Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields:

France, Lorraine Meurthe-et-Moselle

This collection of airfields is © 2010-2012 by RonaldV
(Disclaimer).


Lunéville-Chenevières Updated 11 Aug 2011 - Toul-Rosières Updated 11 Aug 2011

Toul-Croix De Metz Updated 11 Aug 2011 - Chambley-Bussières Updated 11 Aug 2011

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Lunéville-Chenevières

48°31'40"N 006°38'06"E

 

runway: 13/31 - 2550meters/7,900feet - concrete

 

Air field Lunéville-Chenevières (french: Aérodrome Lunéville-Chenevières) was a military airfield 80kilometers west of Strasbourg, France

The airfield was built between 1953 qnd 1955 when during the Cold War NATO faced several problems when attempting to solve the air power survival equation in case of both conventional and nuclear wars

The primary operating bases for NATO air forces were built on relatively small parcels of land with very limited dispersal space.

It was therefore decided to build dispersal bases away from the primary bases to be used in the event of an emergency (read: war).

Luneville-Chenevières was selected to be one of these "NATO Dispersed Operating Bases".

 

Lunéville-Chenevières AM did never have any flying units permanently assigned to it, and it was only used for dispersal training.

In spite of that it did require the same level of equipment as a standard airbase.

Therefore NATO security personnel was required to control base access, guard equipment, munitions and suppllies and prevent vandalism.

Chenevieres Air Base was designed for 50 fighters with three large hangars constructed.

When construction was finished Det #2, 50th Air Base Group was designated as host unit.

Aircraft of the 50th Fighter-Bomber Wing (Toul Air Base) exercised at the base from 1957 through 1959.

 

Lunéville-Chenevières Air Base in 1958 (IGN.fr)

 

Det#2 deactivated on 1 September 1959, and the airfield was turned over to the US Army, although a small USAF detachment (Det7, 7514th Support Group) maintained base security.

Army Artillery units utilised the base until it was handed over to the French army in 1964.

Under French control, the facility was renamed Luneville-Quartier La Salle and has been used for equipment storage and as a communications facility.

 

Lunéville-Chenevières Air Base under French control in 1968 (IGN.fr)

 

Lunéville-Chenevières Air Base in 1980 (IGN.fr)

 

Today the airfield is still military property, although it is no longer complete.

The entire southeren dispersal (marguerite) was detached from the airfield when a new road was constructed around the town of Chenevières.

It was then sold off and converted into a racing circuit.

The remainder of the base appears to be in a reasonable condition, althouth the tree lines are closing in on both the runway (especially the SE-end), taxitracks and remaining dispersal areas.

The old USAF hangars on the dispersals north of the runway appeared to be in good shape (on Google Earth) in 2003.

 

Lunéville-Chenevières Air Base in 2003 (Google Earth)

 

View from the air looking south of the east side of Lunéville-Chenevères.
The fat yellowish line is the road that cut off the southern marguerite.

 

The southern marguerite was converted into a motorsports circuit

 

The runway seems to be in reasonable shape in this late evening 2009 photo

 

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Toul-Rosières

 

48°46'48"N 005°58'48"E

 

Runway: 04/22 - 2400meters/7874feet - concrete

 

Air field Toul-Rosières (french: Aérodrome Toul-Rosières, or Base Aérienne 136 Toul-Rosières, also known as Toul Air Base, Toul-Rosières Air-Base, TRAB or ALG Rosieres En Haye A-98) was an airfield 10 miles northeast of the city of Toul, France.

The airfield was built in September 1944, only a few days after the Germans were forced from the area, by the United States Army Air Force IX Engineering Command 850th Engineer Aviation Battalion .

A 5000' Pierced Steel Planking runway was laid down, in addition to taxiways, dispersed parking areas, and a support station and maintenance area.

"Rosieres En Haye Airfield, or Advanced Landing Ground A-98 was declared operationally ready and turned over to Ninth Air Force on 21 November 1944.

The 354th Fighter Group, flying P-47 Thunderbolts arrived shortly afterwards and remained until April 1945. .

The Luftwaffe bombed the airfield several times during the winter nights of 1944/45.[1][2].

During construction of ALG A-98, the 850th EAB encountered a difficult problem that has plagued this site to the present day.

Winter rains aggravated the severe drainage problem in the region and the entire base became a quagmire of slippery clay.

Six inches of stone were laid to support the pierced steel plank runway, but this proved insufficient to prevent mud rising through the PSP.

Finally the PSP had to be taken up and six additional inches of slag laid to keep the runway operational for the P-47s. .

The problem was so extreme that men from the 354th Fighter Group had to assist the aviation engineers to maintain an operational runway and taxiways during the Ardennes offensive.

 

The Americans turned the airfield back over to French authorities on 22 May 1945.

In French control after the war, the base sat abandoned for several years.

There was much unexploded ordinance at the site which needed to be removed, as well as the wreckage of German and American aircraft and the French Air Force had no interest in the airfield.

As a result, the Air Ministry leased the land out to farmers for agricultural use, sending in unexploded ordnance teams to remove the dangerous munitions.

 

In 1951 as a result of the Cold War threat of the Soviet Union, Rosieres En Haye Airfield was provided to the United States Air Force by the French as part of their NATO commitment.

Toul was chosen because the site was immediately available for construction, and because there was a long American history associated with the area going back to World War I.

The new NATO airfield was planned to be developed in two steps.

The first being a temporary bare base facility built in minimum time to support flying missions.

The second stage being the completion of support facilities while the wing operated at the operational facilities.

Initial surveys of the area showed that the World War II runway laid down in 1944 at Rosieres-En-Haye Airfield had seriously deteriorated and no remaining structures of the airfield remained.

Construction of the base to bring it up to NATO standards started in February 1951 with the building of a railroad track and access roads.

In November 1951, the old Pierced Steel Planking runway was torn up and a permanent base of aggregate for a jet runway was laid down.

Like most NATO airfields in France the design of the new airfield was to space parked aircraft as far apart as possible.

This was achieved by the construction of a circular system of hardstands (marguerites) that could be revetted later with earth for added protection.

Typically the margueriete consisted of fifteen to eighteen hardstands around a large central hangar, to hold one or two aircraft allow the planes to be spaced approximately 150 feet (ca. 50m) apart.

Each squadron was assigned to a separate hangar/hardstand complex.

In December 1951, the 7412th Support Squadron was established by the USAF at "Toul-Rosières Air Base" to coordinate construction issues and development of the new NATO facility.

 

A U.S. Air Force Douglas RB-26C-40-DT Invader (s/n 44-35599) of the 183rd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (Night Photo)
117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Mississippi Air National Guard in a temporary nose "hangar" at Toul Air Base, France, January 1953
(United States Air Force, via Wikipedia)

 

The first tennant at the base, the 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, arrived at Toul on 27 January 1952 deploying to France from Lawson AFB, Georgia.

It was composed of three activated Air National Guard squadrons from Alabama, South Carolina and Ohio, the 112th, 157th and the 160th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons (Photo Jet), along with their support personnel.

The Wing's compliment of aircraft was 15 RB-26Cs (tail coded with yellow stripes) assigned to the 112 TRS, and 38 RF-80As, assigned to the 157 (red stripes) and 160 TRS (green stripes) and each squadron had a T-33A trainer assigned to it.

The mission of the 117 TRW was to provide tactical, visual, photographic and electronic reconnaissance by both day and night, as was required by the military forces within the European command, by daylight in case of the RF-80s.

Toul AB in 1952 was not ready for the Wing's arrival. At the time of the 117th's arrival, the base consisted of a sea of mud, and the new jet runway was breaking up and could not support safe flying.

The Wing commander of the 117th deemed it uninhabitable and its flying squadrons of the wing were dispersed to West Germany.

112 TRS and its B-26's to Wiesbaden AB, the 157 TRS deployed RF-80's and T-33A's to Furstenfeldbruck AB, and the 160th deployed the balance of the RF-80's to Neubiberg AB.

The non-flying Headquarters and Support organizations remained at Toul.

By July 1952 the facilities at Wiesbaden were becoming very crowded, and it was felt that the B-26's could fly from the primitive conditions at Toul.

The 112 TRS returned to Toul, however the jet-engined RF-80's remained in Germany until a new runway was constructed.

All of the aircraft and support equipment remained at Toul when the 117 TRW was deactivated in place and its mission was taken over by the newly-activated 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing..

 

On 10 July 1952, the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was activated in place at Toul AB, absorbing the personnel and equipment of the deactivated 117 TRW.

The 112 TRS was redesignated the 1 TRS, the 157 TRS became the 32 TRS, and the 160 TRS became the 38 TRS.

The 32 and 38 TRS remained with their RF-80's at Furstenfeldbruck and Neubiberg respectively.

Although the 10 TRW absorbed the 117th's aircraft, the tail codings were changed.

The RB-26's were repainted with black and white stipes, the 32nd with red and yellow stripes, and the 38th's had green and yellow stripes..

The squadrons also retained their T-33A trainers assigned to them.

On 9 May 1953 the 10 TRW was moved to Spangdahlem AB in Germany as part of a USAFE reorganization.

After the Wing's departure the 7412th Support Squadron was established by the Air Force as a host unit.

In addition, the U.S. Army Aviation Engineers were moved into Toul to address the runway and support structure issues which were unresolved during the tenure of the 117 and 10 TRW.

For over 20 months construction proceeded by the Army along with French contractors with new Headquarters, barracks, hangars and support buildings.

 

C-119C Serial 51-2640 781st Troop Carrier Squadron/465th Troop Carrier Wing, ca. 1954 (United States Air Force Historical Research Agency - Maxwell AFB, Alabama, via Wikipedia).

 

In November 1953, 465th Troop Carrier Wing, activated at Donaldson AFB South Carolina in February 1953 from former Air Force Reserve aircraft and equipment, arrived at Toul AB.

The 465th consisted of three flying squadrons, the 780th, 781st and 782nd Troop Carrier Squadrons and was assigned to the Twelfth Air Force and attached to the 322d Air Division (Combat Cargo)..

Aircraft operated by the 465th were 56 C-119C "Flying Boxcar"s, along with several C-47 and L-20A support aircraft.

Squadron markings of the C-119's were red for the 780 TCS, green for the 781 TCS and yellow for the 782 TCS.

During April and May 1954 enough construction was completed at Toul AB to allow the deployed aircraft squadrons to use the rebuilt facilities.

At the time of the units assignment to Toul, construction was still underway of the main runway and support facilities, so the flying units were temporarily deployed to Germany..

The 780th was assigned to Rhein-Main AB, the 781st to Wiesbaden AB and the 782d to Neubiberg..

The mission of the 465th was to provide tactical airlift to USAFE, including deploying airborne forces and equipment by parachute.

However, because of the few number of airborne units in Europe, its mission became airlift support of supplies and equipment throughout Europe and North Africa..

Many missions were flown to Wheelus Air Base in Libya to support the weapons ranges established there..

On 23 May 1955 the 465 TCW was relocated to Évreux-Fauville AB.

With the departure of the C-119s, the 7430th Air Base Squadron was activated to maintain Toul in a standby status.

Budget cuts however, prevented any new USAF units from the United States to move to France, only minimal flight operations by the 7430th were flown by a C-47 and an L-20 for support missions..

 

Airmen of the 50th Field Maintence Squadron pose in front of one of their aircraft, North American F-86H-10-NH Sabre serial 53-1451 of the 417th Fighter-Bomber Squadron - Toul Air Base France, Summer 1956
(United States Air Force Historical Research Agency - Maxwell AFB, Alabama, via Wikipedia).

 

Beginning in 1954 the 366th Fighter-Bomber Wing from Alexandria AFB Louisiana and the 312th Fighter-Bomber Wing from Clovis AFB New Mexico were deployed to Toul AB to test the idea of Dual Basing.

Dual Basing was a concept where CONUS units were committed to NATO, but based in the United States to reduce costs.

These units flew F-86H "Sabres", and rotated between Toul and the US until 1955.

A historical note is that Lt. Col. John B. England, who was commander of the 389th Fighter-Bomber Squadron from Alexandria AFB was killed when his F-86 crashed into the woods near Toul.

His plane was the last F-86 to leave the base in transition to the F-100 Super Sabres, and as he was departing he suffered a flame out.

Lt. Col. England tried to restart the crippled jet but he was to low, and when he ejected, he did not have enough altitude for his parachute to open properly.

In his honor, Alexandria AFB was renamed England AFB, and retained that name until its closure in 1993.

 

F-100D Serial 56-3238 of the 50th Tactial Fighter Wing (Wing Commander's Aircraft), Toul Air Base France, 1958
(United States Air Force Historical Research Agency - Maxwell AFB, Alabama, via Wikipedia).

 

On 17 July 1956 the 50th FBW from Hahn AB (Germany) arrived at Toul to become the first unit to use the completed facilities and be able to fully deploy its flying squadrons at the base.

Its flying units, 10 (blue), 81 (yellow) and 417 FWS (red) had a total of 74 F-86H 'Sabre' fighters on strength, along with several C-47 and L-20A support aircraft and T-33A trainers.

The primary mission of the 50th Fighter-Bomber Wing was the delivery of tactical nuclear weapons against Warsaw Pact forces in the event of an invasion of Western Europe.

Its secondary missions were tactical air defense and support for NATO ground forces..

During May 1957 the 50th saw the arrival of the first F-100D/F "Super Sabre", of which a total of 75 were received in both single (D), and two seat (F) models, 25 per squadron..

A change in residence, however, loomed on the horizon for the 50 TFW.

In 1959 disagreements arose concerning atomic storage and custody issues within NATO, resulting in a decision to remove United States Air Force atomic-capable units from French soil.

On 10 December 1960, the 50 TFW redeployed back to Hahn AB Germany.

With the 50 TFW's departure, Seventeenth Air Force activated the 7514th Support Group to maintain Toul in a standby mode, along with the minimal support facilities at Chambley, Chaumont, Etain and Phalsbourg Air Bases.

On 1 January 1960 the 7514th Support Group was renamed the 7544th Support Group, manned by about 1,000 Airmen and 350 French nationals.

 

RB-66 of the 42nd Tactical Reconnaissance squadron, 10th TRW. Mid 1960's (USAF, via Wikipedia).

 

In 1959 the 10th TRW at RAF Alconbury (England) established Detachment #1at TRAB to support alert aircraft and the ECM reconnaissance mission as, due to its proximity to the Iron Curtain, time to target and time on station were greatly reduced by flying from TRAB instead of from the UK.

The 10th TRW flew variants of the Douglas B-66 "Destroyer" in photo recon and ECM versions.

Their aircraft were deployed from RAF Alconbury, RAF Bruntingthorpe and RAF Chelveston in the United Kingdom.

The idea was that B-66's would stay at Toul between two and four weeks then rotate back to England.

During that time the 42nd TRS, based at RAF Chelveston, also staged ECM reconnaissance missions from TRAB, typically flying a mission from RAF Chelveston and landing at TRAB, then one or two missions from TRAB, then a mission to return to RAF Chelveston.

In the summer of 1962 the 42nd TRS with 12 B-66B "Brown Cradle" offensive ECM aircraft and 11 RB-66C ECM Reconnaissance aircraft, transferred from RAF Chelveston to Toul-Rosieres. .

At the same time, the 19th TRS, flying RB-66B photo reconnaissance aircraft, also relocated from RAF Bruntingthorpe.

On 10 March 1964, a 19th TRS RB-66C was shot down over East Germany by Soviet MiG-19s from Zerbst air base, after it crossed over the border due to a compass malfunction.

The crew ejected and were taken prisoner briefly before being released.

In October 1965 the 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was activated at Chambley AB and the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was activated at Toul.

The 42nd TRS and the 19th TRS were then assigned to the 25th TRW at Chambley, although many members of the squadrons continued to live at TRAB and commute to Chambley.

 

F-84F of the 110th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 131st Tactical Fighter Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, Toul Air Base, France - Deployed as a result of the Berlin Crisis 1961/62 (USAF, via Wikipedia).

 

Undated aerial photo of Toul-Rosieres.

 

On 1 October 1961, as a result of the Berlin Crisis, the mobilized Missouri Air National Guard (ANG) 131st Tactical Fighter Wing deployed to Toul as the 7131st Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional).

When activated, the 131 TFW consisted of the 110, 169 and 170 TFS, from Lambert Field, St. Louis MO, Peoria Municipal Airport, Peoria IL, and Capitol Airport, Springfield IL, respectively.

These activated ANG squadrons flew the F-84F "Thunderstreak", but due to budget restraints, only one squadron of the 131 TFS was deployed, with the other two squadrons being assigned from other ANG wings.

A total of 78 aircraft were deployed, 26 per squadron, with the final deployed aircraft arriving at Toul on 13 November.

The 7131 TFW assumed regular commitments on a training basis with the U.S. 7th Army as well as maintaining a 24-hour alert status.

The wing exchanged both Air and Ground Crews with the 730th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Skydstrup Air Station, Denmark during May 1962.

As the Berlin situation subsided, all activated ANG units were ordered to be returned to the United States and released from active duty, the 7131st departed from Toul on 19 July 1962.

 

RF-4C Serial 64-1060 of 22TRS/26TRW, Toul-Rosieres Air Base, France, first to arrive for TRW in 1965 (United States Air Force Historical Research Agency - Maxwell AFB, Alabama, via Wikipedia).

 

On 1 July 1965 a new Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was formed at Toul: the 26th TRW, designated to be equipped with the brand new RF-4C "Phantom".

With the activation of the 26 TRW, the 7544th Support Group was deactivated.

The squadrons initially assigned to the 25th were the 22 TRS, flying RB-66's acquired from the deployed Alconbury squadrons and the 32 TRS, flying RF-101C "Voodos", which were transferred from the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Laon-Couvron Air Base.

The RF-4C's started arriving on 3 October 1965, phasing out the RB-66's and RF-101s.

Then on 1 January 1966, the 38 TRS arrived from the 66 TRW, giving the 25 TRW three squadrons.

On 7 March 1966, French President Charles de Gaulle announced that France would withdraw from NATO's integrated military structure and the United States were informed that they had to remove their military forces from France by 1 April 1967..

As a result, the 26 TRW and two of its squadrons, the 38th and 32d, relocated to Ramstein AB, Germany on 5 October 1966.

In November, the 22 TRS was reassigned to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, where it became a dual-based squadron, frequently deploying to Ramstein AB.

On 5 October 1966 the 26 TRW was deactivated at Toul, and in its place the 7544th Support Group was reactivated to facilitate the removal of American property and personnel from the base.

On 1 April 1967 the American Flag was lowered for the last time at Toul, and the base returned to French control.

 

After the USAF withdrawal from France, the French Air Force took up residence at Toul with the arrival of the 11th Escadre (wing) from Bremgarten Air Base in Germany.

The base was given designation Le Détachement Air DA 11/136.

On 21 June 1967, the French Air Force officially took possession of the base, transferring 15 F-100 aircraft of the 02/11 Escadron (Squadron).

Escadron (EC) of the 11th Escadre at Toul-Rosières were:

EC 01/011 "Roussillon".

EC 02/011 "Vosges".

EC 03/011 "Corse".

EC 04/011 "Jura".

 

F100D 54-2122 (the second received by the French Air Force) with the colors of the 3/11 "Corse" (Corsica) is seen at Toul-Rosières Air Base France in June 1970. Coll. YF (French L'ARMÉE DE L'AIR, via Wikipedia).

 

The F-100's remained at Toul-Rosières until 3 November 1976 when the last from EC.02/011 were retired and returned to American control.

Returned French F-100's were eventually flown to Great Britain for storage and eventual scrapping.

On 25 June 1977 the last F-100 based at TRAB left for the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace at Le Bourget, the type having performed 205,000 hours of flight in France.

During August 1974, EC.03/011 received the 11th Escadre's first SEPECAT Jaguar, with the other squadrons being equipped through November 1976.

The Jaguar-equipped Escadrons were declared operational on 22 December 1977.

A new base entrance was realised and inaugurated in 1979.

On 6 July 1987 Toul-Rosieres was closed to traffic to allow the entire runway lighting to be changed as well as having its emergency stopping barriers replaced.

Late in August 1992 a Czechoslovak delegation went to the inspection BA.136 under the auspices of the CFE treaty.

On 24 June 1994 the 11th Fighter Wing and the first squadron 01/011 Roussillon were disbanded as past of the post Cold War budget cuts.

In September 1995 the airbase lost its ground based air defense squadron with 2 sections of Crotale SAMs.

On 31 May 1996 02/011 'Vosges' was disbanded, and finally a year later the last squadron (03/011 'Corse') on 25 June 1997.

On 1 September 1998, Toul-Rosières Air Base was phased down, and was eventually closed on August 31, 2004.

The airbase stopped being an active airfield on 1 July 2000.

As of 18 July 2007 the airbase stopped being a host unit to any aviation units.

The dismantling of the airbase picked up to leave the base as it was when the airbase was originally built.

The railway connection was dismantled, and pollution and the wrecks of two old Mirage III fighters were removed.

A military ceremony marked the closing of BA.136 Toul-Rosieres and the base was placed in reserve status.

Aircraft from Toul were deployed to Africa, the Middle East (Gulf War) and Yugoslavia (Deny Flight/Deliberate Force) in support of French/NATO interests.

The site is now attached to DA.90/133 of Nancy-Ochey as Détachement Air DA.90/136 being used as a munitions storage facility.

 

Toul-Rosieres in 2004 (Google Earth).

 

Since its inactivation the airfield has been home to two mass events: a Techno festival on 1 May 2007 and an evangelical Event in 2008.

It hosted an army training facility until 2010.

The Armée de l'Air and Arméé de Terre (french army) used the airfield for an exercise in January 2010.

The exercise scenario was to seize an enemy airfield, secure it, and deploy operational and logistical elements.

The airfield was captured for four days, and during that time it welcomed aircraft like C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall.

An energy company is to invest 434 million Euros to build the largest photovoltaic plant in the world on the base.

From the autumn of 2011 400 hectares were to be covered with panels to produce a peak 143MW.

Part of the site would be replanted and some facilities will be retained to house the history of this former NATO and French base, including the static display of military aircraft.

The airfield was finally closed as a military facility on 14 May 2011.

Veterans of both the French and the American Air Force attended the ceremony.

During the ceremony USAF Col. Lacy, representing the US ambassador to France, handed French General Guevel a "Congressional Certificate of Merit", dedicated to all the French and American personnel to have served at Toul-Rosieres.

 

Construction of photovoltaic panels at Toul-Rosieres in August 2011 (France-Air-OTAN).

 

Construction and placement of the photocells began in the summer of 2011.

By November 2011 installation of the photocells was nearly complete.

 

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Toul-Croix De Metz

48°41'53"N005°55'02"E

 

Postcard of airship 'Adjudant Vincenot' leaving its hangar at Toul during World War I (source)

 

runway: ../.. - ...x..m - surface

 

Air field Toul-Croix De Metz (french: Aérodrome Toul-Croix de Metz, also known as Gengault Aérodrome or Advanced Landing Ground "A-90" Toul-Croix De Metz) was an airfield just outside Toul, 160miles east of Paris, France.

The airfield was built about 1916 by the French Air Force as a combat airfield during World War I.

It is not known which French units used the airfield in the early years, but it is known to have included airships

In 1918 it was turned over to the American Expeditionary Force.

 

When the Aero Squadrons of the AEF initially deployed to France they were dispersed among various army organisations.

This severely hindered coordination, so in order to achieve better coordination the Aero Squadrons were organised into Pursuit Groups.

Units based at Toul were:

1st Aero Squadron, 22 August-21 September 1918.

Photographic Section No. 1, 24 August-19 September 1918.

8th Aero Squadron, 29 September-23 October 1918.

12th Aero Squadron, 22 August-20 September 1918.

13th Aero Squadron, 23 June-23 September 1918.

17th Aero Squadron, 4 November-12 December 1918.

22d Aero Squadron, 16 August-22 September; and again from 30 September 1918-10 February 1919.

25th Aero Squadron, 24 October-15 April 1919.

27th Aero Squadron, 1-28 June 1918.

49th Aero Squadron, 2 August-23 September 1918.

94th Aero Squadron, 7 April-30 June 1918.

95th Aero Squadron, 4 May-25 June 1918.

103d Aero Squadron, 4 July-7 August 1918.

Other units were at some time assigned to Toul as well, but they remain unidentified.

The units were assigned with tasks as reconnaissance sorties, protected observation aircraft, attacking enemy observation balloons and strafing enemy troops.

In addition, they were flying counter-air patrols, and bombing towns, bridges, and railroad stations behind enemy lines.

Some of the most illustrious names in early American Army aviation were assigned to Toul during World War I.

They included Eddie Rickenbacker, Quentin Roosevelt, Frank Luke, Carl Spaatz, Billy Mitchell and others.

After the Amistice on 11 November 1918 the Americans at Toul demobillized and left France, the last ones in early 1919.


French Air Regiments used the base in the 1920s when the wartime grass field became a permanent base with the associated infrastructure such as hangars and barracks.

When World War II broke out in September 1939 the 35th Aero Regiment was assigned to the airfield, equipped with obsolete Curtiss Hawk Model 75s.

Its 7th squadron was the descendant of the Lafayette Escadrille of World War I fame, "Groupe de Chasse II/5, the Escadron Lafayette".

In 1940 Polish pilots of the Montpellier Group, having escaped from invaded Poland, formed part of Groupe de Chasse III/1, flying obsolete Morane fighters.

In spite of being obsolete, surviving accounts of the squadron during the Battle of France the Hawk-equipped Regiment claimed 230 confirmed and 80 probable victories in Hawk 75s.

The numbers came against only 29 aircraft lost in aerial combat.

The German 'Blitzkrieg' overwhelmed the French and the British Expeditionary Force however.

The unit surrendered to the Germans along with the French Armed Forces at the Second Armistice at Compiègne on 22 June 1940.

 

2Lt Wladyslaw Chciuk (standing) with his Morane MS406 fighter, crew and colleagues, Toul Croix de Metz, France, 1940 (Source).

 

Curtiss Hawk 75 of Lafayette Escadrille at Toul. Notice the indian head on the rear fuselage.

 

The airfield was taken over by the Luftwaffe, who used the airfield as a training ground for ground support units.

It was used from September 1942 until February 1944 by Zerstörerschule 2 (Fighter bomber school 2) as a training facility for Messerschmidt Bf110s.

Toul became an operational airfield when Kampfgeschwader 53 (KG 53) arrived at the airfield with Heinkel He-111 medium bombers in July 1944.

The He-111s were modified to be used as carrier aircraft for launching V-1 Flying Bombs, aimed at targets in Britain.

Toul-Croix De Metz was attacked by USAAF Eighth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers to attempt to stop these V-1 attacks.

KG 53 withdrew from the airfield at the end of August, ahead of the advancing American Third Army which was moving into the area.

 

IX Engineer Command moved the 826th Engineer Aviation Battalion to Toul airfield on 14 September 1944.

It was still relatively intact and 826th EAB began clearing the airport of mines and destroyed Luftwaffe aircraft.

Toul's operational facilities were then repaired for use by American aircraft.

It was turned over to USAAF Ninth Air Force for use as a combat airfield, designated Advanced Landing Ground "A-90" Toul-Croix De Metz.

Under American control, Toul-Croix De Metz was initially used as a resupply and causality evacuation (S&E) airfield.

C-47 Skytrain transports used the airfield frequently, carrying in supplies and moving wounded personnel to hospitals in the rear area.

In October, the 862d EAB moved in and laid down a 5000feet Pierced Steel Planking all-weather runway.

They also repaired the barracks and other facilities at the base, so it could be used though the winter months.

In November, the 358th Fighter Group moved in with P-47 Thunderbolts and flew operational missions from the base until the beginning of April 1945.

The airfield was closed and returned to French control after the war on 30 October 1945.

 

P-47D Thunderbolt (s/n 44-33240) of the 358th Fighter Group, Toul-Croix de Metz, France, in January 1945 (United States Army Air Forces via National Archives, via Wikipedia).

 

In French control after the war, the airfield was closed and left unused for years.

The growing urban area of Toul and the need for other (more pressing) reconstruction after the war led the Air Ministry to sell off the property to private interests, instead of rebuilding it as a military airfield.

A major consideration was that the airfield was physically small and the cost to purchase additional land to build a jet runway and other facilities were deemed too high.

Another factor was the prospect of jet fighter aircraft taking off and landing over the urbanized area around the airfield, which was highly undesirable.

In 1950, NATO was looking to locate an American Air Force fighter airfield in the area.

Given the historical American association with Toul, the World War II airfield at Rosieres En Haye was made available.

 

Toul-Croix-de-Metz in August 1950. Although the airfield was abandoned in 1945, the runway and dispersals can still be recognised (Google Earth).

 

The site was eventually cleared in the mid-1950s, but some of the concrete from the runways and taxiways were used as streets and industrial buildings were constructed on the site.

Today in aerial photography, the runway and small portions of taxiways can still be recognised, now reused as streets.

 

Toul-Croix de Metz in May 1958. Within a few years, the airfield was converted into an industrial area (IGN.fr).

 

Toul-Croix de Metz, France, 2004. Inspite of the airfield having been closed almost 60 years ago, the runway can still be recognised (Google Earth).

 

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Chambley-Bussières

 

49°01'35"N005°52'36"E

 

runway: 05/23 - 2,377x45m/7,800x..feet - concrete (1200x45m usable)

runway: 05L/23R - ...x..m/...x..feet - asphalt

runway: 05L/23R - ...x..m/...x..feet - grass (CLOSED - ultralights only)

runway: 17/35 - ...x..m/...x..feet - concrete (CLOSED - ultralights only)

runway: 10/28 - ...x..m/...x..feet - concrete (CLOSED - ultralights only)

runway: 05/23 - ...x..m/...x..feet - concrete (CLOSED - ultralights only)

 

Air field Chambley-Bussières (french: Aerodrome de Chambley-Bussières or Base Aérienne Chambley-Bussières, also known as Chambley Air Base, ICAO: LFJY) is an airfield ten miles (ca 16 kilometers) west of Metz in the Lorraine region of France.

Its first use as an airfield was in 1940, when the Armée de l'Air stationed 9 Potez631 fighters and 5 Mureaux117 observation aircraft at a local farmland.

Unlike many other French airfields it was abandoned after the Battle of France.

It was used as agricultural land throughout World War II.

 

Chambley in mid-April 1951. The old pre-war Armée de l'Air airfield is still recognisable (left off centre),
although it had not seen any aircraft over the past 11 years (IGN.fr)

 

In 1951 as a result of the Cold War threat of the Soviet Union, Chambley-Bussières was provided to NATO for use by the United States Air Force.

As the airfield had not been used as an airfield since 1940, and it had thus escaped German expansion, Allied bombings and other war related uses, it was clear of any wrecks and unexploded ordnance.

Construction of the NATO Air Base began in 1952.

There were many construction delays though, mostly caused by the French demand to use French labour and heavy machinery.

Both were available in limited numbers only, because the nation was still recovering from World War II.

Wing operations were not possible until mid-1955.

The first USAF unit at the base was Flight A, 73rd Support Group Depot, Chambley, subordinate to 73 Air Depot Wing at Châteauroux-Déols Air Base.

This flight was sent to receive, store and issue USAF supplies as needed by Air Force personnel and French contractors, and lived near the main train station in Metz on the local economy.

They also ensured at least one USAF airman was always present on the new base to provide site security.

 

An F-86F Sabre of 21 FBW, Chambley Air Base, France.
Note the aircraft is parked on temporary steel planking, used when the parking apron of Chambley was still unfinished.
(United States Air Force Historical Research Agency, via Wikipedia).


Like most NATO airfields in France the design of the new airfield was to space parked aircraft as far apart as possible.

This was achieved by the construction of a circular system of dispersal hardstands (marguerites) that could be revetted later with earth for added protection.

Typically the margueriete consisted of fifteen to eighteen hardstands around a large central hangar, to hold one or two aircraft allow the planes to be spaced approximately 150 feet (ca. 50m) apart.

Each squadron was assigned to a separate hangar/hardstand complex.

Chambley received three such marguerites; one to the northwest of the runway, one to the southwest, and one to the southeast, each with a large hangar.

Additionally a platform was built east of the southwest dispersal area.

By February 1954 enough construction was completed that USAFE established the 7002d Air Base Squadron at Chambley.

Its task was to coordinate the set-up of various facilities, such as security, supply, transportation and communications.

Chambley Air Base was formally dedicated and turned over to the USAF on 12 June 1956.

 

Aerial view of the Chambley AB logistics and living area while still under construction (photo via Bob Ferguson)

 

Initially families were housed in trailer such at these at Chambley (photo via Bob Ferguson)

 

The first USAF unit to use Chambley AB was the 21st Fighter-Bomber Wing, deployed to France in stages from George AFB, California.

Four echelons of wing personnel variously traveled by train, ship, and air to reach Chambley between November 1954 and January 1955.

The 21 FBW officially established its headquarters at Chambley on 12 December 1954.

21 FBW consisted of three squadrons, the 72nd, 416th and 531st Fighter-Bomber Squadrons, equipped with the F-86F "Sabre".

One of its pilots was Michael Collins, a young pilot with the 72nd Fighter Bomber Squadron, who later became the Command Module pilot on the first manned flight to the surface on the moon.

Upon their arrival the facilities at Chambley were not yet ready for aircraft use.

Because of this, the squadrons had to deploy elsewhere: The 72nd to Châteauroux AB, and the 416th and 531st to Toul-Rosières AB.

After many construction delays, the wing combined its fighter squadrons at Chambley AB on 15 April 1955.

The squadrons carried out close air support training missions with the Army, then took first place at the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) "Gunnery Meet" at Wheelus Air Base, Libya.

21 FBW continued to excel: when they participated in the Atomic Warfare exercise "Carte Blanche" they achieved an overall second place at the Nellis AFB (Nevada) "Gunnery Meet" in 1956.

Also, they won the USAFE "Award for Tactical Proficiency" for the January-June period of 1957.

In 1957, the French Government decreed that all nuclear weapons and delivery aircraft had to be removed from French soil by July 1958.

As a result, the F-86's of the 21st Fighter-Bomber Wing had to be removed from France.

During October 1957 it was announced that the 21 FDW would be inactivated on 8 February 1958, and that its assets would be dispersed among existing USAFE units.

With the departure of the wing, Chambley-Bussières AB was placed in reserve status.

 

Michael Collins as a member of the 72nd FBS at Chambley (USAF photo)

 

The original 21st FBW commander's jet and decals on the fuselage at Chambley (photo via Bob Ferguson)

 

Close up of the 21st FBW commander's jet and decals on the fuselage. The "Desert Rats" logo represents the Wing Commander,
Col. Rowland, telling his staff how frustrated he was that he had to 'fly a desk' instead of flying a jet. His director of operations was
an artist and painted this logo - note the missles under the desk and a desert rat pilot. The 21st became known as the 'Desert Rats' from
their placing #1 in gunnery competition with all USAFE combat wings, while deployed to Wheelus Air Base, Libya. No other F-86
enjoyed nose art like his jet - it was not done at that time, making the nose art extremely rare. This reproduction of the nose art was
made to honour the close comeraderie of men and women assigned to the 21st Fighter Bomber Wing (photo via Bob Ferguson).

 

A formation of 16 21FBW F-86 Sabres overflying Chambley (photo via Bob Ferguson)

 

After three years without any permanent flying units, in 1961 Chambley Air Base was reactivated as part of Operation Tack Hammer, the United States response to the Berlin Crisis of 1961.

On 1 October 1961 the mobilized Indiana Air National Guard (ANG) 122d Tactical Fighter Wing was deployed to Chambley from Baer Field, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

When activated, the 122d consisted of three tactical fighter squadrons: the 112th at Toledo Express Airport, Ohio; the 113th at Hulman Field, Terre Haute, and the 163d at Baer Field.

Due to DOD budget restrictions, the 122d was instructed to deploy only a portion of its total strength and only the 163d was deployed to France.

The other two squadrons remained on active duty at their home stations, ready to reinforce the 163d if necessary.

On 6 November the 26 F-84F "Thunderstreak"s arrived at Chambley, while the wings support aircraft (C-47 and T-33A's) arrived in mid-November.

Due to its reduced force structure, the wing was designated the 7122d Tactical Wing while in France for an estimated 10 months deployment.

When USAFE received notice that Chambley would be utilized for Tack Hammer, funds were allocated for renovation and new construction.

Projects included construction of new hangars, outdoor secured supply and equipment storage areas, improved munitions storage facilities and repairs to various buildings and roofs.

At the airside, the runway approach lights, airfield paving, maintenance facilities and general base electrical system were repaired.

Rotations of Air National Guard pilots from the stateside squadrons in Indiana was performed to train them in local flying conditions in Europe.

This allowed the 163d to maintain 100 percent manning and also to relieve the boredom of the national guard pilots on active duty in CONUS and keeping them connected to the overseas part of the Wing.

The mission of the 7122d was to support Seventeenth Air Force and various NATO exercises in Europe, flying up to 30 sorties a day exercising with Seventh Army units in Germany.

NATO exchanges with the West German 32nd Fighter-Bomber Wing occurred in April 1962 to increase understanding of NATO air integration and terminology.

By April, the Berlin Crisis appeared to be settled and the Kennedy Administration was interested in saving money on this emergency call-up of national guard units.

On 7 June the 163d was directed to return to CONUS with all personnel, however the jet aircraft and equipment were to remain at Chambley.

The support C-47 and T-33s were flown back to Indiana, and in July the Air National Guardsmen of the 122 TFW/163 TFS returned to CONUS.

On 16 July the 7122nd Tactical Wing was deactivated with its F-84F aircraft being turned over to the new 366th Tactical Fighter Wing.

At the same time, the 7367th Combat Support Group was activated as the new host unit upon their departure.

 

Composite photo of Chambley, September 1960. Visible on the ramp are a C-119 and a C-130 Hercules, while 8 swept-wing fighters
(possibly F-100s) and a single T-33 occupy the southern marguerite. Notice the living quarters still consisted of a trailer park (IGN.fr).

 

F-84Fs of 163 TFS (OH ANG) lined up at Chambley, August 1961 (USAF, via Wikipedia).

 

The 366th Tactical Fighter Wing was a USAFE experiment.

Wing Headquarters for the 366th was activated at Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base on 8 May 1962.

It had 4 operational aircraft squadrons, equipped with the aircraft left behind by the Air National Guard wings that had deployed to France as a result of the Berlin Crisis.

The assets of the ANG 163rd TFS at Chambley were assigned to the 390th TFS at Chambley, with other squadrons being formed at Étain, Phalsbourg and Chaumont Air Bases.

The mission of the 390th TFS was the same as the Indiana Air National Guard which preceded it: close air support to army ground forces and air defense.

In February 1963, it was announced that the 10th Tactical Recon Wing would be moving to Chambley for up to six months while the runway at Toul Air Base was being rebuilt.

They brought additional personnel and aircraft to Chambley, with facilities being stretched to accommodate them.

The 390th TFS operated from Chambley AB until July 1963, when they were deemed no longer needed in Europe and then transferred to Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

10 TRW remained waiting for completion of runway renovations at Toul and left Chambley in August.

Chambley-Bussieres AB was again placed in reserve status.

It was turned over to the 7367th Combat Support Group which acted as the host USAF unit for various USAFE exercises at the Air Base over the next two years.

 

On 1 July 1965 25 Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was activated at Chambley AB, and absorbed the 19th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron and 42d Electronic Countermeasures Squadron.

These squadrons were transferred from Toul-Rosieres AB, where they had operated as a detachment of the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, based at RAF Alconbury, UK.

The 25th flew photo reconnaissance and electronic warfare variants of the B-66 "Destroyer".

The escalation of the conflict in SE Asia (Vietnam) prompted the establishment of Detachment 1 of the 42 ECS at Takhli RTAFB during February, 1966, for which 5 of its B-66's were sent to Thailand.

On 7 March 1966, French President Charles De Gaulle announced that France would withdraw from NATO's integrated military structure.

The United States were informed that they must remove their military forces from France by 1 April 1967.

On 1 May 1966, the 42d was inactivated and the squadrons remaining aircraft were sent to Takhli RTAFB.

The remaining aircraft of the 25 TRW were assigned to the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Shaw AFB, South Carolina, and 25 TRW was deactivated on 15 October 1966.

To finalise closure of the Air Base 7367 Combat Support Group was activated.

On 1 April 1967, the last USAF personnel left Chambley AB, and the base was returned to French control.

 

The French Air Force (Armée de l'Air) then assumed control of Chambley AB.

It was used for various flight operations and also by airborne forces for many years, under the administrative control of Base Aérienne 136 Toul-Rosières.

For more than 20 years it was also the home of an Ultra Light Aircraft sports club, which hosted the French national championship in 2008.

Every two years in July the base hosts the Mondial Air Balloons, which brings together 67 nations, nearly 2,000 crew, 800 balloons and 400,000 spectators, and air shows.

Additionally it hosts mass events like Teknival, a dance event.

Until at least 2004 the airfield remained relatively intact.

 

Chambley AB while under Armée de l'Air control in 1971. Although the trailer park area can still be recognised, it was largely vacated at this time (IGN.fr)

 

Chambley AB photographed in May 1982 (IGN.fr)

 

Chambley AB was still fairly intact in 2004 (Google Earth)

 

In 2009 the base was handed over to the Lorraine region.

The region expects the airbase will become the 22 hectare production site of the Skylander SK-105 aircraft of GECI Aviation.

Ultimately, the region wants to develop the Chambley Planet'Air concept, which would include both production activities and a dedicated base of leisure aviation.

On 16 July 2009, the runway of the airfield was officially reopened to the public air traffic light aircraft (daylight VFR only), although with a much shortened usable length.

In September 2010 a French blog posted a picture of Chambley, showing a new runway at the former ammunition dump, along with two new hangars.

At that time the new runway had not yet been published on any aeronautical chart.

Only a month earlier the same blog had posted new images of the completely rebuilt and modernised operations building.

Recently the second runway has become visible on Google Earth.

Aerial photography from 2010 also shows the ultralight aircraft used a grass airstrip north of the runway and three smaller runways marked out on the taxi tracks of the northwest dispersals.

The imagery also shows the near complete removal of the southeasterly dispersal area (only a few parkings and the hangar still exist) and the complete rebuild of the area north of the runway.

 

Two new hangars and a new runway (28R-05L) near the location of the northwestern dispersal area, as shown by French blog France-Air-OTAN.
Notice the large white crosses between the runways and the markers of the (closed) grass runway

Chambley AB in 2010, showing many changes having taken place in the past 6 years.
Many of the old military buildings on the south side have disappered, a racetrack was built on the eastern dispersal, and the north side is under conversion.
(Google Earth)

 

An enlargement of the previous photo shows markers on the taxitracks of the NW marguerite indicating the use as runways for Ultralight aircraft before July 2010 (Google Earth)

 

Aerodrome map op the air field as published in July 2010 shows only the main runway as active, albeit much shortened (Service de l'Information Aeronautique - France).

 

During the Lorraine Mondial Air Ballons 2011 festival I paid the airfield a visit.

I was very surprised (and somehow a bit disappointed too) to find an airfield that is clearly very much alive and growing under the Planet'Air brand.

The old control tower building has received a major upgrade (which was stil not fully finished when I got there), and now looks very smart and modern.

Next to the main platform are a new restaurant and a new hangar, as well as an office building for the GECI Aviation company.

Almost all of the old logistics site has disappeared.

Only the base chapel (completely renovated!) and the old base entrance remained, along with an industrial area between the tower and the east marguerite.

A modern gas filling station for balloons (the largest of its kind in the world) was built several hundred yards/meters south of the tower.

On the northwest side of the runway 6 brand new hangars have been built, replacing the 4 hangars that were built on the northwest dispersal.

The old hangars were completely removed, only the 1950s steel hangar remains.

New streets and landscaping had just been finished, and street lighting has been installed along the entire northern side of the runway.

Many provisions have been made for visitors, including parkings for motorhomes.

The visit also confirmed my suspicions about the northwestern taxiways having been used as runways for ultralights: the numbers are still visible on the concrete.

 

Chambley circuit

The motorsports circuit on the former eastern dispersal at Chambley in 2011. The dispersal is still vaguely recognisable and the hangar in the middle has been taken into service by the motorclub
(Image kindly provided by l'Europe Vue du Ciel)

 

Completely renovated and very modern looking tower in 2011. Only if you look real good you will see that this is still the old 1950s building that the USAF used. (RonaldV)

 

New Chambley Hangar

Chambley platform and the new hangar in 2011. In the distance the old southeastern hangar is still visible. It is renovated and will be used by GECI aviation in addition to this hangar. (RonaldV)

 

Balloons preparing for another mass takeoff during the Lorraine Mondial Air Ballons 2011. (RonaldV)

 

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If you have any information about airfields (listed and unlisted) in France, email RonaldV.

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