Spotters needed for observation post

Published 9:18 am Friday, January 5, 2018

by Clyde Parker

JANUARY 5. 1943

R.A. Pretlow Jr., Chief Observer for the Franklin Aircraft Warning Service, is appealing again through the columns of The Tidewater News for more volunteer air spotters. The local observation post has been handicapped in its observations, since its establishment about a year ago, by the public’s unwillingness to cooperate in this vitally important WAR work. When the post was moved from its location a mile out of town, just off Sedley Road, to a site convenient to almost any section of Franklin, it was expected that more people would offer their services.

This has not been the case, despite the fact that the post has been renovated to make it more attractive and warm. Located just off Third Avenue next to the Franklin High School Gym and near the Camp Apartments, the post is in a well-populated section and the premises are adequately lighted.

There is no danger to anyone on duty, and the telephone is handy to call the police in case any prowlers are discovered on the premises. No such trouble has been experienced, even when the post was out in the country, but the point is made to allay fears that anyone might have as to the safety of doing duty at the post.

Mr. Pretlow recently stated his concerns.

“Operation of the post is not satisfactory because of the scarcity of persons willing to take a two-hour shift once a week. There are stretches of time when no one is on duty. Many of those serving are having to take extra shifts but even that is not enough to man the post 24 hours a day. Persons are needed who will sign either for a regular shift or for substitute duty.

Those who sign up for a regular shift may get substitutes when they are unable to be at the post. Substitutes do not obligate themselves to take any shift; they are asked to serve from time to time only when they can.”

“Further,” he said, “Any spotting of suspicious air activity will be considered an enemy threat to be reported by a direct telephone line to the Central Aircraft Warning Service in Norfolk.”


EDITORIAL: “This is one of several appeals made during the past year through this paper. The Franklin community has a reputation for doing its part in peace and in war. Surely, we will not let the Aircraft Warning Service here fail because of indifference or selfishness. When men are giving their lives at the front, it is little enough for us to give two hours a week to easy, safe work. This service hardly qualifies as work, being only the donation of time.”

Charles W. Scarborough, Editor


Workers needed

at Franklin Naval

Air Station

Captain Reid Irving, Commander of the U.S. Navy Auxiliary Air Station at Franklin (NAAS Franklin), has just announced that there are civilian jobs available at the base in several different categories including aircraft mechanics, painters, radio mechanics, automotive mechanics, and several other miscellaneous categories.

Training is provided, with pay, for apprentice help. It is expected that the field will be in full operation as a U.S. Navy flying field about Feb. 1, 1943.

Applications for employment will be received by Mrs. Frances Parker Bradford at the Franklin Chamber of Commerce office. And, anyone having living quarters available for rent to workers at the field is requested to notify Mrs. Bradford. She will put the information in the hands of the local Naval Command.

The U.S. Navy mission at Franklin includes acceptance of new aircraft and overhauled and repaired aircraft from Norfolk’s Assembly and Repair Department. NAAS Franklin will be responsible for maintaining an aircraft pool, and transference of those aircraft from that pool when and to wherever it is needed. As needs arise, aircraft will be ferried to awaiting operational squadrons, based on awaiting aircraft carriers or to other strategic locations, including Oceana Naval Air Station in Princess Anne County.

Projections indicate that during the course of NAAS Franklin’s existence, depending on the duration of the war, the station could handle close to 12,000 aircraft, mostly “F6F Hellcats” and “SB2C Helldivers.” At the height of its operations, it is estimated that over 500 aircraft, at any given point in time, will be on the ground at Franklin.

Figures on the ultimate number of Naval enlisted men to be stationed at NAAS Franklin are barred, as coming within the category of restricted military information. It can be surmised, though, since there are several barracks being built to house enlisted men, several hundred could be base here.

Family men among the personnel, both officers and enlisted, are trying to find homes in and around Franklin.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is