I was raised on a farm with a South Rockwood address near NAS Grosse Ile with many of the bases small OLFs very near where I spent my entire childhood. Draw a line due south of the "Sheep Ranch Field", then draw a line due east of "Sanders Field" aka really Carl's Field, where the lines intersect you have my farm! Was I in a hot spot or what ? Worth mentioning is the Sheep Ranch Field name came from the Chapman farms who had property all over the place. Sixth generation sheep ranchers and are still at it big time . They would run hundreds, looked like thousands, down the road from one grazing field to another. Right through town, cars just pulled off and waited until they all got by. I can see the road rage that would cause today! But sixty years ago things were a bit slower.
One interesting note, the Newport Field was used for housing POWs at the end
or near end of the war. They were all Germans we were told. The locals didn't
seem to mind, and you could drive by there and many
prisoners were outside the fence trimming the grass . My wife remembers "kind of
I could go on for pages of the sights and aircraft related happenings during and after World War II. Everywhere south of Grosse Ile there were planes in the air. Yellow bi-planes, mostly Stearmans and a few larger trainers. An occasional B-24 lumbered overhead out of Willow Run as they were turning out one every hour! But mostly the Stearmans, and we would wave to the pilots just like kids do to a train engineer. An occasional wing wave back was the talk of the day.
But the most fun for us, but definitely not to the pilot, was when they had engine trouble. All the farmers around these OLFs had acres and acres of pool table flat big fields. Those bi-planes could land about anywhere they chose. Any reading I've done on Stearmans gave them lots of praise for flying ability and having seen a few drop in our field with the prop not turning I would agree as these pilots were very low hours and short on dead stick landings.
But I must tell the real fun part, as we never saw one "auger in", they just set them down and when the dust cleared they, usually two, got out and came up to the house. Now here we are during the real war and two live heroes are at your house! But these were British pilots and we got the whole accent and all. Now that was a real big deal! They would use our phone as these guys were flying without any radio of any kind, kind of low budget flight school? So they would call NASGI and several hours or so a truck would come and take the wings off and tow the plane backwards down the road to Grosse Ile. But we got to hang out and of course they were made comfortable till the "crash truck" arrived. This was a really big deal!
I got long winded there but its an impression I will always remember. And then to go to high school at the Newport Field was a continuation of airplane memories. We used the hangar for a farm shop and we used the hexagon concrete runway for driver training. One group tried to make a drag strip out of it but at 1700 feet the driveway had to be used and never could get a quarter mile out of it. But we tried ! I know the length is 1320 feet for the quarter mile timing but our problem was a 1700 foot long runway didn't give us any braking room left over. Running our cars into the weeds was something we didn't care to do, but we all had a lot of running in the weeds with our farm tractors. We did use our heads occasionally. The school was named "Airport Community School" When a new "real" high school was built in 1954 several miles away the name still stayed. People wonder where that name came from but were proud to tell them the story. The buildings were vacant until January 1955 when a Nike Base took over and put the silos in on the south end of the hexagon runway. The whole property is nearly overgrown but is still government owned. The National Guard unit has a few vehicles in one corner.
So I will close and thanks again for changing things and using some of my memories that seem to still be there. I would like to know some of your involvement from years ago that you seem to be one of the people in the know. I have no idea where you are. Need help here. -- Ron Klingel