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The Military Mural

Our main project for 2012 was the Military Mural, located at 108 E. Concho in downtown San Angelo. Three different themed panels make up the entirety of the Military Mural. We hope you enjoy viewing, reading, and hearing about the military history of our town.

Part 1: The Fort Concho Mural

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Fort Concho was in service from 1867 to 1899. During the period of the western expansion, those early settlers not only faced the weather and other natural dangers, they also faced the Comanches. Forts were built on the leading edge of expansion. Fort Concho was one of those forts. We're fortunate in San Angelo to have the best preserved fort. You will want to visit Fort Concho. Just follow the street behind you...across the river...and there you are.

Fort Concho was home to both calvary and infantry. Many of those soldiers were black. The Indians called them "buffalo soldiers" because of the color and texture of their hair. Two of the commanders are pictured here. Colonel Benjamin Grierson–he served longer than anyone else–and Colonel Ronald MacKenzie–he was the most tenacious. He took the fight to the Comanches. Comanches named him "bad hand" because of an earlier injury to his hand.

Among the Comanche chiefs were Lone Wolf Victorio and Quanah Parker. They're pictured here. Quanah Parker was not only a fierce war chief, but his mother was a white captive. You will also notice the Colt 45 hand gun. It's a revolver. This hand gun was called "The Peacemaker." The revolver was one of those big reasons–maybe the main reason–for success among the Comanches. You see, it improved the firepower that the soldiers had. Some Indians even said they were able to shoot from each finger of their hand.

The soldiers also carried a rifle. It was a Trapdoor Springfield, Model 1873. It's called a trap door because of a hinged opening in the breach of the rifle. This allowed the rapid reloading. It shot a 45-caliber lead bullet backed by 70 grains of black powder. This was a powerful weapon, and it was used all through the Indian Wars.

With the subduing of the Comanches, the need for these forts came to an end. But if you close your eyes and listen carefully, you just may hear a bugle call in the distance.

Part 2: The Army Air Field Mural

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Less than 50 years after Fort Concho closes, we're at war again–this time, World War II. Temporary training facilities spring up all across the country. The San Angelo Army Air Field was one such facility.

Actually, San Angelo already had Goodfellow Field, which is still here as Goodfellow Air Force Base. The San Angelo Army Air Field would be a bombardier training school. This air field, which had begun as a civilian air field named the Carr Field, was converted into a bombardier training facility. As a result, between Goodfellow Field and the San Angelo Army Air Field, 37,000 military personnel moved to and through San Angelo.

The field covered 1,693 acres and had approximately 390 buildings. Most of these were wood construction with tar paper exteriors. The men were trained in using the Norden bombsight. At that time the Norden bombsight was a classified secret. It was never left in an aircraft; it was stored in a vault and brought out for use in a box and under guard. All bombardiers were required to sign an oath of secrecy. This new sight made accurate bombing possible. You may notice the picture of the men delivering this sight under arms.

The practice bombs used weighed 100 pounds. They were dropped from 500 to 12,000 feet. The average student dropped 210 such bombs during their training. 5,381 men were trained here to be bombardiers. The commander through the entire period were Colonel George Palmer. Many of the men stationed here called the field "The Concho Field," but the army never did. Today, this field is called Mathis Field and is San Angelo's municipal airport. The field is named in honor of Lieutenant Jack Mathis, a bombardier who received the Medal of Honor posthumously for heroic actions during a mission over Germany in March of 1943.

Part 3: The Goodfellow Mural

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There was a word or an acronym that pilots used to use to describe this kind of area – CAVU, they called it. C-A-V-U…Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited. That's much of the reason Goodfellow Air Force Base is here. With so few mountains and clouds it was a great place to train folks to fly.

The rest of the reason Goodfellow is here has to do with the people of San Angelo and the special relationship they forged with the base. That relationship has been there from the very beginning. When the city, upon discovering the U.S. Military wanted to build a pilot training base in Texas, volunteered to put up the land and utility tie-ins so the base could be built here. That was back in 1940, more than a year and a half before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The history that unfolded over the next 7 decades has captured wonderfully in this magnificent mural.

In the center is the image of Lieutenant John Goodfellow for whom the base is named. Lieutenant Goodfellow was a native of San Angelo and a World War I aviator who was killed in action while flying a deep reconnaissance mission behind enemy lines over France in September 1918.

Probably the next image or images to catch your eye are the wonderful, colorful airplanes. These were trainers, which makes perfect sense since Goodfellow started out as a pilot training base. On the left, the blue and yellow BT13 was nicknamed "The Vibrator" because of the effect it had on the pilots and the students who flew it. Next is the stunningly yellow T6 Texan, painted that way to make it easy to see and avoid. And there was the training version of the B-25 Medium Bomber used in the multi-engine training program at Goodfellow and the last trainer to be used at the base. That was because pilot training at Goodfellow came to an end in September 1958 when the base converted to an intelligence training – or as they say today, ISR training – "Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance."

The mural is rich in images relating to the ISR mission. At the bottom of the mural, left of center, three images feature cryptological linguistic training, which used to be called "imagery training" and "general intelligence training." And then on the right side is the image of antennas and four linguist students seated at consoles. Notice their uniforms – Marine, Army, Air Force, Navy. That's because Goodfellow provides ISR training for all the services.

Now look at the picture beneath the linguists. The aircraft is engulfed in flames, but it's not on fire, and it's not an accident. It's part of Goodfellow's fire training mission using clean propane to train firefighters once again for all the services.

Below the image of Lieutenant Goodfellow are six emblems, each representing a different period in the history of the base. The current emblem – the yellow shield on the right – belongs to the Seventeenth Training Wing, the host unit of the base since 1993. The Seventeenth has a long and storied history that includes the famous Doolittle raid of World War II, night-time interdiction missions in Korea, B-52 missions over Vietnam, and the U2 reconnaissance missions as part of Desert Storm.

Finally, at the bottom of the mural towards the center, are the images of Pave Paws and A.I.C. Elizabeth Jacobson. Pave Paws was a radar site near Eldorado, Texas, that watched for submarines and their launch ballistic missiles coming in from the Gulf. Goodfellow provided logistic support for the radar site until it closed in the mid-1990s. Airman Jacobson, as the mural explains, was a Security Forces member of the Goodfellow team killed in action in Iraq in 2005. The main entrance of the base has been named in her honor.

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