Our History

Founding and Construction

During the spring of 1941, leading citizens of Grayson County were discussing the possibility of acquiring a tract of land to lease to the Federal Government for some sort of government installation. At first they were considering the feasibility of a powder manufacturing munitions plant.

In March 1941, the late County Judge Jake J. Loy of Sherman went to Washington, D.C., to further the project idea. As he discussed it with various officials, an idea developed. In cooperation with the United States Army Air Corps expansion program, Judge Loy secured favorable considerations for a basic flying training school for Grayson County.

County Commissioners began to work on the project and the tract of land originally selected for the powder or munitions plant was found to be suitable for a flying field.

L. B. Omohundro, Sherman Chamber of Commerce president and T. J. Long, Denison Chamber of Commerce president, held options on the site. On June 10, 1941, the Grayson County voters approved a sixty-thousand-dollar bond election for the purchase of the tract of land which would be leased to the United States Government. By December 1941, Perrin Field was under construction and early cadres were in place getting equipment and support services set up for the opening of the flying school. Perrin Air Force Base began as an Army Air Field and was one of the first basic flying training schools to become operational following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Early Development

The first person assigned to the Perrin Army Air Field was Major Robert Warren who reported for duty and assumed the project officer, temporary Commanding Officer, and military representative roles on August 9, 1941. Ten days later, five enlisted men arrived from Goodfellow Army Air Field, San Angelo, Texas to assist Major Warren in development of the airstrip, hangers, barracks, and field headquarters building.

Upon arrival, the men found the field knee deep in mud, a bedlam of half erected buildings, and piles of lumber everywhere as well with construction crews busy at work.

On August 21, 1941, one airplane, a BT-14, was assigned for general use.

Other officers arrived from Goodfellow Field during September. By the middle of October ten officers were assigned to Perrin. Early arrivals had to drive to the airfield over a muddy unpaved new road and carrying their lunches.

When carloads of supplies arrived at Pottsboro railroad station, sergeants and privates rolled up their sleeves and loaded boxes and other supplies on to Army trucks heading for Perrin airfield. More personnel arrived during October 1941. Old timers in the area will recall that long mess tables, packing crates, and typewriter boxes and nail kegs served as office furniture. The Commanding Officer, Adjutant, First Sergeant, Post Office and file clerks shared these.

On November 12, 1941, Lieutenant Colonel Donald G. Stitt was assigned to Perrin Field and assumed command as the first Commanding Officer of Perrin. Major Warren continued to serve as the field project officer.

The first civilian employees came to Perrin Field on November 3, 1941. One secretary, Ms. Dorothy Parrigan was hired for the Commanding Officer, and two telephone operators came on board.  By this time, there were 17 officers and 6 enlisted men at Perrin.

The finance department opened on November 17, 1941, and four days later handled the first payroll payments direct to the enlisted men.  Soon after the first barracks building was completed and was used as field headquarters.

By November 28, 1941, four more airplanes had been assigned to the field. They were BT-13 Consolidated Vultee aircraft. Large groups of men started arriving from school squadrons for aircraft maintenance, training duties, medical services, weather forecasters, communications technicians, food service personnel, and quartermaster duties.

Perrin Field headquarters building was not ready for occupancy until January 17, 1942. Up to then, the various headquarters functions were carried on in the crowded and unheated barracks.

In spite of the difficulties in training facilities and construction activities, the pioneering class of cadets was graduated on schedule on February 23, 1942. The first graduating class was also the occasion for the official dedication of the new school as Perrin Field in honor of the late Lieutenant Colonel Elmer Daniel Perrin. Colonel Perrin was a native of Boerne, Texas.

Colonel Perrin had been an Army Air Corps officer since 1918, he was killed on June 2, 1941, in a crash of a B-26 Medium Mitchell Bomber. He was on a test flight from the Glenn L. Martin plant near Baltimore, Maryland where he was assigned as military liaison to the manufacturer.

A continuing stream of officers and enlisted men came to Perrin Field with the strength growing rapidly from 617 to 4,280 enlisted personnel by December 1, 1942.  The quick troop strength outpaced barracks availability and tents had to be erected for temporary use.

As Perrin Field continued its operations, operational problems were ironed out and the field, like most Army Air Corps facilities, was adjusting to the vast expansion necessitated by the country’s entry into World War II in the Pacific.

From 1943, Perrin Field thoroughly organized and branched out into other activities and mission changes. Through the years, Perrin was a testing station, sort of a “Guinea Pig” for many new ideas that were adopted by the United States Air Force as well as other branches of the Armed Forces.

A road leading from Perrin Field to Texas Highway 75, now Farm to Market Highway 691, was built by Grayson County Work Project Administration (WPA) and Bureau of Public Roads, over which buses ran hourly to Sherman and Denison, Texas.  Grayson County communities held out helping hands to ‘Perrinites’, often inviting them into their homes and to participate in local events.

The ever-increasing number of cadets graduated in each class of Perrin Field was evidenced of Perrin’s contribution to the war effort following Pearl Harbor attack.

Perrin Field was deactivated on November 30, 1946, after graduating over 10,000 flight students. The base was then reactivated on April 1, 1948 and Perrin Field resumed an essential element to National Defense as the Korean War heated up. Many changes came from involvement in the Korean War 1950-1953.

The Active Years

In December 1951, it was determined that Perrin Field’s mission would become a training base for all weather interceptor crews, which was a new mission for the Air Training Command. Meanwhile, Perrin was designated to conduct two temporary missions. One was phase one of basic single engine pilot training and the other involved transition training with the B26 medium bomber.

Perrin Field was designated a permanent United States Air Force installation on July 17, 1952, and officially changed to Perrin Air Force Base. In September 1952, Perrin was reassigned to Crew Training Air Force and its mission changed to training aircrews for combat. On April 1, 1958, Training Air Force was eliminated as a part of project “Direct Line,” and Perrin was assigned to the Air Training Command. Since its inception, Perrin has trained pilots in aircraft such as B-13’s, AT-6’s, B-26’s, and moving into the Jet Age, the T-33’s, F-86’s (D’s and L’s) as well as the Delta Wing F-102 Delta Daggers and a few F106’s the Delta Dart.  A short course for both the B-58 and F-101 lead-in training was also conducted with the F-102

Perrin Air Force Base has trained its share of heroes who performed well in combat. The students were awarded medals and became jet aces in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Beginning on June 1, 1962, Perrin served under the Aerospace Defense Command with headquarters at Ent Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Perrin’s last operational wing was the 4780th Aerospace Defense Wing. The wing absorbed the personnel of the Air Training Command’s 3555th Flying Training Wing.

While Perrin trained pilots for the Aerospace Defense Command, it also manned its own Aerospace Defense Alert Unit with members of its permanent party rotating from training assignment to serve on combat alert duty. F102’s stood on ‘hard alert’ equipped with AIM 4 missiles of either a radar guided version or infrared version. It also carried the AIM -26A nuclear warhead or AIM-26B expanding metal rod warhead.  This was cold war time and they were standing by to defend against Bear…’Russian Bears’.

As an added mission Perrin was the Aerospace Defense Command’s Life Support School established nearby Lake Texoma.  Pilots were trained in ejection seat procedures as well as parachuting into and recovering from water landings. These pilots were from the Command and Air National Guard pilots assigned to the Aerospace Defense Command’s mission. Many astronauts also attended the Life Support School at Perrin’s site.

The wing trained pilots through its numerous courses and graduates were combat-ready-trained in the F102 aircraft and assigned to active units. Many pilots completed lead-in training for further instructions in other aircraft. Most all of Strategic Air Command’s B-58 Hustler Supersonic jet bomber pilot crews were trained in the F-102 Delta Daggers at Perrin Air Force Base before advancing to the B-58’s at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas.

When two B58 Wings were activated at Little Rock AFB and Bunker Hill AFB, Indiana, Perrin continued training SAC crews in life support, ejection seats, and altitude chamber training. Perrin’s mission always maintained an up to date and state of the art mission accomplishments.

Besides serving as a finishing school for pilots, Perrin has furnished volunteers for the Space Program. By 1971, units at Perrin had garnered many honors for outstanding accomplishments, topped by the presentation of three consecutive Air Force Outstanding Presidential Unit Citation awards and the Daedalian Aircraft Maintenance and Supply Trophies.   This award honored the unit that achieved the best supply effectiveness record in the Air Force in support of mission aircraft and/or weapons.

As part of the first publicly released statements regarding the closing of Perrin AFB, Colonel Vermont Garrison said, “The 4780th Aerospace Defense Wing has been one of the most efficient Wings that I have been associated with.”  Colonel Garrison, a WWII, Korea and Vietnam Jet ACE (21 kills, 9 probable’s and 4 shared,) served as the last Wing Commander at Perrin Air Force Base.

Perrin Air Force Base’s closure on June 30, 1971, was a result of changes in pilot training missions, phase out of the F102 fighter interceptor, and the crowded air space when Dallas-Fort Worth International airport opened.


Since base closure, Grayson County gained most of the airport facilities. Grayson County College acquired approximately 400 acres as their “West Campus”.

Three barracks named after enlisted war heroes, Erwin Hall, Jensen Hall, and Mathies Hall, were used as college dormitories. In addition to Grayson College west campus use, a regional juvenile detention center consisting of several modern buildings was built to serve as ‘boot camp’ to turn around the region’s struggling youth.

After the base closing, the airport almost become a ghost town. However, new visionary members to the airport board realized the growth potential of the airport and during the year 2007, Grayson County Airport Board succeeded in getting the airport designated as North Texas Regional Airport – Perrin Field.  Many businesses now reside on the former base grounds as well as commercial aviation operations.

The Historical Society

Perrin Air Force Base Reunions (were) held every other year after the 1971 base closure. An average of 450 former Perrinites, both military and Civil Service regularly attend(ed) each reunion. A weekend of fellowship and the telling of “Perrin’s War Stories,” brought the group back together year after year.

From the reunions, the Perrin Field Historical Society was chartered and through membership and dedicated volunteerism, a Perrin Air Force Base Museum was created. In the beginning, two locations of the museum were in the Silver Wings building (formerly an Airmen’s Service Club), and in the lobby of the airport terminal building.

The Perrin Museum

On February 14, 2004, a new museum (2400 square feet) was dedicated to house the Perrin AFB memorabilia. The walls and display cases quickly were filled with Perrin artifacts. In March 2005, the size of the museum building was doubled to almost 5,000 square feet and once again filled wall to wall with memorabilia.  The original building was located at 4575 Airport Drive, Denison, Texas (northeast of the current terminal and control tower).  This building no longer exists due to other airport renovations.  The museum was moved to the top of the hill at 436 McCullum Avenue to allow growth of other facilities along the flightline.

Admission to the museum is free, but donations are gladly accepted to help cover operating costs.  All docents are volunteers, so all donations go to cover utility and maintenance costs.

Volunteers, many who are former Perrin military and civil service as well as other retirees from the other services, keep the museum open to the public five days per week. Donations from “Friends of Perrin Field – Perrin Air Force Base” allowed the creation of a debt-free museum.

The museum houses thousands of items of memorabilia and displays for all conflicts ranging from the Revolutionary War to the Global War on Terror.  A true T37 “Tweet” jet trainer acquired from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas is on display in the museum. The T37 was one of the training aircraft used on Perrin.

A perpetual fund has been established to assure that Perrin legacy lives beyond the lives of those presently responsible for the Perrin Air Force Base Museum. Contributions to the museum are welcomed. Make these donations payable and/or transferable to the Perrin Air Force Base Historical Museum.

(The preceding history was written by the original museum Director and Curator Emeritus John Elkins, now deceased, with occasional editing for updates and clarity.)

The Perrin Museum, Current Location

In a 2010 New Year’s surprise, we were informed that the new airport master plan had included our leased location. In accordance with our lease’s fine print, we would have to relocate. Fortunately, the cost of construction for the new building and the move of all memorabilia would be paid by the airport and/or other organizations. The new building design and basic floor plans were drawn up by then Museum Director James W. Farris after consultation with the museum directors and the building contractor.

Director and Curator Emeritus John Elkins coordinated with the Grayson County College Board of Directors and President for a land lease from within their jurisdictional area. It was approved and a 50-year contract with signed between the Perrin AFB Historical Museum and Grayson County College, Denison, Texas on February 23, 2010. The new Museum address is 436 S. McCullum Avenue. The new Museum building is on the same spot where the former Perrin Base Exchange was located.

In 2022, thanks to a generous donation by Bill and Peggy Byers, the “Byers Hanger” was added to the museum.  This addition allowed the permanent display of Texoma Hero photos, which had previously been placed on display periodically by the city of Denison.  The museum is proud to have the photos of local military men and women on permanent display.  The ‘Hanger’ also allowed the creation of several new exhibits and a significant military art display.