Col. MacDill's memory lives on through base and Army staff sgt.

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Vernon L. Fowler Jr.
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
Many people are unaware of the origin of MacDill Air Force Base's name. It is common knowledge that the installation was named after U.S. Army aviation pioneer and WWI veteran Col. Leslie MacDill, but the actual history behind it, to some, is still somewhat a mystery.

To add to the intrigue, one of Col. MacDill's relatives, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. and Joint Communications Support Element communications specialist Robert E. McClure, is stationed here at this installation.

"I was first stationed at MacDill in 2003-2004 when I was still in the Air Force and then switched to the Florida Army National Guard in 2005," said McClure. "After a deployment in 2007 I was de-activated I joined the Saint Petersburg Police Department. In 2011 orders became available at JCSE here at MacDill for a communications specialist."

McClure's familial connection to Col. MacDill began when his great, great grand aunt Emma McClure married Reverend Edgar MacDill, Col. MacDill's father.

"I have known about my relation to Col. MacDill for about six months now," said McClure. "I first heard about the relation while I was visiting my grandparents in York, Pa. My Uncle Don McClure told me about the relation and sent me the documentation."

Col. MacDill became a pilot in 1915 in the aviation section of the Signal Corps, an early forerunner to the Army Air Corps, before the Air Force became an independent service. In 1935, he became a member of the War Department's general staff in Washington D.C.

On the morning of Nov. 9, 1938, MacDill and his passenger, Pvt. Joseph Gloxner, were instantly killed after crashing, shortly after take-off from Bolling Field, D.C., in the BC-1 airplane he was piloting. According to accounts that were pieced together, MacDill tried to fly back to Bolling Field, but eventually had to steer the plane into an area between two houses.

The first preparations for clearing the land that later became MacDill Air Force Base began on Nov. 28 1939, when a government work program assigned 100 men to clear the nearly 5,800 acres. Almost simultaneously with the onset of the work, on Nov. 30,1939, Secretary of War Harry H. Woodring announced that the future base would be named for Col. MacDill.

Forty-five years later, in 1994, MacDill became home to the 6th Air Base Wing and then the 6th Air Mobility Wing on Jan. 1, 2001.

The history.

"Since finding out about my relation to Col. MacDill, I have found more interest in finding out as much about him as I can," said McClure. "His example of excellence drives me to be the best military member and NCO that I can be. I encourage everyone to look into their own family history because you never know what interesting facts you might find out."