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Last recorded flight to Johnson's Ranch


On this day in 1943, the last flight to Johnson's Ranch in the Big Bend was recorded. Elmo Johnson established Johnson's Ranch, sixteen miles downriver from Castolon, in 1927. Johnson's Ranch entered the air age two years later. Photographer W. D. Smithers, who lived on the ranch for several years, helped convince the United States Army Air Corps to establish an emergency landing field there in response to border unrest. Although the airfield was never used for its intended purpose, military traffic remained brisk, as a host of young airmen based in San Antonio sought rest and recreation at Johnson's Ranch. Official justification varied with the individual: "cross-country navigation," "strange field landings," "building up air time," etc. Yet all was not rest and recreation, as flight surgeons from Randolph Field established a free clinic for the local Mexican population. The field register, listing the pilots' names and the type of aircraft they flew, documents the rapid development of United States airpower during the 1930s. Air traffic continued temporarily even after the state purchased Johnson Ranch in 1942 for inclusion in Big Bend National Park, as the ranch became a regular stop for the Civil Air Patrol's Southern Liaison Patrol.

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