Selman Field was the nation's single complete navigation school of the Army-Air Corps. Only at this base could a cadet complete his pre-flight and advanced training, receive his commission and navigator's wings, and stay in the same location. Over 15,000 navigators who flew in every theatre of operation during World War II trained here.
The story of Selman Field begins long before the war. “Selman Airport” was a small Monroe, Louisiana civil airport. It was named after a Navy pilot, Lieutenant Augustus J. "Gus" Selman. Lt. Selman was a native of Monroe who was killed on November 28, 1921, when his plane crashed into the ocean near Norfolk, Virginia.
Big things were already happening at this little airport – at Selman, a small crop dusting operation called Huff Daland Dusters would develop into Delta Air Lines. Selman boasted the first Delta terminal, a converted gas station that serviced regular flights.
Selman also offered a weather station, a regional center of Delta Crop Dusting, and a two-plane private aviation flight school.
Then the war came. Selman Army Airfield construction was activated on June 15, 1942 and Selman Field was in full operation three months after starting from scratch. Colonel Norris B. Harbold, a pioneer in the navigation training program, was named Commanding Officer.
A cadet at Selman Field had to know all aspects of navigation in order to determine where he was, where he wanted to go and when he would get there. "Zero Zero" was the navigator's ultimate objective. It means navigating through hundreds of thousands of miles of space, wind, and weather and hitting a dime-sized objective "on the nose" at the precise second you said you would. One inch off is not Zero Zero. It means right on the button, right on time—perfection.
Of the hundreds of fields that were operated by the Army Air Forces, it was only at Selman that a cadet could get his entire training without ever leaving the field.
Shortly after Japan surrendered, the Army Air Forces decided to concentrate all navigation training at Ellington Field in Texas. Navigator training ended on September 1, 1945. Students at Selman were asked if they wanted to remain in Air Forces after the war. Those who elected to remain were sent to Ellington, and those who elected for separation were assigned other general duties at Selman Field.
Selman Field was then used as a separation center for returning overseas personnel. By mid-December 1945, the last of the training aircraft were flown to reclamation centers for sale or scrapping. In early July 1946 Selman received orders from Air Training Command to shut down operations. The airport was returned to civil control on July 31, 1946.
The 15,349 navigation personnel who trained at Selman served our country with skill and courage. Sadly, many of them did not get to come home. We are forever thankful for their sacrifice.