Dallam and Hartley Counties' generally flat terrain, thermal activity, dry, clear skies and a local bond to purchase more than 3,000 acres of land southwest of Dalhart resulted in the opening of a training site during World War II. In May 1942, Dalhart Army Air Field [DAAF] (U.S. Army Air Forces Glider School [USAAF]) opened. While under construction the command's temporary headquarters operated from a tent city in Amarillo.Texas in World War II
In Sept. 1942, cadets began arriving for training on the new Waco CG-4A "Hadrian" glider. Cadets honed their skills—takeoff, flight while in tow behind C-47s on 350 feet of nylon rope, holding position on a double tow & recovery techniques involving being snatched by a tow aircraft flying overhead—above the Texas panhandle. Cadets also learned infantry skills, as they were expected to serve as combat soldiers after landing.
DAAF's training mission changed in March 1943, when the glider school transferred to the South Plains Army Air Field (Lubbock). DAAF's new assignment became the training of B-17 bomber crews as replacements for losses suffered from sorties in the European theater of operations. Cadets flew training missions over practice target areas in the panhandle, while fighter aircraft cadets practiced bomber escort duty at two satellite fields—Aux. #1 (Hartley) & Aux. #2 (Dallam)—built in 1943. However, combat needs late in the war once again altered DAAF's mission.
By early 1944, America's strategic bombing needs lay in the Pacific and several bombardment groups (B-29s) trained at DAAF for deployment in the Pacific. One of these, the 393rd Bomb Squadron, 504th Bombardment Group— later selected by Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr.— served as the core of a unit trained to drop atomic bombs on Japan in 1945. Thus, in little more than three years, DAAF and Dallam & Hartley counties were all impacted by the evolving demands of the U.S. war effort. In Dec. 1945, DAAF closed bringing an end to the USAAF presence in Dallam & Hartley counties.