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Blatchford Field: The War Years, 1939 - 1945

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Mark Hopkins

Reprinted with permission of the author and publisher of For King and Country: Alberta in the Second World War

For King and CountryIn April 1945 Germany was defeated, and when a few short months later Japan surrendered, Jasper Avenue turned into a giant parade. Although the war was over, the American Lend-Lease programme did not officially end until September 1945. In the space of three years over 5066 fighters were delivered, 2618 P-39 Airacobras, 2397 P-63 Kingcobras, 48 P-40 Warhawks and three P-47 Thunderbolts. In addition, another 2860 bombers and transports travelled the route, including 1363 A-20s, 732 B-25 Mitchells and 765 C-47s, C-46s and At-¨6s. The Northwest Staging Route must be considered one of the great achievements of the war. Pilots flew over 2000 miles of the worst terrain in North America, and some didn't make it. At the time the Commanding General of the Red Air Force was quoted as saying "[there] are graves of those who died among the snows of this route which mean as much to us as those at Smolensk, Stalingrad and Sevastopol. We feel they died fighting beside us."21

Blatchford Field would continue to do well. The American hangars would be taken over by various commercial operations. Two of these hangars still stand on the east side of the field bordering the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. The hangar that housed No.2 AOS would become the post-war home of the 418 [City of Edmonton] Squadron, and eventually the Alberta Aviation Museum. The site of Aircraft Repair Ltd., later Northwest Industries, is now a series of abandoned buildings on the far north end of the field.

The first five years after the war would prove even busier than thought possible. TCA and CPA would open new routes and services; construction of the DEW line would break traffic records set during the war; the RCAF established Canada's largest concentration of personnel and aircraft in Canada by establishing the Northwest Air Command in Edmonton.

Not even Wop May could have possibly imagined the glowing future of the cow pasture on which he had landed his Curtiss Jenny so many times only some twenty years before.

Notes

21. J.A. Foster, The Bush Pilots. [Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1990], p. 176.

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