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Ghosts of My Grandfather : Visiting Clinton Sherman Air Force Base

Ghosts of My Grandfather : Visiting Clinton Sherman Air Force Base

My Grandfather was a wonderful man. I grew up close to he and my Grandmother, often spending time with them as I grew up. After I became an adult, he loved that I traveled. When I came to visit, he’d pull out his atlas and we’d talk about where I was going or where I’d been. But he died last year, so I couldn’t talk to him as I plotted my trip through Oklahoma. I wish I could have. He would have had a million stories. It seemed like he had a story for every occasion…

Since I couldn’t talk to my Grandfather, I did the next best thing. I talked to Grandma. She asked that I take a couple of pictures of things while I was there but wasn’t sure what would be there any longer. So as we left Oklahoma City and drove towards Burns Flat I just had a vague idea of photographing things that looked old in the town. That, and seeing what I could see of the Air Force Base.

Some of his stories over the years centered around Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base near Burns Flat, Oklahoma. He worked there as a young man, and didn’t move to Texas until it was decommissioned in the late sixties. The man was a hard worker and could build or fix anything. I don’t know what his official title was at the base, but I know he worked in construction and maintenance.

Just to give you some background, Clinton-Sherman was built in WWII (the photo to the left is a postcard from this era).  However, the unique feature about this base is the 13,500 foot long runway they added in the fifties. They used it to support the heavy B-52 bombers which needed extra space to land. Driving up, it was hard to escape feeling how empty it was. 13,500 feet of runway is a lot of empty.

We parked in the parking lot next to what looked like an administrative building. A dingy looking sign proclaimed it was now the Oklahoma Space Authority – The Oklahoma Gateway to Space!  That sounded promising – maybe some excitement after all! A quick google search on my phone squashed that quickly as I read that since they petitioned for a license for launching and landing space vehicles in 2006, none had actually occurred.  And the plant next to the sign?  Dead.

I jumped out to take some photos of the runway through the chain length fence while I leaving my family in the car. There was nothing to see, no reason to bother to unbelt the kids from their child seat contraptions. As I quickly snapped some pics of a lone airplane in sight and what I could see of the runway a guy came out of a building near the fence.

“Why didn’t you come in?”

I eyed the sternly worded sign that said I was supposed to stay out or there would be penalties of epic proportions. “I didn’t think I could,” I said.

“Don’t be silly, come in.”

I glanced at my husband then ducked inside the fence. The man was excited to talk, so after he offered me candy out of a candy bowl on the counter we sat down on the couch. I told him about my Grandfather and why I was there. He talked about the history of the base and showed me a binder of photocopied pictures of the base in its prime. Visitors trickled in, he said. Some brought their pictures with them, and he’d copy them to show to those that came later.

Bunker at Clinton Sherman Air Force Base As I finished with the binder, we jumped back into the present. I was lucky to see a plane it seems; normally the place was empty. Air Force planes stopped sometimes when they needed maintenance. I asked if it was because of the long runway, and he grinned and said the neighbors didn’t complain about the noise. He didn’t know what the future held and I knew I needed to get back onto the road. We shook hands and then we parted ways.

As I drove off, my husband asked me if we should have skipped stopping there. I was glad we stopped but the whole experience left me a little like losing my Grandfather. A little numb, disappointed there wasn’t more and remembering the good times.

  1. a/2c george f groudas feb 1960-sept 1963 8 March, 2015

    Comment

  2. george groudas 8 March, 2015

    if you remember me please contact me, i was in civil eng, would like to hear from anyone that was there.

    • phillip morris 22 April, 2017

      I was stationed at Clinton Sherman in early 60. All the time was there I didnt know how new that base was back then I believe the base comander was coural Ellis and the US president was John F Kennady. And I have fond memories of those days. Theres alot I could write about those days Phillip l Morris

  3. Gary roberts 6 April, 2015

    I was stationed in Altus OK and we would go up to burns flat to live in tent city for a week or so during ori’s . there wasn’t much there when we would go . that was in the early 90’s although I do miss Oklahoma .

  4. Jim Dekan 8 May, 2015

    Nice story. I was on a B52 ground crew and stationed there from 1962-1966. It started out as the 4123rd Strat wg then moved to the the 70 th BW. I know your feelings. I went back to the base around 2002 and again in 2007. It was nearly deserted. The only sound I heard was the wind….it was always windy there.
    They were in the process of tearing down the old barracks in 2002. A worker there told me they were full of asbestos! The B52 alert pad, where I had spent so many days and nights, weeks and months, had been taken over by the OK Highway Patrol. Little else remained except for my memories of the base, the people I knew and the friends I made.

  5. Name 1 June, 2015

    This was my first assignment after basic training 1965 around Dec. This was a bad assignment without a car, I had a convertible thought it would help get the girls, no luck. SAC was a good first assignment, they instilled dedication and loyalty. Spent 22 years on active duty in the Fire Dept and retired 1987. Went back for a visit sometime in the mid 90’s.Thanks for the memories CSAFB and the 70th Bomb Wing.

  6. Bill Norman 10 June, 2015

    Arrived at CSAFB June 1963..Left Oct 1964 for Castle AFB, Merced Calif…… As I remember, A&E worked out of building #263 on the Flight Line. Barracks for A&E was 517, Summers were hot as Hell and winters cold, cold, cold, especially on the flight line. Was a tough time for an 18 year old with 2 and then 3 stripes. was a long way to town, whichever way you decided to go. I did go back by there one time, was about 1984 or 85. the memories were still bright, but, nothing going on at the old base. The contrails of B52s & KC135 were long gone. *****WE DID A GREAT JOB**** Hoorah for all you guys that called Clinton-Sherman home for a time.

  7. jack alderson 16 June, 2015

    I served in the USAF from 1964 to 1968, spent 13 months in Korea and arrived at Clinton Sherman late in 1965 until my discharge in 1968 i served in security for a short time and then assigned to law enforcement for the remainder of my tour. I worked part time at the cotton gin in burns flat and for an ” old Yankee” it was quite a rewarding experience!

  8. Bill Heyer 19 August, 2015

    Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base was my first duty station. I was stationed there from 1967 to about 1970, with a TDY to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, in parts of 1968 and 1969. I left Clinton-Sherman in 1970, for Offutt Air Force Base, where I was discharged in 1971. I had really no bad memories of Clinton-Sherman, but I was glad when I left. The place was creepy, though, too much like “Dr. Strangelove,” if you know what I mean?

  9. Jim Hall 28 August, 2015

    My first assignment, fresh out of Lackland AFB was early in 1960. When leaving Lackland, I asked an NCO how to get to the base. No one seemed to know just where the base was. He suggested I drive to Clinton, OK, find a service station and inquire directions. I produced the base newspaper out of the Information Office. Had a good job, met some good friends. Winter of ‘60 saw my first red snow after a dust storm blowing in from Texas.

  10. Paul Harris 13 September, 2015

    I was stationed at CSAFB in 69. I was Afc.right after AF school. Then was shipped off to Okinawa for tdy. I remember getting great meals from the mess hall because they really took great care to make it as comfortable as possibe. I worked in Bombing Navigation mech. This where I learned how to play chess. I did like the tour. One of my training instructors commented on our assignment to CSAFB was ” There they would let you go AWOL for three days because they could still see you .”

  11. Lee Koester 15 September, 2015

    I was stationed at CSAFB from Feb. 1964 to June 1966. I have fond memories of the base. Met alot of good friends and still keep in touch with some. I was a weapons loader with the 55th MMS squadron.

  12. rod vereb 21 September, 2015

    I was in security at CLAFB from 63-66, with one of those years in base police, then was sent to Vietnam. I visited the former base this year, and discovered many of the buildings torn down including the old barracks.

  13. Jim Guzak 8 October, 2015

    My Dad was a B-52 pilot, my family was first to move into our house at 201A Iroquois Trail in the late 50’s, my Mom planted the grass there. I went to grade school at Will Rogers and ended up at the high school for 7th grade. We were there for almost 9 years, a long tour by AF standards, but segmented by a six month bootstrap in Nebraska for my Dad to finish college. We moved back to 303 Pawnee in 1963 and shipped out to Warner Robins GA from there. I like to tell folks that Burns Flat is my home town, it’s where I had my first memories and went through grade school. 1st grade Miss Brazil, 2nd grade Mrs Laird, can’t remember 3rd but 4th grade was Mrs Reiter from Sentinel who’s husband was the postmaster in Burns Flat. 5th grade Mrs Crump, any I can’t remember 6th. Junior high had a number of teachers of which Mrs Robinson my Science teacher was my favorite. I’ve been back a number of occasions and its like a time capsule, not much has changed.

    • Mike Phelan 21 December, 2015

      Aug 65 -May 67,lived on the corner at 308B Cimmaron,I was 10, My Dad was a Tsgt. being 10 I had the time of my life,we had come from Dyess,and I thought Burns Flat was great, we went to the cotton gin for school tour.I went to Canute to the Catholic school for 5th grade and to Will Rogers for 6th Grade ,My dad retired in 67 and we went home to Rye NH (close to Pease AFB) 1/4 mile from the beach and Atlantic Ocean.(it was cheap back then)but I still have great memories of CSAFB. PS They put out great chow on at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    • Susan Nelson 13 February, 2017

      My family was stationed there when I was in the fifth grade, must have been around 1962. My teacher was Fannie Crump, one of the best teachers I ever had. I remember walking through the cotton fields and cleaning up around the Dairy Queen. We got a sundae in payment. The wind never stopped blowing that red dirt. My parents were friends with Von and Ann Dixon.

  14. Richard Fos 11 November, 2015

    My first permanent station was at CSAFB from 1959 until 1963. I was an ECM technician so worked on the B52s. Always tell people about Burns Flat as being a town with one NS street and one half EW street. Remember the cotton gin, furniture store where I bought a trailer, Andy’s Trailer park. Tried to go back in 1969 but they said the base was going to close. Many fond memories.

  15. mike b 25 December, 2015

    i still have great memories of my 4 years there up and until the base closing in late 1969. i was 10 years old when we left but it was sad even for me. we moved on to Dyess AFB where my father spent the balance of his military service.

    • mike b 25 December, 2015

      i remember our street . Cherokee trail

  16. Gerry m. Walden 15 January, 2016

    I was stationed at Clinton Sherman from Oct 1967-1970 in OMS B-52 crew Chief . Got there straight out of Tech school..Did 2 six month TDYs would like to here from anyone that was there,

    • Jack alderson 15 January, 2016

      I was in South Korea from ’64 to’65 as a security guard. Then transferred to csafb in the fall of ’65 and also performed security for the b-52’s and kc 135’s remember the” no lone zone” well ! Then I finished in law enforcement and was sergeant in charge of the stockade! Also worked part time at the cotton gin in burns flat, got discharged in spring of ’68 lots of fond memories.

      • Lloyd E. Bennett 15 January, 2016

        Went through basic training in Sept 1965, went DDA to CSAFB as a Firefighter. I also worked at the cotten gin in Burn Flat. Left in 1967 to go to Japan, where I met my wife of 47 years and decided to make the AF a career.

  17. Greg Sedbrook 30 March, 2016

    My dad was Fire Chief there or many years

  18. Jeanean Rogers Beamer 21 April, 2016

    Let us not forget those who sacrificed their land for this facility. My parents were given 30 days to evacuate which meant the crop was not even ready. They were supposedly paid fair market value which was not true. This land had been homesteaded by my grandfather in 1901. They did not even give the landowners the mineral rights which are highly valuable. Government at their best – I say not.

  19. Bob Deiterr 8 May, 2016

    In was stationed at Clinton-Sherman Air Force Basen from Oct 1962-Mar 1965. I met some good friends and some very nice people in Burns Flat, Elk Vity, Clinton and Cordell. Brings back fond memories of my time in the service. I worked in the communications building as a switc board operator, teletype and cryptographic operator. I wish I could go back in time and visit once again. Those we’re the days.

  20. Gina (Petruzzelli) Brigner 26 May, 2016

    My dad, Sgt. Petruzzelli or Sgt. Pete, was stationed there from July 1963(?) till June 1965. He was a crew chief on the B-52s, too. We lived on base at 305A Mohawk Trail. I went to Will Rogers then the high school for 7th grade. Mrs. Robinson had taught in Morocco where we were stationed from 1961 to 1963 so every once in a while she would throw out a phrase we used a lot in Morocco – comme ci comme ça (pronounced com si com sa). I remember at Will Rogers when they announced that the president was dead. I had thought they meant our class president, Keith Canter. So naive. It was sad watching Kennedy’s funeral. We got out of school for a day or two.

    Was Mr. Northrup the 6th grade teacher at Will Rogers? That name keeps popping up in my head.

    Here are some names I remember: Shirley Sivley, Angela Avant, Jackie Woods, Mary Hisle, Nancy Best, Candy McCauley, Mike Mills, Kim the guy who delivered the TV Guide to everyone, Linda Gray, Chris Price, Pam Peters, Seymour(?), Mrs. Campbell, Nancy with the long blonde hair always with a white plastic headband (we sang in a double sextet in music class). Art Williams and I have been corresponding so he’s brought back memories I’d forgotten.

  21. Cristelo Garza 23 June, 2016

    My name is Cristelo Garza and I live in San Antonio. Sgt Petruzzelli was my supervisor at Clinton Sherman AFB. He invited me to dinner at his house along with another airman whom I remember as Fangie. There I met Gina, his daughter. I was 17 years old at the time, I am very excited to have read the aforementioned reference Sgt Petruzzelli though saddened to have seen his obituary picture on the internet. He was a positive influence in my life. A big hello to you, Gina.

  22. Fred Strom 1 August, 2016

    We live in NE Oklahoma and as a retired Air Force guy with 27 years, I like to visit old AF sites. We visited the Burns Flat site in July 2016 and drove through what used to be CSAFB and the base housing area. It is a sad thing to see that this former area (now almost deserted except for the housing). As a former B-52/KC-135 Hydraulic technician, you can imagine seeing a “Buff” and “Tanker” sitting on the alert pad or taxing ready for take off. In my 27 years I was only stationed at 9 bases. Only 3 of those remain open so it is kind of sad to tour an old base that is no longer. Hopefully someday Space Command or some other entity will fill the void. RIP CSAFB.

  23. Terry J. 18 September, 2016

    I was born at the Clinton Sherman AFB in July of 1969. My family then moved to Louisiana in December of that same year. I’ve never been there but would love to go back and see the place I was born. Now that I live in TX it will be a shorter drive! Thanks for all the comments.

  24. Tom H 6 October, 2016

    Good memories..1966-67. I was about 7 years old at the time. We lived on Cherokee trail, not far from the base hospital. I remember the B-52’s engines rumbling on the flight line. I’d like to visit soon

  25. Kimberley Hoffman 10 October, 2016

    I was born at Clinton Sherman AFB in December of 1965. We stayed until it closed so I don’t really remember living there but I want to go back and visit.

  26. J.D. Shelton 12 October, 2016

    I was stationed at CSAFB from late1959 to June 7th 1963. Many fond memories of the guys I served with. I worked in Building 506
    with the IBM machines. We printed the payroll checks for the base personnel and processed the aircraft maintenance job cards.

  27. Keller Laros 7 December, 2016

    I lived at CSAFB from July 1965 to July 1967 while my father, Captain Russell Laros MD was active duty serving as an OB/GYN at the base hospital. My earliest memories of airplanes are of BUFFs taking off on a bar none. The noise, the smoke, the excitement!
    Thanks for sharing.

  28. Dick DeMerse 19 December, 2016

    I was stationed at CSAFB from Aug 1966 to Dec 1969 and did 3 TDY’s (1-Guam and 2-Okinawa.) I was a structural repair tech. Not much to do out in the middle of no where.

  29. Ben Smith 14 January, 2017

    We lived at 307-A Choctaw My step father was a crew chief on a B-52 I now live in Tulsa,we moved to CSAFB from Wurthsmith AFB 1967 to 1969 I go back to se the base whenever I am out in western OK, the B-52’s were very loud I use to watch them make their turn at the end of the runway from base housing.

  30. Gayle waggoner 15 January, 2017

    I went to school all my 12 years.at Burns Flat graduated in 1960. I saw the changes take place in our little town. Our school enrollment increased. Some of the military people came to our church. First Baptist. My brother.in-law worked on that long runway! Great time for our little town!

  31. david archer 9 February, 2017

    I was station there when it re-opened from the start and suppose of been a three and half year duty which it wasn’t . All of a sudden we had orders to close it back down.It was great duty loved the locals.

  32. Don Thornton 6 March, 2017

    I also was on a B52 ground crew 1962-1965 and believe I remember a Jim Dekan. Does the tail # 642 ring a bell? Seems like a long long time ago.

  33. Dick Meiss 17 April, 2017

    Was stationed at CSAFB from July 66 to May 69. Worked AEMS maintenance admin, played on base softball team. Did TDY to Okinawa. All in all a great assignment. Enjoyed going to OKC for Blazer hockey games

  34. Kenneth Richards 18 April, 2017

    Was at CSAFB from May 1958 until release from active duty July 1959. 2002-1 AACS detachment.

  35. Ron Vontroba 19 April, 2017

    I was chanic on B52at CSAFB from 1966 – 1969 with the 90th OMS Mechanic on B52. 2 tdy to Okinawa. Went back in the mid 70’s this was a great time in my life From 66-69 many memories & friends. Currently in Ohio retired.

  36. TYLER 30 April, 2017

    Hey Guys, I am an Oklahoma State Trooper and have been to Burns Flat many times as we have our driving school there. I am currently trying to get as much information as I can on the base when it was in it’s prime. We have the alert pad and barracks now and I have spent many nights there driving and training. I hope to hear from you and thanks again!

  37. Pam Humphries 16 July, 2017

    My dad WL CARROLL was stationed at Clinton-Sherman AFB. I was born at Cordell Memorial Hospital in 1959. Shortly after my birth he was transferred to Fairchild AFB in Spokane Wa where he spent most of his military career.