Teacher Reference Materials
Diverse Contributors to the Legacy of Floyd Bennett Field
- Grade Level:
- Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
- Social Studies
Floyd Bennett Field played a major role in the history of New York City during World War II (1941-1945). With the opening of LaGuardia Airport, along with the failure of gaining a contract with the U.S. Post Office, and the dark clouds of war looming over Europe in the late 1930’s, it seemed quite natural that Floyd Bennett Field would be an ideal Naval airbase to protect New York City from Axis Power (Germany, Italy, and Japan) attacks via the Atlantic. On June 2, 1941 the U.S. Navy Reserve took over control of Floyd Bennett Field.
While the 1930’s were seen as the “Glory Days” with historic flights by aviators like Wiley Post, Amelia Earhart, Jacqueline Cochran, Howard Hughes, and Douglas “Wrong-way” Corrigan, other military flyers would pass through its gates who were less well known for their civilian and military contributions during the Second World War. Floyd Bennett Field would become the home of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Exceptional Service), the key connecting point between the Grumman, Vought-Sikorsky, General Motors Eastern Aircraft and Martin company, and the West coast ferry system for flying planes to the Pacific front. One of its most important functions was to train aviation cadets for the fleet and provided flight lessons.
Right after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, ultimately bringing the United States into World War II, Floyd Bennett Field had 250 pilots (many of them experienced pilots) but by March of 1944 the personnel roster listed 1,049 pilots with 550 of them permanently assigned. Among those who had passed through the gates of Floyd Bennett Field over the years was 2nd. Lieutenant Leroy Battle, United States Army Air Corps, Lt. Commander, Wesley A. Brown, Civil Engineer Corps, U.S.N. (retired), Lieutenant (jg) Oscar Homes, U.S.N (retired), Herbert G. Odom, Technician 1st Class, U.S.N. (Retired) and Lt. Donald S. Lopez, USAF (retired). What connects them is that each of these men were stationed at Floyd Bennett Field during World War II, the Cold War Era (1945-1972) or were influenced by some civilian experience, and each made significant contributions to the story of FBF and American history (both military and civilian), and all of these men were African American or Latino.
This Teacher's Guide explores their stories.
 Ibid, pg. 10.
 Gateway /Floyd Bennett Field “Historic Structures Report, Volume 1., National Park service, (May 1981), p. 63.
 Authors note: In preparing these lesson plans for the National Pak Service, my research on minority groups serving during World War II and the Korean War (1950-1953) was limited to the service men listed above in the text. Searches were limited to the Archives at Brooklyn College, Floyd Bennett Field, the National Park Service, the Main Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, and links found in historical and non-historical websites. We did not have access to military service records from the United States Government. Michael B. Schoenfeld, August 8, 2011