During World War II, nine preliminary and advanced military glider pilot training fields operated in Texas; one of the most prominent sites was located here. The U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) leased Lubbock Municipal Airport, and with help from the City of Lubbock expanded it for glider training. Opened in October 1942, the site was initially named South Plains Army Flying School, and later renamed South Plains Army Air Field (SPAAF).
The mission of SPAAF was ground and advanced flight training for glider pilots who flew the "Waco CG-4A" glider—the USAAF's primary glider during the war. During its tenure, SPAAF trained nearly 80% of America's combat glider pilots who served in major operations, such as Market Garden (invasion of the Netherlands), Varsity (invasion of Germany) and Overlord (the "D-Day" allied invasion of Normandy, France). SPAAF closed on April 1, 1945, more than a month before victory in Europe was declared. Designated surplus, the site was transferred to the War Assets Administration in December 1947. In 1949 the airfield returned to the City of Lubbock for Municipal use, and in 1950 the city built a modern air terminal.
Regional combat glider training facilities — located in the Texas Panhandle and South Palins — were vital components of U.S. military force projection capability during the war. In addition, the creation and maintenance of these bases contributed significantly to local economies during the war. In 1971, former glider pilots formed the National World War II Glider Pilots Association, Inc., providing the framework for the preservation of the history of the U.S. combat glider program. Today, a key element in telling this story is the Silent Wings Museum, moved to this site and opened in October 2002.