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 Bay St. George. 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. to be used as offices and residences. Only a few buildings were taken, however, with the vast majority being built. During the American presence 247 family housing units were built as well as a 600-seat theater and two 500-seat dining halls for military personnel. In addition, four 68-bed civilian dormitories were constructed.
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 to be built. Even the hangars fell into this category. However, this was changed after December 1941 to semi-permanent hangars. The permanent structures came some time later.
On December 7, 1941, when America declared war on the Japanese, the U.S. Army Air Force Base had not been completed. The Newfoundland Base Contractors were told to leave in place all temporary buildings then occupied. These had been 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 had not been 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 vessel until their tent accommodations were ready. The largest "tent city" to be erected in Newfoundland and Labrador up to that time, and which consisted of over 100 mammoth size tents, was called Camp Morris. There were only a few military organizations at Harmon at the time such as the Army Coast Artillery, Army Transport Command, Signal Corps, and the Army Air Communications Squadron. There were also other organizations such as a port company, a trucking company, an ordnance company and a quartermaster along with medics, bakers, cooks and others to make up a troop contingency. By April 1943, there were 17 military units assigned and more than 400 soldiers living at the Stephenville air base.