The Birth Pangs of Portland ANG Base – Part III: Dedication and Development

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Terrence G. Popravak, USAF (Retired)
  • 142FW/HO (Volunteer)
One key item of the base infrastructure was apparently overlooked in the construction directive for the base - there was no flagpole.  The public became aware of the shortfall and several offers of provision were received at the base.  The pole finally accepted came from the US Forest Service and they transported a tree from the Mt. Hood area.  The tree was treated, turned and emplaced as the base flag pole in time for use on Flag Day, 14 June 1941.

On Flag Day, 1941, some 1,500 officers, enlisted men and civilians assembled for the first flag raising ceremony at PAAB which also served as a dedication ceremony for the base.  Speaker for the occasion was Major General William G. Everson, President of Linfield College from 1939 to 1943.  Maj. Gen. Iverson, who was a volunteer in the Spanish-American War, World War I veteran and former Adjutant General of Indiana, was also a former Chief of the National Guard Bureau from 1 Oct 1929 to 30 Nov 1931.  A three-gun salute was fired as the flag was raised.

As the base and units built up, the first tactical unit based at Portland, the 55t h Pursuit Group, was joined by another tactical unit flying twin-engine aircraft.  The 55th was joined on 9 July 1941 by the 16th Transport Squadron on 9 July 1941.  The squadron belonged to the 64th Transport Group at March Field, California, and was equipped with the Douglas C-47 Skytrain.  In mid-1942 the 16th left Portland and deployed overseas to Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean, with a brief sojourn to India where it earned the Distinguished Unit Citation.  Today it is the 16th Airlift Squadron flying the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transport at Charleston AFB, South Carolina.

Portland continued to be a draw for general officer visits, which included men who later assumed important roles in World War II, such as Lieutenant General Leslie J. McNair, then Chief of Staff of General Headquarters (GHQ), US Army, and Brigadier General Mark W. Clark, then Assistant Chief of Staff (G-3), GHQ, US Army. 

The base also enjoyed the stop of a distinguished visitor in its early days when Lieutenant Commander Gene Tunney, USN, made a visit.  A Marine Corps veteran of World War I, Tunney was the world champion heavyweight boxer from 1926 to 1928.  In 1941 he accepted a commission in the Navy in order to establish a physical fitness program for student aviators.  He later set up a similar program for the US Navy.

Construction on the base continued through the summer of 1941 and into the fall.  The officers' and NCO clubs opened and a commissary, gas station and theater were completed.  A wide variety of units and functions were now present on the base.  These included the 35th Signal Company, 320th Signal Company, 684th Ordnance Company, 723rd Ordnance Company, Quartermaster (QM) Detachment, 91st QM, 2nd Detachment QM Company (Aviation Supply) and 35th QM Company.  There was also the Station Medical detachment, a detachment of the 1st Weather Squadron at the base weather station and the 86th Army Air Force Band. 

In addition to all of these units, also present was the HQ Squadron of the Second Air Force Air Service Command, and an American Red Cross office.  Portland Army Air Base was now a major Army Air Force installation and getting larger all the time.

To be continued...