Two weeks later, NAD ordered a rotation plan into effect that sent 500 Grenier troops to overseas assignments, and another 500 to duty elsewhere in the Continental United States. This resulted in skill shortages and personnel imbalances at the airbase. A rumor declaring that Grenier Field was on the verge of inactivation quickly surfaced. A political controversy broke out between Maine and New Hampshire as each state fought to make its respective wartime airfields into permanent peacetime installations.

The personnel problems at Grenier struck the base just as the Army Air Force announced it would fly 4,000 aircraft back to the United States as part of the White Project plan. Manchester was tasked with operational control of nearly all these westbound flights, many hundreds of which touched down at Grenier.
During July, airbase leaders made plans to launch Green Hornet Airlines. This C-54 operation was to follow a Grenier-Azores-Stephenville-Grenier route. The idea had a short lifespan however, and the flights operated for just 12 days in early August. Later that month, ATC permanently dispatched the C-54s to the west coast to make them available for use in the Pacific.

The level of activity at Manchester declined steadily. On August 13, headquarters eliminated the long-standing C-46 flights from Boston and Newark. Another decision led to the inactivation of the C-54 OTU on the same unlucky date. Operation of a small fleet of C-47 transports to the other NAD airbases became the primary mission at Manchester. The workweek of civilian employees was reduced from 48 to 40 hours in September, and the possibility of a layoff loomed ahead. Many of the newly-assigned military people needed housing for their families, but in the tight local housing market it was a difficult task. As this situation worsened, the incoming troops were told not to bring their families to Manchester.

An uncertain future lay ahead for many of the nation's wartime airfields, including Grenier. Beginning as early as 1943, military leaders had discussed the need for the formation of National Guard and Reserve flying units following the termination of hostilities. Manchester eventually became home to units of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Grenier would host many summer encampments for these reserve units. Even as these peacetime plans for Grenier were being made, the emergence of the USSR as a nuclear power affected the airfield's immediate future. The United States Air Force, which had just been granted status of a separate branch of the armed forces, was tasked with the need for tremendous expansion to meet the perceived Communist threat. Grenier Air Force Base became host to the first of New England's many Strategic Air Command units. These developments and the use of the Manchester Airport in the postwar era will be covered in a future article.

More Grenier Field Articles and photos


Oblique view of Grenier Air Base looking due west during a February, 1942 afternoon. The airbase's new buildings stand out prominently in the foreground. The airfield layout would soon become more complex as runways were lengthened, hardstands constructed, and taxiways added.

2Lt. Jean Bonet Grenier, for whom Manchester Army Air Base was renamed on February 22, 1942. A native of Manchester, Grenier was an outstanding athlete at the University of New Hampshire. Grenier died in Utah on February 16, 1934 while flying an Army attack aircraft on an air mail proving route.

Colonel John I. Moore served as Commanding Officer at Manchester throughout much of the war. Called away as a planner on several important projects, Moore was instrumental in the development of the south Atlantic ferry route.

Planview of the original Army Air Base at Manchester. North is to the left. Most of the buildings in this view were built by the Caye Construction Company of Brooklyn, NY., and the D.A. Sullivan Company of Northampton, Mass.

From the Army Corps of Engineers Construction photos, we see the road layout at the new Manchester Air Base. This scene was located at the complex road intersection right of center in the map above.

Airbase Post Office

Airbase chapel as documented in the Army Corps of Engineers construction photos

Recently completed Officer's Club

Ft. Worth-built B-24D serves as backdrop in this photo that included a large group of air base workers at Manchester.

578th Army Air Force Band was activated at Manchester on October 9, 1941. This performance was photographed on stage in the City of Manchester.

"Winging the North Atlantic," one of three murals commissioned at the air base. In this scene of the northern seas, a native waves from his kayak as Flying Fortresses proceed overhead toward the war in Europe

Many women trained at Manchester during the war. This photo shows a WAC Link trainer class in October, 1944

B-24J 44-41064 was adorned with the names of many employees of the Consolidated Aircraft Company at San Diego. Named "V Grand 5000," as a subject for modelers, this aircraft would be a considerable challenge

B-24J 44-40952 crashed on takeoff into brand-new truck of the base's 135 Army Airways Communications Squadron. Bomber continued across the grass and slammed into MP recon car, which was demolished. Liberator finally came to rest in a stream bed, damaged beyond repair.

Transient aircraft of all types passed through Manchester. 3rd Ferry Group pilots flew five de Havilland Canada F-8 Mosquitoes in from Rome, NY in July, 1944. A total of 40 of the reconnaissance fighters were built for the Army Air Force.

The base Chaplain saw to it that the "North Atlantic Wing Prayer Card," which depicted a P-39 Airacobra, was available to all base personnel

This radar-equipped Northrop P-61 Black Widow night fighter visited Manchester in February, 1944. The introduction of the P-61 enabled the Army Air Force to retire the interim Douglas P-70.

Another unusual arrival was this Culver PQ-8. The diminutive aircraft flew in from Bedford, Mass in 1944

During May,1944, B-24H-FO 42-95232, a Liberator built by Ford's Willow Run plant was taxying for takeoff at Grenier AAF when the right main landing gear collapsed. Heavy damage occurred to #4 prop and engine, and right rear fuselage.

Peak day, July, 1944. 108 heavy bombers (mostly B-17s) are visible in this view. Though difficult to see at the top of the photo, runway 6-24 was lined on both sides by bombers. The empty hardstands may indicate one or two more squadrons could have been accommodated.

Note on photos on these web pages:

All photos are credited to the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

Though many Army Air Force microfilms have few pictures, luckily reel B2243, on which was found most of the Grenier Field history used in this article, contained many. Unfortunately, most were very small in size. To make the task of reproducing the photos more difficult, microfilm itself is optimized for great contrast, as it is primarily used in archiving text documents.

The author drew on considerable darkroom experience to make these images viewable to the public. A wide angle enlarger lens was purchased, which helped in the printing of most of the photos. When this was insufficient to print very small images, the ground glass of the microfilm reader was replaced with clear glass, and contact enlargements were made right on the face of the reader.

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