The Walterboro Army Airfield and The Tuskegee Airmen

Written by:  A. Karel Horn

November 18, 2014

Anderson Airfield is a rural airfield now, but once it was an important Army Airfield during WWII.  When it was first built there were three unpaved landing strips and a mere 60 acres that had been leased by the Town of Walterboro from C.C. Anderson for the use as an airfield in the late 1920s.1  While it took a few years to get up and running Walterboro was able to purchase the land outright by 1937 at which time the airfield had been in operation for four years.2

There were conflicts arising in Europe by this time and by 1939 World War II had begun.  This is likely the reason that the local, state, and federal government began working together in order to expand and modernize the airfield by paving the landing strips and enlarging the hangar in 19413  By 1942 however, the US Army Air Force had purchased 3712 acres of land from the area surrounding the airfield and leased the airfield from the town.4   The airfield became a sub-base of the Columbia Army Airfield and belonged to a vast network of air training facilities that had to be started due to World War II.5  It was at this time that the Anderson Airfield was recommissioned as the Walterboro Army Airfield.6

When the construction was finished on the Walterboro Army Airfield the base was used as a training facility for B-25 Bombers.  It came under the control of General Doolittle and several of his “Raiders” became instructors at the facility after they returned from their successful mission in Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.7  Not only was it a training facility for fighter and bomber pilots but was also home to the largest camouflage school in the US and was the site of a German POW camp.8

Walterboro Army Airfield was an important training facility for pilots during World War II and even hosted the renowned Tuskegee Airmen between 1944 and 1945.9  The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American pilots in the US and gained their nickname because they initially trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.10  However, they became seasoned and highly trained pilots right here in Walterboro.11  According to Charles Dryden, a member of the 332nd Fighter Squadron, “So many men came to Walterboro as junior pilots and left about four months later to go overseas as well-trained fighter pilots.”12

Over five hundred of these African-American Tuskegee Airman received their advanced training at the Walterboro Army Airfield. The Army Airfield was segregated as was the norm at the time.  This did provide some additional tensions since the German POWs were able to use the same facilities as the white pilots and officers, despite their prisoner status.13

The exceptional pilots of the 332nd Squadron and many others were trained at the Walterboro Army Airfield and despite the fact that there were racial tensions and skepticism on the part of some people, the Tuskegee Airmen conducted themselves wonderfully during the war effort.  The 332nd Squadron, flying P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs, “had one of the toughest missions of the war:  escorting bombers over the skies of Germany and protecting them from Luftwaffe fighters.”14  They made such a name for themselves and did such an excellent job in their missions that the bomber pilots began to ask for them specifically to escort the bomber aircraft.15

Overcoming obstacles, skepticism, and outright discrimination the Tuskegee Airmen became an important squadron in American Military history.  While they certainly may have gotten their specialized advanced training at any other facility it is a point of pride in Colleton County that these trailblazing pilots trained here in Walterboro.  The Walterboro Army Airfield closed in 1945 and the airfield returned to its previous use as a local public airfield and is still in use today.  Visitors can see a monument honoring the Tuskegee Airmen and other sites that were important during the time that the airfield hosted the US Army during World War II.


1″Walterboro Army Airfield,” sciway.net, October 29, 2014.  http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/colleton-county/walterboro-army-airfield.html

2Ibid.

3Ibid

4Ibid

5″Tuskegee Airmen Monument and Airfield,” SC National Heritage Corridor, October 29, 2014.  http://www.scnhc.org/destination/tuskegee-airmen-monument-and-airfield

6″Walterboro Army Airfield,” sciway.net, October 29, 2014.  http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/colleton-county/walterboro-army-airfield.html

7CAF Redtail Squadron, “Walterboro, SC’s Connection to the Tuskegee Airmen,” The CAF Redtail Squadron, October 29, 2014.  http://www.redtail.org/2012/05/18/walterboro-scs-connection-to-the-tuskegee-airmen

8Jim Morekis, “Tuskegee Airmen Memorial,” lowcountryairport.com, October 29, 2014.  http://lowcountryairport.com/tuskegee-airmen-memorial/ 

9Tom Brading, “Keeping the Spirit of the Tuskegee Airmen Alive,”  Joint Base Charleston, November 8, 2011, October 29, 2014.  http://www.charleston.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123279219

10Ibid.

11CAF Redtail Squadron, “Walterboro, SC’s Connection to the Tuskegee Airmen,” The CAF Redtail Squadron, October 29, 2014.  http://www.redtail.org/2012/05/18/walterboro-scs-connection-to-the-tuskegee-airmen

12Ibid.

13Ibid.

14Jim Morekis, “Tuskegee Airmen Memorial,” lowcountryairport.com, October 29, 2014.  http://lowcountryairport.com/tuskegee-airmen-memorial/ 

15Ibid.
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