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Wright Army Airfield

Military site : airfield

Detailed history

Aircraft operations on land now part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base began in 1904–1905 when Wilbur and Orville Wright used an 84-acre (340,000 m2) plot of Huffman Prairie[9] for experimental test flights with the Wright Flyer III. Their flight exhibition company and the Wright Company School of Aviation returned 1910–1916 to use the flying field.[10]
World War I transfers of land that later became WPAFB include 2,075-acre (8.40 km2) (including the Huffman Prairie Flying Field) along the Mad River leased to the Army by the Miami Conservancy District, the adjacent 40 acres (160,000 m2) purchased by the Army from the District for the Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot, and a 254-acre (1.03 km2) complex for McCook Field just north of downtown Dayton between Keowee Street and the Great Miami River. In 1918, Wilbur Wright Field agreed to let McCook Field use hangar and shop space as well as its enlisted mechanics to assemble and maintain airplanes and engines.
After World War I, 347 German aircraft were brought to the United States—some were incorporated into the Army Aeronautical Museum[11] (in 1923 the Engineering Division at McCook Field "first collected technical artifacts for preservation"). The training school[specify] at Wilbur Wright Field was discontinued. Wilbur Wright Field and the depot merged after World War I to form the Fairfield Air Depot. The Patterson family formed the Dayton Air Service Committee, Inc which held a campaign that raised $425,000 in two days and purchased 4,520.47 acres (18.2937 km2) northeast of Dayton, including Wilbur Wright Field and the Huffman Prairie Flying Field. In 1924, the Committee presented the deeds to president Calvin Coolidge for the construction of a new aviation engineering center. The entire acreage (including the Fairfield Air Depot) was designated Wright Field,[citation needed] which had units such as the Headquarters, 5th Division Air Service (redesignated 5th Division Aviation in 1928),[12] and its 88th Observation Squadron and 7th Photo Section.[13] New facilities were built 1925–27 on the portion of Wright Field west of Huffman Dam to house all of the McCook Field functions being relocated.

Wright Field was "formally dedicated" on 12 October 1927 when "the Materiel Division moved from McCook Field to the new site"[14]:352 The ceremonies included the John L. Mitchell Trophy Race (won by Lt. I. A. Woodring of the 1st Pursuit Group—Speed: 158.968 mph)[14]:352 and Orville Wright raising the flag over the new engineering center.[specify] On 1 July 1931, the portion of Wright Field east of Huffman Dam (land known today as Areas A and C of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base which included the Fairfield Air Depot and the Huffman Prairie Flying Field) was redesignated "Patterson Field" in honor of Lieutenant Frank Stuart Patterson. Lt. Patterson was the son of Frank J. Patterson, co-founder of National Cash Register. 1Lt Patterson was killed shortly before the end of World War I when his plane crashed at Wright Field when he and observer 2Lt LeRoy Swan, both of the 137th Aero Squadron, were killed in the crash of their DeHaviland-4 after its wings collapsed during a dive while firing at ground targets with a new synchronized-through–the–propeller machine gun.[15] Patterson's grave and memorial arch is at Woodland Cemetery and Aborateum in Dayton, Ohio.[16]

The area's World War II Army Air Fields had employment increase from approximately 3,700 in December 1939 to over 50,000 at the war's peak.[17] Wright Field grew from approximately 30 buildings to a 2,064-acre (8.35 km2) facility with some 300 buildings and the Air Corps' first modern paved runways. The original part of the field became saturated with office and laboratory buildings and test facilities. The Hilltop area was acquired from private landowners in 1943–1944 to provide troop housing and services. The portion of Patterson Field from Huffman Dam through the Brick Quarters (including the command headquarters in Building 10262) at the south end of Patterson Field along Route 4 was administratively reassigned from Patterson Field to Wright Field. To avoid confusing the two areas of Wright Field, the south end of the former Patterson Field portion was designated "Area A", the original Wright Field became "Area B", and the north end of Patterson Field, including the flying field, "Area C."
In February 1940 at Wright Field, the Army Air Corps established the Technical Data Branch (Technical Data Section in July 1941, Technical Data Laboratory in 1942). After Air Corps Ferrying Command was established on 29 May 1941, on 21 June an installation point of the command opened at Patterson Field.[18]:144 The Flight Test Training unit of Air Technical Command was established at Wright Field on 9 September 1944 (moved to Patterson Field in 1946, Edwards AFB on 4 February 1951). Two densely populated housing and service areas across Highway 444, Wood City and Skyway Park, were geographically separated from the central core of Patterson Field and developed almost self-sufficient community status. (Wood City was acquired in 1924 as part of the original donation of land to the government but was used primarily as just a radio range until World War II. Skyway Park was acquired in 1943.) They supported the vast numbers of recruits who enlisted and were trained at the two fields as well as thousands of civilian laborers, especially single women recruited to work at the depot. Skyway Park was demolished after the war. Wood City was eventually transformed[when?] into Kittyhawk Center, the base's modern commercial and recreation center.
In the fall of 1942, the first twelve "Air Force" officers to receive ATI[specify] field collection training were assigned to Wright Field for training in the technical aspects of "crash" intelligence (RAF Squadron Leader Colley identified how to obtain information from equipment marking plates and squadron markings.[citation needed] In July 1944 during the Robot Blitz, Wright Field fired a reconstructed German pulse-jet engine[19] (an entire V-1 flying bomb was "reversed engineered" [sic] by 8 September at Republic Aviation.)[20] The first German and Japanese aircraft arrived in 1943, and captured equipment soon filled six buildings, a large outdoor storage area, and part of a flight-line hangar for Technical Data Lab study (TDL closed its Army Aeronautical Museum). The World War II Operation Lusty returned 86 German aircraft to Wright Field for study, e.g., the Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter, while the post-war Operation Paperclip brought German scientists and technicians to Wright Field, e.g., Ernst R. G. Eckert (most of the scientists eventually went to work in the various Wright Field labs.)

English Heritage's record description

Not yet known



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Date Contributor Update
04 February 2020 04:01:06 jmoore43 Changes to history

Added "A" at the beginning of the first paragraph of the "Detailed history" section.

Date Contributor Update
10 March 2019 00:37:43 466thHistorian Created entry with name, known as, latitude, longitude, usaaf from date, construction date and history