Westover Air Force Base, Nr Springfield, Massachussetts
Westover Field was constructed as the premier Army air base for the northeast when United States preparations for entry into WWII were precipitated by the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. Up to then, the country had only 17 unimproved and ill-maintained air bases. Chicopee’s Mayor Anthony Stonina lobbied long and hard to get the Northeast base, arguing convincingly for the town’s flat, open tobacco fields as a natural air field. Within 2 weeks of the Polish invasion, Chicopee was chosen for the Northeast Air Base
The new air base was named for Major General Oscar Westover, Chief of the Air Corps, US Army, who had died piloting his own plane in September 1939. Building at the base was constant throughout 1941. At first, the base had been planned to accommodate 1,400 men as an aeroplane overhaul facility, but by 1940 this had been increased to 3,000 men. At the start of 1942 there was housing for approximately 3,300 enlisted and 500 officers, and at the close of that year there were quarters for about 8,000 officers and men. As victory in Europe was achieved, crews were brought back to be trained for re-deployment to the Pacific. At the end of the war troops were prepared for inactivation, and in February of 1946 Westover became an Air Transport Command base which meant that it was the terminus for air routes around the world: Douglas C-54 and C47 transport planes took supplies and reinforcements to the armed forces and returned with the wounded and discharged troops. Westover was also the launching point of the heroic Berlin airlift for 327 days during the Russian blockade. Altogether 276,926 flights by C-47s and C-54s were flown, bringing an average of 1 ton of supplies and food to each Berlin resident. Chicopee schoolchildren responded to the plight of German children and organized “Operation Little Vittles” sending 10 tons of candy attached to handkerchief parachutes which were dropped from the air.