Aerial view of Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, circa 1985
A ground-breaking ceremony took place on July 30, 1941 for an aircraft maintenance depot 9 miles southeast of downtown Oklahoma City. On January 15, 1942, Lt. Col. William R. Turnbull marked the establishment of the Midwest Air Depot.
On March 1, 1942, the War Department officially activated the airfield.
The recruitment of new workers for the depot and for the Douglas Aircraft Plant being built at the same site mushroomed the employment in the Oklahoma City area.
The new airfield became Tinker Field on October 14, 1942. It was named for Major General Clarence L. Tinker, a one-eighth Osage Indian from Pawhuska, in northern Oklahoma, who lost his life in the Pacific Ocean theater while leading a flight of LB-30s on a bombing strike against the Japanese in June 1942.
During World War II, peak employment occurred in late 1943, with 13,500 people working at the air depot, with another 23,000 working at Douglas Aircraft plant. Nearly one-half of all the Tinker and Douglas workers were women who exemplified the famed "Rosie the Riveter." (see photo below)
Tinker Air Force Base history and storyboards, Charles Hall Airpark, Oklahoma City (Staff Photo)
Douglas employees built more than 5,000 C-47 Skytrains, peaking at a production of 13 Skytrains per day. In addition, Tinker maintenance crews repaired, modified, and maintained B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator and B-29 Superfortress bombers.
The airfield received its current name, Tinker Air Force Base, on January 13, 1948.
During the Korean Conflict, Tinker AFB was a maintenance and modification facility for the B-29 Superfortress, B-50 Superfortress, and the Convair B-36 Peacemaker.
The work force increased in numbers as the depot workload continued to expand. As the Air Force arsenal grew, Tinker was the maintenance point for aircraft such as the B-47 Stratojet, B-52 Stratofortress, and KC-135 Stratotanker.
The first C-141 Starlifter in the Air Force fleet, named the Spirit of Oklahoma City, was delivered to Tinker AFB in October 1964.
During the Vietnam War, the A-7 Corsair II, F-4 Phantom II, and B-52 Stratofortress aircraft received depot repair and modifications at Tinker.
Tinker Air Force Base today is one of the largest and most important military installations in the United States. It encompasses over 5,000 acres, and operates two 10,000 foot runways. The base is supported by 7,000 military and 15,000 civilian employees.
Sculpture of Tuskegee Airman Charles B. Hall at the gate to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City (staff photo)
Tinker is home to a number of Air Force groups, including the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, 552d Air Control Wing, 507th Air Refueling Wing, 513th Air Control Group, Navy Strategic Communications Wing One, Defense Logistics Agency's Defense Distribution Depot Oklahoma City, Third Combat Communications Group, Thirty-eighth Engineering Installation Group, and Defense Megacenter Oklahoma City.
Military and Oklahoma City civic leaders opened the Heritage Airpark to the public in January of 2000 to display historic aircraft that had been a part of Tinker's operations during the previous six decades.
On June 18, 2002, the park was renamed the Charles B. Hall Airpark, in honor of Major Blakesly Hall, a Tuskegee Airman and highly decorated pilot from the 99th Pursuit Squadron, part of the 332nd Fighter Group.
Hall was commissioned as a second lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, on July 3, 1942. During World War II, he became the first African-American pilot to down an enemy aircraft in combat. At the time the 99th was based at El Haouaria Airfield on the coast of Tunisia and was patrolling the island of Sicily. The squadron’s primary mission was ground attack.
He flew 198 combat missions over Africa, Italy and other parts of Europe. He was the first African-American to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross. Before the war ended, he had flown 198 combat missions and had been promoted to the rank of major. After the war, Hall worked at Tinker from 1949 to 1967.
Sculpture of Major Charles B. Hall, a decorated Tuskegee Airman
Rosie the Riveter sculpture at the Charles B. Hall Airpark, Oklahoma City (Staff Photo)
The Airpark is free and accessible to the general public. It is located just outside the Air Depot Boulevard gate on the north side of the base, at exit 157 on Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City. The park is generally open from dawn to dusk, unless heightened security warrants closure; parking is provided onsite.
When we last visited the park, we were impressed with its excellent, well-maintained facilities, easily accessible via a series of paved walkways. Restrooms are also provided, as are shelters and benches throughout the park. The aircraft are among the finest restorations we have seen in our visits to similar airparks across the country.
In addition to the static aircraft displays, there are a number of excellent sculptures on display, including Charles B. Hall and Rosie the Riveter. There is also a Prisoner of War Memorial, Medal of Honor Memorial, and a plaque about the first tornado forecast, issued at Tinker AFB on March 25, 1948.
The airpark is highly recommended! We salute the Tinker AFB personnel and local civic leaders who have built, and maintain, this excellent facility.
For more information, visit the website of Tinker Air Force Base.
Rockwell B-1B Lancer at the Air Depot Boulevard gate at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City
B-29 Superfortress "Tinker's Heritage" S/N 427343
at the Charles B. Hall Airpark at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
C-135 Stratolifter S/N 61-2671 at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City
B-52 Stratofortress S/N 56-695 at the Charles B. Hall Airpark
Boeing RB-47E Stratojet S/N 53-4257 at the Charles B. Hall Airpark
located at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
F-4D Phantom II S/N 66-7518
USAF F-105D Thunderchief S/N 62-4360, Tail Code SH, at the Charles Hall Airpark
C-47 Skytrain at the Charles B. Hall Airpark in Oklahoma City
A-7D Corsair at the Tinker Air Force base airpark
Tinker Air Force Base Airpark Sculpture and Memorial Photos
Sculpture at the Prisoner of War Memorial at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City
Medal of Honor Memorial at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City
Marker commemorating the first tornado forecast, March 25, 1948, at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City