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Rail station contributed its share to war effort

The recent announcement about plans to convert the old Texas & Pacific Terminal building into a swank $50 million hotel might spur local historians to find out more about downtown Fort Worth's art deco masterpiece.

The latest bit of information to surface is its relatively unknown role as the site of an Army Air Forces headquarters in World War II.

In 1944, I was 10 years old and I stood in that concourse with my stepmother and waved at my dad as his troop train sped through.

He was on a westbound, nonstop train carrying him from Boston, where he had attended the Navy's storekeeper school, to his duty station in California. We spotted him among a crowd of local sailors jammed in the passenger car windows, waving and grinning at us for a few seconds until the train vanished from sight.

We were waiting on that same concourse when the war was over to greet him after his release from the Navy.

The station was bustling in those days. I remember seas of men in uniforms surging through the room, heading downtown for a quick sandwich and maybe a beer before their troop train resumed its journey.

Couples hugged in one last desperate embrace before the men left for war.

And I remember the tears of the women, including my stepmom, as those trains roared out of the station carrying their loved ones into harm's way.

What I didn't know until just the other day was that it was also headquarters for the Army Air Forces' Flying Training Command, headed by Maj. Gen. Barton K.Yount.

From the station building, Yount and his staff of 160 officers and men controlled the operations of more than 150 training bases from West Point, N.Y., to California.

The hundreds of thousands of pilots, gunners, navigators and bombardiers who flew in World War II went through primary and advanced training at those bases, including the one at Tarrant Field in Fort Worth, later renamed Carswell Air Force Base, and now known officially as the Naval Reserve Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Carswell Field.

A Mid-Cities reader who served in that training command as an air traffic controller and who wishes to remain anonymous, sent me copies of the unit's yearbook, explaining that during the war the training command occupied 110 of the building's 200 offices.

And Ed Casebier, one of the developers planning to convert the building into a five-star luxury hotel, told me that he was given an interoffice phone book from that era that listed the building's phone extensions for the command's personnel.

"It was given to me by former City Manager Doug Harman, now director of the city's convention and visitors bureau," Casebier said. "Doug is probably one of the best experts around on the city's aviation history."

Casebier and fellow developer Halden Conner plan to include the phone book, papers, photographs of those World War II days in historical exhibits on one side of the hotel lobby.

I can hardly wait to see them.

Area veterans are invited to attend a ceremony honoring Bertha Cruz Hall, an employee of the Tarrant County Veteran's Council, on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at the Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic at 300 W. Rosedale St.

She is being honored for her nine years of "outstanding service to the council and her special dedication and concern for the veterans of the Fort Worth and Tarrant County area," according to Herbie Berkowitz, chairman of the Jewish War Veterans' Martin Hochster Post 755's awards committee.

The ceremony will include a hot dog lunch served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a presentation by former state Rep. Doyle Willis, who is a former president of the Tarrant County Veterans Council.

In her job, Hall helps veterans, their dependents and survivors thread their way through the forest of paperwork to secure benefits.

She is also the council's female veterans coordinator and recently participated in the National Summit on Women Veterans Issues in Washington, D.C.

Frank Perkins' Military Notes column appears on Tuesday.
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The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
Frank Perkins