USAAF Station 597 - Langford Lodge - 1942 - 1945
Museum Collection

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Amidst the peaceful countryside of County Antrim, on the shores of Lough Neagh, in Northern Ireland, a huge construction project began to take shape in early 1942.  During June, at the ports of Larne and Belfast, hundreds of the USA’s most highly skilled civilian aircraft technicians disembarked. Employed by the newly established "Lockheed Overseas Corporation, upon arrival at their desination, the former "Langford Lodge Estate", which was some 16 miles away from where they disembarked, to their dissapointment, they were met with a project that was far from completion.  Of necessity therefore, many were initially put to work digging ditches, erecting buildings and laying concrete, until construction was sufficiently far advanced to enable them to commence the work for which they had been contracted before leaving the USA.
The central feature of the airfield, was the Manor House, former home to the Packenham family. This house and its dwellings were modernized and re-decorated for the accommodation of high-ranking officers and personnel. - LOC.

Above, local civilian employees disembark a GNR train at the Gortnagallon marshaling yard, located at site 4. This railway line was purpose built for this Air Depot - LOC.

Above,a variety of vehicles used for the operation of the base,in the vehicle technical area.
Upon completion and activation as a U.S. Army Air Forces Station, Langford Lodge Air Depot, comprised of two runways, a North-South (over a mile long), and East-West runway.  A large technical area was established which housed 10 large hangars of varying types, the largest of which, was known as the "Super Hangar" consisting of two T2 Hangars joined together. There was also a uniquely built Quedgeley Hangar, which in its central section housed a machine shop. The additonal bays housed equipment for propeller repair, welding, sand blasting, and X-ray facilities. The vehicle MT and motorpool area had a variety of Robins hangars erected for vehicle maintenance and repair. Around 40 U.S. Butler Buildings were also scattered around the various sites used for a variety of tasks such as warehouse storage, laundry, and for housing various machinery used in the operation of aircraft repair. The odd Nissen hut also made a scarce appearance around the airfield, a number of which were used as a mess hall for locally employed male civilian personnel, additonally there were a number of rare Tarrant huts, which were located in-between Site-1 and Site 6, likewise, these were used as a mess hall, but for locally employed female personnel.  There were 6 designated sites for accommodation and recreation. Sites 1, 2, and 6, were located on the airfield, Site 3 was situated across the road from the railway marshaling yards, at Gortnagallon. Site 4, was strictly a U.S. Army site, which backed onto the current day Ballyclan Road.  Site 5 was located to the East of Site 4, which is now used as premises for a local pharmaceutical company. Sites 1-5 were used for living accommodation and were dispersed to avoid mass casualties in the event of a Luftwaffe air raid.  Unlike sites 1 to 4, the hutments on site 5 were constructed of brick, due to a production delay from the manufacturer, SECO, who were to provide their prefabricated buildings for use on the site. Site 6 was the location of the U.S. Army Headquarters building, telephone exchange, Army-Lockheed administration buildings and the base theater known as the "Proj-ma-hall".

Initially run by the Lockheed Overseas Corporation in conjunction with a small number of United States Army Air Force personnel, Langford Lodge Air Depot would become one of four base air depots in the UK. Designated Base Air Depot No 3, AAF Station 597, it was allocated responsibility for the assembly, modification and repair of American aircraft operated by both American and British forces. Prior to the entry of the United States into the war, the U.S. Government and the Lockheed Aircraft Company had already begun to draw up plans for a civilian operated Air Depot at Langford Lodge, although at that time, the planned purpose of the air depot was to support American built aircraft in British use.
The airfield had its' own hospital and dental unit, situated close to the grounds of the Manor House. It was one of the most technologically advanced units of its type in the ETO. Under LOC control, the hospital was staffed by American civilian doctors, technicians and nurses. On-hand day or night, 24 hours, for personnel of the base. There were various dispensaries, operating theaters and wards for rest and recuperation. It was constructed in the shape of a "H".
The Lockheed Overseas Corporation spared no expense when it came to providing entertainment and comfort for their civilian employees at Langford Lodge. The base sported some of the best facilities in the whole of the ETO. A Bowling alley, rifle range, tennis court, basketball court ball field and purpose built cinema-theater were constructed for personnel to use.
In addition to these facilities, the base featured ice-cream making facilities and its own radio show which was piped into the Linoleum floored, steam heated prefabricated SECO accommodation huts throughout the dispersed living sites. The "Nit-Wit" network provided the latest musical hits of the time and goings on around the base. A newspaper was also created to keep everyone up to date on base happenings and local news, this was called "Daily Magnet".

Above, at Langford Lodge, the "Nit-Wit" network - LOC.

Above, "The Jive Bombers" on stage in Belfast, - LOC.
The airfield was home to a variety of baseball teams that played in the Northern Ireland league against similar U.S. teams. Additionally, the base had its' own Jazz band, made up from L.O.C. personnel known as "The Jive Bombers". The Jive bombers played on stage with a variety of famous acts during USO and ENSA shows. They entertained many in the city of Belfast, and also performed live nationwide on various BBC radio broadcasts from late 1942 onwards.
The Air Depot was host to many famous faces during its short existance. On 13 August, 1944, Captain Glenn Miller and his band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, played to a capacity audience, in the base theatre, the "proj-ma-hall". Other famous celebrities to name but a few were Bob Hope, Al Jolson, Francis Langford, Carol Landis, Joe Lewis, Billy Conn and Irving Berlin. A number of noteworthy modifications were also developed and engineered at Langford Lodge by the LOC, such as the P-38 Droopsnoot Project, the P-38 Dive-Brake modification, and the conversion of a WACO Glider into a mobile aircraft repair shop, known as "Mechanikite". Of note, the base also possessed the title of having the worlds largest amount of Linoleum flooring in the world..
13th August 1944, Glenn Miller poses for a quick photograph on the roof of the site theater-cinema, located at site 6.
Above, a LOC technician works on the fuselage of an aircraft, note the LOC shoulder patch sewn on-to his military issue M41 Jacket - LOC.

Above, B-17's undergo service and repair work in Hangar 3 - LOC.

Considerable aircraft service, repair, and re-assembly work took place at Langford Lodge during its' time under LOC control. A large amount of Lockheed P-38's were received and re-assembled, as-well as fly in and fly away aircraft arriving for aircraft service, repair, and modification work. Initially, the base was run under L.O.C. control, with a similar amount of U.S. Army personnel who undertook various guard and station keeping duties. In May 1944, there was a total of 6673 personnel on the base, of which 3227 were U.S. Army personnel, 1906 were Local Lockheed civilian employees, and 1540 were U.S.  Lockheed contracted employees. In May 1944, the U.S. Government cancelled the contract with the L.O.C.. The base was then taken over by Army Air Force personnel. A small contingent of L.O.C. employees decided to stay on and were employed as U.S. Civil Servants. It was around this time that Langford Lodge AAF Station 597 was designated as a Storage and Experimental station, attached to the Base Air Depot Area, BADA.

Assigned to undertake the former duties that L.O.C. personnel undertook, two service squadrons, the 328th and the 343rd Service Squadron, were assigned at the air depot from May 1944, attached to the 325th Service Group, these units carried out 3rd and 4th Echelon repairs on aircraft. The 5th Airdrome Squadron was also assigned to Langford Lodge for a short period at this time, undertaking similar duties to the above mentioned units, with the exception of being a 1st and 2nd Echelon unit. Additionally, a large contingent of U.S. Army personnel where already on the base, prior to the arrival of the aircraft service units, many where assigned to Headquarters Squadron, AAF Station 597, of which supplied the various sections needed to run an air depot, such as Control Tower personnel, Signal Corps Engineers and men of Quartermaster and Transportation sections.

Above, an enlisted man of the 5th Airdrome Squadron poses for a photograph outside the Squadron orderly room, located at Site 2, next to the Mess Hall.
Above, B-17 42-97673 at Langford Lodge, presumably in early 1945. Note the WW prefix on the tail, this denotes this aircraft had been classed as War-Weary, as evidenced from the large amount of mission tally markers painted on its nose. This aircraft was later flown back to the USA to await the scrapman at the huge boneyard at AAF Kingman in Arizona.

During 2nd - 7th July 1945, with the War in Europe at a close for a number of weeks, the majority of American personnel bid farewell to Langford Lodge. The base had accomplished its task, and played its part in winning air superiority over the skies of Europe. Many of the Service Squadrons were stationed back in England, at the huge Burtonwood Base Air Depot 1, with personnel awaiting orders to return home to the Zone of Interior. At Langford Lodge, a maintenance party consisting of 145 personnel, from the Utilities Section, Quartermaster, 984th Military Police Company, Supply Section of the 325th Air Service Group and the RAF Liaison Section, would remain behind, to inventory and clean up the base, in preparation for handing the airfield over to the British Government.  This was accompished on 6 August,1945.

In the Summer of 1944, the airfield was home to a large amount of aircraft that were placed in storage around the airfield. Many of these had been brought in due to overflow issues at BAD1 and BAD2, a large majority of these aircraft were categorized as War-Weary. In August, over 500 aircraft were in storage, consisting of various types such as A-20s, B-17s and B-24s of the US 8th and 9th Army Air Forces. Many of these War-Weary aircraft were either; refurbished at Langford Lodge, or broken up for salvageable parts and materials. The assigned Service Squadrons undertook these tasks.

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Glenn Miller - American Patrol