Westover's Founding Figure

  • Published
  • By Dr. Héctor Manuel Torres-Camacho
  • 439th Airlift Wing

Much has been said regarding Westover ARB’s WWII history and its involvement in the Berlin Airlift, but what about its founding figure? 

Today’s Westover ARB was established largely through the efforts of Anthony J. Stonina (1898-1974), a Polish immigrant and dynamic politician with a taste for large-scale infrastructural projects.  In 1926, Stonina and William Sergeant, a former U.S. Army pilot, conducted an air survey over Chicopee to identify areas suitable for airfields.  At the time, these were desirable for military, economic, and entertainment purposes. 

One of the areas they identified was a large farming field near Chicopee Falls.  In 1939, Germany invaded Poland and an enraged Stonina, then Chicopee’s mayor, offered the site identified by Sergeant to the War Department for the construction of a military airfield.  The site was quickly accepted and construction began that same year. 

The new U.S. Army Air Forces airfield opened its gates on 6 April 1940, with one airstrip dedicated to Maj. Gen. Oscar Westover (1883-1938), former U.S. Army Air Corps Chief of Staff who died in a tragic airplane crash in California.