Located on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Keesler Air Force Base is an active installation operated by the U.S. Air Force. However, it was known as Keesler Army Airfield when draftee Pvt. Ralph Wissinger found himself there in May of 1942. At that time the post had been in existence for less than a year. Keesler would become home not only to basic trainees like Wissinger, but would also train aviation mechanics. Notably, the installation hosted more than 7,000 black soldiers who trained in various technical fields, and many of the famous Tuskegee Airmen completed their basic training at Keesler before being transferred elsewhere for flight school (citation).
I find it interesting that some newly-minted service members were put to work straight away doing precisely the vocation they had left behind in the civilian world, while others were retrained to do something totally different. Pvt. Wissinger is one of the former, as he notes expecting to continue his work as a shipping and receiving clerk, only now for Uncle Sam.
Pictured on the front of this postcard, Gulf Park College was a women’s college in operation until 1971. Its former campus is now part of the University of Southern Mississippi. I wonder about the story behind how Pvt. Wissinger came to possess this particular card. Perhaps he met a young lady who attended school there. The Gulf Park campus is located 15 miles to the west of Keesler AFB along the coast, and you can still visit “Friendship Oak,” a southern live oak tree which is purported to have taken root there in the year 1487.
I was drafted a month ago into the army and they put me in the Air Corp. I have about one more week [of] Basic Training here. Then they will be sending me to some other air-field as a shipping and receiving clerk. Same as I was at home. (Write & Let me know all the news)
From: Pvt. Ralph Wissinger, Air Corp | 400 School Squad, Flight 252-C | Keesler Field, Miss.
To: Mr. Harry Snyder, Loysburg, Pennsylvania, Bedford County
Postmark: Biloxi, Miss – May 10, 1942
Image: Friendship Oak, Gulf Park College, Gulfport, Mississippi
Images of Keesler Airfield
Keesler Airfield Resources
“Greetings from Keesler Field, Mississippi,” featured image. Wikipedia.
Pictoral of Base Activities: http://aafcollection.info/items/list.php?item=000775