The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 11

COURTESY OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF WESTERN VIRGINIA

County. The stage was set, and newspapers across the
country kept readers engrossed in front-page stories
about the developing confrontation.
In Roanoke, Boxley and the city's business and
civic leaders were more than willing to assist. With
the shutdown of coal mines, the Norfolk & Western
Railway had seen profits drop and had expended
significant resources guarding their tracks in the
strike zone. Furthermore, William
Baldwin of Baldwin-Felts was a
prominent Roanoke citizen with a
Baldwin-Felts office in downtown.
Boxley not only garnered the
2,070 gallons of gasoline and 300
gallons of motor oil requested, he
formed a reception committee. The
group consisted of himself, Vicemayor Robert Angell, City Manager
W.P. Hunter, and businessman
Edward L. Stone. The first to land
was Lt. Rex Stoner at 1:15pm. He
had left early from Langley Field
to scout for a level plot to stage an
airfield that could accommodate up to twenty planes
and equipment. Stoner had landed on farmland
belonging to Berkley E. Price that was about four
miles north of the city adjacent to Williamson Road.
The Roanoke Times reported, "The plane circled
over the northwest section of the city, crossing the
Huff farm...landing in a field about 100 feet from
Williamson Road." As promised, Boxley and his
committee motored along Williamson Road, followed
by three trucks loaded with drums of gasoline and oil,
to greet the pilot and his mechanic. "We are at your
service," said the mayor as he stepped from his vehicle.
Spectators began congregating around Stoner's
craft and listening intently to his explanations as it
related to the troubling events unfolding in West
Virginia. At 4pm eight black specks were seen
coming over the tops of the mountains, and Stoner
asked that the crowd clear the field immediately. He
then instructed his mechanic to stretch a large white
sheet, about 20-feet square, on the ground to alert the
approaching pilots to their landing target.
All eight landed safely in what would be called Price's
Field. Six other aircraft arrived later in the evening
during a rainstorm that caused a few of the craft to land
at the nearby Gish farm. By nightfall, a total of eighteen
DeHavilland DH-4B bombers, each equipped with
front- and rear-mounted machine guns and carrying
tear gas and fragmentation bombs, had arrived.
Stone invited the fifteen pilots and thirteen
cadet mechanics to dine with him as his guests at the
Shenandoah Club, while Boxley secured their lodging
at the Hotel Roanoke and in private residences. Dr.
Hugh Trout had committed the local American
Legion post to guard the airplanes overnight.
News spread quickly of the landing of eighteen
bomber planes just a few miles beyond the city. The
TheRoanoker.com

Times estimated that six hundred automobiles
crammed with passengers had parked in Price's
pasture so persons could see the planes and pilots,
and that "the Hotel Roanoke lobby looked much as
it did during war-time."
At dawn on September 2nd, individual planes
lifted from Price Field in thirty minute intervals.
Spectators were on hand to witness the take-offs
that were mostly uneventful, except one.
The third plane's left wing struck a corn
shock, causing it to strike a telephone
pole, and driving the nose into the
ground. The plane came to rest upside
down.
Neither the pilot, Valentine Miner,
nor his cadet, V irgil L ovell, was
seriously injured. A few Roanokers got
souvenirs from the wreck. One local
man managed to secure the compass,
and Judge Clifton Woodrum, who had
driven to the field that day with his
children in his new Hudson, got pieces
of fabric from the wings.
With Price Field now established, the Army
officially designated the 20-acre site (in the general
vicinity of present-day Breckenridge School) as the
link between Langley and Charleston. Lt. H.W.
Sheridan was put in charge of the airfield. Within
days, the Army had erected wireless and radio stations,
tents, and an air signal system. A smoke signal was
used by approaching pilots to gage wind direction
and conditions. Price Field was a functioning Army
airfield. Pilots and aircraft of the 88th Battalion air
service bomber squadron were using the alfalfa pasture
daily. The radio station transmitted to Charleston,
Langley, Baltimore and New York. Pilots returning
from the strike zone stated that their main mission
was reconnaissance and to occasionally drop bombs
on mountain roads to limit miners' mobility.
The citizens of Mingo and Logan Counties were
awed by the presence of so many aircraft such that
quiet was easily restored. Price Field was having an
impact. By September 14, federal officials began
withdrawing troops from the strike zone, and Price
Field was dismantled.
The following spring, the airfield was only a
memory as Price had re-planted it in corn.
The airmen that passed through Roanoke's Price
Field gained the unique distinction of being the first
military air unit to participate in a domestic civil
disturbance in American history.
The air strip was not the first airfield in Roanoke,
but it was the first truly working "airport" in Roanoke's
history. One young aviator that flew in and out of
Price Field and lodged at the Hotel Roanoke was a
24-year-old lieutenant, James Doolittle, who gained
national fame during World War II by leading the
daring bombing raid over Tokyo, Japan, in 1942 that
become known as the "Doolittle Raid." I

LEFT PAGE: Aerial
image shows the
Williamson Road
area that was used
for a landing field.
CENTER: Mayor
W.W. Boxley
welcomed the
fighter pilots to
Roanoke.

JULY/AUGUST 2019

11


http://www.TheRoanoker.com

The Roanoker - July/August 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - July/August 2019

The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - Intro
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - Cover1
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - Cover2
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 3
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 4
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 5
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 6
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 7
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 8
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 9
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 10
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 11
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 12
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The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V1
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V2
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V3
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V4
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V5
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V6
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V7
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V8
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V9
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V10
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V11
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V12
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V13
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V14
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V15
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V16
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V17
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V18
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V19
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V20
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V21
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V22
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V23
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V24
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V25
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V26
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V27
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V28
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V29
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V30
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V31
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V32
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The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - Cover3
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - Cover4
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