Air Corps Technical School Course 1935 to 1936

In Overalls which would be his standard for the remainder of his life

In Overalls a mechanics attire…

From August 1935 to November 1936, Keith attended Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field.  He enrolled in the Airplane and Engine Mechanics Course. He was at school sixteen months.

Engine work

Engines lined up

His subjects are listed below and each course had hours involved which is the number following:

  • Engine operation and testing – 54
  • Fuel, lubricants, superchargers – 57
  • Ignition, starting, lighting systems – 84
  • Engine Construction and repair – 147
  • Airplane inspection and maintenance – 90
  • Airplane rigging and theory of flight – 60
  • Airplane construction and repair – 87
  • Airplane propellers – 57
  • Airplane instruments – 60
  • Airplane covering and finishing – 60
  • Airplane metal work – 57
  • Basic Training
  • Elements of wood work – 30
  • Elements of metal work – 30
  • Mechanical Drawing – 45
  • Mathematics – 45

Total 1035 hours of training




Drawing class?

It is my belief that the photos above are of the school at Chanute Field.  Of course, I am guessing for nothing was written on them.

Here they are finishing props class.  Keith is on the right, front man in front in squat position. They are holding what looks like a booklet. Unfortunately, there are no names written on the back of this photo.

ACTS Finishing Props

ACTS Finishing Props

Posted in Air Corps Technical School Rantoul Illinois, Illinois, Keith B. MacDonald, Keith B. MacDonald's Military Service, Rantoul | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Army Air Corps Technical School, Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois Aug 1935…

On July 26, 1935, Keith received his orders to report to the Air Corps Technical School by August 15, 1935.

Chanute Field Sign

Chanute Field Sign

Air Corps Technical School, Office of the Trade Test Division, Chanute Field, Rantoul, Ills.

July 26, 1935

Dear MacDonald: Replying to your letter of July 21, 1935 please be advised that enlistments for Air Corps Unassigned were resumed on July 1, 1935. We have a waiting list of approximately 1200 applicants, however, as you are a previous service man you naturally are given preference over the entire list. We can authorize your enlistment for A.C. Unassigned and if you will report to my office in the school Building at your earliest convenience you will be re-enlisted for the Student body. The Air Corps Technical School – which is all unassigned men and who, upon completing their course of instruction, will be transferred to other Air Corps flying fields.

The Airplane Mechanics Course and the Air Corps Supply and Technical clerks course will start instruction on September 3, 1935. 

Your experience in the service plus your general educational and technical qualifications would indicate that you possess all necessary qualifications to be successful in one of these courses.

Yours truly, Wm. J. Barley, Chief, Trade Test Ex. 

P.S. I am enclosing herewith an official authorization for your enlistment 

He was given the Rank of Private 1st Class.

Street and buildings, maybe Chanute

Street and buildings, maybe Chanute

There was another form letter dated the same day, maybe this was the official authorization or at least instructions to report.

Mr. Keith MacDonald, 1809 Marshal Ave., St. Paul., Minn. 

Dear Sir:  

Please be advised that a vacancy now exists in the student body of The Air Corps Technical School, Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois, for which you may be enlisted if found qualified, as a result of Intelligence Test, Physical Examination, and as to character.

In view of the above, you are hereby instructed to report at the earliest practicable time to the Receiving Barracks, at Chanute Field, Rantoul., Illinois.

If you are under twenty-one years of age, your parents’ or guardian’s written consent is necessary, and must be presented when you report. You will be further required to present to the Recruiting Officer, Chanute Field, a letter from a reputable citizen, stating that you are not married, and that you are of good character.

Inasmuch as the expenses of transportation involved must be paid by yourself, you are urged, before departing for Chanute Field, to visit the U.S. Army Recruiting Station nearest your home, or a competent doctor, and request a preliminary physical examination, in order to ascertain, as far as possible, that you are in proper physical condition to pass the physical examination for enlistment, which will be given you at this station. Should you find that you are physically unfit beforehand, you would thereby save yourself the costs of the trip and subsequent rejection.

Failure to report, as above specified, at Chanute Field, by August 15, 1935 will automatically cancel these instructions to report for your enlistment. 

Very truly yours,

W.O. Eareckson, Captain, Air Corps, Secretary

Chanute Field Hanger

Chanute Field Hanger

Garage Building

Garage Building, maybe Chanute?

The following photographs of planes lined up may have been at Chanute.

A row of planes at the ready

A row of planes at the ready

More Planes on field

More Planes on field

He had made it into Air Corps Technical School and for the next few years he would be studying the craft of airplane mechanic.  Google images has many pictures of the base at Chanute Field.  It’s history is not a happy one toward the end.

The Chanute Air Museum:

Posted in Air Corps Technical School Rantoul Illinois, Illinois, Keith B. MacDonald, Rantoul | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Minnesota 1934 to 1935, a little work and some school…

Dunwoody Institute in 1928

Dunwoody Institute in 1928

Keith’s military service was not continuous and after being discharged from the 64th Service Squadron, he headed to Minneapolis and entered the Dunwoody Technical Institute.  He enrolled in several courses and was awarded certificates for his efforts.

He writes that he took courses in the Auto Mechanics Department:  Batteries, Ignition, Chassis, Lubrication, Welding which totaled four months of education.

This Certificate covered Automotive: Chassis, Batteries and Ignition, awarded in February of 1935.

Dunwoody February 1935

Dunwoody February 1935

This certificate was awarded in May of 1935 and covered car lubrication and general welding.

May1935 Dunwoody

So sometime in March of 1935 he succeeded in getting work at the Ford Motor Company.

Miriam's Notes - Keith

Miriam’s Notes – Keith

He writes: July 1934 to Aug 1935 – Ford Motor Co., St. Paul., Minnesota, Auto Body Assembly, Title: Paddle Solderman & Welder, $5.00/day. Duties: Welded parts of 1935 Ford V8 Bodies, Soldered, filled in dents, at body joint seams, Straw boss last station. Laid off – reduction in force.

The following is from the Lehman Brothers Collection at Harvard University regarding the Ford Motor Company:  

The company survived the Depression years, though it was with losses of as much as $68 million per year. By 1932 Ford Motor was forced to reduce its minimum wage to $4 per day. In 1935, after the hard years of the Depression, the company raised its minimum wage to $6 per day. Despite his advances in human resources, Henry Ford discouraged workers from unionizing.

1935 Ford Minnesota Assembly Line

1935 Ford Minnesota Assembly Line

About Henry Ford:

Yahoo Answers from 5 years ago in 2010, this article describes Henry Ford:  

He was slight of build. He was a curmudgeon, and very rarely offered a genuine smile. Rather he tended to be serious and did not tolerate fools or laziness.

Henry Ford did not have much compassion for the average factory worker. He did not increase his employees’ wages out of the kindness of his heart. Ford did nothing out of the kindness of his heart. He instituted the first $5 a day wage in 1914 for the company’s benefit rather than for his employees’ benefit.

Specifically, the turnover rate of employees on Ford’s assembly line was extremely high. Because of the low pay, hard work and long hours, many workers would quit, some in a month, others in weeks or days. This was a HUGE problem as, in 1914, the demand for the Model T was peaking. This adversely affected production, i.e., the daily production could not keep up with the insatiable demand for the Model T.

Ford knew he could sell more cars and he could only sell more cars by limiting turnover and keeping employees on the assembly line. Ford’s duplicitous $5 a day strategy worked although the general public was duped, or at the very least erroneously inferred, it was a magnanimous gesture by Ford. Applicants were lined up daily outside the Ford plant for months after this wage was implemented.

As an anecdote, Ford once, when touring his factory, saw what he thought was an employee goofing off sitting on a soapbox. Ford promptly ran over to him, kicked the soapbox out from underneath him and yelled, ‘You’re FIRED!” The worker slowly got up and brushed himself off and told Ford, “You can’t fire me! I work for Michigan Power & Light.”

In short, Ford was a great industrialist, but he was not an endearing person.

My Dad was impressed with the assembly line concept but I am not sure he liked Ford. From this we see that he was learning auto mechanics and expanding his knowledge base and skills by working during the day and attending night school.  He had positioned himself to be nearer to his next step which was Chanute Field an Air Corps Technical School. It would start in August of 1935.

Keith did other things like visited his Uncle Alex (his father’s brother) and brother Gordon while in Minnesota.  Alex lived in International Falls and Gordon was probably working there.

Keith, Gordon, Uncle Alex

Keith, Gordon, Uncle Alex

Posted in Alexander McDonald, Gordon McDonald, Illinois, Keith B. MacDonald, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

64th Service Squadron, Air Corps at March Field, Riverside California

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.

March Field, Riverside California 1932 - Wikipedia

March Field, Riverside California 1932 – Wikipedia

“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:

Another website about March Field:

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.

MAirplaneonFieldNov1931 MAirplaneNov1931onfield

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.

Keith in Uniform by a Palm Tree.

Keith in Uniform by a Palm Tree.

Service Card

Service Card

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.


1932 Thanksgiving Dinner March Field, Riverside, CA 64th Service Squadron

1932 Thanksgiving Dinner March Field, Riverside, CA 64th Service Squadron

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:

64th Service Squadron Thanksgiving Dinner 1933

64th Service Squadron Thanksgiving Dinner 1933

Image990 - Copy


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.

Honorable Discharge 1934

Honorable Discharge 1934

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. 

Here Keith is a little more relaxed

Here Keith is a little more like him…note the palm bush in the background…

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.

Posted in 64th Service Squadron Air Corps March Field, California, Illinois, Keith B. MacDonald, Rantoul, Riverside | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment