Primary Source Adventures
Fort Wolters: Texas and Vietnam
To explore the connection between Texas and the Vietnam War, students will explore Fort Wolters and its influence on technology and warfare . Additionally, learners can infer the local benefit to Mineral Wells.
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Fort Wolters: Texas and Vietnam
by Vale Fitzpatrick
Texas, with its abundant land has played host to numerous military bases throughout its history. Camp Wolters, which later became Fort Wolters, was one such facility. This PSA instructs learners on a very small portion of Texas’ role during the Vietnam War; additionally learners can infer the Fort’s local benefit to Mineral Wells, Texas.
Camp Wolters was established in 1925 four miles east of Mineral Wells in Parker and Palo Pinto counties, named for retired Brigadier General Jacob F. Wolters. Initially it served as an infantry training center for the 56th National Guard brigade. Camp Wolters was deactivated between 15 August 1946 to 8 February 1951 when it became the headquarters for the 14th Air Force and the 227th Air Force base squadron(s). Congress appropriated fourteen million dollars to restore and expand the camp, which operated until 2 December 1955. On 1 July 1956, the Army assumed responsibility for the camp and began converting the base into a training facility for its helicopters and light fixed wing aircraft. The Army awarded a contract to Southern Airways Company to assist with the training program.
Upon the program’s inception in 1957 the Fort had fleet of 12 helicopters for training purposes. The training program rapidly expanded and by 1965 the training fleet included 400 helicopters, which increased to 775 helicopters in 1966. By September 1967 there were 1,058 helicopters necessitating a second heliport, which was built adjacent to the Mineral Wells airport, (named the Dowing Army Heliport.) In 1969 the school was graduating 600 cadets each month by 1970 Fort Wolters maintained a fleet of 1,200 training helicopters and covered 10,200 acres. The fort would continue to expand as the tempo of the Vietnam War increased; by the time the school closed in 1973, the U.S. Army Primary Helicopter School had trained over 40,000 cadet pilots. In 1975 when the U.S. commitment to Vietnam ended a massive training program was no longer needed, so the Fort was deactivated with the land and buildings becoming part of Mineral Wells. The U.S. Army Aviation School was transferred to Fort Rucker, Alabama, to join the advance helicopter school; the entire program would now be housed at one location.
Army policy dictated that helicopter pilots received their basic training at the USAPHS at Fort Wolters, and their sixteen week advanced instruction at Fort Rucker. During its period of operation as the U.S. Army Primary Helicopter School, Fort Wolters served as a primary training for over 30 allied nations in addition to the U.S. Army. Mineral Wells benefited from the fort’s existence, in 1960 its population was 11,053, by 1970 it was 18,411 when it peaked by 1980 the population had shrunk to 14,468, although it grew to 16,946 by the year 2000. In April 2002, the Flower Mound Fire Department burned the decaying married officers housing as a training exercise.