File #1127: "D. Harold Byrd - 19DEC84.pdf"

D. Harold Byrd - 19DEC84.pdf

PDF Text

Text

Civil Air Patrol
Oral Hisfory Interview
Ws~a z.84-z
Ge=. D. Harold Bzr~
19 .Deaember 198~

N AT I O N A L H I S TO R I C A L C O M M I T T E E
Headquarters CAP

CIVIL AIR

PATROL

ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM

Interview

General D. Harold Byrd, CAP

Colonel Walter M. Sanfo~i, CAP

Date: 19 December 1984

L o c a t i o n s D a l l a s , Te x a s

CIVIL AIR

PATROL

ORAL

HISTORY

INTERVIEW, IS

Civil Air Patrol Oral History Interviews were initiated in early 1982
b y C o l o n e l L e s t e r E . H o p p e r , C A P, o f t h e C i v i l A i r P a t r o l ' s N a t i o n a l
Historical Committee. The overall purpose of these interviews is to
record for posterity the activities of selected members of Civil Air
Patrol.

The principal goal of these histories is to increase the base of
knowledge relating to the early accomplishments of Civil Air Patrol
members who in their own unique way contributed to the defense of
o u r g r e a t c o u n t r y. C e r t a i n l y n o t o f s e c o n d a r y n a t u r e i s t h e
preservation of the contributions of individuals as Civil Air Patrol
continues its growth.

FOREWORD

The following is the transcript of an oral history interview recorded
on magnetic tape. At the time of the interview the interviewee was
over eighty Sears of age and his recollection of certain facts was
limited. With the aid of the interviewee's personal secretary some
major emendations have been made. The reader should bear in mind that
he is reading a transcript of the spoken rather than the written word.
Also, no attempt to confirm the historical accuracy of the statements
has been made. Therefore, the transcript reflects the interviewee's
personal recollections of various situations as he remembered them
a t t h e t i m e o f t h e i n t e r v i e w.

Editorial notes and additions made by CAP historians are enclosed
in brackets or are indicated by the use of an asterisk. ~ere feasible,
first names, ranks or titles also are provided. Any additions, deletions
and changes subsequently made to the transcript by the interviewee are
not indicated. Researchers may wish to listen to the actual interview
tape prior to citing the transcript.

KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS:

That I, ~E~.~D. HsRo~I B~,~D
in

an

oral-magnetic-taped

, have this day participated

interview

withd~L0~R~.~~RD

t

i covering my best recollections of events and experiences which may
q

be of historical significance to the Civil Air Patrol.

I understand that the tape(s) and the transcribed manuscript
resulting therefrom will be accessioned into the Civil Air Patrol's
Historical Holdings. In the best interest of the Civil Air Patrol,
! I d o h e r e b y v o l u n t a r i l y g i v e , t r a n s f e r, c o n v e y, a n d a s s i g n a l l r i g h t ,
title, and interest in the memoirs and remembrances contained in the
~ aforementioned magnetic tapes and manuscript to the Civil Air Patrol,
to have and to hold the same forever, hereby relinquishing for myself,
i

: my executors, administrators, heirs, and assigns all ownership, right,
title, and interest ~herein to the donee expressly on the condition
of strict observance of the following restrictions:

D a t e d

A c c e p t e d

o n

b e h a l f

o f

t h e

C i v i l

/ 9

A ~ r

U
~ c e m ~ r I ~ 8 ~

P a t r o l

b y 7

~ I ~ ) ~ . ~

SUMMARY OF CONTENTS

I n t h i s o x a l h i s t o r y i n t e r v i e w , G e n . D . H a r o l d B y r d , C A P, r e l a t e s
some of his early experiences in the establishment of Civil Air
Patrol at the start of the United States's participation in ~1orld
W a r I I , a n d p a r t i c u l a r l y t h e C i v i l A i r P a t r o l ' s o p e r a t i o n s i n Te x a s
and the Southwest. Evident are the personal financial and time
contributions made by General Byrd and the assistance rendered by
t h e S t a t e o f Te x a s . E v i d e n t a l s o i s t h e m e a n i n g f u l a s s o c i a t i o n
General Byrd had with Gil Robb Wilson, George Haddaway and Generals
Spaatz and Doolittle. General Byrd affirms the fact that Civil Air
Patrol performed coastal patrol along the Gulf Coast area of the
United States and then along the border between the United States
and Mexico. Later General Byrd recalls his important role in the
establishment of Civil Air Patrol's Cadet Exchange Program.

General Byrd emphasizes that the Civil Air Patrol has a major
function of search and rescue and encourages the contin,,ation and
strengthening of this objective.

GUIDE TO COk"rENTS

1

Birth Place

1

A t t e n d e d U n i v e r s i t y o f Te x a s

1

Interest in Oil Industry

2

Dry Hole Record

2

Early Interest in Aviation

2

Ownership of Aircraft

3

Licensed Pilot

3

First Interest in Civil Alr Patrol

4

Cooperation in Establishing Civil Air Patrol

4

Early Base

4

Key Personnel

5

Other Bases

5

Vo l u n t e e r s - - W h e r e f r o m

6

Gasoline Furnished

6

Good ~L~intenance Crew

6

Stayed in Civil Air Patrol

6

National Board Chairman

7

Foreign Exchange Program for Cadets--- Benefits

8

Equipment Best Money Could Buy

9

Te x a s a n d M e x i c a n B o r d e r O p e r a t i o n s

10

Promoted to General, Retroactively

10

Emphasis on Search and Rescue

I0

Early Uniform for Civil Air Patrol

11

G o o d H o u s i n g f o r Tr o o p s a t B e a u m o n t

11

Suhnarines Sank

12

L~e Membership

C AP

ORAL HISTORY Ih~fERVIEW

Number

WS~m 1.84-1

Ta p e d I n t e r v i e w W i t h :

General D. Harold Byrd, CAP

Date of Interview:

December 19, 1984

Lo cation:

D a l l a s , Te x a s

Conducted By:

C o l o n e l Wa l t e r M . S a n f o r d , C A P

General Byrd, I want to thank you for your taking time to undergo
this interview in the interest of Civil Air Patrol. First, let me
a s k , a r e y o u a n a t i v e o f Te x a s ?
Ye s , s i r . I w a s b o r n i n D e t r o i t , Te x a s .
D e t r o i t , Te x a s ?
Ye s , s i r .
Just like the city up North? Same spelling? Where is that near?
i moved away when I was a year old, but I was born there.
Where is Detroit?
U p i n E a s t Te x a s , n e a r P a r i s .
I u n d e r s t a n d t h a t y o u w e n t t o t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f Te x a s .
Ye s , s i r . I w a s e x p o s e d t h e r e f o r t w o y e a r s .
~at was your major?
G e o l o g y.
That is what led you to your interest in the oil industry?
That is _~Ight.
Te l l m e a l i t t l e b i t a b o u t y o u r i n t e r e s t i n o i l .
Well, I was in the Burkburnett Field as a roughneck on a well and
got experience in the oil field on that well. I have always used
geology and never thought I would do anything in the oil business.
I have had pretty good success with it.
i

O.H. Byrd

A n d y o u d e v e l o p e d y o u r o w n c o m p a n y, d i d y o u ?
Ye s , s i r , B y r d - F r o s t , e s t a b l i s h e d i n 1 9 3 1 w i t h p a r t n e r J a c k F r o s t
( T h e c o m p a n y n o w i s D . H . B y r d P r o d u c t i o n , To w e r B u i l d i n g , D a l l a s , T X ) .
That is when you set up the business?
Ye s , s i r . M y f a t h e r t a u g h t m e a l o t o f t h i n g s w h e n I w a s j u s t s i x
years old. So, I have always used them.
Yo u s e t u p y o u r o w n c o m p a n y, a n d d i d y o u n o t h a v e t h e d u b i o u s t i t l e
of .........
"Dry Hole Byrd."
How many did you drill?
56 consecutive dry holes.
That is a record, is it not?
A n d t h e n I d r i l l e d t w o fi e l d s ( s u c c e s s f u l w e l l s ) i n t h e s a m e d a y.
So, you finally got a good one.
Ye s .
And where was that?
S a n t a A n n a F i e l d . I d r i l l e d t h e d i s c o v e r y w e l l i n C o l e m a n C o u n t y,
Te x a s .
~en did your interest in aviation start?
Well, I always used aviation in my oil business. I flew over areas
and adjusted those areas to being interested in the oil.
Did you have your own airplanes?
Ye s , s i r. I h a v e a l w a y s h a d o n e o r t w o a i r p l a n e s .
What kinds were those?

.

D.H. Bzrd

Well, first one was an Eaglerock, then a Stinson, and then I had
a L o d e s t a r. T h a t i s m y f a v o r i t e o f a l l a i r p l a n e s , t h e L o c k h e e d
L o d e s t a r.
That is a pretty big aircraft?
T h a t w a s a b i g o n e , y e s s i r. S e v e n p a s s e n g e r s .
Did you use those planes later in the Civil Air Patrol?
Ye s , I u s e d t h e m , b u t I d o n o t t h i n k I w r e c k e d t h e m .
Were you a pilot yourself?
Ye s , s i r . I a m n o t m u c h o f a p i l o t , b u t I h a v e h a d a l i c e n s e s i n c e
I acquired my own plane.
Where did you learn to fly?
At Burkburnett.
At Burkburnett? Did they have a small field there?
Ye s , s i r , n e a r t h e o i l fi e l d . I w o u l d s p o t t h e fi e l d s t h e r e f r o m t h e
air and then I used the data to find oil.
When did you become interested in Civil Air Patrol?
On December I, 1941. Along with Gil Robb Wilson I organized Civil
Air Patrol with a small group of interested citizens and was appointed
C o m m a n d e r o f t h e Te x a s W i n g b y P r e s i d e n t R o o s e v e l t .
Yo u w e r e i n t e r e s t e d i n s u c h p r o g r a m s a h e a d o f t h a t ?
Ye s , b e f o r e t h a t . I t w a s m y i n t e r e s t a n d k n o w h e w t h a t p u t t h e
C i v i l A i r P a t r o l i n t o t h e w a r.
i see. And how ~i~ you ~o that?
Well, Gen. Carl Spaatz of the United States Army Air Force also was
a member of our Civil Air Patrol. Through him I established it
(Civil Air Patrol) into the Air Force.

3

Yo u g o v e r n e d o p e z ' a ' ~ J . o n s i n Te x a s t d i d y o u n o t ?
Ye s , s i r .
Did you have any difficulty at that time in establishing .........
No. Everybody was cooperative. The Governor and everybody else was.
I, of course, had little problems, but they worked out.
~here did you set up your headquarters?
B e a u m o n t , Te x a s .
Yo u h e l p e d e s t a b l i s h a u n i t a t B e a u m o n t ?
Ye s , s i r. I h a ~ a b a s e a t B e a u m o n t a n d ( f r o m t h e r e ) w e fl e w o v e r t h e
w a t e r. W e d i d a l o t o f g o o d . W e l o c a t e d a G e r m a n s u b m a r i n e , a n d w e
flew right over one of those submarines and it ducked. ~le could not
do anything about them.
Yo u fl e w p a t r o l o v e r t h e G u l f . I s t h a t r i g h t ?
Right. The Germans had submarines in the Gulf and I flew right over
t h o s e s u b m a ~ e s a n d t h e y w o u l d d u c k u n d e r t h e w a t e r. T h e y t h o u g h t I
was armed.

~o supplied the airplanes for you there?
! supplied nine airplanes myself.
Did other people join up with you and bring their own airplanes
there, too?
Ye s , t h e r e w e r e s e v e . ~ - a l o f t h e m s u p p l i e d t h e i r p l a n e s .
D o y o u r e m e m b e r t h e n a m e s o f a n y o f t h e p e o p l e w h o w o r k e d w i t h Yo u ?
Ye s . ~ l i l s o n G e r m a n y w a s o n e . A n e a r l y o n e . H e h a d a n a i r p l a n e . A n d
then I had down at Beaumont, let me see .... . I f o r g e t w h o i t w a s
down there.
Wa s n o t G e o r g e ~ i d a w a y w i t h y o u ?
Ye s , G e o r g e H a d d a w a y w a s w i t h m e .

About how many people did you have at the beginning?
O h , j u s t a f e w, I w o u l d s a y ( t o s t a r t ) a t B e a u m o n t , C o r p u s C h r i s t i
and Brownsville.
Yo u h e l p e d e s t a b l i s h b a s e s t h e r e ( C o r p u s C h r i s t i a n d B r o w n s v i l l e ) ,
too?
Ye s , s i r .
~ 4 h e n d i d t h e y s t a r t c a l l i n g i t Te x a s W i n g ?
In 1941.
That was still in the early days of your own operations?
That is right.
Do you remember any specific happenings of special interest at that
time?
German submarines.
Do you remember any special flights that went out there ? ! mean
relative to the war activity and the flights you made looking for
the su~marlnes.
I did that when General Spaatz was still in Civil Air Patrol and he
helped to work that out with the government.
Did you lose any planes at that time? Any fatalities?
Five planes were lost, but I don't remember about fatalities.
Where did the people come from?
They were volunteers.
Vo l u n t e e r s . D i d t h e y a l l c o m e f r o m Te x a s t o h e l p y o u h e r e i n Te x a s ?
Did they come from other states?
Some of them did (from other states), yes. Came from Boston, New

Yo r k a n d a l l a r o u n d . T h e y c a m e t o h e l p m e .
S

Do you remember any specific problems that you had at that time?

B

No. I got gasoline. I prompted my state into furnishing me gasoline.

S

T h e S t a t e o f Te x a s ?

B

It took a good deal of gasoline. They furnished it to me. They gave
it to me.

S

Did you have any problem maintaining and keeping the airplanes

running?
B--

Ye s , a n d n o . V e r y l i t t l e . W e h a d a l o t o f g o o d m e c h a n i c s r i g h t i n
C i v i l A i r P a t r o l . T h e y w e r e r a i s e d u p t h a t w a y, s o t h e y c o u l d t a k e
care of the planes.

S

As time went along; you continued your interest in the program.
W h a t a s s i g n m e n t s , l a t e r, d i d y o u t a k e o n ? W h a t p o s i t i o n s ?

B

I j u s t s t a r t e d i t . T h e r e w a s n o t a C A P o r a g o v e r n m e n t a g e n c y. I
just started both of them.

S

A f t e r t h e w a r w a s o v e r, y o u c o n t i n u e d w i t h C A P ?

B

Ye s , s i r , a n d t h e y k e p t fl y i n g . T h e y w e r e v e r y i m p o r t a n t a f t e r t h e
w a r.

S

Were you not Texas ~'ing Commander and then Region (SWR) Commander?

B

Ye s , s i r. I b e c a m e W i n g C o m m a n d e r i n 1 9 4 1 a n d f r o m 1 9 4 8 t o 1 9 5 3 I
w a s R e g i o n C o m m a n d e r. A l s o , i n 1 9 4 8 I w a s n a m e d Vi c e - C h a i r m a n o f
the National Executive Committee with Gen. Carl Spaatz as Chairman.
As I recall, I was elected Chairman of the National Board in April
of 1959, and retired in April of 1960, becoming a "Chairman Emeritus."

S

Yo u w e r e s u c c e e d e d a s R e g i o n C o m m a n d e r b y D o c t o r R u s h i n g , w e r e y o u
not?

B

Ye s . D o c t o r R u s h i n g w o r k e d w i t h m e , a n d I m a d e h i m R e g i o n C o m m a n d e r.

6

In your dealings with the Headquarters at CAP .... National
Headquarters .... y o u h a d a l o t o f c o n t a c t w i t h t h e A i r F o r c e a n d
t h e n p e o p l e i n Wa s h i n g t o n .
B

That is right.

S

Who were some of the people you dealt with in order to help the
program?

B

Gen. Jimmy Doolittle and Doctor Rushing and General Spaatz.

S

Yo u w e r e f a m i l i a ~ w i t h G i l R o b b W i l s o n . D i d y o u w o r k w i t h h i m
at all?
Oh, yes. Gil Robb Wilson was with me in organizing CAP on
i December 1941.
Do you feel that the contacts you had with these people.., your
friendship.., helped you in the program? Was it beneficial?
Oh, yes, it helped me in the program, and my business. I just used
their influence. Got things done, in the oil industry as well
a s i n t h e a v i a t i o n i n d u s t r y.
Over the years you were instrumental in entez~ining cadets on
the Foreign Exchange Program.
Ye s , I s t a r t e d t h a t w i t h C o l . E a r l L . J o h n s o n .
~t kinds of things did you do for them?
I hosted them with time and money and encouragement, and I worked
w i t h E n g l a n d a n d G e r m a n y a n d Te x a s .
T h e f o r e i g n c a d e t s w o u l d v i s i t h e r e i n Te x a s . D i d y o u e n t e r t a i n t h e m
at all?
Oh, yes. I had them in my home. I entertained them two weeks here,
a n d a l l o v e r Te x a s . T h e y v i s i t e d m y d i s t r i c t u n i t s . T h e y g a v e m e a
lot of encouragement, and I gave them some, too.

".

D.H. Byrd

S

Did you ever go overseas with the program?

B

Oh, yes. I was over there three times on European and South
American tours.

S

When you were Chairman of the Board you had to go overseas and
set up the program?

B.:
S

tOhj yes,: ~I :asSisted L~, settin~ ~up ~foreign programs.
In looking back, do you think of things that you would have done
differently?

B

N o , n o t m a n y. I f o l l o w e d t h e p r o g r a m p r e t t y g o o d . I a l w a y s h a d
good advice, you see, from General Spaatz and from Gen. Jimmy
Doolittle.

S

Yo u k n e w G e n e r a l B e a u , o f C o u r s e ?

B

Ye s , h e w a s i n t h e p r o g r a m .

S

A s a n A i r F o r c e o f fi c e r.

B

That is right. He helped a good deal.

S

What were you not able to do that you would have liked to have done?

B

Nothing. I did everything I wanted to do. I did it pretty well,
with the help of my friends.

S

Do you remember any of the people that specifically stood out while
working with you?

B

Ye s , G e n e r a l S p a a t z , G e n e r a l B e a u a n d G e n e r a l D o o ! i t t l e .

S

Other than they?

B

T h e g o v e r n o r o f Te x a s , C o k e R . S t e v e n s o n .

S

In thinking back over your wartime experiences and the operations
i n Te x a s w h i c h y o u p r i m a r i l y l o o k e d a f t e r, d o y o u t h i n k y o u h a d
good equipment?

8

D.H. Byrd

.

W e l l , I h a d t h e b e s t I c o u l d b u y. I t w a s p r e t t y g o o d e q u i p m e n t .
And I kept it up.
I recently reread the book "Flying Minutemen°. which mentioned
that when other activities slowed down (toward the end of the war)
you were performing other assignments, like courier service and
c h a s i n g w o l v e s i n W e s t Te x a s . T h e b o o k m e n t i o n e d y o u r g o i n g o u t
there in a Piper Cub airplane, trying to shoot the wolves from
t h e a i r. C a n y o u t a l k a b o u t t h a t a l i t t l e ?
That was a lot of fun. It was a wonder we did not get killed.
But we did not. We killed wolves out of the airplane.., and
antelope.
What was the reason? Were these feeding on grasslands, cutting
the grass needed for cattle?
Ye s . *
Did you ~get~ involved in the £1ights along~ the border wit~ ~|exico?
Oh, yes, I started that, and made a deal with Mexico where I could
fly on the coast of Mexico on their land without a visa.
~at were you looking for?
S u h u a r i n e s , m o s t l y.
How about along the .Rio Gz~_ude area, along to New Mexico?
Ye s . I n M e x i c o t h e y w e r e n o t a s f r i e n d l y t o ~ t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s
as we would have liked, but it worked out all right.
~:nat were they 1.ooking for there, up the Rio Grande and along the
border?
For immigrants coming across the border stealing cattle.
Were there saboteurs coming in, also? Spies?
Oh, yes. They would set up in an area there. Some to steal cattle
Actually wolves were feeding on the cat~le.

9

'

D.H. Byrd

a n d t a k e t h e m b a c k a c r o s s t h e b o n i e r.
So, to review for a moment, you kept up your activity with the
p r o g r a m a f t e r t h e w a r, s e r v i n g i n c a p a c i t i e s a t N a t i o n a l H e a d q u a r t e r s .
That is right. I was pretty important after the war because I worked
w i t h E n g l a n d a n d F r a n c e o v e r s e a s a s w e l l a s w i t h t h i s c o u n t r y.
Yo u b e c a m e t h e ( S ~ ) R e g i o n C o m m a n d e r a n d f r o m t h a t y o u e v e n t u a l l y
became Chalmman of the Board.
That is right.
I n t h o s e d a y s t h e N a t i o n a l C o m m a n d e r w a s a n A i r F o r c e o f fi c e r.
O f c o u r s e n o w i t i s a C A P o f fi c e r.
Ye s , s i r .
As I recall, when you were Chairman you were only a full colonel.
That is right.
I remember that later Col. Claude Chambers (CAP) and I pinned on
your stars for you. That was sort of retroactive. (Done at Southwest
Region Headquarters, Dallas.)
That is right.
What do you envision for CAP now? ~nat kind of programs would you
like to see them get into?
Search and rescue, the main thing. We get planes lost and people
lost, and they call out the Civil Air Patrol all the time.
Does the uniform idea suit you?
I ha~ the first one made, to suit me. And then the Air Force came
on and changed it somewhat and I went along.
That was when the Air Force approved using their uniform with
slight changes?
T~t is right.

"

D . H .

B y r d

Of course, when CAP was formed it was the Army Air Force.
That is right.
D o w n a t B e a u m o n t , Te x a s , w h e r e y o u h a d y o u r fl ~ g u n i t s o p e r a t i n g ,
how about housing for those people?
People were good to us. We could find housing. That was not much
of a problem.
Did the CAP personnel pay for their own subsistence?
O h , y e s . A l l m y m e n p a i d t h e i r o w n w a y. A n d t h e y p a i d t h e p e o p l e
for their housing, too.
Did they stay long periods of time? Or did they come and stay for
a couple of months and then go back?
Some of them did, but most of them stayed down ....

stayed with

the program.
Did you actually spot any su~arines?
Oh, yes.
Yo u w e r e n o t a b l e t o s i n k a n y ?
No. We would ~ly over them and they would duck. They saw those
little planes and thought we were all loaded with bombs. We did
not have any bombs. We finally did get them.
Did you sink anybody with them?
S o m e 7 8 ~ s u b m a r i n e s w e r e l o c a t e d . We s a n k s e v e n . . . . t w o u n a s s i s t e d .
What kinds of planes were the bombs hooked onto?
Primarily Stinsons.
Do you still have the Lodestar?
No. I think my son, Ca~th, has that airplane.

Z~ ey~ ~wr:mp ~rVO eq~ =o3 y=~noue Iolo ~ey~ e-~eM

&suos o~ eA~ nox