Keystone Army Airfield (1942-1947)
Keystone Army Airbase was Constructed in 1942 and was then commissioned as an Army installation in December 1942 to train reconnaissance pilots during World War II. Keystone Airfield served as an active Army base until 1947 when the U.S. Government released the property to the City of Keystone Heights. Now, the Airfield serves as Keystone Heights Airport and is used for Florida National Guard training and for other recreational use by the surrounding community.
Backstory and Context
Keystone Army Airbase was constructed in 1942 originally as Crystal Lake Airfield and then was later commissioned as Keystone Army Airbase in December of 1942. The airfield includes two runways, one being 5,044 feet and the other being 4,899 feet long. During World War II, Keystone AAF was named the home of the AFSAT Strategic Reconnaissance School for the U.S. Army, used to train pilots in battlefield reconnaissance and long ranger strategic reconnaissance photography. The skills that were taught at Keystone AAF were used for unarmed combat reconnaissance missions to assist fighters, bombers, and other ground units. Students flew the F-3A Havoc a version of the A-20 Havoc attack aircraft, the P-39D-3 reconnaissance version of the Cobra fighter, and also the L-2 and L-3 Grasshopper light observation aircraft.
During the war, Keystone AAF was home to the 432nd Reconnaissance Group (1 March 1943- 1 November 1943), 3rd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (21 January 1943- 3 February 1944), and the 313th Fighter Squadron (17 November 1943- 28 January 1944). All of which trained and ran combat mission out of the airbase from 1943-1944.
Today, called Keystone Heights Airport, the airfield still serves as a military training site, as well as for commercial and general aviation use. The airport now shares the most Northern border with Camp Blanding's Joint Training Center, which is the primary military reservation and training base for the Florida National Guard. Keystone Heights Airport has an active drop zone used by the military to practice airdrop operations. The airport also includes and aerobatic box and services a wide range of private planes, jets, and helicopters.
Keystone is also home to the FIRM (Florida International Rally & Motorsport Park), located within the airport's security fencing, which makes it one of the most private and secure motorsport facilities in North America. Also located at Keystone Heights is a charitable organization called Wings of Dreams, which was founded in 2005 by Susan King and Bob Oehl. The Wings of Dreams Aviation Museum's goal is to preserve the airports unknown and forgotten wartime history.