Crew Chief, Chanute Field Air Corps: 1935 to 1936

It was always a puzzle why Keith never learned to fly an airplane. However, he could taxi an aircraft which was part of his job as a Crew Chief as long as he was rated for it.  As Crew Chief, it was his responsibility to make sure the plane was ready to fly at a moments notice, and he would put his honor out their signing off on the aircraft.

Something tells me that this picture below has a great story….

Dad taxing a plane

Keith taxing a plane

In 2006, the opportunity to travel to Rantoul, Illinois was presented and I took advantage. It is about a 2 hour drive from Valparaiso, Indiana where we were visiting.

Keith was crew chief on these aircraft, per the Chanute Museum Historian who gave me photos which I cannot post, but some of these links below are the same photos I have. You can put the number of the plane into the Google search engine something like this: B-10 Aircraft. Another option is to go to Google Images and possibilities come up.

Martin B-10:

Douglas 0-46 ,

Douglas 0-43,

Douglas BT-2B or O-2:

Northrop A-17 (Nomad):

Berliner-Joyce Company YP-16:

Below is a photo that was and 8 x 10 in Keith’s collection so it was probably important to him. He did mention passenger planes on occasion.  This might be a Boeing 314 Clipper. Try the link below and do a comparison.  The angle is different but I think it works?

Mystery Plane 1930's

Mystery Plane 1930’s, maybe a 314 Boeing Clipper

Chanute field is totally different now then back when Keith was there, It is basically shut down as a military base and ghostly.  There is a museum which was thoroughly visited by me:  The museum is now closed

Chanute Field 2006

Chanute Field 2006

In 2006 there were exhibits on the wall of the museum about the Chanute Air Force Base history:

1930 Air Corp History

1930 Air Corp History

Base Operations 1933

Base Operations 1933

In the photo below, in the front row the third man over from the left and standing a little forward just might be my Dad? He graduated in 1936.  The book does not name him?

DSCN3730 DSCN3729 DSCN3728

A little Christmas

A little Christmas

There is a BIG heavy book titled: 75 Year Pictorial History, Chanute Air Force Base, Diamond Anniversary, Chanute Air Force Base, Rantoul, Illinois, with 2006 Addendum, by Donald O. Weckhorst, Chief Master Sergeant, USAF, Retired, 1992. 

This book is filled with lots of great history and photographs about the airfield. The time period I was interested in was of course the mid 1930’s.  There are photos as you can see above but as usual you don’t always find exactly what you want. History seems to favor the pilots and not the ground staff, just like in the Civil War when I was researching Keith’s grandfathers’ service as a Wagoner. The book was about $50.00 and an inch thick.

Chanute's History Book

Chanute’s History Book

Here is  a photo in the collection were they are lined up.  Written on the back of the photo it reads: Chowline.



Keith is the 4th man from the left. They all look very cold.

From the Chanute history book:

A Day in the Army (Air Corps) by Arthur B. Holcomb”

We live on a reservation; it is called a post.  It is like and Indian reservation only Indians use wampum for money and we use canteen checks and show tickets. The buildings we live in are a block long and very narrow. They are called a barracks; inside they look like a barn. The walls are painted and have steam pipes running all around them. Sometimes in the winter there is steam in the pipes. Our beds are arranged in long rows along the walls and are known as bunks. A soldier’s best friend is his bunk. We have footlockers to keep our clothes and talcum powder in.  It is like a trunk and has a lid with women’s pictures pasted in it. The lid slams and makes a great noise. In the middle of the night you have to get up; it is jut 6:15 a.m. A big soldier with a lot of stripes and things on his sleeve bellows, “Out of them beds!”, and you’d better fit, too, if you know what’s good for you.  As soon as you get up you have to stand reveille, that is, line up outside in the cold and light a cigarette and say “Uh!” when your name is called.  Then they shoot off a cannon and put  up the flag., and you go inside and make up your bunk.  Every man has to make his own bunk and turn down the sheets. There are little black lines painted on your bunk so everyone will turn down their sheets alike. A few rugged individualists ignore the black lines, but they get over that.  After you swept out under your bunk and dusted your shoes, you take your soap and towel and go to the wash room.  It is a big square room with a broken cement floor and is always very hot.  It has 30 wash bowls in the center. There are two rows facing each other.  When you are washing your face you can look thru the soap and see the man on the other side looking at you thru his soap.  You are still very sleepy.
About this time a man with some stripes shouts, “Outside for chow!” We don’t have breakfast, lunch and dinner, but we have “chow” three times a day.  You have to go outside again and get in ranks and the man with the stripes says, “Squads-ight!–Arch!!”, and you march a half-mile to the dining room.  It is a huge building and looks like the one the “man on the flying trapeze” practices in.  It is called the “general mess” and they admit it, ’cause the sign on the front “Building number 3 — General Mess.”  Once inside you are in the mist of a great turmoil. There are seven hundred soldiers in there and they all act starved and like they got up on the wrong side of the bed.  You can be sure of eggs, milk and coffee. You must guess at the rest.  Twelve men sit at a table and grab at the food and shout and curse one another. If you empty a dish, you must hold it over your head, while you butter your bread with your free hand.  After a long time, your arm is tired, a table waiter takes the dish to the kitchen and has it filled and takes it to some other table that already has one.  If you get a dish with only one serving left in it, it is called a “Cinch.” If you set it down with having it refilled, it is called “Checking a cinch,” and makes everyone at the table wild. They mutter die threats and snarl. If someone asks for something and while it is being passed up, another helps himself, that is called “short-stopping.” People who “short-stop” get told about it in long raucous voices. Everyone calls the milk “cow,” butter is “salve” and meat pie or anything similar is “slum.” If you don’t know what something is you call it “mystery.” Sometimes there is a big aluminum pitcher on the table. If there are bowls on the table, it is soup, if there is milk on the table, it is coffee, but i there is neither, it is tea, unless it is sweet, then it is cocoa. 
After you have devoured everything in sight and the table waiters say “there ain’t no more,” you go back to the barracks and finish “policing up” (cleaning) your bunk area.  Pretty soon a siren blows; it is very loud and sounds like the one at San Quentin when a prisoner escapes.  It means your must go to work.  Some of us paper men and go to offices in the hangars where we write letters and tell stories and use government ink. Some work at the garage and drive trucks up and down all day.  The trucks are painted olive drab and have no license plates. Others work around the airplanes; it is called working on the line. No one know just what they do,m but they get awfully dirty and have chapped hands.  There are a lot of men who are unfortunate, or aren’t very smart they do “fatigue.” General fatigue is when you drive a mile and scatter ashes on the ice, or white-wash rocks, or shovel coal, or pick up paper and rubbish. “Squadron fatigue” is when you scrub the wash room and paint the steps to the barracks, then lay on your bunk or play pool with the First Sergeant.  We call him the “hard soldier.” He has a loud voice and swears and runs the outfit. At 11:40 the siren blows again and we go to the barracks and read the bulletin board to see if we’re on table waiter. Then we go in to the “Day-room” and fight over the Chicago Tribune. 
Pretty soon we go outside and march to the General Mess again and it seems like two miles because we are very hungry.  They always have the best chow at noon and mot of the men are awake by this time and fight harder and curse louder.  At 12:40 you go to work again and finish the letter you were writing in the morning. At 3:40 you are through for the day, unless they blow the siren again.  That means there is a fire and you have to run like hell to a little shanty and drag out an old-fashioned hose cart. In the afternoon, after work, you lay on your bunk and rest up or else you go in the day room and read “Esquire.” Almost every afternoon, a poker game is organized. You play for show tickets, canteen checks, barber tickets, tailor tickets or cash.  Cash is very scarce. It is called “hard money” or, “white money.” Everyone argues a lot and loses their show tickets.  At 5:00 p.m. they blow first call for retreat. It is done by a recruit on bugle and is the same noise you here at 6:15 when you get up. If you’re going to try again for chow you have to fall out and fall in. That is, go outside and get in ranks. 
At 5:05 the man with the stripes (yes, he’s still around), says, “Parade Rest!” You stand in an awkward position with your hands before you and look across the flying field and wonder what it is all about.  All this time the bugler, who is very cold and whose lips have frozen to the cold mouthpiece of the bugle is blowing.  He pauses for a second and the cannon booms and startles you, the man with the stripes shouts, “T’chun!” and you have to stand very stiff and someone hauls down the flag while the bugler blows.  IT would sound better if he held i up and let the wind blow through it. You march to chow and they have chocolate cake and left over slum.  In the evening you do as you please. Some play poker.  Those who haven’t played poker still have show tickets and go to he local cinema.  I pace up and down and stop now and then by a bunk where there is a group of men telling big lies.  They call it “batting the breeze.” Then I go wash my face–it isn’t dirty–but is something to do. Then I go in the day room and play pool or read “Esquire” and try to listen to the radio, to which someone is attempting to whistle. At 9:00 o’clock you crawl into your bunk and put your feet on the steam pies.  They turn out all the lights but those in the day room.  Those go out at 11:00. About midnight your buddie, who has a girl up town, comes in. He is full of beer and stumbles over his foot locker and curses and wakes everyone up.  Then it is quiet, except for the steam pipes banging and fifty men snoring and four or five talking in their sleep.  By this time it is 6:15 again and the bugler is at his bugle again and so it goes….pages 97-99.

Interesting that there is no mention of the Air Corps Training School.

About BJ MacDonald

Interested in travel, really into genealogy and researching my family history, classic novels and movies, fantasy and science fiction, photography, history and more... Here is a tip. Make sure you are commenting on the blog you were visiting and the post you were interested in. My blogs are listed by hovering over my pictures and clicking. Clicking one of them will take you back to the correct blog. You can try me here:
This entry was posted in Air Corps Technical School Rantoul Illinois, Chanute Air Force Base Museum, Illinois, Keith B. MacDonald, Rantoul, Trip to Chanute Field Rantoul Illinois 2006 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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