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    France Field (Coco Walk, Colon, Enrique Adolfo Jiménez Airport) Colón Province Panama
Location
Lat 9° 21' 24N Long 79° 52' 3W  France Field is located at located to the east of Colón in Colón Province inland from the north coast of Panama. Prior to construction, this area was a swamp known as Coco Walk. First known as Coco Walk Aerodrome. Still in use today as Enrique Adolfo Jiménez Airport.

Construction
During the spring of 1918, an emergency appropriation of $1,000,000 by U.S. Congress funded the construction of a landing ground at Coco Walk completed by May 1918. Coco Walk Aerodrome became the first permanent U.S. Army airfield known as Coco Walk Aerodrome in Panama to patrol the Panama Canal. Later, Naval Air Station Coco Solo (NAS Coco Solo) was established on the northern shore.

Naming Honor
Renamed "France Field" in honor of 1st Lt. Howard J. France who died in a hydroplane crash on April 24, 1918 on Gatun Lake (Ga-tun), the first U.S. Army pilot killed in the Canal Zone.

Starting in May 1918, the first aircraft based at France Field were Curtiss JN-4 Jennys and Curtiss R-3 and R-4 floatplanes that patrolled the Panama Canal area against the threat of German U-Boats during World War I. Initially, these aircraft were under the control of Headquarters, U.S. Troops, Panama Canal Zone. Next, under the Panama Canal Department under the U.S. Army in the Canal Zone (C. Z.).

On August 5, 1938 a special tour by U.S. President F. D. Roosevelt who disembarked from USS Houston (CA-30) toured by automobile France Field, NAS Coco Solo and the submarine base. At France Field, Roosevelt inspected the airmen of the 7th Reconnaissance Squadron and watched a flying display. An Air Corps newsletter recorded the visit: "...the spontaneous cheer from the throats of 600 France Field airmen touched a note that he will remember."

During late January 1939, XB-15 35-277 landed at France Field as its first stop during its first overseas flight from the United States to deliver medical supplies to Santiago, Chile. After refueling, took off again and flew southward to r Lima, Peru where it made its second stop before reaching its final destination of Santiago, Chile.

Wartime History
In 1940 part of the Panama Canal Air Force and 1942 part of the 6th Air Force (6th AF). During World War II, the mission of the units at France Field consisted of the protection of the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, and to fly antisubmarine missions over the Caribbean During the war, known as APO 831.

American units based at France Field
7th Aero Squadron (7th OS, RS) March 29, 1917 - November 26, 1941
6th BG, HQ December 9, 1941 Rio Cato
32nd PG, HQ Rio Cato December 9, 1941 - ?
20th TCS December 15, 1940 - November 2, 1941
20th Transport Squadron, Panama Air Depot 1941–December 22, 1941 Waller Field plus detachment Howard Field
24th PS (FS) April 30, 1922 - October 26, 1932; Aug 15, 1944 - October 15, 1946
25th BS April 30, 1922 - December 8, 1941
44th Observation Squadron, April 1, 1931 - May 13, 1932
3rd BS, February 1, 1940 - November 1, 1946
78th PS April 1, 1931 - October 15, 1932
101st BS (Photographic) February 1, 1940–March 20, 1942
1st Depot Repair Squadron, January 1, 1941 - May 6, 1943
32nd FG (P-26, P-36, P-38, P-39, P-40) December 9, 1941 - November 1, 1943
51st FS December 23, 1941 - December 9, 1942
52d FS December 13, 1941 - March 23, 1944
53d FS December 12, 1941 - January 7, 1943; Oct 15, 1946 – Dec 1, 1947
45th BS June 17- November 13, 1942
10th BS December 11, 1943 - May 2, 1944
32d FS March 13, 1944 - January 10, 1945
43d FS January 10, 1945 - October 15, 1946

Postwar
With the end of World War II France Airfield was reduced in scope, with most units transferred to Al brook Field or Howard Field. On March 26, 1948 renamed France Air Force Base (France AFB).

American units based at France Field postwar
4th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron December 1, 1947- August 20, 1948
91st Reconnaissance Squadron December 1, 1947 - January 12, 1948
319th Fighter Squadron January 14, 1948 April 29, 1949

Officially closed on November 1, 1949 and became a civilian airport known as "Colon Airport". The USAF, however, maintained jurisdiction over the airport until December 31, 1973 and was occasionally used as a satellite field of Albrook AFB. Pan Am operated flights to the airfield.

Today
When given to Panama on October 1, 1979, the airport was renamed Enrique Adolfo Jiménez Airport for the Panamanian president 1945–1948. Still in use today as a small airport. The single runway is oriented 36/18 measures 6,001' x 151' surfaced with concrete. Airport codes: ICAO: MPEJ IATA: ONX.

References
Alae Supra Canalem (1997) pages 20, 186
F. D. Roosevelt Day by Day - August 5th, 1938

32nd Fighter Group - WWII - World War II - Army Air Forces

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Last Updated
March 19, 2021

 

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