The history of the Walterboro Airport dates back to 1933 when the Anderson Airfield, the first airbase in Colleton County, was built and dedicated on 60 acres leased to the town of Walterboro by the estate of C. C. Anderson, for whom it was named. By 1937, the town purchased the field and its three unpaved landing strips. Local, state and federal sources generated a fund to enlarge an existing hangar and pave runways in 1941. The Army Air Corps leased the field from the town in early 1942 and purchased an additional 3,712 acres to create a new Walterboro Army Air Field. The Walterboro Army Air Field opened in August 1942 and was a sub-base in the 3rd Air Force. The Air Field served as the final training base for pilots prior to overseas duty and housed 6,000 military personnel as well as a compound for hundreds of German Prisoners of War.
The Army Air Forces Fourth Service Command conducted combat air crew training on this site. The Tuskegee Airmen were part of this effort. They were located near Tuskegee Circle, which is now the site of Walterboro High School. Many notable objectives were completed here. Trained pilots and crews went directly to combat in many parts of the world. Seven of the famous Doolittle Tokyo Raiders were trained in Walterboro. The largest camouflage school in the country was located here.
Approximately 600 acres were used for bomb storage. Air Combat support was provided from Walterboro for many important defense facilities and cities, such as Santee Cooper Dams, Parris Island Marine Base, the Navy Yard and Charleston. This was a very desirable airfield location because it had good flying weather and was beyond the range of hostile Navy guns. Effective November 15, 1945, the total installation was classified as surplus and the US of America conveyed the property to the Town of Walterboro and County of Colleton as tenants in common.
In 1946 the SC General Assembly created the Walterboro Colleton County Airport Commission, which governs the airport today.
Within the Walterboro Army Airfield Memorial Park, located on airport grounds, stands a monument honoring the Tuskegee Airmen. The engraving on the monument reads, “The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. In honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, their instructors and ground support personnel who participated in training at Walterboro Army Airfield during the Second World War. Because of their heroic action in combat they were called Schwartze Vogelmenschen ‘Black Bird Men’ by the Germans who both feared and respected them. White American bomber crews in reverence referred to them as “Red Tail Angels” because of the identifying red paint on their tail assemblies and because of their reputation for not losing any aircraft they provided fighter coverage for missions over strategic targets in Europe.”
Another monument in the memorial park contains an actual artifact from airport history. This monument has a plaque with the inscription, “In 1945 the Army deeded the Walterboro Army Airfield, previously know as Anderson Field, jointly to the City of Walterboro and Colleton County, including all surplus equipment. The Beacon (Aircraft Guiding Light) was left as part of the surplus equipment. In 1996, World War II buffs, from out of state, were caught making off with a load of military artifacts, including this Beacon. Fortunately they were stopped. This pedestal was constructed for the Beacon by students from the Thunderbolt Career and Technology Center. The Beacon was manufactured by Westinghouse in 1933, beaming a light for all military planes flying here during World War II. Harry Cone, Chairman, Colleton Region Airport Commission. Johnnie Thompson, Park Overseer, Walterboro Army Airfield Memorial. Budd Price, Chairman, Colleton County Preservation and Historical Society.”
Over the years the commission has given or sold land to industry, schools and state agencies, which at the time helped with our economy. Our present terminal was built in 1977 and refurbished in 2003. The Airport Commission is now working hand in hand with the Colleton County Economic Alliance to create a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) at the airport.