Greensboro World War II army air force base, Part of ORD Overseas Replacement Depot, Largest military training facility located within a single city limit, 300 German POWs, Charlton Heston married in Greensboro


From Yes Weekly.

“Not since General Greene led his Carolina Regulars into battle at Guilford Courthouse had there been such a large military contingent in this state.

Constructed on 652 acres of dirt and freshly cut pine trees, BTC-10 brought with it millions of dollars in infrastructure spending. Some 330,000 troops passed through its gates; air cadets who left a large portion of their paychecks in local restaurants, shops and movie theaters during their four to six-week stays here, spurring an economic boom. Greensboro was as much an Army town then as it is a college town today.

The initial 943 trainees encountered, according to the base newspaper, “A scattered few warehouses bordered the railroad tracks. Beyond, wooden sidewalks covered the muck; a single drill field was flooded, and the majority of squadron streets remained avenues of red North Carolina mud. It was also cold and raining.” More importantly, there were no airplanes, much less any flying fortresses or fighter jets like those they’d soon be commanding. Contrast that to the morning of July 4, 1943, a mere four months later, when the polished and perfect trainees marched in formation for the first time through the center of town.

Within 10 months that muddy field off Summit had been transformed into a military metropolis with three libraries, five chapels (with 11 chaplains holding services daily), one of the finest and fully-equipped hospitals in the state, three large gymnasiums, dance halls, the Red Cross, telephone centers, seven pharmacies and a weekly newspaper.

In May of 1944, BTC-10 was reassigned as Overseas Replacement Depot, where its main purpose going forward was to facilitate the transfer of troops and Air WACS fresh from basic training into the Pacific theater of war, as well as redeploying veteran pilots and crew members arriving from the European conflict.

Over 3,000 military personnel and hundreds of civilians worked on what everyone referred to as “The Base.” The Officer’s Lounge was said to be the finest in the country with formal dances on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights, where students from Women’s College (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) would be bussed in from downtown.

There were nine post exchanges (PX) where soldiers could grab a candy bar or a beer from what was basically the largest department store chain in the nation. It was stocked with comic books, pornographic magazines, cigarettes, feminine products– –pretty much anything anyone needed from soap to nuts.

In addition to the eight theaters in town, there were four first-run movie houses on base with 15-cent ticket prices as well as the Kitty Hawk Big Top, an all-weather amphitheater for boxing exhibitions and variety shows.

North Carolina A&T’s athletic field today fits almost exactly into the footprint of what was the two rifle ranges.”


Three hundred of the 10,000 German prisoners of war in North Carolina were housed at ORD under relaxed conditions. Local farmers would round them up to work in the cotton and peanut fields where the Krauts earned 80-cents a day, per the Geneva Convention. Loosely supervised, not a single one escaped.”

“Heston wrote in Chicken Soup For The Couple’s Soul, “After I left for basic training, I redoubled my effort to get Lydia to marry me. ‘Just think, darling,’ I wrote. ‘If we’re married and I get killed, you get $10,000 free and clear.’ This… failed to move her. Exhausted by the grind of basic training, I gave up even mentioning marriage in my letters. One day I shambled back to my barracks after hours on the obstacle course to find a yellow envelope on my bunk. ‘HAVE DECIDED TO ACCEPT YOUR PROPOSAL,’ the telegram said. ‘LOVE LYDIA.’”

Slipping a $12 ring on her finger (all he could afford) at Grace Methodist Church on Friendly Avenue, the two were wed on March 17, 1944, a simple ceremony witnessed by two strangers. It was one of the longest-lasting marriages in Hollywood history because when the actor who as NRA president coined the phrase “From my cold, dead hands” passed away in 2008, Lydia was at his side.”

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