Historic Brookley Field

From Private Field to Industrial Center

Transfer to the Military

The relationship between Bates Field and the U. S. Military would be solidified a little over a decade after its creation. In the 1930s, there was a clear rising tension across the oceans, and the military began to work to expand its personnel and base locations throughout the country. Any expansion of the military would require new bases to train and house those troops as well as logistics and maintenance hubs to move and service the rapidly increasing inventories of the United States Military. Bates Field became one such candidate for military use; it had already been used to base military units and was perfectly situated next to a major port as well as a nearby railway line. In August 1939, the news came that Mobile was to become the location of an eight-million-dollar army air depot. It was not yet announced if Bates Field would be the chosen location, but it was well understood how likely that would be, which on the one hand would mean more jobs and income for the city, but it would also mean the loss of the airport for the public.[1] Later that month it became clear that Bates Field was indeed being acquired by the United States Government and that Mobile would be compensated for the money they had already put into the Municipal Airport, which the city government announced they would put forward to build a new airport.[2]

In 1940, work began on improving Bates Field and making it suitable for housing this large air depot that the War Department desired. The Works Progress Administration once again took the lead in the program with at least 2,000 men planned to carry out the work in the Mobile area.[3] Though work was underway on Bates Field to turn it into an Army base, Airmail and passenger services were not yet canceled, and they would indeed continue until June of 1941. Because the new Municipal Airpot was not expected to enter service until at least September 1941, airmail was to be redirected to New Orleans and passenger service to Pensacola.[4]

[1] “$8,000,000 Air Depot For Mobile,” Fairhope Courier, August 03, 1939, Page 1

[2] “Army Air Corps Depot Is Planned For Mobile,” The Montgomery Advertiser, August 20, 1939, Page 5

[3] “First WPA Contingent Given State Job On National Defense,” The Montgomery Advertiser, July 27, 1941, Page 1

[4] “Mobile Devises Plan To Continue Airmail Until Field Is Ready,” The Birmingham News, May 10, 1941, Page 11