Cut Bank Army Airfield
Cut Bank Army Airfield (1942-1943) - A World War II era U.S. Army Airfield established in 1942 near Cut Bank, Glacier County, Montana. Named Cut Bank Army Airfield after the location. Deactivated in late 1943 and returned to civilian control in 1948.
In early 1941 the city of Cut Bank and Glacier County established a municipal airport at Cut Bank and by 1 Jun 1941, Western Airlines had established commercial service at the airport.
World War II
With the declaration of war in December 1941 the municipal airfield was offered to the government and in June 1942 plans were implemented for the construction of the Cut Bank Army Airfield. The field at Cut Bank was one of six U.S. Army airfields established in Montana during the war. The Great Falls Army Airfield/Air Base oversaw the activities of the other airfields providing command and logistics support. The primary mission was B-17 aircrew training and mobilization into operational squadrons.
Typical squadrons had nine B-17s manned by 37 officers and 229 enlisted men. The hastily constructed airfields had ramp and hardstand parking for 12 B-17s and a single hanger that could hold only one B-17. The hanger at Cut Bank was reportedly expanded to hold a B-29 Superfortress. The height of the tail of the B-17 was only 25 feet high, while the B-29 was 34 feet high.
The officer's quarters were 100′ x 20′ buildings and could house 16 men. The enlisted barracks were each 100′ x 20′ but could house 34 to 48 men. Two 100′ x 20′ Mess Halls were constructed, one was the officer's mess designed to seat 120 men, and the other was the enlisted mess built to seat 500. Base contractors were Askevold & Ruud company.
The water tower was 111′ tall and included a 100,000-gallon storage tank. The contract for the tower and tank was awarded to J. Hugo Aronson . Glacier Construction Company was awarded the contract to drill wells to provide 100 gallons per minute of water and to lay approximately 7,000 feet of six-inch line to service the base. The sewer system for the base was awarded to Frank Haas. A total workforce of approximately 350 men completed the airfield. The airfield was activated on 11 Nov 1942. Commercial air service continued through the war years.
Squadrons would fly into Cut Bank for one to three months of training. The aircrews would train day and night in all kinds of weather. Training combined navigation, bombing, and gunnery practice familiarizing crews with all aspects of the B-17, each learning the jobs of other crew members of the plane. Mass formations of planes were assembled from airfields in the area to practice mass bombing tactics. The assembled formations flew to simulated targets in the western states.
Crews were trained in the use of the secret Norden bombsight. At Cut Bank, the bomb sights were kept in a small double-compartment concrete building accessed through bank vault doors. Barbed wire encircled the building and a sentry guarded the gate 24 hours a day.
Several B-17 Flying Fortresses squadrons trained at Cut Bank. Known squadrons were:
The airport remained leased to the U.S. government until 1 Jul 1948 when the lease was terminated and additional land was purchased for runway extensions. The remaining government buildings, equipment, and tools were deeded to the City of Cut Bank and Glacier County.
Now Cut Bank Municipal Airport. The airfield was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. The listing included eight contributing buildings, 27 contributing structures, and four contributing sites on 1,460 acres.
Visited: 30 Jun 2022