During World War II, the primary mission of Scott Field was to produce radio operators and mechanics for the Army Air Corps/Army Air Force in all theaters of the conflict.
Every U.S. Army aircraft in WW II with more than one engine, including transport aircraft, medium bombers, and heavy bombers, most likely had a graduate of the Scott Field Radio School manning the radio compartment and possibly, in the case of the B-17 bomber, acting as an aerial gunner. Altogether, Scott Field produced over 77,000 radio operators from 1939-45, including one Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.
When Japan surrendered to the Allies Sept. 2, 1945, the requirement to train radio operators for the war effort suddenly ceased and the need to efficiently demobilize the approximately 2.4 million members of the U.S. Army Air Force began.
The Scott Field Separation Center was developed to separate the approximately 150,000 Army Air Forces Airmen caught in the end-of-WW II logjam at other separation bases throughout the U.S. In addition, the Separation Center would process the discharges of approximately 100 Scott Field Airmen per day whose home of record was within 300 miles of the base.
Scott Field immediately adapted Bldg. P-10, today’s home of the 375th Force Support Squadron and the 375th Comptroller Squadron, into the Scott Field Separation Center. During WW II, Bldg. P-10 (Bldg. 920) had been one of the largest Radio School facilities. Col. F.F. Christine, the Scott Field executive officer, was the commandant of the Separation Center, Lt. Col. Eugene C. LaVier was the center’s executive officer, and Capt. A.C. Field was the Center Adjutant.
Processing at the Discharge Center lasted approximately 36 hours and 200 Airmen per day eligible for separation were processed, with 100 Airmen receiving their honorable discharge certificates and the “ruptured duck” emblem on their uniform shirts and coats. Overage Airmen were given top priority.
The phases of the discharge process at the Separation Center were:
▪ Registration: Registration and receipt of service records upon arrival;
▪ Guides: Personnel were processed in groups of twenty Airmen and each group was assigned a guide from beginning to end);
▪ Clothing: All military clothing was turned in to be checked. Airmen received a complete issue of serviceable clothing to wear home. A “ruptured duck” honorable discharge emblem and rank insignia were sewn onto the new uniforms;
▪ Billeting: Airmen were assigned a barracks with a bunk and clean linen;
▪ Orientation: Airmen were shown several short films regarding their rights and privileges as honorably discharged veterans;
▪ Medical examination: Airmen were given a final medical exam and could report any disabilities;
▪ Counseling: Airmen received counseling from the Red Cross, Veteran’s Administration, Civil Service Commission, the U.S. Employment Service, and other agencies regarding rights and privileges as veterans and information needed for future employment;
▪ Final pay: Airmen signed the payroll and received all the money due to date, including mileage, pay deposits, and mustering-out pay; and
▪ Discharge: Airmen were escorted by their guides to Chapel No. 1 (located between today’s Warmer HAWC and the Area Defense Counsel Office) where Col. Neal Creighton, commander of Scott Field, informally addressed the Airmen and presented them with their honorable discharge certificate and lapel button on behalf of the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces. Transportation was provided to the railroad station for the journey to the Airmen’s home of record.
The first group of service members to complete out-processing from the Army Air Forces at the Scott Field Separation Center were Maj. Philip Lerner, 1st Lt. Martin Weinstein, Tech. Sgt. Carl A. Knutson, Sgt. Sam Muchnick, and Pvt. William E. Landreth. Sgt. Muchnick (1905-98) of St. Louis was a major promoter of professional wrestling before and after WW II in St. Louis and developer of the popular television program, “Wrestling at the Chase.” In 1948, he was instrumental in establishing the National Wrestling Alliance, which became the industry’s governing body, serving as the NWA President from 1950-60 and 1963-75.
The final day of operation at the Scott Field Separation Center was Nov. 4, 1945. It is not known precisely how many Airmen were discharged at the Scott Field Separation Center in the three brief months it existed to welcome the Army Air Force’s WW II veterans back home to their families and to civilian life, but it was in the thousands.