The other day I was looking at a 1978 topographic map of the Tumwater area prepared and published by the Defense Mapping Agency Topographic Center and an interesting detail caught my eye. Just west of the Olympia Airport, about where I'm guessing Newmarket St. and 76th St. intersect today, a crescent shaped structure has the designation "Machine gun bunker (abandoned)." [see attachment for more detailed view]
The existence of that place was news to me. I even worked near that spot (Timberland Regional Library Service Center) just about the same time this map was created.
According to the monograph, Olympia Airport : master plan update (1995), the land was used as an airstrip since the 1920s. But then, during the Big One ...
"Immediately after the start of U.S. involvement in World War II in 1942, the military obtained control of the airport and all Olympia civilian aviation activity was relocated to Eastern Washington and Idaho. The airport was renamed Olympia Army Air Field. It was operated as a satellite facility to McChord Field located approximately 21 miles to the northeast. The U.S. Army lease of the airport included the entire property and all on-site facilities. An additional 1,000 acres were acquired by the military for the airport. As a result, the basic appearance of the current airport was established with 1,392 acres including three paved runways, 3.6 linear miles of paved taxiways, and 24 hardstands providing service areas for the P-38 military aircraft based at Olympia. The airport was operated as a training base for pilots flying these aircraft. The 55th Pursuit Group, consisting of 30 officers and 180 enlisted men, was based in Olympia for the duration of the war. Immediately after the war the airport served as a site for surplus military aircraft."
"Operation of the airport was transferred back to Olympia in 1947. The city also acquired title to the additional land and facilities from the U.S. Government, all of which had been declared surplus in compliance with the War Surplus Act of 1944. The covenant between the city and the Federal Government associated with this transfer of title included assurances that the city would maintain and operate the facility as a public airport. This agreement also restricted usage for non-aviation purposes and included the right of the U.S. Government to re-enter the field in the event of a national emergency."
In 1963 the airport became part of the Port of Olympia.
I do recall hearing stories about some of the wild fights between locals and the servicemen during the 1940s. Rumor (repeat, rumor) had it that as a result of the brawls Oly was actually off-limits for men in uniform for many years.
In addition to surplus military aircraft being stored at Olympia Airport, the area also had a Mothball Fleet in Budd Inlet until the early 1970s.
Can anyone out there share more information on the machine gun bunkers, or the Airport during WWII?