Pyote Army Air Field in Texas ... Rattlesnake Bomber Base


Brief History of Pyote, Texas

Greetings from Pyote, TexasGreetings from Pyote, Texas

In 1881, before the Texas and Pacific (T&P) Railway laid its tracks through the West Texas area, the company opened a telegraph office at Pyote Tank. The source of the name for the town is disputed - some credit the Chinese railroad workers' pronunciation of "coyote" while others think it was named for the peyote cacti common to the region.

By 1925 the population of Pyote, located in Ward County, was reported at 100 when oil was discovered in nearby Winkler County. By 1928 Pyote became the trading and shipping center for area oil activity, and its population grew to 3,500.

However, the boom ended in the 1930s when the railroad built a spur to Monahans, eliminating Pyote from oilfield shipping. By 1941 the population was reported as 201, supported by 15 businesses. But growth was again to take place in Pyote.

Location of Pyote Army Air Field

Pyote AAF front gate
Pyote AAF front gate (Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum archives)

Pyote Army Air Field was situated on 2,745 acres of University of Texas land a mile southwest of the town of Pyote, and twenty miles west of Monahans.

 

It was just south of U.S. Highway 80, west of Midland, east of Pecos, and north of Fort Stockton, and along present-day Interstate 20.

Construction and Usage of Pyote AAF During World War II

Construction of the facilities, including five large hangars, shops, warehouses, and living quarters, began on September 5, 1942. The field featured two runways, each 8,400' in length and 150' feet wide, and a taxiway which formed a triangle. The ramp area was 3,000' by 600'.

Due to the large number of snakes at the site, it was often called "Rattlesnake Bomber Base".

Troops and civilian technicians reported by the thousands, and the population of the base grew steadily to a peak of over 6,500 in October of 1944. Within four months of its opening, the base had become the largest bomber installation in the country.

 

Beware of rattlesnakes! ... Sign at Pyote AAF
Beware of rattlesnakes! (Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum archives)

Pyote trained B-17 Flying Fortress air crews in precision bombing tactics until the summer of 1944, when training switched to the B-29 Superfortress.

Post-WWII Years as Pyote Air Force Base and a Storage Facility

After the war, the renamed Pyote Air Force Base was transferred from the Second Air Force to the San Antonio Air Tech Service Command and became an aircraft-storage depot.

During this time, the base served as a storage facility for as many as 2,000 aircraft (B-29, B-17, B-25, A-26, C-47, and others).

For a while, the B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay" (Serial Number 44-86292) was stored at Pyote, the aircraft Colonel Paul Tibbets piloted on August 6, 1945 and dropped "Little Boy" over Hiroshima, Japan. Enola Gay was later transferred to the Smithsonian Institution, and is now on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport.

Other well known planes stored at Pyote included the B-17 Flying Fortress "Swoose". The aircraft was a B-17D-BO, S/N 40-3097, that saw extensive use in the Southwest Pacific theatre of World War II and survived to become the oldest B-17 still intact. When the decision was made to close Pyote, the Swoose was flown out under its own power.

Also stored at Pyote was a Douglas XB-47 Mixmaster pusher-type bomber with dual rear propellers. The Mixmaster was later shipped by train from the base; the wings were smelted at Pyote. Today, the Mixmaster resides at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton awaiting restoration.

Pyote AAF flight line
Pyote AAF flight line (Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum archives)

In December of 1953, the base went on standby status, staffed by a small caretaker crew to maintain the base.

In April of 1958, the base was reopened as Pyote Air Force Station (TM-186), a radar installation part of series of installations that were an early warning network in case of Soviet air attack. In March of 1963 the Air Force ordered the site to close.

The remaining large hangars gradually disappeared over the years. Today only runways and a few ruins mark the location of the base (see Google map below).

Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum

An excellent facility exists that documents the construction, operation and history of the base. It includes a wide variety of exhibits, photographs and artifacts from the base.

We encourage you to visit the Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum, opened in July of 2014, and located at 1500 East Sealy in Monahans, Texas.

Phone the museum at (432) 943-8401 for additional information. And visit the Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum on Facebook.

 

Exterior view of the Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum in Monahans, Texas
Exterior view of the Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum in Monahans, Texas

Scenes from Pyote over the years ... from the Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum

Hover your mouse below ... and press the » start button to begin the slideshow

 

Historic Photos of Pyote Army Air Field

 

Pyote AAF flightline with B-17 overhead (Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum archives)
Pyote AAF flightline with B-17 overhead
Pyote AAF hangar (Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum archives)
Pyote AAF hangar
Pyote AAF base scene, early days of World War II (Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum archives)
Pyote AAF base scene, early days of World War II
B-17 S/N 229546 in flight in the Pyote area (Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum archives)
B-17 S/N 229546 in flight in the Pyote area
Pyote AAF aerial view, circa 1943 (Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum archives)
Pyote AAF aerial view, circa 1943
B-29 Superfortress bombers in storage at Pyote Air Force Base, Texas, circa 1946
B-29 Superfortresses in storage at Pyote Air Force Base, 1946
B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay" in storage at Pyote post-WWII (Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum archives)
B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay" in storage at Pyote post-WWII
B-17 Flying Fortress "Swoose" in storage at Pyote post-WWII (Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum archives)
B-17 Flying Fortress "Swoose" in storage at Pyote post-WWII
Douglas XB-47 Mixmaster in storage at Pyote AFB (Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum archives)
Douglas XB-47 in storage at Pyote post-WWII
BEWARE! Yes, there WERE rattlesnakes in Texas in the early 1940s, and lots of them around Pyote AAF.
Thus, the nickname ... "Rattlesnake Bomber Base" (Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum archives)
BEWARE! Yes, there WERE ratlesnakes in Texas in the early 1940s, and lots of them around Pyote AAF.
Thus, the nickname ... "Rattlesnake Air Force Base"

Interactive Map of Pyote, Texas Area

Map of locations of active and post-WWII airplane boneyards and plane storage facilities in the United States

click to view interactive map of airplane boneyards and aircraft storage facilities in the United States

 


AIRLINER BONEYARDS  |  AMARG MILITARY BONEYARD AT DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB
BONEYARD STORAGE, PARTS RECLAMATION & SCRAPPING OPERATIONS
MOJAVE   |  KINGMAN  |  PHOENIX GOODYEAR   |  SCLA VICTORVILLE  |  ROSWELL  |  PINAL
ARIZONA BONEYARDS  |  CALIFORNIA BONEYARDS  |  BONEYARDS OUTSIDE USA
POST-WWII BONEYARDS  |  MAP  |  TOURS  |  NEWS  | CONTACT  |  SITE MAP

Copyright © 2017 AirplaneBoneyards.com  All Rights Reserved.
An online resource about facilities engaged in the storage, reclamation & disassembly of aircraft ... we do not own or operate a boneyard, or have an affiliation with any boneyard, the Department of Defense, or any aviation museum or tour group