Built in the summer of 1941 on the site of several abandoned cotton fields, the airfield included barracks, a ground school, and administration buildings. The U.S. Army contracted with the Georgia Air Service to operate the flight school.
A pilot training airfield and German prisoner-of-war camp located near Bennettsville from 1941 to 1945, Palmer Field was named in honor of Captain William W. Palmer, a Bennettsville resident who earned a Distinguished Service Cross in World War I serving with Eddie Rickenbacker’s Ninety-fourth Pursuit Squadron. Built in the summer of 1941 on the site of several abandoned cotton fields, the airfield included barracks, a ground school, and administration buildings. The U.S. Army contracted with the Georgia Air Service to operate the flight school. In October 1941 the first cadets began training with a civilian staff of sixteen flight instructors, which grew to fifty-nine by the end of the following month along with some two hundred support personnel. Palmer Field was a primary training facility, the first of three stages toward earning a pilot’s commission. Each class trained on Stearman PT-17s for nine weeks before moving on to the next stage at another field. The first graduating class had its ceremony disrupted on December 7, 1941, because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that same day. An estimated two thousand trainees came through Palmer from 1941 until early 1944. Late the same year Palmer Field became a prisoner-of-war camp for an estimated 244 Germans who were employed on local farms and forestry enterprises. By the middle of 1945 the camp was deactivated. Later the site served as a drive-in movie theater and then a chicken farm before Powell Manufacturing purchased it for manufacturing tobacco-growing equipment in the early 1960s.
Moore, John H. “Nazi Troopers in South Carolina, 1944–1946.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 81 (October 1980): 306–15.