Back in the 1940s and 1950s residents would frequently hear airplanes and jets roar across
the skies of southern New Hampshire. The southeast Manchester and Londonderry areas were particularly affected.
It was not unusual to be wakened at night by the roar of engines from planes flying low enough to shake our house. My parent’s home sat on top of a hill, and sat in a popular flight path. Some days for entertainment, we would climb the fire escape, and lay on our backs on the rooftop to watch the airplanes fly over.
On the 22nd of February 1942 the Manchester airfield was named “Grenier Field” to honor 2nd Lieut. Jean Donat Grenier. He was born in 1909 in Manchester, New Hampshire, the son of Alphonse and Ursula Grenier. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire, and was killed in a Utah plane crash (on 16 Feb 1934) while making a survey of a new mail route for the army.
In 1963 it was announced that Air Force Reserve Training at Grenier would be transferred to Pease Air Force Base by June 1966, but would be retained for Air National Guard. The Federal Government downsized its presence at Grenier Field until finally, between 1966-1968, the Air Force relocated all remaining flying units to other air bases and transferred control of Grenier Field to the municipalities of Manchester and Londonderry.
In 1968 the Londonderry Housing and Redevelopment Authority purchased 275 acres of land in Grenier Field for $440,000, and by 1972 it had 50 small industries.
In 1972 the US Air Force gave up 65 acres of land at what was by then Manchester’s municipal airport, with both the city of Manchester and the town of Londonderry seeking to develop it–Londonderry for an industrial village and manchester to expand the airport facilities. At the same time 17 acres and four buildings were transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve, and another 7 acres and 12 buildings to the Civil Air Patrol (to use as a Northeast Region encampment site and training center).
In 1978 the airport was once again called simply the “Manchester Airport.” In 1994 a 158,000 square foot passenger terminal was built and opened. In April 2006 this airport was officially renamed Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
Despite this airport’s many name changes, there are a few of us who still call it “Grenier Field.” Some habits are difficult to break.
This airport is the same place where Alan Shepard Jr. cleaned hangars and took flying lessons in the 1930s.
-A Window into World War II: Grenier Field aka Manchester (NH) Airport
–New Hampshire Aviation Historical Society. (added December 2010)
–New Hampshire’s Aviation Museum: A Bridge Between Past and Present (added September 2013)
Article updated 29 May 2014.