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Arsenal of Defense

Fort Worth's Miltary Legacy

J'Nell L. Pate

Publication Year: 2011

Named after Mexican War general William Jenkins Worth, Fort Worth began as a military post in 1849. More than a century and a half later, the defense industry remains Fort Worth's major strength with Lockheed Martin's F-35s and Bell Helicopter's Ospreys flying the skies over the city. Arsenal of Defense: Fort Worth's Military Legacy covers the entire military history of Fort Worth from the 1840s with tiny Bird's Fort to the massive defense plants of the first decade of the twenty-first century.
Although the city is popularly known as "Cowtown" for its iconic cattle drives and stockyards, soldiers, pilots, and military installations have been just as important--and more enduring--in Fort Worth's legacy. Although Bird's Fort provided defense for early North Texas settlers in the mid nineteenth century, it was the major world conflicts of the twentieth century that developed Fort Worth's military presence into what it is today. America's buildup for World War I brought three pilot training fields and the army post Camp. During World War II, headquarters for the entire nation's Army Air Forces Flying Training Command came to Fort Worth. The military history of Fort Worth has been largely an aviation story--one that went beyond pilot training to the construction of military aircraft. Beginning with Globe Aircraft in 1940, Consolidated in 1942, and Bell Helicopter in 1950, the city has produced many thousands of military aircraft for the defense of the nation. Lockheed Martin, the descendant of Consolidated, represents an assembly plant that has been in continuous existence for over seven decades. With Lockheed Martin the nation's largest defense contractor, Bell the largest helicopter producer, and the Fort Worth Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Federal Medical Center Carswell the reservist's training pattern for the nation, Fort Worth's military defense legacy remains strong.

Published by: Texas State Historical Association

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. vii-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

Every city has a story . . . Fort Worth has a legend. For more than 150 years, this city has made a name for itself. And it represents different things for different people. For most, Fort Worth means the Old West, cattle drives and famous cowboys. For some, Fort Worth is commerce, oil, and money. For others, Fort Worth is art, culture, museums, and Van Cliburn. In fact, Fort Worth is all of that . . . and more. Twenty years ago when I first entered public office, I began to realize...

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pp. xv-xvi

Stanley Cole, former editor of the Carswell Sentinel, once wrote, “since Major Ripley Arnold planted the U.S. flag at the fork[s] of the Trinity River, the fortunes of the military presence and the Fort Worth area have been interwoven and interdependent.”1 Although Major Arnold planted the flag in June 1849, one might actually push the military connection back at least eight years to the expedition of General Edward H. Tarrant in the spring of 1841, which included the Battle of...

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pp. xvii-xix

First, I must thank the Leave of Absence Committee of Tarrant County College, Fort Worth, Texas, for granting my request for a sabbatical for the 1996–97 school year. As a result, I spent two full semesters of research time on the topic of “The Impact of the Military on Tarrant County.” Other projects interfered, and years passed before I returned to the massive task that I had set aside. I am most grateful to Norman Robbins, director of community relations...

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Chapter 1 A Fort Begins the Military Tradition

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pp. 1-19

Settlers arriving in North Texas in the first half of the nineteenth century never could have imagined that on the vacant prairie lands they saw stretching westward from the ninety-eighth meridian their descendants would one day manufacture and sell massive numbers of military aircraft. Those early pioneers had left the United States and its well-established cities behind to come to Texas, but within a century and a half the community they began—Fort Worth—grew into a large...

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Chapter 2 World War I: Three Air Fields

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pp. 20-39

Ben E. Keith, who continued to serve as president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce in 1917, wanted to bring military money into the city. With Louis J. Wortham, an editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and a former state legislator, Keith traveled to Washington, D.C., early in the year to confer with the secretary of war. He wanted to convince military officials that Fort Worth possessed plenty of anything they might need: railroads, work force, mild climate, and food.1 ...

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Chapter 3 World War I: Camp Bowie

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pp. 40-57

Just days after President Woodrow Wilson signed the declaration of war against Germany on April 6, 1917, Fort Worth businessmen expressed the hope that an army training camp might be located in their city. Chamber of Commerce president Ben E. Keith and Mayor W. D. Davis met with Brigadier General James Parker, commander of the Southern Department at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, to present the case for Fort Worth.1...

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Chapter 4 Local Aviation between the Wars

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pp. 58-70

A familiar truism after World War I was that after American farm boys became doughboys and viewed a larger world—Gay Paree or elsewhere—they really did not want to go back to the farm. For this and other reasons many men who returned from the war to be discharged in Fort Worth never left there. Others who enjoyed flying remained in the military until 1920 when all three local airfields shut down completely. These young fliers often accepted invitations to do...

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Chapter 5 World War II: The Bomber Plant

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pp. 71-92

Any story of Consolidated Aircraft Corporation must begin with Major Reuben Fleet, the blue-eyed, six-foot war veteran with a commanding military posture who bought two struggling airplane companies half a decade after World War I and “consolidated” them to create his new company. The self-confident, stubborn Fleet built his factory into a major supplier of airplanes for the war effort...

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Chapter 6 World War II: Air Power at Fort Worth Army Air Field

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pp. 93-104

Located on the eastern edge of the flat, level plains of West Texas, Fort Worth’s destiny lay with air power. A pilot train- ing center at an airfield adjacent to the “bomber plant” of World War II would contribute to that prominence. Pioneers in aviation also paved the way. An army officer who had served his country since the Spanish-American War in 1898, William “Billy” Mitchell, became the first American to...

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Chapter 7 World War II: Training Commandand More

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pp. 105-122

Fort Worth military activities during World War II included much more than what occurred at Consolidated and the Fort Worth Army Air Field. The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce submitted proposals for many projects to the U.S. government. Although the city did not receive all of them, the ones the military did bestow on it represented an amazing array of opportunities for citizens to serve...

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Chapter 8 Globe Aircraft

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pp. 123-133

Fort Worthians whose parents or grandparents worked at the bomber plant during the war may forget that more airplane manufacturing took place in the area than just at the big Consolidated factory west of town. Some people took jobs at the North American plant in Grand Prairie east of Fort Worth in Dallas County. Closer to home, however, was the Globe facility on Blue Mound Road only a half dozen miles north of downtown. The story of John Kennedy and Globe...

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Chapter 9 Bell Helicopters

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pp. 134-152

Lawrence D. (Larry) Bell and Bell Helicopter Corporation transformed the Dallas-Fort Worth “Mid-Cities” (as the communities between Dallas and Fort Worth are known in the Metroplex) of eastern Tarrant County and added massive defense spending to the area’s economy in the last half of the twentieth century. That influence continued undiminished into the new century. The arrival of Bell Helicopter between World War II and the Korean War was one of those unexpected gifts that...

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Chapter 10 The Sound of Freedom: Carswell and Beyond

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pp. 153-180

Fort Worth Army Air Field (FWAAF) enjoyed an opportunity available to few others: remaining open during the years immediately following World War II. FWAAF, which became Carswell Air Force Base in 1948, continued as an important part of the front line of defense during the Cold War. Pilots and airmen of Carswell distinguished themselves by breaking records and accomplishing several flight firsts. By the time FWAAF became Carswell, local citizens were accustomed...

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Chapter 11 Air Force Plant 4: General Dynamics to Lockheed Martin

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pp. 181-197

Continuous operations at the aircraft manufacturing facility west of Fort Worth that began as the “bomber plant” in 1942 meant stability and jobs for the area; however, the tenants leasing the Air Force’s Plant 4 changed several times. For the first twelve years it was Consolidated Aircraft Corporation, which became Consolidated Vultee and later Convair. Then the newly renamed General Dynamics...

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Chapter 12 Military Impact

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pp. 198-208

Fort Worth likes to call itself “the city where the West begins.” Indeed, it began as a military fort on the fringes of the western frontier, but cattle drives and livestock sales dominated the economy until the mid-twentieth century when military interests again ruled. It seems appropriate that other communities like Cowtown with a similar defense-military emphasis also are located west of the ninety-eighth...


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pp. 209-252


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pp. 253-271


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pp. 273-287

E-ISBN-13: 9780876112588
E-ISBN-10: 0876112580
Print-ISBN-13: 9780876112496

Page Count: 350
Illustrations: 40 b&w photographs.
Publication Year: 2011

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Subject Headings

  • Fort Worth (Tex.) -- History, Military.
  • Defense industries -- Texas -- Fort Worth -- History.
  • United States -- Armed Forces -- Texas -- Fort Worth -- History.
  • Fort Worth (Tex.) -- Economic conditions.
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