Wurtsmith Air Force Base
Iosco Co MI

Wurtsmith Air Force Base - Contributed by Paul Petosky

Wurtsmith Air Force Base is a decommissioned United States Air Force base in northeastern Iosco County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The former base includes 4,626 acres (1,872 ha) located approximately two miles west of Lake Huron in the Charter Township of Oscoda, bordered by Van Ettan Lake, the Au Sable State Forest.

Wurtsmith got its start in 1923 as Loud-Reames Aviation Field, a soft-surface landing site for Army Air Corps aircraft from Selfridge Field. It was renamed Camp Skeel in 1924, for World War I pilot Captain Burt E. Skeel, and was used as an aerial gunnery range and for winter maneuvers 1924 through 1944 by the 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Army Air Base near Detroit. During those winter maneuvers the army pilots and mechanics battled snow squalls and bitter cold temperatures to get the engines of the planes started. Oil was heated in drums over open fires of pitchpine and then poured into the engines. Crews then worked fast to get the engines running before the oil congealed. No self-starters were available on those early planes so engines were cranked by hand by swinging the propellers. Aviation gasoline to refuel the planes was hauled across the ice-covered lake on a six-foot hand sled which held two barrels. After 1927 the field was also used for aerial gunnery practice.

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