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Perrin Air Force Base -- Today's North Texas Regional Airport

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Kendall Davis is well-versed in the English language. She has 20 years experience as a published author and writing for clients. Her published works include historical articles in museums, magazines, newspaper articles, columns, content marketing, advertising copy, blogging, and academic papers. Kendall also makes her way in the literary world as a copyeditor. Writing about history is her first love interest. If you have editing or content needs on your website or for your books, articles, blogs, or columns, please visit her website to see details and more examples of her work, the services she offers, and contact information.

Before there was the U.S. Air Force there was the U.S. Army Air Service and the U.S. Navy Air Corps. The Signal Corp of the U.S. Army created the Aeronautical Division in 1907 and bought it’s first plane in 1909. By Executive Order in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson created the army’s branch of aviation in response to the need for military air power in WWI. The Army Air Service evolved into the U.S. Army Air Corp in 1926. In 1910, Aviator Glenn Curtiss worked with the U.S. Navy to establish a program for airplanes to take off and land on ships at sea outfitted with runways called flying boats. Congress appropriated $25,000 to the Bureau of Navigation, precursor to the U.S. Navy, to purchase three airplanes in 1911.

Between 1919 and 1939, U.S. popular sentiment deeply resented militarism and did not support huge expenditures of the Army and Navy. Even so, the government invested heavily in the military, and the usual peacetime neglect of equipment was evident. The Air Corps Act of 1926 provided for 1,800 serviceable Army planes to be purchased within five years. Ten years later, the army only had 946 serviceable planes. By 1938, Army Air Corp was short of pilots and aviation support personnel. Its aircraft was in poor condition, and America, while trying to stay out of the European war, was on high alert.

Our armed forces were short-handed, we did not have enough war machines, and our equipment was in poor condition. Between 1939 and 1940, the Air Corp expanded from 15 air groups to 30.

The Birth of Perrin Air Force Base (AFB)

In 1940, a series of meetings with county leaders who wanted to bring the Air Corp to Grayson County culminated in the significant, far-reaching establishment of an airbase. Early in 1941, Judge Jake Loy and recently elected U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn, met in Washington D.C. with army and War Department leaders. The two Grayson County politicians arrived well-equipped to bring air defense to our region. In April 1941, officials from the Air Corp met in Sherman with county leaders to inspect a site for an Air Corp training school.

One month later, the Air Corps recommended establishing a flying school and Grayson County citizens voted for a $60,000 bond to buy the land for the school and provide the infrastructure needed to support the school. Texan Lt. Col. Erin D. Perrin lost his life during an acceptance test while flying the new Martin B-26 Marauder aircraft in Baltimore, Maryland in June 1941. He was the most experienced B-26 pilot in the Air Corps. In honor of Lt. Col. Perrin, Perrin Army Airfield was born!

Perrin Air Force Base Historical Museum

I spoke with Charlie L. Brown, but everyone calls him Charlie Brown, of the Perrin Air Force Base Historical Museum to learn more about the history of North Texas Regional Airport. Charlie Brown is the surviving member of three who founded the museum.

Charlie Brown studied premed at Rice Institute in 1951. He volunteered for the U.S. Army and trained at Scholfield Barracks in Hawaii. He served in Korea as an infantryman. Charlie Brown came to Perrin as an Air Force Staff Sergeant in 1963 and taught small arms marksmanship.

“I liked the military, but I didn’t like carrying a pack and a rifle, so when I got an early out in 1954, I transferred to the Air Force. The Perrin Army Airfield took four months to build and complete. It began training cadets on October 4, 1941, two months before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. WWII employed 10,000 pilots trained in combat aviation who graduated from Perrin Army Airfield. After WWII, cadets continued to train there until the army deactivated the base in 1946. The army reactivated it in 1948.

“During the Korean War, Perrin trained cadets in the F-86 Sabre Jet Fighter and the B-26. The Air Force reconfigured the B-26 ground level medium bomber with .50 caliber machine guns and radar to detect Korean military movement at night. Korea’s mountainous landscape makes piloting an aircraft extremely dangerous. The B-26 could fly low at night and it was slow enough to turn around between mountains.”

Perrin AFB — 1950 and Upwards

The reactivation was scheduled for January 1948. A two-week ice storm rained down on Grayson County that month. People scheduled to be at Perrin were delayed in Sherman and Dennison for the ice storm duration because the power went out at the base.

1951 — NATO/Allied pilots trained at Perrin until 1962 and then they moved to Sheppard AFB.

1952 — the army designated Perrin as a permanent Air Force installation and changed its name to Perrin Air Force Base.

Longer and wider runways appeared at Perrin AFB

T-33 Trainers and F-86s were seen in Grayson County skies.

1961 & 1962 — The base housed the 4780th Air Defense training wing and the largest deployment of F-102 Delta Dagger Interceptors in the U.S. Cadets trained in Convair F-102 Delta Dagger Mock Aircraft Interceptor planes. The F-102s protected the U.S. Gulf Coast during the Cold War and the Vietnam Conflict of Interest.

1965 — Perrin AFB was home to all 25 Apollo Astronauts and trained them in survival tactics for the Apollo Program of NASA called the Air Defense Command Survival School. They had to live off the land and learn to release themselves from their parachutes in Lake Texoma. They learned to fly the F102 Daggers and took off for NASA in Houston.

Perrin AFB Closes and the Perrin Air Force Base Historical Museum Opens

The Air Force closed Perrin because they discontinued the F-102 and Perrin air traffic would interfere with the traffic from the new DFW International Airport. The Air Force deeded its land to Grayson County and Grayson County College (GCC). The Museum leases its land from GCC and was first built in 2002. It opened on Valentine’s Day, 2004 with 2,400 square feet.

The deactivated airbase evolved into the Grayson County Airport in 1971 and was then renamed the North Texas Regional Airport. In 2010, the new airport’s master plan required the museum to relocate. Museum Director James W. Farris after consultation with the museum directors and the building contractor drew up the new building design and basic floor plans. The new museum building is on the same spot where the former Perrin Base Exchange was located.

Charlie Brown is active in the museum’s operation and conducts tours and owns a Vietnam-era restored army ambulance. The museum and the airport continue to bring exciting shows and exhibits to Texomaland. Please check out their websites for information on all things aviation in Grayson County.



1 & 2 B-26 Marauder

3 & 4 F-102 Delta Dagger

3 & 4 F-86 Sabre

5 & 6 T-33 Silver Star

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