Keesler Field Barracks

Malvaney’s posts showing Camp Shelby back in World War II reminded me of a recent trip to Keesler AFB in Biloxi. When I was on base back in September I was surprised to find that there was a World War II-era wooden barracks still standing on Meadow Drive. Originally numbering in the dozens if not hundreds, I had heard that those barracks termites hadn’t gotten Katrina did.  While this barracks design is not unique to Keesler, I am excited that one building was saved. Though in need of minor maintenance the building looks to be actively used and in good condition.

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The base started as Keesler Army Air Field in 1941 and was named in honor of 2nd Lt Samuel Reeves Keesler, Jr., of Greenwood, Mississippi.  Lt. Keesler served during World War I as an aerial observer assigned to the 24th Aero Squadron.  In October of 1918 Lt. Keesler died after his plane was shot down near Verdun, France.  He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star citation.  Keesler Army Air Field was officially re-designated as Keesler Air Force Base on January 13, 1948.

During World War Two my grandfather served in the Army Air Corps, the precursor to the Air Force.  He said several different bases he trained at had the same barracks.  They were bare-bones, pre-cut, frame buildings.  A plank sheathing, clad with asbestos on the exterior with no interior wall surface.   Each floor was a long open hall, with latrines on one end and sergeants quarters on the other.  In the photos above the end with smaller windows indicates the end with the latrines.  He told me about how the men were packed in so tightly that sheets were hung between the bunks to prevent the airmen from breathing on one another and spreading disease.  In the spring of 1943 he was stationed at Keesler, when the barracks were new.  He said the only time he ever volunteered in the Army Air Corps was when he was stationed in Biloxi.  A commanding officer asked him to volunteer to assist the instructors. This required arriving an hour before and staying an hour late after class to learn the next day’s lesson.  The benefit for him was that he was excused from morning and afternoon calisthenics.  What he didn’t know is that the extra training he received would save his life countless times in battle.

While our military continues to develop with new technologies to remain the best in the world, this barracks serves as a reminder that we would not be where we are today without the hard work and sacrifice made by those who came before us.

To all Veterans, thank you for your service.



Categories: Architectural Research, Biloxi, Demolition/Abandonment, Greenwood, Gulf Coast, Historic Preservation, Hurricane Katrina, Lost Mississippi, Military

11 replies

  1. I had no idea there was anything WWII left at Keesler–thanks for showing us this, TR!

  2. I am talking with my Dad. He was stationed at Keesler Field. His memory is poor but I finally got Keesler Field out from the Air Corps. I’m glad I could learn more about it. He won’t be with us much longer.

    • I am glad that this post was able to fill out for you the memories your father has of his time in the service. Please know that we are thankful for his service.

    • Thanks for the peservation. It looks like one of the barraks that I lived in for a year in 1944 and 1945. After my basic training there in 1944 I served as the base aerial photographer in 1945. Is there an official office there who would be interested in a few photos of the base at that time? Keesler Field trained B-24 mechanics and was the home for the life boats carried by B-17s.

      Duane V. Kniebes

      • Thank you very much for your service. I am glad to have to opportunity to share the post. Also thank you for sharing your experiences, it helps us better understand the buildings by having a first hand account such as yours.

        The Mississippi Department of Archives and History would probably be the best place to start. I would think they would be very interested in the photographs. http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/about.php

  3. I took my basic training at Keesler in the summer of 1945. The pictures of the barracks bring back many memories, some not so fond.

    • I hope the fond memories outweigh the bad. I can imagine that there were a lot of places you would have rather been. Thank you for your sacrifice and service.

  4. I took Basic Training there March 1946 I enlisted Feb. 1946 from Pittsburgh,Pa.Also attended School there —-( Tool Room Keeper ) Left there went to Geiger Field,Spokane Wash.———-I was 16.

    • Wow thank you for your service and sharing your story! What a way for a 16 year old to see the world. Did you have a guardians signature to join or were you among the many that the Recruiter said “yep he looks 18 to me!” to?

  5. I was stationed there in the mid-80′s with my wife. The 2052nd Communications Squadron she was assigned to were still in WW 2 era barracks. And the Base Confinement facility I worked is was also in a WW 2 era building. We also remodeled a WW 2 era building as a new HQ and armory for the 3380th Security Police Squadron. Nice to see they managed to save one.

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