Austin was born to Carl A. and Alice C. (Van Dycke) Straubel on September 14, 1904, one of four children and the couple’s only son. Austin Straubel's grandfather, H. August Straubel, was among the early settlers of Brown County, Wisconsin. His family put down roots in 1846, and he later joined the army and fought for the North in the Civil War. Austin Straubel played tackle on the Green Bay East High School’s football team coached by the famed Curly Lambeau. He attended the University of Wisconsin (Madison) where he continued playing football. After graduating in 1927, he returned to Green Bay and worked at his father’s business, Midwest Cold Storage. Straubel married Isabel Lawson Walthall in 1936 and they moved to Los Angeles, where they had two daughters, Susan and Victoria ("Tori").
Straubel joined the army in 1928. In 1929, an aircraft that he was piloting in Michigan caught fire and crashed; Straubel parachuted to safety. On December 7, 1941, Straubel was commanding the 11th Bombardment Squadron, part of the 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy). The group was stationed at Hamilton Field, Hamilton Air Force Base California, and their ground support troops had sailed on November 21 for the Philippines. Straubel’s squadron was preparing for their flight to the Philippines. The situation was confused: orders called for some aircraft to fly west while others flew east. Joined by the eight others in his crew, Straubel flew Consolidated LB-30 (B-24) AL-609, via the African route, arriving at Singasori Field, Malang, Java at 11:30 am on January 11, 1942. They were part of a mixed group of B-17s and LB-30s, some of which flew missions over the Pacific, while others, like Straubel, flew over the Indian Ocean.
In early 1942, during World War II, it was the scene of naval and air battles as the Allies tried to prevent the Japanese from occupying Borneo called the Battle of Makassar Strait. At the time, Straubel was commander of the 11th Bombardment Squadron and acting commander of the 7th Bombardment Group. Five aircraft were assigned the group’s first mission on January 16. Straubel led three LB-30s and two B-17s. The Liberators were to bomb the airfield at Langoan while the Fortresses were to attack ships in Manado Bay. Straubel earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts that day.
Straubel, unhappy with the relationship between 5th Bomber Command and his 7th Bomb Group, had decided to meet with Major General, Lewis H. Brereton Deputy Chief of Staff. After meeting with Brereton, he departed for Malang Indonesia with three passengers the next day.
On February 3, 1942, Major Straubel was joined by 2nd Lieutenant Russell M. Smith, copilot, and Staff Sergeant George W. Pickett, flight engineer. The three were flying a Douglas B-18 “Bolo” (36-338) to Bandung, Indonesia. While flying over the Makassar Strait, Straubel’s aircraft was attacked by Japanese Zeros and shot down. Straubel managed to land on an emergency airstrip, but he and the crew died from gunfire. According to another source, Straubel died from burns.
Straubel was the first Brown County aviator to lose his life in World War II. In 1942, a U.S. Army camp in Australia was named after Straubel. On March 20, 1946, the Brown County Airport Committee asked the Brown County Board of Supervisors to “consider naming the new Brown County Airport in memory of Austin Straubel” and the Brown County Board of Supervisors signed a resolution to name their new airport Austin Straubel Field after Straubel for his dauntless courage, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice, and that he be recognized and honored in a memorable manner.
Straubel, buried in Java, was reinterred at Green Bay’s Woodlawn Cemetery on January 8, 1949.
"From farm fields until today". An animated set of aerial photos from 1930 until 2017 showing how the airport expanded. This includes - multiple runway extensions, additions of: aprons, taxiways, hangars, FBO's & a new fire station. The far west side was continually upgraded to providing public transportation to the airport.
To stop the animation just hover the mouse over the year.
Blesch Field - Prior to the newly located "Brown County Field", currently named "Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport", Green Bay's primary airport was located on the corner of Highland Ave. (now Lombardi Ave.) and Ashland Ave near Tundra Lodge.
Blesch Field was built by the Lawson Aircraft Co. (see below) during WWI to test their designs. In February, 1919 the Lawson AIrcraft Company closed it's doors in Green Bay moving to Milwaukee. Shortly afterwards the Green Bay Aero Club, formed by a couple of local investing businesses took over the assets and from 1919 until 1923 managed to re-coup part of the losses by barnstorming.
Between 1923 and 1927 Blesch field was in a state of limbo until 1928 when Ed Kersten of De Pere moved his flying operations there. The very first air service occurred on December 17th, 1928 when North West Airways provided air mail service from Chicago, shortly after, passenger service started in 4 place cabin aircraft. In 1933 North West cancelled it's air mail service, afterwards all operations.
Up to the start of WWII, Blesch Field had intermittent air service with most of it's operations being private aircraft. With aircraft designs / sizes growing at a massive pace and the fact that the west side of Green Bay was also growing in size, county officials decided a new airfield should be built further west. On June 4th, 1948 North Central Airlines began operations at the new field. After a local government proposal in March of 1946, the newly built airfield was renamed Austin Straubel Field in August of 1949.
The animated picture below shows aerial views from both 1938 & 2017.
Nicolet Airport - Open until sometime in 1974, the field was located just south of the old Swan Club. The intersection of the 2 runways residing on what's now the corner of Brule Rd. & Pike Lane in De Pere. Very close to the intersecting boundaries of The City of De Pere, The Village of Allouez & The Town of Ledgeview. Nicolet Airport is now located off of Bins Court in the Town of Humboldt.
The animated picture below shows aerial views from both 1960 & 2017.
The company's first prototype, the Lawson Military Trainer One or MT-1 first flew on September 10, 1917. Lawson was at the controls for that first flight which lasted about 15 minutes. Lawson reportedly exclaimed, "Boys, any old woman that don't drink, smoke or chew tobacco ought to be able to fly the MT One! That is how safe we have made her."
Lawson spent two weeks in January, 1918 trying to sell the aircraft design to the military and came home with nothing but a request. Military officials wanted an improved model with higher performance capabilities.
Lawson's team went to work designing enhancements to the MT-1 creating a new aircraft designation, the MT-2. Other design work was also being accomplished on a reconnaissance aircraft as well as a steel armored craft called the "Lawson Battler".
The Military Trainer Two (MT-2) flew for the first time on May 1, 1918. The top airspeed was, at 90 MPH, a full 12 MPH faster than the MT-1. Other design enhancements had been made to meet the military requirements. A purchase agreement for the MT-2 was signed by the Army but was withdrawn after the armistice.
The Lawson Aircraft Company ceased operations in Green Bay, Wisconsin mid-February, 1919.
THE LAWSON TRAINING TRACTOR BIPLANE.
WE have just received from the Lawson Aircraft Corporation, of Green Bay, Wis., U.S.A., the accompanying illustrations and particulars of a decidedly businesslike-looking tractor biplane recently completed at their works. This machine is of the primary training type, built to conform with the specifications No. 1,000 issued by the U.S. Army.
Besides several important constructional features - details of which we are not for the present at liberty to disclose - the Lawson iractor possesses the following features valuable to machines of this type: Its minimum flying speed is as low as 37 m.p.h., whilst the maximum speed is 75 m.p.h. The landing chassis is extremely strong and the axle carrying the two main wheels is well sprung, allowing the axle a wide range of action vertically between the guide plates, which may be seen in the view of the uncovered fuselage. A third, additional, wheel mounted in front of the other two, provides against the machine turning over on its nose should the pupil land the machine at too sharp an angle.
As may be seen, the fuselage, which is a little over 25 ft. in length, is of rectangular section, with spruce longerons and struts, and wire bracing. It is covered with Irish linen as far as the engine housing, which latter part is covered with sheet metal. The tandem seats are mounted on stout longitudinals carried by second, third and fourth sets of upright struts. Dual stick control is installed.
The engine is a 100 h.p. Hall-Scott model A-7A, coupled direct to an 8-ft. diameter tractor screw having an 8-in. pitch. The engine mounting consists of two stout bearers, supported by a system of tubular stays, as shown. The radiator is mounted above the engine underneath the leading edge of the top plane. The exhaust pipe extends upwards and rearwards over the top plane.
On its first flight, under the pilotage of Mr. Alfred Lawson, the machine left the ground after a run of 40 ft., and when landing stopped within 70 ft. of first point of contact.
The main characteristics of the Lawson tractor are as follows -
| Click on picture(s) for full sized version. |
Under construction in Green Bay.
North Central's DC-3 N21728 -
North Central's N21728, “Old 728,” logged 84,875 hours before its retirement in May 1975. Eastern Airlines took delivery of N21728 on April 11, 1939. It logged 51,398 hours over a 13 year period, then Eastern sold it to North Central Airlines for $35,000. It spent another 31,634 hours in scheduled service (through April 1965) and logged another 1843 hours (through 1975) as a VIP aircraft for North Central. 728 held the world record for airframe hours until August 27, 1981, at 4:04 p.m.
North Central estimates “728” spent more than 9 1/2 years in the air and covered over 12 million miles, the equivalent of 25 trips to the moon and back. At 185 miles per hour, each one-way trip would take roughly 54 days (compared with three days it took the Apollo astronauts).
During its career, “Old 728” had 136 engine changes, its landing gear was replaced 550 times, and it used over 25,000 spark plugs, to burn eight million gallons of gasoline. This DC-3 had taxied more than 100,000 miles and carried 260 million passengers in its 36-years of service.
Although many “old timers” had their share of bumps and bruises, “Old 728” never suffered even a minor mishap. Today, it is sitting quietly at the Henry Ford Museum, in Dearborn, Michigan. Critics have said that everything but its shadow has been replaced. This is not true. “Old 728's” airframe was still 90 percent factory issue when it retired.
North Central was characteristic of the regional airline's reliance on the DC-3. It began operations in 1948 with three, 10-passenger Lockheed 10A Electras. As North Central grew, they replaced the Lockheeds with DC-3s. By 1956, their 33-plane fleet of DC-3s was the backbone of their service, flying more than 8.2 million miles over a route system of scarcely 3,000 miles.
North Central relied on the DC-3 because of its proven reliability. Many of their routes had severe sub-zero weather conditions during the winter, and the DC-3 had proven during the war to be dependable under those conditions.