James Connally Air Force Base is the home of the 3565th Navigator Training Wing and is under the jurisdiction of Air Training Command. The base has been designated a permanent Air Force installation and although frame construction predominates, many of the new buildings are built of concrete blocks or with asbestos siding. Hangars are of steel and concrete, Water was supplied by deep artesian wells on the base and buildings were heated by natural gas.
Officials of McLennan Country and the City of Waco learned on 14 August 1941 that an air base was to be located in this vicinity and the wheels of local government immediately gathering speed. Following the voting of the needed bonds, the county acquired title to the original 1162 acres upon which the present base was built. That original acreage has now been expanded to more than 1957.
By early spring of 1942 the base was ready to receive its first student. At that time it was known as Waco Army Air Field. It was under the jurisdiction of the Gulf Coast Training Command and was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel (now retired Major General) John T. Sprague. Its first job was training of basic pilots. The base reverted to inactive status in September of 1945 and remained on stand-by for almost three years. However, during its brief period of activity its students had flown almost three quarter of a million hours and covered more than one hundred million miles. In addition to its 29 full classes of American cadets, the base had trained 236 Central and South American students. Waco Army Air Field was truly an operation of international scope.
Colonel John Sprague returned to assume command of the reactivated base on 1 August 1948. At that time it was known as Waco Air Force Base. Later changes in designation made it Connally Air Force Base in 1949 and James Connally Air Force Base in 1950. The name honors the memory of Colonel James T. Connally, a native of Waco and Central Texas who was killed in a B-29 raid over Japan in 1945.
Basic pilot training in conventional type aircraft remained until June 1951. They were joined in 1950 by students in helicopter and liaison pilot training. By mid-1951, however, all the pilots had departed and had been replaced by the radar observer students, bombardiers, and navigators.
From November 1952 until June 1954 James Connally trained both radar observer and single engine jet pilots. In present programs the base is utilizing TB-25, T-29, F-89, and T-33 type aircraft. The USAF Instrument Pilot Instructor School was moved from Moody AFB, Georgia to James Connally in March, 1958.
Students from every free-world country that maintains an Air Force have been trained in this school. James Connally Air Force Base represents a monetary investment of more than $175,000,000 and has an annual payroll of more than $15,000,000.
AIRCRAFT: Navigator training of the period commenced in the TC-45 Expeditor or TB-25 Mitchell, followed by transition to the T-29 Flying Classroom, although by the late 1950s, all aircrew training had been consolidated in the T-29. Navigator training for Aviation Cadets was merged with that for commissioned officers and conducted at James Connally AFB, Texas; Harlingen AFB, Texas; Ellington AFB, Texas and Mather AFB, California. Follow-on training qualified some of these navigators in additional fields, such as radar navigator/bombardier,
electronic warfare officer or radar intercept officer.
END OF CADET PROGRAM: The USAF Aviation Cadet program ended for pilots in 1961 and navigators in 1965. In 1960, the Air Force implemented the Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) concept. From now on the United States Air Force Academy (started in the fall semester of 1959), The Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, and the Air Force Officer Training School were to provide all of its pilots and navigators.
LAST AVIATION CADET CLASS-JAMES CONNALY
The last Aviation Cadet navigator class was 65–15 at James Connally AFB.:73–74 It was made up of Eulalio Arzaga, Jr., James J. Crowling, Jr., Ronald M. Durgee, Harry W. Elliott, Timothy J. Geary, Robert E. Girvan, Glen D. Green, Paul J. Gringot, Jr., William P. Hagopian, Steven V. Harper, Robert D. Humphrey, Hollis D. Jones, Evert F. Larson, Gerald J. Lawrence, Thomas J. Mitchell, Ronald W. Oberender, Raymond E. Powell, Victor B. Putz, Milton Spivack, Donald E. Templeman, and Herbert F. Turney. These aviation cadets became USAF 2nd lieutenants. and were awarded their navigator wings on 3 March 1965. Class 65-15 chose classmate Cadet Steven V. Harper of Miami, Florida, for the honor of “Last Aviation Cadet” based on his high academic, military, and flying grades.