In 1941, the Cty of Bartow, Florida began acquiring land about four miles northeast of the city to build a municipal airport. Plans had not proceeded too far before World War II intervened. The US Army Air Force took control of the uncompleted municipal airport and began to develop it as an operational training station for medium bombardment aircraft. That mission was changed as of February 15, 1943 and Bartow Army Air Base, as it was designated, became a Fighter Replacement Training Station. Troops began arriving in April 1943 and the base provided facilities for a fighter group and two fighter squadrons, a base headquarters, air base squadron, aviation squadron, guard squadron and sub-depot. Training remained its primary mission for the duration of the war. The Bartow Army Air Base Base was ordered to deactivate on 25 October 1945. The deactivation was completed and the base closed by the end of the year.
The US Air Force reactivated the base in 1950 and from 1951 to 1960 it serves as a Primary Training School for Air Force Pilots. More than 8,000 men were graduated from the school, including astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Ed White. The base officially closed in 1961 and control was returned to the City of Bartow, which has since operated it as a municipal airport and industrial park.
The annuals or yearbooks in this collection are from Bartow’s latter incarnation as a primary flight training school. Each class attending flight training was given a combination letter-number designation, e.g. “56F” and each class produced an annual with the titles Swivel Head and Pitch Out followed by the class designation. The annuals are similar in layout and content to high school and college annuals and include photos of flight students, instructors, and civilian and military administrators. In addition to the names and photos of the students, their home addresses are also included.