Updated June, 2021 by Larry Bothe
Named for Capt. Richard Freeman (killed in a B-17 crash near Lovelock, Nevada in February,1941), Freeman Field was started in May, 1942 and covers 4 square miles. It replaced 27 farms totaling 2600 acres. Construction time was 9 months, 5/42 to 2/43. The official opening was on 12/1/1942. A cemetery had to be moved, but no environmental impact study was conducted. The concrete for one runway was poured under circus tents during cold weather.
Buildings & Infrastructure: Originally there were four paved runways, each one 5580 feet long and 150 feet wide, with 9 taxiways out to the runways. Today there are two paved runways, one 6000 feet long; the other 5500 feet in length. Both are 100 feet wide. There are also two grass runways for ultralight aircraft, 1600 x 150 and 1000 x 150. The wrap-around parking ramp was 600 feet wide and 5600 feet long, about 75 acres. Approximately half of it remains in use in today. All the concrete covered about 175 acres; equal to a 2-lane highway 80 miles long. There were 413 buildings, 12 mi. of roads, 24 mi. of drainage ditches, 27 mi. of storm sewers, 8 mi. of sanitary sewers, 14 mi. of water lines, and almost a mile of rail siding. Only 11 of the original WWII buildings remain today (2021).
Aircraft & Cadets: 250 Beech AT-10’s (no civilian designation, only one remaining) were used to train 4245 pilots. 19 classes were graduated from 4/23/43 to 2/1/1945. 23 cadet pilots were killed in training. About 5000 men and women were stationed here at the peak of operations. The pilots who trained at Freeman Field had been through basic flight school and already knew how to fly. They were here to learn multi-engine aircraft operations and flight solely by reference to instruments. From Freeman Field they went to their third and final level of training at another base to learn to fly bombers and transports.
February, 1944: Future astronaut Gus Grissom enlisted in the Army at Freeman Field.
September, 1944: The first US helicopter training base was established at Freeman Field using the primitive Sikorsky R4 “Hoverfly”. After a few months it moved to Chanute Army Airfield in Rantoul, IL.
March 1, 1945: The 477th Bomb Group, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, was transferred to Freeman Field. They were here for only 5 weeks. The “Freeman Field Mutiny”, an attempt to integrate the white Officer’s Club, ensued. There were no serious injuries and only 3 black officers were court-martialed; only one found guilty. The incident was a catalyst for the desegregation of the US armed services.
June, 1945: Freeman Field designated as the Foreign Aircraft Evaluation Center. 160 enemy aircraft, including German jets, V-1 buzz bombs and V-2 rockets, were shipped here. One combat pilot was killed in 1945 while evaluating a Focke-Wulf Fw-190.
November, 1945: USAAF glider branch flight test and engineering operations were moved to Freeman Field from Clinton County Army Air Field, Wilmington Ohio. After only 5 months (March, ’46), glider operations were moved to Wright Field, leaving at Freeman the aircraft and equipment not deemed necessary for future glider branch engineering operations. Some of these unnecessary, experimental and test glider flight articles were designated for Orchard Field (now Chicago – O’Hare) storage by General Hap Arnold. Other (powered) aircraft from Freeman Field ended up at Orchard Field as well, and at museums all around the country. Because there were already so many collectible planes here it was suggested by Gen. Arnold that Freeman Field be designated as the Air Force Museum. However, it ended up in Dayton, OH (Wright-Patterson AFB) because they had bigger/better hangars.
October, 1946: The foreign aircraft evaluation period came to an end. Remaining whole aircraft were sent to museums around the country. Parts from disassembled aircraft were buried on the field, and Freeman Field was closed.
Present time: In 1947 Freeman Army Airfield was deeded to the City of Seymour. It is now the city airport, an industrial park, and an agricultural area. There are approximately 60 businesses or organizations located in the industrial park, and 1,400 agricultural acres are leased to five area farmers.