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Dale Mabry Field
From Army Air Base to College Campus, 1929-1948

A Brief History

In November 1929, the City of Tallahassee celebrated the grand opening of Dale Mabry Field. Named after the famed World War I Army pilot and Tallahassee native Captain Dale Mabry (1891-1922), the air field became the city's first municipal airport. On January 24, 1941, Dale Mabry Field became an Army base where officers and enlisted men trained, lived, and socialized in barracks and buildings located onsite. Once the United States entered World War II, thousands more soldiers entered the base and Dale Mabry Field took on an important role in the country's war effort. Not only did Americans train at Dale Mabry Field, but Chinese and French cadets also travelled to the base to complete their training.

By the end of World War II in 1945, Florida anticipated the return of thousands of veterans into the state's higher education system. As a result of the educational benefits provided by the GI Bill, universities and colleges throughout the country experienced record enrollments. At the University of Florida, administrators found it impossible to accommodate the influx of veterans that applied. As a result, administrators asked veterans if some would be willing to attend classes at Florida State College for Women (FSCW) in Tallahassee, if the college provided adequate housing, transportation, and instruction. Over 500 veterans agreed to the compromise and on September 2, 1946, the Florida Legislature authorized the opening of the Tallahassee Branch of the University of Florida (TBUF).

In order to housethe veterans, FSCW purchased land and buildings at the recently vacated Dale Mabry Field. After World War II, the War Assets Administration sold parcels of the air field to various institutions and organizations in need of space. Known as West Campus, converted barracks served as student housing and classrooms, while officers' headquarters became administrative buildings. To get from West Campus to the main campus at FSCW, students rode on school buses. In addition to male students, married couples and (female) FSCW students lived and socialized in the converted barracks on West Campus.

Bibliography:

Campbell, Doak Sheridan. Florida State University. Office of the President. Administrative Files, 1941-1957. State Library and Archives of Florida.

Kenneson, Claude. Dale Mabry Field, Tallahassee, Florida. 2008. State Library and Archives of Florida.

Pictorial Review of Dale Mabry Field, Fla. Houston, Texas: E.M. Berry, 194-. State Library and Archives of Florida.

Portrait of Captain Dale Mabry: Tallahassee, Florida (not after 1922)

Portrait of Captain Dale Mabry: Tallahassee, Florida (not after 1922)

Image Number: RC00705

Tallahassee native Captain Dale Mabry, the son of Ella Dale Barmlet and former Florida Supreme Court Justice Milton Harvey Mabry, fought for the United States Army during World War I. After the war, the Army commanded Captain Mabry and his crew to return the Italian semi-rigid airship Roma back to the United States. On February 21, 1922, while flying the Roma in Norfolk, Virginia, Captain Mabry and others in his crew crashed the airship and died. The city of Tallahassee, Florida, commemorated the local hero and named their first municipal airport after him, Dale Mabry Field.

View showing naval planes in flight during grand opening of Dale Mabry Field in Tallahassee, Florida (1929)

View showing naval planes in flight during grand opening of Dale Mabry Field in Tallahassee, Florida (1929)

Image Number: PR76017

Dale Mabry Field was named in honor of Tallahassee native Army Captain Dale Mabry, killed while commanding the Army semi-rigid airship Roma on February 21, 1922, which crashed at Norfolk, Virginia.

FSCW students in civil aeronautics class: Tallahassee, Florida (1940)

FSCW students in civil aeronautics class: Tallahassee, Florida (1940)

Image Number: N042100

Note from sleeve: FSCW students in Civil Aeronautics class; Ivan Munroe, instructor, at propeller.

Open house at Dale Mabry Field: Tallahassee, Florida (1945)

Open house at Dale Mabry Field: Tallahassee, Florida (1945)

Image Number: PR13606

From 1941 to 1945, Dale Mabry Field in Tallahassee, Florida, served as an Army air base. During World War II, base operations included flight and mechanical training. Enlisted men and officers were housed in barracks located onsite.

Army Air Corp pilots: Tallahassee, Florida (1944)

Army Air Corp pilots: Tallahassee, Florida (1944)

Image Number: PR13604

Scenes from Dale Mabry Field: Tallahassee, Florida (1943)

Scenes from Dale Mabry Field: Tallahassee, Florida (1943)

Image Number: RC03293

These four photographs taken from Dale Mabry Field include British, Chinese, and American officers; nurses; and Sunday services.

Instruction of the soldiers: Tallahassee, Florida (ca. 1943)

Instruction of the soldiers: Tallahassee, Florida (ca. 1943)

Image Number: PR13593

Dale Mabry Field Headquarters (ca. 1943)

Dale Mabry Field Headquarters (ca. 1943)

Image Number: N044865

Pilots on the walk beside the barracks (1944)

Pilots on the walk beside the barracks (1944)

Image Number: N044876

L-R: Bob Gustafson, Ralph Esterling, Charles Jones. Photographed January 27, 1944, just prior to being shipped out.

Barracks: Tallahassee, Florida (ca. 1943)

Barracks: Tallahassee, Florida (ca. 1943)

Image Number: PR13601

African American troop activities: Tallahassee, Florida (1943)

African American troop activities: Tallahassee, Florida (1943)

Image Number: PR13611

U.S. Army training facilities, including those at Dale Mabry Field, remained officially segregated until 1948.

Food preparation and inside barracks views: Tallahassee, Florida (ca. 1943)

Food preparation and inside barracks views: Tallahassee, Florida (ca. 1943)

Image Number: PR13618

Interior of officers' club (1945)

Interior of officers' club (1945)

Image Number: GR0464

Pilot Ralph Esterling on the steps of the barracks (1944)

Pilot Ralph Esterling on the steps of the barracks (1944)

Image Number: N044875

Photographed January 27, 1944, just prior to being shipped out.

Chinese pilot trainees at Wakulla Springs (1942)

Chinese pilot trainees at Wakulla Springs (1942)

Image Number: PR10526

Chinese pilots received training during World War II at Dale Mabry Field in Tallahassee.

Female students gather around a male student at Florida State College for Women: Tallahassee, Florida (1946)

Female students gather around a male student at Florida State College for Women: Tallahassee, Florida (1946)

Image Number: C002845

After World War II, many veterans returning to Florida sought a college education as a result of the educational benefits in the GI Bill. As a result, the University of Florida (UF) experienced record enrollment as thousands of veterans applied to the university. Unable to accommodate all of the students, UF asked veterans if some would be willing to attend Florida State College for Women (FSCW) in Tallahassee. In September 1946, the Florida Legislature authorized the opening of the Tallahassee Branch of the University of Florida, making it the first time male students attended FSCW since 1905.

Florida State University map of west campus (1949)

Florida State University map of west campus (1949)

Image Number: N045939

A TBUF student on steps of a building at FSCW: Tallahassee, Florida (1946 or 1947)

A TBUF student on steps of a building at FSCW: Tallahassee, Florida (1946 or 1947)

Image Number: RC01381

In 1946, the Florida Legislature authorized the opening of the Tallahassee Branch of the University of Florida to house the over 500 male students, many of them World War II veterans, that would attend classes at Florida State College for Women (FSCW). To house the male students, FSCW purchased land and buildings located on the abandoned Dale Mabry Field site about three miles from the main FSCW campus. Barracks and officers' headquarters were converted into housing, classrooms, and other administrative buildings.

"Something new has been added... T' was rumored that on Halloween, from Westcott's highest spire, a voice was heard to wail, 'Born thirty years too soon'."

Florida State University's West Campus: Tallahassee, Florida (1947 or 1948)

Florida State University's West Campus: Tallahassee, Florida (1947 or 1948)

Image Number: RC01378

Formerly Dale Mabry Field, a U.S. Air Force training base. The barracks were converted into dorms and classrooms.

John H. Patterson (at left) getting back to his dorm at FSCW: Tallahassee, Florida (1946)

John H. Patterson (at left) getting back to his dorm at FSCW: Tallahassee, Florida (1946)

Image Number: RC01386

Mr. Patterson was the first student to register for the TBUF program (Tallahassee Branch of the University of Florida), 1946-47. He was one of 507 men enrolled at Florida State College for Women in 1946. TBUF was created to serve men returning from World War II because there was no room at the state men's college, the University of Florida. They were the first men on campus since 1905. Men's dorms were barracks on West Campus, formerly Dale Mabry Field.

Laundry being done at Florida State University (194-)

Laundry being done at Florida State University (194-)

Image Number: PR12794

Florida State University West Campus, formerly Dale Mabry Field.

FSCW students getting on school bus: Tallahassee, Florida (1946 or 1947)

FSCW students getting on school bus: Tallahassee, Florida (1946 or 1947)

Image Number: RC01387

West Campus (formerly Dale Mabry Field) housed the over 500 male students of TBUF (Tallahassee Branch of the University of Florida) and several hundred female students who commuted by buses to and from the main campus.