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WWII Chronicles

Pyote Air Force Station,
AKA "Rattlesnake Bomber Base"

Off Interstate 20
20 Miles W of Monahans
1 Mile SW of Pyote

Photos by Lexie Nichols and Jordan Gibson
Vintage Images courtesy Mel Brown
Pyote Texas Rattlesnake Bomber Base Hangar ruins
Pyote "Rattlesnake" Bomber Base Hangar Ruins
Photo courtesy Lexie Nichols and Jordan Gibson, April 2007
Established for bombardment crew training in 1942, the facility began life under the name Pyote Army Air Field, being just a mile from the town of Pyote and constructed on 2,700 acres of land belonging to the University of Texas.

Two 1 mile long runways (150 feet wide) and five huge hangers comprised the most important infrastructure, but there were also barracks, warehouses, mess halls and, of course, an emergency fire department.

The first personnel arrived before the base was finished and by October 1944, the population of the base was over 6,500 soldiers, mechanics, trainees and civilian technicians. Within four months of its opening, it became the largest bomber installation in the U.S. It also claimed a more dubious distinction - being one of the most isolated bomber bases in the U.S.

The base became fully operational in January, 1943 with the arrival of the 19th Bombardment Group. Training was for the various gunners on the B-17 Flying Fortresses. Later, in the spring of 1944, the base was re-designated as the 19th Combat Crew Training School. In June of 1945 the base broke the record for the most training hours flown in a month, in a week, and in a day.
Pyote Texas Rattlesnake Bomber Base remaining buildings
The remaining buildings intact.
Photo courtesy Lexie Nichols and Jordan Gibson, April 2007
After the war, control of the base was transferred from the Second Air Force to the San Antonio Air Tech Service Command and became an aircraft-storage depot (graveyard). Over two thousand planes were stored here in 1948, one of which was the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. In 1953 the plane was flown to Washington, to be preserved in the National Air and Space Museum.

The base became inactive after the Korean War and the planes were sold as scrap. A RADAR base operated off and on during the 50s and 60s, but it was deactivated in 1966. The West Texas Children's Home occupied some of the former buildings, but the hangers and runways deteriorated into what you see here.
Pyote Texas Rattlesnake Bomber Base Hangar close up
A closer view of hanger walls.
Photo courtesy Lexie Nichols and Jordan Gibson, April 2007
Pyote Texas Rattlesnake Bomber Base
More Ruins
Photo courtesy Lexie Nichols and Jordan Gibson, April 2007
Pyote Texas Rattlesnake Bomber Base Hangar mural
A faded patriotic mural on a hanger panel.
Photo courtesy Lexie Nichols and Jordan Gibson, April 2007
Photographer's Note:
"Here are some photos taken about April of '07 at the old Rattlesnake Bomber Base in Pyote. There's not much left there to see, but what is still there is incredible. Overgrown weeds and all, it's still like stepping into the past." - Lexie Nichols and Jordan Gibson, September 17, 2007

"The Rattler"

Rattler cover, Rattlesnake Bomber Base paper novemeber 11, 1944
Cover of the November 1944 issue of "The Rattler"
Courtesy Mel Brown
For your article on the Rattlesnake Bomber Base, I would like to share these sample pages of their base newspaper from 1944. Ol' Rattlesnake Field is quite famous in the annals of Texas WW II aviation history and has been seen in a couple of movies as well. Kevin Costner's first movie was titled Fandango and is about a last, cross country type fling of four UT guys who are drafted during the Vietnam war. At one point they arrive at the old bomber base to find a pothead aviator who gives parachute flights to those willing to pay.

Perhaps my favorite vignette of the old base comes in the wonderful book FLIGHT OF PASSAGE: A TRUE STORY by Rinker Buck. Buck tells the story of the time he and his older brother flew a restored Piper Cub from New Jersey to Los Angeles via Pyote Field. It happened over the long weekend of July 4, 1966 and is a great little read if you ever have time. In it he tells about the prodigious rattlesnake gathering business being run out of an old hangar still standing out there. - Mel Brown, Austin, September 27, 2007
The Rattler featuring Rattle Snake Charmer
Note: The "Rattle Snake Charmer" (upper right-hand corner) featured in this issue of The Rattler was Uvalde, Texas native Dale Evans.
Courtesy
Mel Brown

B-17 Flying Fortress over Germany
Painting of a B-17 "Flying Fortress" over Germany
Courtesy www.wpclipart.com
 B-29  Superfortress
A B-29 "Superfortress"
Courtesy commons.wikimedia.org
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