Alexandria Louisiana in World War II

Esler Field

History of Esler Field

Located off Louisiana Highway 116 between Pineville and Libuse, Esler Regional Airport has a long history, and is closely linked to Camp Beauregard, a 12,500-acre camp mainly used today as a training facility owned by the Louisiana National Guard.

Construction of the airport, originally called Camp Beauregard Army Field, for the United States Army Air Corps, began in 1940. In the summer of 1940 and throughout 1941 the area was used for the Louisiana Maneuvers.

The airfield was renamed Esler Army Airfield in 1941 to honor Lt. Wilmer Esler, a pilot who became the first casualty of the airfield when his O-47 monoplane crashed on April 11, 1941.

Transfer from Military to Civilian Control

In August of 1945, the airfield was reassigned directly to Third Air Force. With the end of the war, deactivation of Esler Field began on September 7, 1945. The base was finally closed on May 31, 1946, and remained Federal property until the 1950s when it was finally ceded to the Rapides Parish Police Jury as surplus property. A small civilian airport opened after return to civil control.

Esler then served as Alexandria's commercial airport until the 1990s.

England Air Force Base was closed for the last time by the Department of Defense on December 15, 1992 and began its transition to civilian reuse as England Airpark and Community.

Commercial traffic then was moved from Esler Field to the newly designated Alexandria International Airport (AEX).

Esler Field Today

The abandoned Esler Field presented the Louisiana National Guard with a golden opportunity to expand the area available to conduct its training. On June 1, 2001, the Rapides Parish Police Jury transferred the airport's management to the guard in a 99-year lease. Today, Esler is the site of numerous training exercises.

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Today, about 60 percent of the airport's operations are military and the rest are civilian. Although Esler doesn't offer private jet passenger services it does provide both military and civilian aircraft fuel services.

In December of 2011, the MMR Group, which previously based its aviation operations at Alexandria International Airport, completed work on its new corporate aviation facility at Esler. It includes 10,000 square feet of hangar space and 3,000 square feet of office space. MMR shares the facility with Crest Industries, and the two groups currently support 3 airplanes and 7 pilots.

Esler Field's FAA code is ESF. It is located at Lat/Long 31-23-41.6490N / 092-17-44.7790W. The airport covers 2,161 acres, and has two runways, one at 5,999 feet, and the second one stretching 5,601 feet

Military Camps in Central Louisiana in World War II
World War II military camps in the Alexandria Louisiana area Camp Claiborne
Map of Esler Regional Airport in Louisiana (courtesy of Google)
Boeing B-17B parked at Esler Field on June 11, 1941
(Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-17B parked at Esler Field on June 11, 1941

 

An Esler Field Side Story: Lt. Frank Rollins

Lt. Frank James Rollins was stationed and trained at Esler Field in World War II. Shown below are three photos in which Lt. Rollins appears. Frank later died at age 42 in the crash of a biplane that he was piloting in Texas City, Texas. An accomplished pilot, Frank had been flying since 1940.

Editor's Note: Thanks to Russ Rollins or Pearland, Texas, for providing this story and photos of his father, Frank Rollins.

Other Sources of Military Camp Information

Several other sites have significant information about these military camps, including:

Louisiana National Guard

Louisiana Maneuvers and Military Museum operated by the Louisiana Army National Guard

Camp Beauregard at GlobalSecurity

WikiPedia Articles: Camp Livingston and Camp Claiborne

The National World War II Museum, New Orleans

England Air Force Base ... by Louis Crusenberry

Louisiana History Museum, Alexandria, Louisiana

Camp Ruston POW Facilities (PDF)

32nd Infantry Red Arrow Division Veteran Association