From July 19, 1931 to July 19, 1934, Keith was serving with the 64th Service Squadron of the Air Corps at March Field in Riverside, California.
“As March Field began to take on the appearance of a permanent military installation, the base’s basic mission changed. When Randolph Field began to function as a training site in 1931, March Field became an operational base. Before the end of the year, the 7th Bomb Group, commanded by Major Carl A. Spaatz, brought its Condor B-2 and Keystone B-4 bombers to the picturesque field. The activation of the 17th Pursuit Group and several subordinate units along with the arrival of the 1st Bombardment Wing initiated a period where March Field became associated with the Air Corp’s heaviest aircraft as well as an assortment of fighters. In the decade before World War II, March Field took on much of its current appearance.
It also became more than a place hard to find on aerial maps of Southern California. Lieutenant Colonel Henry H. (Hap) Arnold, base commander from 1931 to 1936, changed this. Through well-publicized maneuvers to Yosemite, Death Valley and other sites in California, a visit by Governor James Rolph in March 1932, numerous visits by Hollywood celebrities including Bebe Daniels, Wallace Beery, Rochelle Hudson and others, and visits by famous aviators including Amelia Earhart, March Field gained prominence. Articles in Los Angeles newspapers kept March Field in the news and brought to it considerable public attention. The completion of the first phase of permanent buildings in 1934 added to the scenic quality of the base. This was also a period of outstanding achievements in test flights and other contributions to the new science of aviation. Dusty March Field had come a long way in one decade.”
Taken from March Field Air Museum website: http://www.marchfield.org/
Another website about March Field: http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/aviation/mrc.htm
My father would tell a story about a famous actor that he met, however, I never knew where or when. I believe this encounter was at March Field. This was the time that Gary Cooper came into the plane Dad was working on and looked around. My Dad gave him space and didn’t bother him, being the polite man he was. I do not know if he was a fan at the time or became one after, but we watched many of Mr. Cooper’s films together.
Here are a couple more airplane photos in his collection dated Nov. 1931.
Here is a brief summary of his experience at March Field:
Location and title of work: Airplane Operations and Maintenance under Supervisor Technical Sgt. Nels F. Swanson.
Classification: Private, First Class, Specialist 3rd – $21 to $50 per month.
The photo below is presented here as a guess. I think this was at March Field because of the palm tree but I don’t know for sure. I am not familiar with the uniforms. He was to be stationed later at Shreveport, LA and after that at Rockwell in California? I have quite a few photos of him during this time period and figuring out when they occurred has been difficult.
Squadron Duties – painting, landscaping, construction work, house renovating, furniture and freight moving, truck driving, station fireman, permanent K.P.
In 1932 they held a Thanksgiving Dinner at the base. Keith is listed under privates on the first page, right column.
Guard Squadron Hanger duties: gas and oil supply, hanger supply helper, squadron Operation Clerk’s stooge and hanger Guard.
NOTE: You can see his humor coming out in the description of his duties.
Assistant Crew Chief on: C-14, C-6-A, C4-A-C-27, BT2B, B-4-B-2. Engine R-1340 R1520. Hornet & Curtiss Conqueror.
Crew Chief on PT 3A-Wright S-5.
Work performed: routine 20 and 40 hour inspections. servicing pre-flight preparations and run up, engine and component replacement, flight mechanic on XC’s, aero repair, changing cylinder banks on Conquerors, and wing and surfaces replacement, minor repairs, fabric and dope repairs.
Other airplanes he mentions and some we have seen before are: CShips – P-12-P12-6, BT2, Sikorsky Amphib, Ford Trimotor, B72B-C4-A-C-6-A-B2 & B4, C14-C27, Fokker Trimotor, Fokker C-14, American Pilgrim, Curtiss Condor & Keystone Bombers, Douglas Basic Trainer, Boeing 12-12 & P-26.
Here is the menu and roster for the 1933 Thanksgiving Dinner for the 64th:
Eligible for AM Rating – Engines 95% and eligible for Air Machines Rating, Engine 9590 repair & replacement of components, preflight of engine, preparation of aircraft for flight, and Crew Chief on flights.
Reason for leaving – completion of enlistment and expiration of service term. He received an Honorable Discharge on 19th of July, 1934 from the 64th Service Squadron Air Corps.
Typed on his discharge paper it reads
Chanute Field, Rantoul Ill. Aug. 3, 1935 Re-enlisted by me this date in GR of PVT for Air Corps, Chanute Field, For Three (3) years. Signed by Robert. W. Harper, Capt. AC Recruiting Officer.
He was on his way to Air Corps Technical School. I think this was his goal. He was heading for Illinois, he had to report by August 15, 1935.