Historic Brookley Field

From Private Field to Industrial Center

An Evolving Base

The new army air depot began to see an early stage of military use in late 1940, at the time was simply known as the Mobile Air Depot or Southeast Air Depot. In January of 1941, the airfield gained the name that many know it as today, Brookley Field, after Captain Wendell H. Brookley who died in a crash at Bolling Field in 1934.[1] Alabama received a great deal of defense expenditure in the 1940s and that proved to reassure many of its residents, with the loss of Bates Field being seemingly balanced out by the promise of Brookley Field becoming a long-term fixture in the area, rather than a simple temporary training camp.[2] It did not take long for the benefits of Brookley and its new role as an air depot to begin to be felt in the local community. In February of 1941 a notice went out to Alabama newspapers to inform the public of competitive tests for mechanic-learner positions on Brookley, the growing base needed labor and all of this even before American entry into the war.[3] The National Youth Administration also sent 120 youths to Brookley Field in February 1941 to take up tasks to gain experience and free up military personnel for important training.[4]

This new militarized Brookley was primarily aimed at being a logistics and maintenance depot. However, work continued into 1941 to get the airfield up to the standards the Army desired. New funding was continuously issued to allow for new improvements, such as buildings for supplies, repairs, and engine tests, to name but a few. Additionally, at a congressional hearing, it was discovered that the project was running overbudget. The Army stated that this was primarily due to the soil quality requiring additional work on foundations and installing piles to make the buildings on the installation suitable for army use.[5] Brookley Field was steadily growing; by July 29th, 1941, it had over 2000 employees. It was expected to grow even more as work continued. Prior to the war, it was estimated that the base would require at least 4,000 civilians, 2,000 soldiers, and 200 officers, though that would naturally increase once America entered the war.[6] While progress was steady at Brookley Field, it was still months from completion when December 7th arrived.

[1] “Southern Heroes Honored In Names Of Training Camps,” Birmingham Post-Herald, January 11, 1941, Page 5

[2] “Alabama’s Share,” The Birmingham News, January 29, 1941, Page 6

[3] “Competitive Tests For Air Corps Jobs Set,” The Selma Times-Journal, February 05, 1941, Page 8

[4] “NYA Boys and Girls Assigned To Brookley,” The Ashland Progress, February 20, 1941, Page 1

[5] “Mobile Depot Cost Doubled,” The Huntsville Times, February 26, 1941, Page 8

[6] “U.S. Engineers Show Big Force Increase,” The Birmingham News, July 29, 1941, Page 4