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Glider training ended 75 years ago
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As wintry weather moves in on Antigo this fall, it is a reminder of the first visit by the military to this community in the past three-quarters of a century.

Before there was a U.S. Air Force, the Army selected Antigo as the location to build a training facility for pilots, specifically those who would be at the control of military gliders.

The odd-looking aircraft were designed to move men and some machinery into combat areas without detection.

Word that the Army was eyeing Antigo for the glider training program came in the late winter/early spring of 1942 and things happened quickly. During the next seven or eight months hundreds of pilots were trained, an airport hangar and office were constructed and there were aircraft in the skies just about all of the time.

The program had great success here, and for seven or eight months with 17th Army Air Force Glider Detachment was part of the community.

Its officers spoke at the Rotary and Kiwanis Club meetings, trucks were used to collect recyclables for the war effort and if there was a lost child or a hunter, there was a large search party just waiting to go to work.

The last of the students who were enrollees in the training programs left just over 75 years ago but the officers and representatives of Anderson Air Activities, the contractor for pilot programs, were packing up to open a new program in Missouri, where the climate is a little more kind.

As expected, there was a big staff associated with Anderson executives and the military with officers and their wives becoming part of the social fabric of the community.

During the months the military men were on the ground, 900 young fellows went through the training program based in that National Youth Administration building on North Elm Street, where they also occupied dormitories.

Of course, the young men did get out and about and Antigo had dozens of places to go, usually with entertainment and alcohol.

But there were few problems, after all these young men were in pilot training, and the Army had done its best to keep a lid on things.

As the trainees were arriving, authorities raided the known houses of ill fame, but as history teaches, they were not shut down.

Lieut. Donald Webster, the detachment intelligence officer, told the Journal in 1942 that they opened us and are closing us down, referring to the military high command.

He extended the appreciation of the officers and other Army personnel for the cooperation and friendly spirit extended by the townspeople.

It has been a pleasure to operate in this community everything that could have been done was done, he said.

He thanked the veterans organizations and the USO for making the stay enjoyable for both the officers and the hundreds of men who were here during 1942.

In fitting Antigo style, a party was held bringing the first brush with the military to a close.

E.M. Anderson, of Anderson Air Activities, and Lonnie Powell, who operated a large club on the north side of the city, hosted a reception for enlisted personnel, officers and their friends at the large Powell facility.

Attorney James R. Durfee, one of the most colorful public speakers in the community, was the toastmaster at the dinner that continued well into the evening.

Only a decade after that dinner was held, the now-formed Air Force was back in Antigo constructing a site for a radar installation that operated into the late 1970s.

There must be a question asked, and can never be answered.

Were some of those officers from 1942 or the people who learned to fly, and love the northwoods, on the team that decided to return here?
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A photograph taken by Clarence Toburen shows the airport and dozens of aircraft during the heyday of the U.S. Army Air Force glider training program here.

Glider training ended 75 years ago
space
As wintry weather moves in on Antigo this fall, it is a reminder of the first visit by the military to this community in the past three-quarters of a century.

Before there was a U.S. Air Force, the Army selected Antigo as the location to build a training facility for pilots, specifically those who would be at the control of military gliders.

The odd-looking aircraft were designed to move men and some machinery into combat areas without detection.

Word that the Army was eyeing Antigo for the glider training program came in the late winter/early spring of 1942 and things happened quickly. During the next seven or eight months hundreds of pilots were trained, an airport hangar and office were constructed and there were aircraft in the skies just about all of the time.

The program had great success here, and for seven or eight months with 17th Army Air Force Glider Detachment was part of the community.

Its officers spoke at the Rotary and Kiwanis Club meetings, trucks were used to collect recyclables for the war effort and if there was a lost child or a hunter, there was a large search party just waiting to go to work.

The last of the students who were enrollees in the training programs left just over 75 years ago but the officers and representatives of Anderson Air Activities, the contractor for pilot programs, were packing up to open a new program in Missouri, where the climate is a little more kind.

As expected, there was a big staff associated with Anderson executives and the military with officers and their wives becoming part of the social fabric of the community.

During the months the military men were on the ground, 900 young fellows went through the training program based in that National Youth Administration building on North Elm Street, where they also occupied dormitories.

Of course, the young men did get out and about and Antigo had dozens of places to go, usually with entertainment and alcohol.

But there were few problems, after all these young men were in pilot training, and the Army had done its best to keep a lid on things.

As the trainees were arriving, authorities raided the known houses of ill fame, but as history teaches, they were not shut down.

Lieut. Donald Webster, the detachment intelligence officer, told the Journal in 1942 that they opened us and are closing us down, referring to the military high command.

He extended the appreciation of the officers and other Army personnel for the cooperation and friendly spirit extended by the townspeople.

It has been a pleasure to operate in this community everything that could have been done was done, he said.

He thanked the veterans organizations and the USO for making the stay enjoyable for both the officers and the hundreds of men who were here during 1942.

In fitting Antigo style, a party was held bringing the first brush with the military to a close.

E.M. Anderson, of Anderson Air Activities, and Lonnie Powell, who operated a large club on the north side of the city, hosted a reception for enlisted personnel, officers and their friends at the large Powell facility.

Attorney James R. Durfee, one of the most colorful public speakers in the community, was the toastmaster at the dinner that continued well into the evening.

Only a decade after that dinner was held, the now-formed Air Force was back in Antigo constructing a site for a radar installation that operated into the late 1970s.

There must be a question asked, and can never be answered.

Were some of those officers from 1942 or the people who learned to fly, and love the northwoods, on the team that decided to return here?
space

A photograph taken by Clarence Toburen shows the airport and dozens of aircraft during the heyday of the U.S. Army Air Force glider training program here.
2017
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ANTIGO DAILY
JOURNAL
612 Superior Street
Antigo, WI 54409
Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
MapOnUs Location: (local)

WEEKLY
JOURNAL
EXPRESS
612 Superior Street,
Antigo, WI 54409
Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
MapOnUs Location: (local)

*Member WNA & NNA

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