Memories of Malden

Do you have a story to share from your time at Malden Army Airfield or Malden Air Base? We'd love to hear from you! Meanwhile, here are some memories of Malden that have been generously shared with us and may sound somewhat familiar to you.

"Landing in one piece at MAB after the T-28 night solo cross-country to Paducah!"

          -- L.F., Class 57-A, 1955-56

L.F., Class 57-A

1944,missippi river flooded all of the land,at dorena mo,our family of sharecroppers was evacuated to malden base,we were like refugrees, living at the base,we lived better than we did living in the house where we were rescued, they fed us well there at the base,better than we had at home,powdered eggs & milk was a treat,loved it,what a nice place it was,compared to the cotton fields,you folks were our heros,even with the planes dive bombing us when pickin cotton.my mom would always say 'keep your head down",keep on picking,never mind those planes,they couldnt hit us anyway, guess she was right, they came close but no accidents, all this is some memoral times,thank you malden afb, my brother joe,was so inspired with the planes, he went into the air force, i was in the marine corps,due to the nature & way we were raised,always fighting & scuffling, i later on became a professional fighter,joe became a business man, had it not been for the malden afb,saving !
 our lives,none of this would never have happened, once again afb, thank you
J & J Newsom

Newson, Flood 1944

"During one solo night flight a student pushed the T6 prop control forward (like for takeoff) and quietly glided down toward a drive-in theatre. When he came to the theatre, he pushed the throttle of the T6 forward and, of course, the engine roared like it did on take-off. There was pandemonium at the theatre; rumor had it he was so low that the silouete of the plane appeared on the screen as he flew off. No one was caught."

          -- H.D., Class 56-B, 1954-55

H.D., Class 56-B

"In 1953 and 1954, Malden was a small, rural town of mostly mature, and friendly, genuinely good people. We were a bunch of young men, eager to become something to be respected, if only in our own analyses, and we were fortunate to have lived for about seven months among these good people of Malden, Bernie, Dexter, Poplar Bluff. We were treated well, and hope that there were but few times the locals wished that we actually weren't among them.

It was never hot while we were in Malden. We did experience some of the cold. Remembering the requirement for us to "shoot" landing qualification "stages", where we flew the traffic pattern solo with the canopy fully open for the entire flight, and we practiced for grade purposes repeated landings and takeoffs for periods up to three hours, in January, with the temperature hovering around eight degrees Fahrenheit and a 100 mph wind in your face. It might better be described as damned cold. Maybe even frigid.

But we made up for it on Friday night. And again on Saturday night. We covered much of the local and not-so-local areas on those occasions. It was never cold on Friday night. Or on Saturday night.

You know, we were never bored during our brief stay with you. And we never met a person in the Malden area that we didn't like. You treated us well. Missouri has some mighty fine folks. We were young then, but hopefully we always tried to be gentlemen. We hope we didn't cause you too much concern. Thanks for having us!"
          
    -- J.C., Class 54-Q, 1953-54

J.C., Class 54-Q

"I remember doing tail spins over a field of people who were picking cotton, and watching them hurridly run for cover as the downward spiraling plane approached the point of recovering from the spin."

          -- H.D., Class 56-B, 1954-55

H.D., Class 56-B

I was an Aviation Cadet with 55-A Class; the best time of my life was in Malden AFB. I remember one funny thing--I was the first Cadet to be a member of the Malden Ladies Club. I was graduated with 57B Class in Reese AFB. This year we have our 50th Anniversary. I am retired from the Peruvian Air Force with the rank of Colonel.

-R.V.M. Class 55-A

R.V.M., Class 55-A

I was an aviation cadet a MAB in December 1943 and January 1944 then went on to Stuttgart and stayed most of '44 as an instructor in twin engine advanced flying training.  I was teaching students that came from Malden and other basic training fields. I think that Malden was feeding cadets to us all during '44.

   -- L. Moore Class 44-C

L. Moore, Class 44-C

As we all know it started with the Korean thing in 1950.  A forgotten war, so some would say, but it was pretty real for many.  As for me, I wanted to be in the first instructor class at Malden but due to prior commitments didn’t get in until the third class.  So on we went to Craig AFB for Pilot Instructor School (affectionately called, PIS), where one of the things I did was to teach my instructor how to make wheel landings in the T-6.  By the time the 6 weeks was over he was pretty good.  So it was back to Malden around the first of December 1951 and introduced to our first students.  Hmmm, what an interesting time! 

December of 1951 was a cold sucker — much freezing rain and plainly miserable.  The airplanes were literally frozen to the ramp and conditions were unflyable of course — the ready rooms, being reconditioned WW II buildings — wooden one story things - with asphalt shingles or tar paper on top and sides — heated by an oil fueled (or maybe propane) stove which would have been welcomed by Daniel Boone, but which would only heat a limited spot in an otherwise very cold space, were quite an introduction not only the students but to the instructors also.

We spent time — oh so much time hoping for a break in the weather but it only stayed that way for days.  Base Colonel put out an edict: “we will get a flight on each student before the Christmas break (morale purposes of course)”.  And so it was when one day there was a slight reprieve and with much clearing of ice off the planes, but no removal of ice off the ramp and runways, we got things moving.  I had 4 student assigned, 2 American Cadets and 2 NATO; one French and one Belgium.  Foreign students were supposed to be able to read, write and understand English.  But neither of the later two comprehended very much about what was going on.  So with very careful taxiing and preparations out to runway 13 we waddled.  We had about a 45 degree right cross wind -- with ice covered runway — brand new students — brand new instructors and pucker time was on.  Around the pattern the first two Americans went for their first flight with a landing that was “acceptable” under the circumstances.  Next was the Frenchman — canopy open, which he would never close — so we both froze and then next the Belgium.  He did close the canopy for the short flight but when it came time to land, I put the gear handle down — but the student would immediately pull it back up.  He remembered the handle must be moved but he was confused as how it should be used and for what purpose.  Nor would he understand my intercom instructions to either put the darn thing down and leave it alone or let me handle the thing.  All I got was him turning around and giving me a big grin and a thumbs up.  So it went – handle down — handle up, gear down-gear up for 2 or 3 times — on the way to landing.  I guess that landing was the one of the most challenging of my life up to that time.  Good stiff cross wind — ice covered runway — and I had my left knee braced against the landing gear handle while trying to put the thing on the ground.  Somehow it turned out OK.  The students had their first real flight in an Air Force airplane, most enjoyed it, and away they went for their Christmas break to brag about their exploits.  For the instructors the day was a frustrating one, one they probably wouldn’t forget and wondering what they had gotten themselves into.

For some this is old stuff, but as far as the situation at the time and place the following is offered:
The airplanes, re-manufactured North American AT-6’s and renamed T-6 were fantastic.  Some I’m sure were, old D and F models, I had flown previously back during WW-II and great airplanes for their time.  The ones we had were for all practical purposes, brand new planes, with refurbished interiors and state of the art (for the time) instrumentation, and were a pleasure to fly.  The T-6 was a very honest plane if flown properly, but would eat you for breakfast if you abused it — fly it properly and it would do what you wanted — an excellent plane all around.  Students who learned on that plane, in my estimation, were much better airman over all, than the planes that replaced the T-6.  I would like to say here however that the T-28 was also a pleasure to fly.  I must say when I got close to my first T-28 I noticed it had a Wright engine, an Aeroproducts prop and I think manufactured by the Chrysler or Kaiser company.  Didn’t sound too good to me, but still I liked the plane even though I had two complete engine failures at night, versus never having an engine failure with the T-6, a Pratt and Whitney engine.  The T-28 was great — the engine???.

Malden as you know is located in an ancient flood plain of the Mississippi river.  Level and with much sandy soil, which tends to blow with any appreciable wind, so actual sandstorm type conditions could be experienced at times.  Being in what was called the Boot heel of Missouri it was an area that got very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter—seasonal weather to say the least.  Thunderstorms, snow and ice and frost on the 100 or so airplanes parked overnight were constant problems.  With the T-6, you could operate with the canopy open — sweat like the devil but at least have wind in your face and on your body if you wanted.  In the T-28 at low altitude in the summer, it was beastly hot since you could not operate with the canopy open so you were wringing wet at the end of a period. 

Some events are more notable that others.  Like one dual night cross country from Malden-Paducah-Dyersburg below a wintry 5,000-ft ceiling, in and out of snow, truly dead-reckoning.  This mission should have been called off (had to stay on schedule you know—however the students told me later they got a kick out of watching the snow stream past by the passing and position lights).  But the following solo cross-country operation came off without a hitch.  I suppose the involved students took the dead-reckoning navigation system to heart.
Frost:  A frosty T-6 is not to be flown without either removing it or smoothing it to contour with the airfoil.  Well, due to schedule pressure one frosty morning one instructor (I won’t mention his name) had to fly an airplane off a red dash or some such, so he got in a rush and scooted out to the runway, got slightly airborne, the left wing dropped followed by a roll to the right and then back to the left very rapidly when the pilot decided he’d had enough, chopped the throttle and the plane pancaked into a water soaked area to the left of the runway, still gear down, and in a level attitude.  A great geyser of water and mud completely engulfed the plane and surprisingly the plane came to a stop upright and I think basically undamaged.  It was suspected by the accident investigators that he had attempted a takeoff without clearing the frost—but where was the frost after the incident?---gone, completely washed off by the bath.  Everyone should be so lucky.  Another scheme to remove the frost and get back to flight system was to utilize a fire truck to spray water onto the ready-for flight aircraft with engines running, which would thus remove the frost.  Many, including myself, didn’t like this because we feared that while removing frost, the water might run into parts of the flight control systems and freeze during the ensuing flight and create a potential flutter or restrict flight controls.  As it turned out the system worked perfectly and as far as I know, no one had any problems.  I suppose the temperature just above ground level was not conducive to freezing.

White-Yellow (maybe Red?)-Black flags:  These flags were hung from the central control tower, backed up by radio announcements.  As I remember, white was for unrestricted solo, yellow (or red) was for discretionary solo and black was the signal for all you cats to come home or stay on the ground.

Geese:  Migratory wildfowl flying thought the area, especially at night were always a problem in the fall season.  I know of two planes that were damaged by goose strikes.  And speaking of waterfowl, the extensive swamp to the northwest of the base provided a number of us with fantastic duck hunting along with hunting on the Mississippi river
Accidents:  Ground loops and cartwheels were part of the T-6 program causing no fatalities to my knowledge but more serious were two dual flights, which resulted in fatal injuries to the instructors and students.  And I believe there was one midair collision between two solo students in the T-6.  The T-28 had its share of problems but mostly due to hydraulics and engine.  I believe the T-34 had relatively few accidents.  Several PA-18’s busted bungee cords and had nose up situations.

The Union thing:  Ok, so some didn’t like the fact that we all were getting some $50 or $100 pay less than most of the other 8 bases.  Dissatisfaction got a bit out of hand and a vote to organize a union was taken for the purpose of demanding more pay—a slight majority voted to organize.  Well that didn’t go over well with management and next thing you know General Dissoway (?) was up to Malden from Headquarters in his T-33, an all hands meeting was held in the base theatre and the General who delivered a very short speech stated in so many words, “gentlemen if these students aren’t flown as scheduled there will be C-47’s here in the morning and they will be flown to bases where they will get training.  The war demands it.”  With that he stomped out through the center aisle, jumped into his jet and blasted off.  Inside the theatre you could hear a pin drop—and so ended any threat of any formal organization.

Local things to do:  Malden had its Blondell’s beer joint and Pop Warner’s for entertainment and local color.  Bernie had its Hobes for beer and Joe Haw’s drug store for sore throats and splinter removal and a shot of Wild Turkey if you hung around and had a few minutes to hear some funny stories from Joe.  Dexter, a few miles further up the road had its Hob Nob emporium.  If you really wanted to get out you could go left from Dexter and end up in Poplar Bluff or turn right to Sikeston or even Cairo.  That was about it locally off base.  But on-base there was the OFFICERS CLUB, known simply as the CLUB or the “O club”.  I don’t know the buildings original use during WWII, might even have been a mess hall or club, since it was built in the traditional H shape, which was normal for that time.  It wasn’t very pretty but served the purpose; bar at one end, band stand at the other (one of the mechanics a fellow by the name of Dorsey I believe, provided music with his little band—served the purpose well)

Round one at Campbell auxiliary field:  Landing practice always provided some congestion but one day it got a little out of hand.  One instructor (name will be provided by those who know) would constantly crowd the aircraft ahead and the Flight Commander at runway control would repeatedly send him around for that reason.  Well, apparently he finally got enough of that so even though told to go around, he didn’t and after landing taxied up to control and jumped out of the plane with the student in the front cockpit with the engine running.  Up to the Flight Commander he went with arms waving and much yelling which evolved into him delivering an uppercut, decking the Commander.  Needless to say that was a no-no.  I was in my plane nearby and was called over to take over control while the Flight commander flew back to the main base in the pugilist’s plane and with his student.  By the time, this unnamed pilot got back to the base his paycheck was waiting for him and he was gone by sundown.

Anyway, these were a few things to remember about a very interesting time in a person’s life.  How could it be otherwise?  Here we had the best group of students in the world, darn good airplanes, a job that most of us loved all for around $450 a month, a bunch of highly skilled coworkers, a long weekend every other weekend, a week off between each 6 month class, a frozen turkey at Christmas from the boss and in an area of very friendly local people.  Yep, we had our problems with a few grumpy persons but that goes with the territory any place in life.

Take care and good luck

-- Bill Fredrick

Bill Fredrick, AAA Instructor

Now here’s a story, all true of course, of a typical day on the Malden AB flight line as best I can remember. I was a member of the Fireball flight. You may know the Fireballers; they were the ones assigned a Billy goat as a mascot. Of course, one day some wise guys from another flight kidnapped Billy and while they had him altered some of his anatomy with red paint then paraded him around at happy hour to humiliate our flight. Talk about cruelty to animals!  You might also recall that Ken Woods and Jim Quenichet were flight instructors for the students of that flight. Two great instructors!  And by coincidence, when I arrived in Malden for training I rented the house next door to Jim, 407 Washington, if I remember correctly.  I was really surprised to discover I had worked in Memphis branch of the Tennessee Welfare Department for Jim’s sister of whom he was fond, although he was quick to educate me that the name was pronounced, “Quin a shay” not “Quin net chit! ”, as she preferred. But it turned out that Ken would be my instructor and on the morning of this story. After the usual table discussion of the lesson, he directed me to check out a T-28 and have it running; he would be along shortly to join me for instruction. Then, by chance Jim Q was sitting in the 28 next to me behind one of his students doing a preflight.  I began the start sequence on the big 800 horsepower Curtis Wright, R-1300 radial engine. I pressed the primer and start buttons, the prop began to rotate and on about the second turn a muffled explosion accompanied by flames pouring out around the nose signaled I had committed the rookie mistake of over priming. My finger was still on the start button when I looked up out of the left side of the cockpit to see my fire guard drop the hose and take off across the ramp.  The prop still turning, my finger must have been frozen on the start button, my gaze continued to my right to see Jim in the next aircraft, a determined look on his face and a fore finger and wrist spinning around urging me to continue cranking. Turns out he was right, momentarily the engine started, the big prop blew out the flames and I could breathe a sigh of relief.

Ken arrived. We took off and finished the flight training. I neglected to tell him of the preceding incident. In fact he didn’t find out about the unusual start until later that morning from Jim.  Ken, in his usual, once on the ground, casual fashion only said, “You didn’t tell me we were flying a cinder box?” If you remember Ken, in the airplane, it was always best to let him do all the talking.

Years later I ran into Jim down at Twinkle Town airport in Mississippi where he worked as an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner. His long career was honored by having a high altitude intersection was named after him.

Thanks to all the Anderson Air Activities and Malden community folks that made fifty years of military, airline and corporate flying possible for me.

Rod Lee 60D

Rod Lee, Class 60-D

I have fond memories of Malden Army Air Field, because I was a member of one of the first classes to train at this base in 1943. My class was 43-J.  It was seldom that I could venture into the town of Malden, but I have vivid memories of my weeks at the base.  Some memories are good; some are not too good. It would be great to return to your area and relive some of them.  My instructor was Lt. Finch. I know he would be totally surprised to learn that I completed my tour of duty with the 15th Air Force in Europe as an Ace, credited with 6 aerial kills, 6 planes (German) and 12 locomotive destroyed by strafing. I think he had some doubts that I could earn my pilot's wings.  I had little contact with the people of Malden, but I remember them as hospitable, eager to help the military, and filled with patriotism.

Best wishes to the Malden Army Airfield Preservation Society.

Barrie Davis

Colonel (ret)

Barrie Davis, Class 43-J