US Army Air Force Base Construction
This page is from a heritage partnered project. It was written in 1998 by students from Stephenville Integrated High School and edited by their teachers. It has not been vetted by the heritage website's academic editor.
The construction of the US Army Air Force Base was started in 1941 when the US came to Stephenville Newfoundland. The people of Stephenville helped in the construction of the Base which employed over 1500 people.
The largest area specified in the Anglo-American Lend-Lease Agreement was designated at Stephenville for the construction of an Air Force Base. The total of 8159 acres, selected in October, 1940, was situated at the northeast end of St. Georges Bay. This was to become the largest military airport of the United States Army Air Force outside of continental USA. It was to be known in 1941 as Stephenville Air Base.
During the construction of the Air Force Base some houses and buildings were taken by the U.S. for their offices and living residents. Only a few buildings were taken with the vast majority being built. While the US military was here 247 family housing units, a 600-seat theater and two 500-seat dining halls for military personnel were among the buildings constructed. In addition, four 68-bed civilian dormitories were built.
The Newfoundland Base Contractors, working under the U.S. Corps of Engineers, awarded its first contract to an American contracting company in February 1941, for the construction of an airfield and all of the component buildings necessary. Several of the former resident houses and buildings that could be relocated, were used by the Corps of Engineers and Contractors as offices and living quarters. The original plan called for all temporary structures. Even the hangers fell into this category. However, this was changed after December 1941 to semi-permanent hangers. The permanent structures came some time later.
In 1941 on December 7th when America declared war on the Japanese the U.S. Army Air Force Base was not completed. The Newfoundland Base Contractors were told to leave all buildings occupied by then in place. These were scheduled to be demolished when the Base was completed. The U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) personnel were quartered on the base in tents and other temporary structures until new quarters were completed. Harmon Field was not completed when in April of 1942. Over 700 U.S. Army Air Corps personnel, including the 429th Bombardment Squadron, arrived by military sea transport. It was necessary for these troops to stay aboard the military transport until their tent accommodations were ready. The largest "tent city" to that time to be erected in Newfoundland, consisting of over 100 mammoth size tents, to temporarily accommodate these troops, was called Camp Morris. There were very few organizations at Harmon at the time, including the Army Coast Artillery, Army Transport Command, signal Corps, and the Army Air Communications Squadron. However there was a Port Company, Trucking Company, Ordinance Company, and Quartermaster along with medics, bakers, cooks and others to make up a troop contingency. By April 1943, there were seventeen military units assigned and more than 400 soldiers.