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Payne Field zooms. [volume] : (Payne Field, West Point, Miss.) 1918-1919
Place of publication:
Payne Field, West Point, Miss.
Geographic coverage:
  • West Point, Clay, Mississippi  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Dates of publication:
  • Began in 1918; ceased with volume 1, number 21 (January 15, 1918[1919]).
  • English
  • Mississippi--West Point.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01221652
  • West Point (Miss.)--Newspapers.
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Description based on: Volume I, Number 3 (September 4, 1918); title from masthead.
  • Latest issue consulted: Volume 1, Number 21 (Jan. 15, 1918[1919]).
  • Published at the military base at Payne Field.
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Payne Field zooms. [volume] September 4, 1918 , Image 1


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Payne Field Zooms

The United States entered the "Great War" on April 6, 1917 with virtually no experienced air force.  The Army had to build flying schools rapidly to train pilots for the Air Service, a division of the Signal Corps. They developed a standardized airfield design to create uniform training camps in record time. One of these facilities, Payne Field, was located in central Mississippi, about five miles north of West Point, the Clay County seat of government.

The Mississippi facility trained approximately 1,500 pilots using Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" biplanes starting May 1918. Four months after flight training began, the first issue of the eight-page Payne Field Zooms was "… started as a friendly unofficial organ of social exchange, with no axes to grind …." The paper lived up to its stated purpose, printing news about new arrivals, departures, promotions, transfers, training accidents, social events, athletic competitions and other news about life in the military and at the base. Normally published on Wednesdays, the paper was intended for cadets and staff at the airfield, as well as citizens of nearby towns. On August 29, 1918, a base training airplane dropped a mailbag containing 135 copies of the paper on Aberdeen, 16 miles away, causing the paper to boast that the "Zooms [is the] only paper in the world to have airplane delivery." Weekly "drops" were planned for Tupelo, Okolona, and Columbus.

Several notable events were covered by the Zooms. The September 4, 1918 issue reported that the field's military police captured local "moonshiners" who were selling their corn whiskey to base personnel. Another story involving a local related the request of a paralyzed 12-year-old Okolona boy Wardie Dawson who would sit in his front yard and watch the fliers perform stunts. Dawson asked that his letter receive a reply via airplane. The boy's thank you letter appeared in the September 11, 1918 issue under the headline "Wardie Overjoyed by his Aerial Mail." October editions covered the local impact of the influenza pandemic that swept across the world in 1918. The illness caused the delay of a "gymkhana" event at Payne Field, which eventually took place over the Thanksgiving holiday. A preceding issue contained a schedule of events including stunt and formation flying, while the succeeding issue announced winners of foot races and marksmanship competitions.

The end of the war meant the end of publication for the Zooms. Germany signed the armistice that ended World War I on November 11, 1918. When the farewell edition of the Payne Field Zooms was published January 15, 1919, the future of the flying field was uncertain. A little over a year later, in March 1920, Payne Field closed permanently.

Provided by: Mississippi Department of Archives and History