Historic Hempstead Plains - Nassau County, Long Island

The 2nd TOW Squadron at Mitchel Field.*



How would you like to make a living getting shot at (or at least close to)? Well the pilots in the 2nd Tow Target Squadron did. I am guessing, but I feel it is safe to say that the tow rope just couldn't be long enough. The photo of the emblem1 above was sent to me by Gene Collins. Mr. Collins served at Mitchel Field from 1957 till 1958 in the 2nd Tow Target Squadron.

The 2nd Tow Squadron moved in to Mitchel in 1954. It took over the facilities that were previously used by the 465th Troop Carrier Wing. On January 26th, 1954, the 465th was reassigned to a base in France. On March of 1954, the 465th was both airlifted out and ground transported out in a convoy. The convoy consisted of a large number of buses and tractor trailers. It left by way of the Staten Island port of Embarkation on March 23rd, 1954.2

According to Mr. Grant, who also served in the 2nd TOW, they occupied an area of the Santini sub base. Here is Mr. Grant's description of their location at Santini.

"... I can remember on the Santini side of the base there was a dependent trailer park down on the corner of Hempstead Turnpike and the road that crossed it at Meadowbrook country&golf club there was a Dave Shores on the corner also. There was a dependent housing area on the Roslyn side4. The 2nd Tow Target Sqdn admin, supply, & chow hall was at the main Santini entrance."3

The following is also from Mr. Grant. It describes the locations, the activity and the purpose.

"A tow target is a long red Cloth sleeve towed behind an aircraft on a cable a couple thousand feet behind it. Most missions were out over the water, (Montauk point) was the site for Long Island. We also towed targets in Georgia, Ohio, Michigan and Canada. The army practiced anti air craft gunnery on the targets..."3 - Jay Grant

In further, Email revelations, Harold Kline writes;

"... partially correct in the the area covered by the "Rag-Drag" guys, but we actually towed for the Army from Thule AFB to Panama, and from The Mississippi to The Azores. One of our benefits was the TDY at some pretty exotic locations.

If anyone is interested, we flew Douglas B-26s with the tow sleeves,
but we also had two T-33 jets and one C-47 "Gooney Bird." I discovered
one of the old B-26s at an air show here in Kansas City last year. It
is still flying and is in excellent condition, although it no longer sports
the colors and insignia of 2nd Tow.

By the way, I drove the squadron bus every morning from the Santini
Area across to the flight line and then back again in the afternoon. Anyone
who was in the squadron at that tine will remember those trips...."6

- Harold Kline

Here is a further description of the 2nd Tow equipment and missions from Jack Barclay.

"We flew B-26 B & C Douglas Invader aircraft to tow targets. We also towed
targets in Wisconsin & Massachusetts. We flew out of the following sites
when we were TDY ( temporary duty) towing targets:

  • Muskegan Mich. (civil field)
  • Traverse City, Mich. ( Coast Guard Air Station)
  • Truax AFB Madison, Wis.
  • General Mitchell Field Milwaukee, Wis. (civil field)
  • Glenview Naval Air Station Glenview, ILL.
  • Hunter AFB Savannah, GA.
  • Travis Field Savannah, GA. (civil field)
  • Otis AFB Mass.

We towed targets over Lake Michigan when we flew out of Wis. Mich. & ILL.. The sites we towed over Lake Michigan were near Muskegan, Mich. &
Sherboygan Wisc. The Canada towing site was at Sault Ste. Marie, The site we towed for in Ga. was over land near Liberty, Ga....

Mr. Barclay further writes that he was in the 2nd Tow Squadron from 1953 to till 1956. Jack indicates that during that time the 2nd Tow did not have any T33 aircraft. It did have a B-29 and a B-45 jet bomber while they were at New Castle AFB Del. This equipment was not brought to Mitchel Field."5

Courtesy of Jack Barclay

Jim Herrold also wrote regarding the 2nd TOw Squadron activities. His description follows:

"I can further add to, Jack Barclay's description of 2nd Tow flights.
Having served in the 2nd Tow from Sept. 1951 to Jan. 1955. In 1953, I
was a B-26 flight engineer and in addition to towing targets we flew 5-6
hour missions over major East Coast cities. This was to simulate air
attacks and test our radar controlled antiaircraft batteries. We dropped
packets of aluminum foil to confuse the radar. I had talked to one of
the battery operators who said that when we flew over his base, they were
called to their battle stations. One time he was called to his station
from the movie theatre. He never did see the end of the movie."7

Courtesy of Jim Herrold

My thanks to those Mitchel Field Veterans who provided this information.

* corrected on 3/19/01 with updates on 3/27/2001

Scenes of Mitchel Field - Courtesy of 2nd Tow Squadron Vets

The 2nd Tow moved to Mitchel Field about April/May,1954. This is my favorite of 2nd Tow at Mitchel Field. It is a picture taken in 1954 and the two hangers together on the left are 2nd Tow's with 12, B-26 parked on the line. I believe the two C-46's are of the 514th Troop Carrier Wing. The hanger for these was next to 2nd Tow's and off the picture. The hanger at the top was for the Navy.

Jim Herrold - Lancaster,PA

2nd Tow equipment

courtesy of Jay Grant.

1) Emblem - courtesy of Gene Collins.
2). 1954 Base Historical reports.
3)Description of 2nd TOW - Jay Grant.
4) The Roslyn side is the "boom Town" area north of the rail. The Roslyn Air Base was a sub base of Mitchel Field. Also, I believe the main Santini entrance was just south of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Hempstead Turnpike. Further, it should be noted that activities, missions and building uses change over time. Sometimes these changes can cause apparent differences, not real differences.
5) Description provided by Jack Barclay.
6) Description provided by Harold Kline.
7) Description provided by Jim Herrold.


Back to main page.