Darrel Flair, U.S. Army Air Corps veteran, stands in front of an
F-22 Raptor on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Sept . 18, 2012. Flair was
drafted into the Army Air Corps in 1942 to work as an instructor in
radar and radio at Alamogordo Army Airfield. U.S. Air Force photo by
Daniel E. Liddicoet
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (9/25/2012) - The foundation of the
U.S. Air Force was built on pillars of sacrifice, honor and respect
dating back to a time well before its inception in 1947. Few could
understand this rich military heritage better than Darrell Flair.
Flair served his country in the U.S. Army Air Corps during a
time when Holloman AFB was still known as Alamogordo Army Airfield.
Flair represents an entire generation of men and women who gave
everything to protect the freedoms and liberties enjoyed by all
United States citizens today.
Born in Lyons, IL, in 1921,
Flair's journey into the armed forces began in 1942, when he was
drafted to serve his country during World War II.
drafted because nobody would take me when I tried to go in,” he
said. “I've got a bad eye and when I came out of tech school, I
couldn't pass the eye exams to fly. You had to have good eyes to
work on the B-29 Superfortress, so they grounded me and made me an
instructor in radar and radio.”
After Flair had found his
niche in the Army Air Corps, he was soon assigned to work on a
12-man crew in a B-24 Liberator bombardment group.
explains, “A bomb group was four squadrons, 12 planes to a squadron,
and one plane for the commanding officer. We formed the 400th Bomb
Group in Tucson, Ariz., and then went to Pueblo, Colo. We were still
a B-24 group when I first joined.”
The B-24 was introduced in 1941 and became most
produced Allied heavy bomber in history, as well as the most
produced American military aircraft at more than 18,400
The Army's decision to transition to a newer
aircraft in 1944 also meant a change of scenery for Flair.
“At that time the U.S. government found out that they
didn't need any more B-24's because they already were
working on the manufacturing of B-29s,” he said. “So we were
right in the transition period of going from B-24s to B-29s,
and we got orders to move the 400th Bomb Group to Alamogordo
Army Airfield, and by then the group had broken up, and the
people who had knowledge of certain equipment could either
stay or go overseas if they wanted to. Naturally, a lot of
us decided to stay, we were gonna become a training base for
pilots, co-pilots, bombardiers and navigators.”
working as an instructor on the B-29, Flair's expertise
contributed a crucial asset to the war effort.
B-29 was a four-engine bomber that flew at tree-top levels
and had parafrag bombs,” he said. “When we were here, we
were training people to fly B-29s and they were going to
Wichita, Kan., where Boeing was making the B-29s, and from
there they were flying over seas to Saipan, Northern Mariana
Islands or Guam to help in the fight.”
Flair had his
first taste of the pacific theatre of World War II when he
was deployed to the Philippines shortly after arriving at
Alamogordo Army Airfield.
“When I got there, all I
had done was work on B-29s, and this was a completely
different group, working on different aircraft that'd been
all over the south pacific, we didn't know what we were
doing there,” he said.”When we found out, we told the
commanding officer, ‘Colonel if you don't need us I think
we'll just come back from where we came.' And he told us
that he'd find something for us to do, and that we weren't
going anywhere. I ended up being there until the end of the
The conditions and equipment that Flair worked
with were a far cry from the luxuries of sophisticated
technology that the Air Force enjoys today.
then we were training 12-man crews,” he said. “We had
bombers, pilots, co-pilots, bombardiers, navigators,
engineers, radio radar and an officer who fired all the guns
in the back except the tail gun, and then we had people
working as blisters who would just observe the engines to
make sure nothing was catching fire. Unfortunately, I hate
to say this, but we lost a lot of crews here in training.
There were a lot of fires in the engines. Take-off crashes
happened all the time.”
Understanding the importance
of his work was important for Flair's ability to cope
through many of the hardships he experienced.
a time when they needed planes and crews in a hurry,” he
said. “They didn't have time to do it right all the time, so
we were cutting corners. But I knew we were trying to save
During his time at Alamogordo Army
Airfield, Flair came to know a very different base and
surrounding area than what Team Holloman is used to today.
“The base was very small personnel wise,” he said.
“Alamogordo only had 2,500 people, and I don't think they
had more than 400 to 600 people here on the base during the
war. They had four hangars, a hangar in the north area, a
hangar in the west, and two in the main area. The base was
mainly just composed of training facilities. Back then in
Alamogordo there wasn't anything west of White Sands
Boulevard except the railroad tracks, and Washington Street
was as far as it went east.”
Long after Darrell
Flair's military career had ended with the war, and after
many years of living and working across the country, he
choose to come back to Alamogordo, a place still full of
memories for him. He remains a living tribute to the
heritage of Holloman AFB, and embodies the values that
Airmen continue to live by.
“In those days we had
guys coming in from all over the country working towards the
same goal,” he said. “We had to be a team to succeed.”
By USAF Daniel E. Liddicoet
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