- Arsenal of Defense: Fort Worth’s Military Legacy
Through the 1930s the economy of Fort Worth centered on cattle, stockyards, railroads, oil, and agriculture according to J’Nell Pate, a retired professor from Tarrant County College who has written two other books about the city. Stimulated largely by World War II the emphasis shifted, however, to not only the training of flight personnel, but also to the manufacturing, design and testing of military aircraft. Dedicated politicians and businessmen continually sought government [End Page 212] contracts and provided land, utilities, and roads to supplement the good weather, space, and labor that the area offered. Fort Worth was highly successful in this quest in part because the defense department wanted to spread war manufacturing around the country for security, and also because of an abiding interest in aviation that reached back to World War I when Fort Worth hosted the training of Canadian pilots.
City population jumped by 57 percent in the 1940s to 279,000 and then gained another 28 percent in the 1950s. Employment in Tarrant County likewise jumped and the Fort Worth suburbs boomed. The largest defense plant turned out 200 B-24 bombers per month and employed 31,000 in 1943. The factory went through a series of changes and owners—Consolidated, Consolidated Vultee, Convair, General Dynamics, Lockheed, Lockheed Martin—but is still in operation. One of the secrets of its success was that the plant was located adjacent to a training base for pilots. At first called Tarrant Field Airdrome and then Fort Worth Army Air Field, its name was later changed to Carswell Air Force Base and finally to Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. It is to Pate’s credit that she keeps all of these name changes straight.
The town absorbed the rapid population growth and thrived, and Pate was able to bring some of this to the military story—suburban changes, temporary housing, recreation, the factory employment of women, the income to the city, and the utilization of women pilots for delivery of aircraft. This is a good book that adds to the knowledge about the impact of war on cities. It also gives pause to a blanket condemnation about the “military-industrial complex” that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about. To a large extent the history of Fort Worth since 1940 is a chronicle of such a complex.