Special Alert
Special Alert
Gerstner Airfield

Gerstner Field

Gertsner Museum Old PlanesAlmost a century ago Southwest Louisiana was home to one of the key training grounds for US pilots for the efforts in World War I. Twenty miles northwest of Cameron, near Holmwood, it was home to between 2,000 and 3,000 people, with 94 building, and 24 hangars that housed 140 airplanes.

GerstnerLake Charles and surrounding area residence were given their first glimpses of aircraft as the pilots' training maneuvers often flew over the towns and residences. In nearby Big Lake, a Gunnery Range was setup for target practice on hydrogen filled balloons; this training proved invaluable for the many pilots that would later be flying over France in missions during the war. Some of the nearby towns went as far as to clear out private air strips for the pilots to land and civilians made their homes open to the many trainees that lived on the base. While the base was in operation it saw its fair share of highs and lows. One of the most high profile accidents to occur at the field was the death of a former mayor of New York City, Maj. John Purroy Mitchel. Mitchel died on July 6, 1918 when recovering from a failed landing, his airplane suddenly dived, causing him to fall out of the cockpit and drop 500 feet to his death. The inquiry investigating the accident concluded he fell because he hadn't fastened his seat belt. Additional tragedy struck when a hurricane arrived on Aug. 6, 1918 that almost completely destroyed Gerstner. Three military men were killed and many of the hangers were damaged destroying about 100 planes.

Air AmbulanceGerstner Field disappeared almost just as fast as it had come. Built in 1917, the structure on the site had either been torn down or relocated. Among the amenities was a hospital, two flight training schools, two fire stations, a YMCA, photography studio, shoe and clothing repair shops, tennis courts and a band pavilion where famous entertainers would perform.

Today, not much is left of the base except for a few scattered foundations, overgrown weeds, rice fields, and a historical marker commemorating a place where the sky was the limit for American heroes.

Guide IconClick here to download the Historic Calcasieu Parish Guide! 

 

 

Snap 'N' Tag #VisitLakeCharles
Getaway Guide
Explore Our

Getaway Guide

online or print

Events

Events

Best-selling author, speaker and role-model, Sadie Robertson, announces her 16-city Live Original Fall 2017 Tour. The tour encourages tens of thousands of young adults “to live uniquely and be Read More →
Join us for an evening with spirits at the Museum! We invite our guests to join us for a spooky evening of scary ghost stories and wine tasting at the Museum. Throughout the evening Read More →
Come out to Louisiana's largest corn maze! Our 2017 season will be open September 30th- November 26th! October hours: Friday nights from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM, Saturday from 10:00 AM Read More →
This October: Get ready to enjoy four fascinating movies on Fridays this month during "Movies Under the Stars." Movies start at sundown - close to 8 p.m. - but get there early Read More →
Zombies are coming to Louisiana…again. Early reports say they are feeding in the area of Sulphur…and their numbers are growing. The wait is over! Bayou Games presents Zombie Hunt Read More →
E-News Sign Up