The Heart of Texas Historical Museum has now moved the WW2 vintage control tower building from its original location at Curtis Field to its new home behind the museum in downtown Brady, Texas. It has now been completely restored to its original configuration including an exact replica of the actual control tower. The Museum also acquired the original Curtis Field Guard Shack and the remains of the POW Camp Guard Shack from Camp Brady, and these two structures have also been completely restored in the same complex.
The historical significance of these buildings should not be underestimated. The Control Tower building was the most prominent wooden building in McCulloch County from WW2 still standing on its original location and it was scheduled for demolition last December. However, due to the generosity of HRI in Dallas who owned the structure and with the help of Brady’s own Loadcraft Company, the building was kindly donated to the museum with the understanding that it had to be moved before December 2006. During the same time period, The McCulloch County Commissioners Court voted to trade us their 4 parcels of the old car impound lot behind the museum for another parcel of land in the area. The one remaining parcel was owned by the decendants of Dr. Jones and they kindly donated it to the Museum. This lot is the new home of the control tower building and the restored guard shacks from both the POW camp and Curtis Field. We believe this spectacular display area may be unique in the State of Texas.
Curtis Field and the POW camp probably had more influence on Brady’s growth and economic stability than anything else that has ever happened here. A good many of the military guys married our local girls and some still live here. Before the big war, Brady was a sleepy little town but the war changed all of that. Things around here have never quite been the same since the war, and things have been better than ever.
Now, lets have a short little history lesson:
The Curtis Field Control Tower Building was actually named as follows:
The control tower was simply built on top of the building and another sign on the front of the building facing the runway said:
The building was erected in late 1940 and was in operation by March, 1941. It was modified at least twice during the war years. Finally, in 1944, near the end of the war, the actual control tower was removed and temporarily put out in the center of the field near the crossing of the two runways. It was later destroyed at the end of the war. The museum built an exact replica of the tower on top of the existing building and guests of the museum are allowed to enter the tower. The building is being used for military displays and for community meetings.
During WWII, 10,000 cadets trained there in a little less than 5 years. Each of them went through this building twice each flying day to get and return their parachutes. 21 of the trainees were killed in flying accidents. Every one of them dreamed of becoming a famous fighter pilot. Statistically, 35% of them never came back home. They and their other military friends, past and present, are the real reason we live in a free country and we must never forget them. This building has been dedicated to the men and women who trained here, to the 21 who died here and to all of the veterans of all branches of the service from McCulloch County and the rest of the nation.
When I was a youngster, I entered this building on several occasions. Like many Brady families, my parents supplied a room for an instructor, a Mr. Edgar Walters from Littlefield, Texas. Ed became like a brother to me. Now, when I cross the threshold of the old building from Curtis Field I can almost hear the voices of all the guys we met there during the war. We took them on weekend picnics at Spy Rock, ate watermelon in our backyard with them and just generally tried to make them feel closer to home. We knew they would not be here very long, and we knew that many would die in Europe and the Pacific and would never really come home. Giving them a little love seemed like the right thing to do. Several of these guys kept in touch with us for many years after the war, but now they are mostly all gone.
CURTIS FIELD GUARD SHACK
The little white wooden Curtis Field Guard shack was the first thing arriving trainees saw when they arrived, and it served as their gateway into the town when they had the luxury of a pass. This little building was in several different locations over the years. It was generally a happy little building as that is where the bus stopped to take trainees into town. After the war, the little building was removed, but due to the foresight of the airport manager Joe Mosier, it was not destroyed and was instead placed in a secluded place north of the airport. It was given to the Museum when our project got started, another piece of history saved
CAMP BRADY GUARD SHACK
The little stone guard shack was the most recognizable structure associated with the POW camp, possibly because that is as far as most of the public got to go! Camp Brady was about 1 ½ miles east of downtown Brady. The camp held 3,000 German and Italian prisoners of war in large wooden barracks behind a rather impressive system of double fences. Quite a few local citizens worked there as office staff to supplement the military personnel who were in charge of handling the prisoners. Many of the GIs were in and out of downtown Brady and many were entertained by the local citizens when they were off duty. There was a camp theater that allowed locals to attend on occasions, and there was a camp orchestra that played for dances there. I remember that well as my father, Cecil Striegler, played in that orchestra. Joey Bishop was one of the GIs and he performed some with the orchestra, and later went on to fame in the new world of radio and TV after the war. There were two principal operational units of the Army that operated the camp. The first group there was the 551st Military Police Escort Group and they were replaced later in the war by the 552nd Military Police Escort Group. The 552nd was pulled out late in the war and thrown into the Normandy invasion to handle POW's, and had the misfortune to be among the first American troops to enter the Dachau extermination camp where they saw horrors that no one should have to see.
If you wonder why the museum saved and restored these buildings, maybe now you will know. 10,000 cadets trained at Curtis Field in a little less than 5 years. Each of them went through the control tower building twice each flying day to get and return their parachutes. 21 of the trainees were killed in flying accidents. The last doors they ever walked out of on this earth were the two doors on the front of this control tower building, and these two doors are now hallowed ground. Every one of these young men dreamed of becoming a famous pilot. Statistically, 35% of them never came back home.
All of the boys in the 551st and 552nd Military Police passed the little stone guard shack regularly, knowing that they would soon be put at risk. I never recall hearing any of them complain, even though most were far from their homes and families. They and their other military friends, past and present, are the real reason we live in a free country and we must never forget them.
This site was dedicated very formally in a splendid military ceremony held on November 11th at 1500 hrs CDT, Veteran's Day. These buildings were dedicated to the men and women who served here, to the 21 who died here and to all of the veterans of all branches of the service from McCulloch County and the rest of the nation. We have designated this site as a living memorial and we consider it hallowed ground. Surely God has smiled on this project and will help us teach our children the importance of “Duty, Honor and Country.” May God continue to bless America.
The Heart of Texas Historical Museum is a 501 ( c ) 3, not for profit corporation and all donations to this project are tax deductible. Donations of money or items for display can be sent to the museum at PO Box 48, Brady, Texas 76825. Items for display will be treated with the greatest of honor. We work in the interest of preserving and teaching our history to future generations – with pride.
Director, Special Projects
The Heart of Texas Historical Museum