1903rd Engineer Aviation Battalion (WPA)

WWII Victory Medal Korea Service Medal
WWII Victory Medal Korea Service Medal
Army National Guard Patch
US Army Patch
air corps patch
aviation engineers patch

The 1903rd Engineer Aviation Bn was activated at Geiger Field on 1 Jun 43. It was inactivated there on 20 Dec 43, when the number of Engineer Aviation Battalions still in training in the US was severely reduced, but was reformed (or a new unit with the same number was formed) at Geiger Field on 9 Jul 44. It arrived on Ie Shima Island, Pacific, in April 1945 (possibly moving through Hawaii) and was inactivated on 16 May 46. Reactivated Oct 1950, arrived in Korea Nov 1951, it was part of the 417th Engineer Aviation Brigade (SCARWAF) in Korea during the Korean War, serving at Pusan and Pyongtaek, with some elements serving at Osan AirbaseB and Suwan Airbase.

The 1903rd Aviation Engineer Battalion, composed of separate National Guard units; the HQ & HQ Service Company (Illinois), 1806th Engineer Aviation Company (Michigan, now B Company), the 1807th Engineer Aviation Company (Missouri, now A Company), and the 1809th Engineer Aviation Company (Colorado, now C Company), was activated on October 1, 1950.

The battalion was moved to Fort. Leonard Wood, Missouri where it began basic infantry and advanced engineer training. In late May 1951, the unit was moved to Camp Beale, California and placed under control of the U. S. Air Force. In August, 200 men of the battalion were dispatched to the Medicine National Forrest to fight wildfires. At Camp Beale, the unit continued training on vehicle maintenance, infantry and engineer training.

On November 9, 1951 the 1903rd boarded the USNS General Nelson M. Walker. Arriving in Tokyo Bay Yokohama Harbor, the battalion boarded a Japanese train, crossing the island nation. The 1903rd then embarked on a troop ship and landed at Pusan, Korea.

The 1903rd then boarded trucks and moved to K-1 Air Base outside Pusan and relieved the First Marine Air Wing of all responsibilities for maintaining the base and runways. The unit operated a gravel pit, rock quarry, rock crusher, and asphalt plant. In addition, repair projects included; fence lines, base drainage systems, road repair, runway and taxiway repair, rehabilitation of buildings and the petroleum depot.

From January to June 1952, the battalion sent A Company to K-2 Air Base at Taegu, B Company to K-9, also near Pusan, and C Company to K-3 on the east coast of Korea. The headquarters and a newly formed provisional company, D Company, remained at K-1 in Pusan and continued repair work there.

When the armistice was signed in July 1953, the 1903rd continued with maintenance and repair work on all airfields it was responsible for. In fact, K-55 Air Base at Osan, was added to the unit’s duties. At Osan, elements of the battalion helped to build a radio site, Chaplain’s Quarters, Ice Cream plant, warehouses, post exchanges, and Quonset huts for Airmen housing. The battalion was also tasked to build recreation facilities, including a golf driving range.

 Loading up for Camp Beal

Loading up for movement to Camp Beale, Calif.
 (Photo by Phil Benton)

 Wolter AFB

By January 1954, the battalion had shrunk due to personnel losses (normal rotations), however; engineer projects still kept it busy. The K-13 Air Base at Suwan, was also added to the 1903rd’s list of projects. Sliding hangar doors, Quonset huts, overrun lights (at the ends of runways), alert aprons, and blast fences were all completed after the armistice was signed. At K-6 Air Base at Pyongtaek, the runways and taxiways were extended and drainage was improved from November 1953 to February 1954.

The 1903rd received a warning order in October 1954 to prepare to return to the U.S. Movement orders were received on on December 4, 1954. The 1903rd boarded the USS Anderson at Inchon, Korea and sailed for San Francisco. It arrived at Wolters Air Force Base, Texas (aka Camp Wolters & Fort Wolters) in March 1955. Here, most of the Korean veterans were discharged and replacements filled the unit’s ranks. Construction projects at Wolters occupied the engineers’ time from March to September. Headquarters Aviation Engineer Force orders released the 1903rd Engineer Aviation Battalion to the control of the National Guard effective September 25, 1955. However, only the unit designation would return to Chicago. By September 1955, the unit was predominantly a Regular Army unit; most Guardsmen having rotated home after their 21 month obligation was completed in June 1952.


Jim Foreman served in 1903rd Engineer Aviation Battalion (SCARWAF) in Korea during the Korean War.
Click here to read a free book he wrote about the experience.

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