Runways In The Sand - by Wilson
Runways in the Sand covers the history of the USAAF airfield in Blythe, CA from the initial surveys to its decommissioning. The Army found the weather in the costal region of southern California to be inconsistent for the kind of "round the clock" training they needed to do. So they started looking at the dry desert regions to the east. Situated on a major flyway with plenty of available land, it didn't take long for the Army to decide that Blythe was to be the site of a training base.
Of course heat, wind and sand all presented challenges to those who built, maintained and served on such facilities. In its early life the base supported Patton's Dessert Warfare Training Center and the maneuvers held there. In fact, one of the humorous side-notes in the book is a copy of a very contrite letter written by the famous general to the CAA Engineer at Blythe. Apparently the local CAA man had pulled Pattons civilian pilots license for failing to file a flight plan. This had evidently prompted one of Patton's famous fiery retorts at the time, for which he was now apologizing.
For the bulk of the war the Blythe Airfield served as a B-24 crew-training site and the home of the 34th Bomb Group. Wilson, a local resident, became interested in the story of the base and spent nearly a decade researching its history. He interviewed numerous veterans who served there to get a picture of what life was like on the base.
Bit by bit, document by document he slowly pieced together the life-cycle of Blythe Army Air Force Base. He covers the various units stationed there, the aircraft used, plus various accidents and incidents in its operational history. In the spring of 1944 the 34th Bomb Group was sent to England to be a part of the 8th Air Force and base activity began to wind down.
Wilson carries the base history up to the present day with photos and maps of its present condition. He even locates and describes some of the surviving landmarks from its wartime service.
This is a highly specialized book, but one that would be of interest to any of the hundreds of crews who passed through Blythe on their way to the Mighty 8th. It's well written, well edited and nicely laid out. I was surprised to find that it was self-published as it's several notches in quality and appearance above what you might expect of the typical self-published work. The book is available from the author online at www.blytheairbase.com.