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Scott History: 1940s

  • Published
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Radio operator-mechanics training was the primary mission of Scott Field during World War II. The Radio School began classes in October 1940 in Hangar 1 before moving to another area. With a slogan of, “The best damned radio operators in the world!” the 77,370 graduates were referred to as the WWII “eyes and ears of the Army Air Forces.” The Airmen flew in aircraft and operated command and control communications in every theater of the war.

The 22-week course was comprised of three parts: the radio operating division, the radio fundamentals division, and the aircraft radio division. Students learned international Morse code, and radio-telephone procedures to include radio aids for air navigation, weather reports, facility charts, and microphone techniques. Students also studied tactical radio-telegraph procedures, how to operate a radio when airborne, mathematics, direct current, alternating current, transmitters I and II, receivers and circuit analysis.

On the eve of Pearl Harbor, the school had approximately 8,100 students enrolled and another 3,650 graduates, so Scott Field was ready for wartime operations when the U.S. entered World War II.


During the early 1940’s, Paul Airey, who eventually became the first Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, joined the Army Air Forces and was sent to Scott Field to train as an airborne radio operator.

“I wanted to be an aerial gunner,” said Airey. “I got some consolation when I learned that crews on B-17s and B-24s had the radio operator double as a waist gunner.”

In July 1944, Airey’s B-24 was damaged while flying over Austria, causing Airey to jump out of the plane when they reached Hungary, where he was captured and held as a Prisoner of War. He was liberated by British forces in 1945. After more than a decade in the military, Airey was selected by Chief of Staff Gen. John McConnell to become the first Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, which he held from April 3, 1967, to July 31, 1969. He retired Aug. 1, 1970.


The 58th Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corps Post Headquarters Company became the first female unit stationed at Scott Field when it moved from Florida in March 1943.

The 156-member unit worked in the hospital, radio school, offices, motor pool, hangar and control tower.

The WAACs later took the enlistment oath in the Woman’s Army Corps in August 1943.

After joining this U.S. Army component, the women received regular Army ratings, grades privileges and benefits. Their unit was known as the Army Air Forces WAC Detachment and they were referred to as “Air WACs.”

Following the war, women in the Air Force encountered a number of difficulties. Although Congress established “Women in the Air Force” (WAFs) as a permanent part of the Air Force on June 12, 1948, the Air Staff failed to assign women a clearly defined role.

Women served in more traditional fields at Scott, but this changed when a group of WAFs entered the control tower course in January 1949.

Following that, WAFs began entering the radio mechanic general course a month later. This success was later overturned in 1954, when an Air Training Command directive barred WAFs from entering the radio repairman course.

Separation officially ended in 1975 when the 375th WAF Squadron Section was inactivated, completely integrating Scott servicewomen into the Air Force.


During the summer of 1942, the 46th Aviation Squadron and the 934th Quartermaster Platoon, two segregated black units, arrived at Scott Field where they underwent basic training.

After basic training was completed, they received Radio School training and motor vehicle instruction.

In addition to working in the motor pool and post engineering section, members of the 46th AS also pulled alert crew and security details while at Scott Field.

When the National Security Act of 1947 became law, it created a new branch of the military: the U.S. Air Force. In 1948, President Harry Truman issued an executive order to end segregation in the armed forces, but enactment took place over time.

One of the first steps on Scott AFB was the removal of the “asterisk” placed next to names of black service members to identify race over official mail.

More significant changes began to occur after members of Scott’s all black Services Squadron were reassigned to positions in other units on base.