Monroe Airport History

Monroe Regional Airport (MLU) - the birthplace of Delta Airlines - is served by Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and United Airlines. Direct flights are available to Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston. The Monroe Regional Airport provides commercial and cargo service for Ouachita parish, the surrounding 13-parish region, and extends service into Arkansas and Mississippi.

The Army Air Corps

During World War II, the Army Air Corps, later known as the Army Air Forces, operated a navigation training school in Monroe at Selman Field.

The name of the field was taken from of the airport on whose site it was built, the name honors the memory of Lieutenant Augustus James Selman,a United States Navy Aviator, born in Monroe, Louisiana, who died in the line of duty at Norfolk, Va., on November 28, 1921. On June 15, 1942, Selman Field was activated and Colonel Norris B. Harbold, a pioneer in the navigation training program, was named Commanding Officer. Within three months, the field was a full fledged military establishment, consisting of the pre-flight school (bombardier-navigator) and the advanced navigator school. Selman Field continued to grow in size and stature and became the nations largest navigation training school during World War II.

The curriculum consisted of teaching young men how to "get 'em there and get 'em back." The cadet had to know all aspects of navigation in order to determine where he was, where he wanted to go and when he would get there. The science of navigation offered four methods of accomplishing this. The first is pilotage or navigating by landmarks, using maps and charts. The second is dead reckoning, which consist of keeping track of how far you have gone and in what direction since you started, using instruments which measure various aspects of the plane in motion, such as speed, deviation, wind drift and so on. The third method is radio navigation which consists of "riding the beam" from one station to another until you progress to where you want to go. The final way to navigate is by celestial bodies. These are immutable, but you must be able to identify them in their different configurations in all quarters of the heavens at all times of the night and day. Armed with the best knowledge and training possible. The navigation cadets graduated and became members of combat crews.

"Zero Zero" was the navigator's ultimate objective. It means navigating through hundreds of thousands of miles of space, clouds rack, wind, and weather and hitting a dime-sized objective "on the nose" at the precise second you said you would hit it on the nose. One inch off is not Zero Zero. It means right on the button, right on time—perfection. The end of the war brought a decrease in the need for navigators. Selman graduated its last class, October 06, 1945. The field was closed in February, 1946. It reopened as a satellite field of Barksdale Field, Shreveport, Louisiana. Shortly there after Selman re-opened briefly as a independent base. Selman Field was officially deactivated in 1947. The ownership of the property was transferred to the City of Monroe in September of 1949.

Selman Field meet the challenge and provided 15,349 navigators during a critical period of our nation's history. Selman navigation personnel served America well with patriotism, courage, skill, and sacrifice. Those who paid the ultimate price with their lives, we owe a debt that we will never forget nor ever be able to repay.

General Chennault's "Fighting Tigers"
Chennault, Claire L. (1890-1958)


From the cotton fields of Waterproof, Louisiana, came Claire Lee Chennault. Prophetic, Chennault was also a military hero who received at least 17 medals, including the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster. Claire Lee Chennault went from being a school teacher in a one-room school in Athens, Louisiana, on to become a general and leader of the famous Flying Tigers. Chennault arrived at the Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) in 1930 with a reputation as a premier pursuit pilot. His ideas concerning pursuit employment evolved from much thought and practical experience. But Air Corps doctrine was making a decisive shift in favor of bombardment, and Chennault's attempts to stem that tide were futile.

Suffering from a variety of physical ailments and realizing his theories were out of tune with Air Corps policy, he retired in 1937. Soon after, he moved to China, where he served as an adviser to Chiang Kaishek, and formed the Flying Tigers volunteer group to fight against the Japanese. The much storied group of mercenaries turned heroes was well suited to Chennault's aggressive and unconventional personality. When America entered the war, the Flying Tigers were incorporated into the Fourteenth Air Force, and Chennault was promoted to brigadier general and made its commander.

During WWII, Gen. Chennault led the famous "Fighting Tigers" fighter squadron, which kept the Japanese from taking over China during the war. Never on good terms with his Air Corps colleagues, Even if his strategic theories had been correct, his method of promoting them ensured their demise. In fact, his ideas were not sound. He believed that a small force of aircraft, mostly pursuit with a handful of bombers, could so disrupt Japanese logistics as to lead to its eventual defeat. But interdiction campaigns do not win wars, and it is doubtful if any amount of tactical airpower could have prevented Japan from overrunning China, much less brought about its defeat. Though an outstanding tactician, whose determination in the face of overwhelming supply and equipment difficulties kept the Fourteenth Air Force in the field, Chennault's strategic ideas can only be classified as puerile.

Aerial Crop Dusting Develops

If the boll weevil insect had not spread from the Mexican area in the early 1890s, to devastate the cotton fields of the South, there might not have been a Delta Air Lines. When the weevil's destruction reached the Mississippi Valley, such a serious economic threat faced the South that the U.S. Bureau of Entomology set up a laboratory in Tallulah, Louisiana, as the base for an intensified cotton insect investigation.

Directing the activities at the laboratory was Dr. B. R. Coad, whose work was followed with interest by a young district agent of the Extension Department of Louisiana State University, named C. E. Woolman. Woolman, an agricultural engineering graduate of the University of Illinois, was also an aviation enthusiast. Since the airplane was little more than a novelty with an uncertain future at the time, Woolman settled for the more certain future of agriculture.

By 1916, a promising weapon was available: calcium arsenate, a dry powder. What was needed was a method of application that would be faster and more effective than hand sprinkling. Application by air seemed most practical, and Dr. Coad obtained a small appropriation from the U.S. Congress to pursue this experiment. For more long years, Coad's entomologists and Woolman worked with two Army-furnished Jennys, experimenting and perfecting dusting procedures.