Fort Wolters Main Gate

From 1941 to 1973, the Fort Wolters Main Gate provided access to various military services located on the base, which, by that time, had spread over thousands of acres.

Fort Wolters Gate 1968

The photo above shows the gate as it was in 1968.

Activated in 1956, the U. S. Army Primary Helicopter School trained more than 41,000 students from 30 countries, all of whom passed through this gate during the posts’ 17 years of operation. Named The Primary Helicopter Center in 1956, the base was renamed Fort Wolters in 1963 and provided basic and primary flight training for U. S. Army rotary-wing pilots. The base also trained helicopter pilots for the Marine Corps in 1968 and for the Air Force in 1970. By 1970, Fort Wolters spread over 8,500 acres, plus an additional 1,700 acres of leased land, to provide space for more than 1,000 helicopters.

In 1967, Colonel Robert O. Lambert, Commander, U.S. Army Primary Helicopter Center and Fort Wolters, Texas, tasked Troop Command (parent organization of the four WOC companies) to build and erect an arch over the main gate. Lieutenant Colonel John L. Holladay, Commander, Troop Command assigned the job to 2nd WOC Company. Major Roy Steves commanded 2nd WOC at the time. His Executive Officer, James Dixon, who led Warrant Officer Candidate (WOC) Class # 67-5, volunteered to manage the project. Dixon, along with others associated with the base, came together in early 1967 to build the archway, shown above, from assorted materials gathered from the base.

Mr. Dixon provided the details below about its construction. He had worked on commercial construction before joining the Army, had served in two Army Construction Engineer Battalions, and taught engineering subjects in the Special Forces Training Group, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina prior to attending Flight School in WOC Class 64-2W. The Post Engineer’s office was tasked to provide support.

Dixon identified three major issues: limited budget; a long span (more than eighty feet as he recalls) and no in-house labor.

The Post Engineer and Dixon mitigated the limited budget  issue by finding surplus materials to use — steel H-beams for supports, numerous lengths of channel iron for the arch’s framework and steel mesh to cover the front.

The Post Engineer was concerned about the long span of the arch. The span was at least twice that of the Fort Rucker arch. But, it was finally agreed to move forward.

With no money to hire a contractor and no expertise available in the Post Engineer’s office, Dixon proposed using WOC volunteers. WOC Class 67-21 was the resident class in 2nd WOC Company at the time. Dixon was confident that, in a class of 320 people, he could find several candidates with experience in steel work and welding, and he did. Two WOCs served as key personnel, one a welder and the other an ironworker.

The Post Engineer provided a welding machine, a transit, engineer chains and tapes, sledgehammer, railroad spikes and other items. Using the transit, engineer tape, and chalk, and rough sketches, Dixon laid out the arch on the asphalt pavement behind 2nd WOC Company. The workers drove railroad spikes about every four feet along the chalk template, then bent, secured, and welded the steel channel irons. Step by tedious step, the arch was fabricated in two sections, to be put together on site. Footings were dug and two steel H-beams were set in each footing and concrete poured around the H-beams. The sole plate holes of the arch were designed to line up with holes in the top plates of the H-beams so the structure could be bolted together. The two sections of arch were loaded on low-bed trucks, hauled to the site and connected together. The arch was set in place with a truck-mounted crane. Workers lined up the holes in the steel plates, bolted the plates together, and declared the project a success.

A few weeks later, the Post Engineer added the letters, patches, and wings to the structure.

In 1968, two helicopters were mounted on pedestals made from the modified guardhouses moved from the original “Old” Camp Wolters gate. The archway was installed later that year. Other modifications such as lighting, walls, signs and landscaping were added over time until Fort Wolters was officially closed in 1974.

After its closing, various parts of the base were given to the City of Mineral Wells and other groups. In 1975, it was renamed Wolters Industrial Park and the archway was changed to reflect the new name. The helicopters and other items near the gate were removed.

In the Summer of 2010, a committee was formed to oversee the restoration of the gate to its general appearance in 1968.

The photo below shows the gate and arch as it was in the Summer of 2010, prior to its removal to begin the restoration process.

Fort Wolters Gate 2010

On 12 March 2011, the Fort Wolters Gate Committee dedicated the archway, now restored to its original appearance to honor its history and the history of Fort Wolters.

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