Gardeners' Dirt: Officer's Club a venue in midst of history
By Julie Moritz - Victoria County Master GardenerEdited by Charla Borchers Leon
Aug. 23, 2012 at 3:23 a.m.
The Victoria Master Gardener Association assumed responsibility of maintaining and renting the Officer's Club in the heart of Victoria Educational Gardens in May. This building has become a very popular venue.
In May, June and July, there were five weddings, five graduation parties, one shower, one class reunion, one awards dinner, one rehearsal dinner and two business meetings that took place here. The handsome older structure, with adjoining patio overlooking the gardens, is truly lovely for most any occasion.
According to the Texas Historical Commission marker placed at this site, Victoria had secured an aerial gunnery training command, and on April 25, 1941, construction began on an airfield training facility at Victoria Field. The military renamed the site to honor 1st Lt. Arthur L. Foster, an instructor at Brooks Field in San Antonio, who was killed in a plane crash in 1925.
Training Air Force gunners
By September 1941, classes were arriving for training. The cadets received gunnery training on site and practiced in the air at ranges on Matagorda Island and Matagorda Peninsula. In 1942, the military assigned a unit of Women's Army Corps here. Also foreign aviators came. This continued throughout the war.
Jet aviation training
After World War II, the U.S. Department of Defense closed Foster Field, but the Korean War created a need for training facilities. Once again, Victoria secured another military installation, this time for jet aviation training. The base became the Tactical Air Command Control Center for the western United States.
Imagine the officers relaxing in the club after a strenuous day of training exercises. It's an honor to be able to again use this facility once enjoyed by our veterans. By December 1958, the Department of Defense closed its operations at the airfield once and for all. In 1976, Foster Field Air Force Base became Victoria Regional Airport.
A special squadron
The second historical marker states that a very notable group of foreign aviators, the "Aztec Eagles," trained here at then Foster Field. Mexico had declared war against the Axis nations after German U-boats sank their oil tankers in the Gulf.
The government negotiated with the United States to train its military in Texas. Some 300 volunteers arrived at Foster Field in August 1944. Training was fast and furious in the war effort, and the squadron graduated four months later. After final gunnery practice in Brownsville, they were deployed to the Pacific.
In the Philippines, the unit flew 96 combat missions, many successful, against Japanese forces. The 201st Fighter Squadron Mexican Expeditionary Air Force was the only Mexican military unit to see overseas combat in the Pacific. The "Aztec Eagles" remain a source of pride for two neighboring countries.
A garden paver project for families or friends to honor military service member has been established.
The rich military history surrounding the gardens makes it a fitting place for such a tribute to those who served their country. A 4-inch by 8-inch brick paver is laser-inscribed with three lines of information and placed in the Military Honor Garden, just beneath the Officer's Club patio. This is just one more impressive part of the Officer's Club venue. For more information on pavers in the garden, email email@example.com.
Victoria and Victoria Regional Airport complex are rich with history. The Master Gardeners Association is proud to be a part of this complex and hopes the members of this community and surrounding areas will choose the venues we manage for a meeting or special occasion.
What other location so rich with history also provides an immaculately-kept educational garden of almost two acres for your enjoyment?
Consider the Officer's Club for fall and holiday occasions to mark or make your own history. Call the Victoria County Extension Office at 361-575-4581 to reserve a date and for more information.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.