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Oklahoma Memories

We Got Tinker Field

2010-07-26

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From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

In early 1940 the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, headed by Stanley Draper, learned that the Army Air Corps was considering building a maintenance base somewhere in the Midwest, somewhere between Kansas City and Dallas. One of the requirements was that the city selected had to donate the land for the base. Newspaper publisher E. K. Gaylord and other business leaders formed a non-profit foundation and quietly began buying land east of Oklahoma City, land that was flat and would be an ideal location for an air base. In this speech in 1970, Gaylord recalled the group's first meeting with Army representatives.

"'What they sent three men out, I mean, yeah two men - one captain, two lieutenants - down here and with instructions there were five places they could look - come to Oklahoma City first, Wichita second, so on. These fellows wouldn't meet with the Chamber of Commerce. They said they wanted one man from the Chamber to give them all the information they wanted. They worked with him about a week, and then they came in and said 'We want these things by four o'clock this afternoon.'"

Gaylord said the Army officers then gave them the requirements they wanted to be met by that afternoon. "They wanted a 24-inch water line from Capitol Hill, which was about 8 miles, to Tinker Field. We had offered them the 298 acres at the location for Tinker Field. They wanted an option on some other land. They wanted a railroad building there. They wanted 40 miles of roads, state highway, around the Tinker area, wanted them graveled, and this paved road from Capitol Hill was to be six lanes paved, and of course they wanted all of this by four o'clock that afternoon." Gaylord said that he and other members of the Chamber committee got busy lining up what the Army was asking for. They were convinced that they could meet the demands; the Army officers were just as convinced they couldn't. "Of course by that afternoon we gave them the signed document from the city and from the highway department and from the railroads and from everybody that everything they had asked for, and they were dumbfounded, but we got Tinker Field." On July 30, 1941, the ground-breaking ceremony was held for the Midwest Air Depot. The Army Air Corps typically named their bases for the city in which they were located, but the Air Corps had already located a bomber squadron at the Oklahoma City Municipal Airport, which then became the Oklahoma City Army Air Corps Base. So, their next choice was to name the base for its general location in the Midwest, so it was named the Midwest Air Depot, and the town that developed next to the base became Midwest City. The name was only changed following the death of Major General Clarence Tinker, an Osage Indian from Oklahoma who died leading a bombing mission in the Pacific.

The speech by E.K. Gaylord is a part of the oral history collection at the Oklahoma History Center, where you can learn more about our military history in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean."