The Oskaloosa airport is included because cadets used to practice take-offs and landings on concrete that formed a square around a section of grass, but when the base closed, two of the four sides of the concrete square were extended, becoming the Oskaloosa airport.
And Black continues to collect stories of those who served or worked at the NAS Ottumwa base. Recently, he visited Scott Carpenter, 88, in Tucson, Ariz., who was stationed in Ottumwa before he became the fourth man to fly in space. Carpenter was part of the team Project Mercury astronauts who went into orbit around the earth in April 1959.
"I told him that any of the guys who came through here were only students for a few months, but he stopped me, he interrupted me and said that this [NAS Ottumwa] was important to him," Black said. "His journey into space started here."
The problem he keeps encountering, though, is that many who were stationed at the Ottumwa base have since died. But Waterloo's Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum and Johnston's Iowa Gold Star Museum have offered to help him with audio and visual recordings of the approximately 100 people he's talked to so far.
"Whether they were stationed here in the military, worked here, helped build it or are a family member, we want to talk to them," he said.
The organization has set a maximum time frame for completion of 10 years, though the board wants to open the doors in five years. The building is now also on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to help from local historian Molly Naumann.
For more information, go to www.nasottumwa.org.
— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.