Alexander Field: A changing purpose
By City Times staff
Continued from a previous edition
When World War II ended in 1945, German Prisoners of War anticipated going home; however, many of the POWs remained in the United States, working until 1946. From there, they were taken to Europe as part of a reparations agreement.
In Europe, they spent more time as laborers in France, the United Kingdom, and Russia. Some didn’t return to their homes until 1953.
Their departure created a loss of laborers in the cranberry industry and placed a calm over the airfield.
As the POW era ended at the facilities, local residents recall a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) branch being stationed there in the 1950s.
As the Cold War emerged, the patrol worked with the Air Force and civil defense groups, and the CAP became instrumental with search and rescue and natural disaster relief efforts.
On a larger scale, CAP assisted with monitoring nuclear fallout and tracking artificial satellites.
Toward the end of the decade, improvements were being made to the airfield, with grass runways resurfaced using a byproduct from the paper mill – sulfite liquor road binder.
In addition, John Alexander purchased all of the outstanding stock and donated the airfield to the connecting municipalities, which at that time included the village of Biron, town of Grand Rapids, city of Nekoosa, village of Port Edwards, and the city of Wisconsin Rapids.
Now municipally-owned, the airfield was renamed “Alexander Field” in honor of its originator.
Since then, Biron was separated from ownership of the field.
In the 1960s, Midstate Airlines began scheduled flights in and out of the field, servicing Chicago, Marshfield, Milwaukee, and Wisconsin Rapids.
MidState’s connecting service grew to 17 destinations, with a fleet of 27 planes, before discontinuing operation in 1989.
During its time of operation, numerous buildings were added to the property, including a terminal built in the early 1970s and multiple hangars.
The original hangar still remains as the single-most reminder of its history as Tri-City Airways. The building remains largely as it was at the time of construction.
Through the end of the century and into the next, Alexander Field would take on an unassuming presence in South Wood County, but the airport would soon hit a new stride.
With the help of state and federal grant funds, the historic airfield would soon regain some momentum as local municipalities look toward the future.
Next week: Building on its future