On January 29, 1942 the first B-17 was flown into Hendricks Field. Pilot and crew training began in March. In January 1943, it became a 4-engine pilot school, and in peak operation about 120 B-17’s were in service over 10,000 pilots were trained. Commanding Officers:
Maj. Leonard H. Rodieck, Pilot 06/26/41 – 12/1/41
Col. Carl B. McDaniel, Command Pilot 12/10/41 – 09/25/43
Col. Warren H. Higgins, Command Pilot 10/26/43 – 06/07/45
Col. Charles D. Farr, Command Pilot, former Navy Pilot 06/07/45 – 02/10/46
Base newspaper, Hendricks Hi-Life, published weekly by and for base personnel. Base Mascot, Sgt. H.F. Bombird, his asst., Pvt. Yardbird Yardbird, both created by Sgt. Francis D. Clements, Art Director. The sports teams were the Hendricks Bombirds.
Hendricks Field had one of the best safety records in the Army Air Forces. However, there were several crashes, several belly landings, and nine fatal crashes with 45 fatalities. After war’s end in mid-August, 1945, the training program began to wind down about October. In mid-November the order came to inactivate the base by December 31, 1945.
The abandoned field was turned over to the City of Sebring on May 1, 1946 and became Sebring Air Terminal, an airport and Commerce Park – now Sebring Regional Airport & Commerce Park.
In December 1950, the first sports car endurance race was held, and since then the world famous 12 Hours of Sebring Grand Prix of Endurance has been in March each year, with the race track taking the E-W ramp and runway along with some streets.
Only the main hangar, restored in 2000, is now in use. New water and sewage systems were completed, and the high water tower, a very noticeable landmark, was brought down in December, 1997. The original control tower was brought down in December, 1999 and has been restored and re-erected.
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