WWII Satellite Airfield
During the dark days of WWII after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the US Congress responded with massive defense appropriations, including $200M for airport development across the country. The Lewistown Satellite Airfield was constructed in Lewistown during World War II as one of four training facilities for B-17 Flying Fortress crew members and included a storage site for the top secret Norden Bombsight. The Norden Bombsight, a synchronous stabilized bomb-aiming device, was considered fundamental in America's precision bombing doctrine. The extant bombsight storage shelter which housed the bombsight is one of a few known buildings of this type remaining in the United States. With construction complete by 1942, Lewistown was built as a satellite field for Great Falls Air Base. Squadrons were trained in the navigation of the B-17 in addition to receiving gunnery and bombing practice. Once their training was complete, the men were sent to the European front. The airfield was in operation during a 12-month period between 1942 and 1943 and thereafter deactivated.
The historic district retains all original buildings within its boundaries, with the exception of a guard house previously located southeast of the bombsight storage building. The Norden Bombsight was stored in a small one-story building constructed of poured concrete. Divided into two vaults, the Norden device was only accessible through bank vault doors. Other extant buildings include a hangar, the operations building, an armament building and an underground storage vault. The field was declared surplus in 1944 and has served the local community as a municipal airport ever since.
Seventeen buildings were built in this satellite airfield, many of which can still be seen today:
- Bombsight storage building
- Oil and storage house
- Operations and alert building
- Enlisted men's recreation hall
- Crew Chief building
- Armament building
- General purpose shop
- Pre-war hangar
- Training building
- Camouflage building
- Elevated water storage tank
- Employee house
- Fire pump house
- Storage reservoir
- Machine shop
More information about this historic site can be found at the National Park Service website or in the Lewistown, Montana: A Tour of Historic Lewistown brochure available at the Yogo Inn.
Other Things You Might Like
Central Montana Museum
The area’s history is chronologically portrayed beginning in the 1870’s when the area was largely unsettled and buffalo roamed the open prairies. Our museum features many photos and displays portraying the changes that resulted as many settlers from all walks of life came to this area and filed on homesteads. Also on exhibit are a variety of collections (dolls, hats, wedding dresses, fire arms, forts, fossils, historic replicas and dioramas, Native American art and artifacts, medical equipment and photos from St. Joseph’s Hospital, military, photos, musical instruments, and many others) and displays with interpretation featuring some of the area’s most notorious characters.
Symmes Park has a tennis court, skate park, playground equipment, picnic tables, a baseball diamond, and horseshoes. The Park is also home to the Veterans Memorial Walk, featuring a Minuteman Missile, a Howitzer, and several other items. The Lewistown Area Chamber of Commerce and the Central Montana Museum are on the edge of the park.