"Construction Boom" at Lambert

by SM Sgt. Wilbur Tackaberry

In the years following Lindbergh’s epic New York to Paris flight, the City of St. Louis took several steps toward acquisition and development of Lambert Field as a major commercial airport. By June of 1923, in addition to the 183 acres forming the original field, the St. Louis Aeronautic Corporation had under lease and additional 316 acres. After the International Air Races, the Aeronautic Corporation, with principal financial backing by Major Albert Bond Lambert, purchased the 183 acre tract in 1925. The deed contained a specific clause assuring free use of the field to the City and Federal Government for 10 years.

On February 8, 1928 Major Lambert presented a warranty deed and lease for the field to the City. At the same time the City paid Major Lambert $10,000 as rent for 76 acres adjoining the original tract which he also owned. Major Lambert had pledged himself to sell it back to the City for the same price provided a two million dollar bond issue proposal for permanent acquisition of the field was passed when presented to the voters in November 1929. The bond issue gained voter approval with an 85 percent majority and the City of St. Louis moved rapidly in development of the facility.


Photo: Lambert Field in 1927. Two black Air National Guard hangars with five "Jennies" parked nearby in field . [Enlargment]

Construction started on the first terminal building and the first paved runway was completed along with some ramp space. In addition to the Robertson Aviation Corporatiion the new airport attracted other aircraft concerns including Curtis-Robertson Aircraft Manufacturing, Mahoney-Ryann Aircraft Corporation, Curtis Flying Service, Transcontinental Air Transport, Inc. and many others.

A laborious process was used in laying concrete for the runway involving the use of dump trucks to move mixed concrete to the location and a vast amount of manpower to spread and hand-finish the pavement. Plans for developing the field also included installation of eight floodlights to allow safe landings in darkness. After the floodlights were installed night-landing night-landing pilots complained that they were blinded by the sudden brightness. It was decided to use only one large light, installed on a platform at the north side of the field. The light was equipped with , a metal shield which George Herwig, the nightwatchman, moved by hand to throw a shadow over the cockpit as a plane landed, thus shielding the pilot from glare while still lighting the landing area.

I would like to express my appreciation at this point to Mr. Herwig who has been most kind in permitting me to use some of his private photo collection in this series of articles. George has photos autographed by Lindbergh, Admiral Byrd, famous racing pilots and movie stars who flew in and out of St. Louis along with those of numerous other celebrities. George was known by all who traveled by commercial air service. He has a fantastic memory, and can recall people and incidents of the period in vivid detail. George served many years as a security guard for the airport and presently resides in Hazelwood.

A new modern facility was planned for the National Guard Air Unit to replace the original metal hangars. In July of 1931 the structure which combined hangar, shop, and office space was completed. These facilities would enable the unit to consolidate flying equipment and all other functions into a modern facility from which operations would be conducted for the next 28 years. Major Phillip R. Love assumed command of the unit in October 1930 and served in this capacity till 1936. In the early 30s the unit was equipped with Douglas O-38 type aircraft with a mission of observation and reconnaissance. Summer training encampments were being held at Fort Riley, Kansas, Lambert Field, Elgin Field, Florida, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma. [Photo, 110 Photo Section, 35th Division, 1937 Annual Inspection, Robertson Air Base, MoANG  (Lambert Field), Enlargment note:"6th man from left, front rank--Sgt. Neblett, Motor Sgt.]

Among the enlisted men who were serving with the unit at that time and who remained with the unit into the 1960’s were Sergeants Walter Wilde, Arthur Rethmeyer; Paul Goldstein, and Carl Taschinger. An officer assigned in those days and still with the unit is Lt. Col. Theodore C. Wagner whose present job is Assistant Chief of Supply and Public Information Officer for the unit. SMS Walter J. Wilde retired from the Guard in 1965 with 40 years service. CMS Arthur P. Rethmeyer retired in 1963 and passed away recently after a long illness. Art had been First Sgt. of the 110th Squadron for many years and was respected by all who knew him, as a rigid disciplinarian who lived "by the book" and displayed the characteristics of the legendary "Old Soldier". SMS Goldstein, a 40 year veteran, is still active with the unit at present and is employed as Supervisor of the Synthetic Trainer Section on the base. Sgt. Carl Taschinger, another old timer, is the Time Accounting Analysis Supervisor in the Aircraft Maintenance Activity. Carl has 33 years with the Missouri National Guard. These men have served on active duty with the Guard in three in three major conflicts, World War II, the Korean conflict, and the Berlin crisis.

During the "Depression Years" the airlines struggled to attract passengers and activity at the airport was relatively quiet. A humorous comment that was an article written by David Walliin of the St. Louis Post Dispatch was the fact that "employees sometimes were assigned to ride planes to keep them from looking empty." This is certainly not a problem encountered today (1971), with some two million passengers passing through the Lambert Field facility yearly.

MoANG Pilot with O-38 Aircraft [Enlargement]


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