How To Build an 8th Air Force Heavy Bomber Base

The Story of Station 153: Parham, England

After its activation in January, 1942, the Eighth Air Force had to quickly devise a plan for housing its aircraft, equipment and personnel. It moved swiftly. During that same month, the British Air Ministry began surveying land for US airfields. The construction that unfolded in the months to follow comprised one of the largest civil engineering programs ever undertaken in the United Kingdom.

Eighth Air Force base construction was often accomplished without the heavy equipment we would expect to see today.

Original plans for the US airfields called for three concrete runways; a perimeter track and concrete standings for up to 50 aircraft; two or three massive hangars; workshops; utilities including fuel storage, electrical generation, water supply and sewage; and accommodation for up to 2500 personnel.

An 8th Air Force heavy bomber base was like a small town in which everyone had a job to do.

Speed was the dominant factor in construction, as well as rapid site preparation. Construction of each heavy bomber base equated to building a small town in less than six months. The presence of US air bases would forever change the English countryside and the lives of locals who resided there.

Planning a WWII Heavy Bomber Base

Initially, the typical B-17 heavy bomber base would be established to accommodate the following:

  • Four flying squadrons plus a Service Group or Squadron
  • 72 B-17s including reserves
  • 96 air crews and 2500 total personnel (average)
  • 144,000 gallons of fuel storage
  • 3,000 tons of bombs

Massive bomb storage sites like these were located on 8th Air Force air bases all over the English countyside. 21,223 bombs were loaded onto 390th aircraft during the month of March, 1945, alone.

Local Lives and Landscape Were Changed Forever

In February, 1942, Percy Kindred and his younger brother, Herman, were served requisition papers: their farm was assigned to be the home of US Air Base Station 153.

As work began just three months later, their land–Crabbes & Park Farm–and their lives were transformed. In preparation for construction, the area was cleared of nearly eight miles of hedgerows and 1500 trees. A large reservoir, supplied by the river Ore, was dug so that water would be available for mixing the vast amounts of concrete called for in the plan. Bricks and other hardcore rubble were obtained from bombed-out buildings in London and Birmingham. Shingle was gathered from nearby beaches.

Preparation for the arrival of 8th Air Force heavy bombers comprised a stark contrast to the norm of horse drawn carts like these, used to farm the English countryside.

Trains and lorries ran night and day into Parham Village, carrying essential supplies. The nonstop parade of vehicles comprised a stark contrast to what had been quiet country roads and lanes just months before. At the work site prior to construction, the major form of transport had been a horse and cart.

Anatomy of a WWII Heavy Bomber Base

Station 153 was built to a specification known as class “A” standard operational airfield. At a total cost of what would be $4 million US dollars in 1943 (approximately $54 million today), plans called for 500,000 square yards of concrete; 4.5 million bricks; 32,000 square yards of tarmac; 20 miles of drains; 6 miles of water mains; 4 miles of sewers; 10 miles of roads (20 feet wide); an additional 15 miles of smaller roads and pathways; and 10 miles of electrical conduit.

Shown: A Station 153 latrine. The Eighth Air Force air base project comprised one of the biggest civil engineering projects ever undertaken.

Station 153 was designed to accommodate 1500 personnel. It eventually housed over 3,000 people. The base design necessitated the building of dispersed living quarters; communal sites; recreation, training and storage facilities; and  basic utilities such as water, sewage disposal, electricity and telephone.

Station 153: A US Air Base Among Many Others

A total of sixty-seven bomber bases were built for the 8th Air Force. Most were located in East Anglia, an area approximately the size of the US State of Maryland. The remains of many wartime airfields can still be found throughout the countryside.

The Station 153 Control Tower continues to be maintained and is open to the public.

Today, Station 153 is home to the Parham Airfield Museum (PAM). The original control tower is maintained, and the PAM consists of two museums: the 390th Bomb Group Memorial Air Museum as well as the Museum of the British Resistance Organisation. The Parham Airfield Museum is presided by Peter Kindred, son of Percy Kindred. His family still maintains the surrounding land.

Story by Jodi Gonzales. All photos courtesy of the Joseph A. Moller Library.


UK Regions Compared to US States With Similar Population

Overview of Station 153, Parham, England.

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