WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE

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WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE:The First Century

History OfficeAir Force Life Cycle Management CenterAir Force Materiel CommandWright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio2015ii

TABLE OF CONTENTSTable of Contents . iiiAuspicious Origins.1Three Military Installations.2A New Engineering Center .6Patterson Field .10World War II .11Wright-Patterson Air Force Base .17The Korean War and Its Aftermath .19The Vietnam Era .22End of the Cold War .25Transition to Contingency Operations .28A Global War on Terrorism .31Revamping the Acquisition Enterprise .35A Changing Installation Landscape .39A Focus on the Future .42Appendix A: Wright-Patterson AFB and Its Antecedents .43Appendix B: Wright-Patterson AFB Installation Commanders .44Appendix C: The Story of Areas A, B, C, and D.45Appendix D: Wright-Patterson AFB Personnel Strength, .46Appendix E: Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Personnel Strength .47iii

Appendix F: 88th Air Base Wing Personnel Strength .50Appendix G: Wright-Patterson AFB Deployed Personnel .53Appendix H: Wright-Patterson AFB Memorials .54Appendix I Air Force Units Assigned at Patterson Field, Wright Field, andWright-Patterson Air Force Base .57iv

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE:THE FIRST CENTURYWright-Patterson Air Force Base isthe most organizationally complexbase in the U.S. Air Force. This8,145-acre military reservationlocated near Dayton, Ohio, has over 600office, laboratory, and support buildings inaddition to 127 family housing buildings. Itemploys over 27,000 people and generates anannual payroll of 2.2 billion. The base is thelargest employer in the state of Ohio at asingle location and the largest employeramong Air Force bases worldwide.Itsoccupants include over 60 on-base tenantunits. With over 600 structures, many datingfrom the pre-1946 period, Wright-Pattersonmay also be the Air Force’s most historicallysignificant base.Major military unitsassigned to the installation are HQ Air ForceMateriel Command, HQ Air Force Life CycleManagement Center, HQ Air Force ResearchLaboratory, the Air Force Institute ofTechnology, the National Air and SpaceIntelligence Center, the National Museum ofthe U.S. Air Force, 445th Airlift Wing(AFRC), a National Park, a regionalDepartment of Defense medical center, andnumerous other Air Force, Department ofDefense, and government agencies. Since1944, the 88th Air Base Wing has beenresponsible for operating the base.Soaring over the Huffman Prairie where the WrightBrothers “really learned to fly”Dayton, Ohio. They then selected an 84-acreplot of land near Dayton to serve as anexperimental flying field while theytransformed their invention into a real flyingmachine. The Huffman Prairie Flying Field,now a part of Wright-Patterson AFB and aNational Park site, is where they developedthe first practical airplane (the 1905 Flyer III).Over this prairie the brothers accomplishedthe first turn and circle in an airplane andsolved the final mysteries of flight during1904 and 1905. Here, too, they invented andused the first successful aircraft catapultlauncher. The Huffman Prairie was also, asOrville wrote, where they “really learned tofly.”AUSPICIOUS ORIGINSThe brothers returned to the HuffmanPrairie Flying Field in 1910. This time the siteserved as home to the Wright Company Schoolof Aviation, the Wright’s flight exhibitioncompany, and a test field for their aircraftcompany. Their aviation school trained 119pilots. For 250, they delivered a two-weekcourse of instruction that included “four hoursof actual practice in the air and such instructionWhile Wright-Patterson traces itsmilitary origins to World War I, its aviationhistory began with the origins of manned,powered, controlled flight. Following theirsuccessful proof-of-concept flights at KittyHawk, North Carolina, in December 1903,Wilbur and Orville Wright returned home to1

The 1910 hangar and flying operations, about 1912in the principles of flying machines as isnecessary to prepare the pupil to become acompetent and expert operator.” The tuitionfee also covered any incidental damage to theequipment. Among their graduates were ArmyLieutenant Henry “Hap” Arnold, who was sentto the school in 1911 to earn his wings, and A.Roy Brown, the Canadian ace who wouldreceive aerial credit for downing Baron vonRichthofen, the Red Baron in 1918. By thetime operations on the Huffman Prairie endedin 1916, the Wrights had used the field as aresearch and development facility, flight testcenter, logistics depot, and training center.These functions would define the future of theHuffman Prairie and its surroundings for thenext century. Equally important, the “can-do”spirit of invention and innovation that Wilburand Orville brought to their flying field wouldinspire their heirs to continue pushingaeronautical engineering to its technologicallimits.Lt. Henry “Hap” Arnold as a Wright Brothers student onthe Huffman Prairie Flying Fieldacquiring three military installations: McCookField, Wilbur Wright Field, and the FairfieldAviation General Supply Depot. McCookField opened on December 4, 1917. This 254acre leased complex was located just north ofdowntown Dayton between Keowee Street andthe Great Miami River. It was named after the“Fighting McCooks” family of Civil War famewho once owned part of the land. McCookField was an engineering and research centerresponsible for the advanced design of allairplanes and their accessories. It was erectedas a temporary home for the AirplaneEngineering Division of the U.S. Army SignalCorps pending completion of Langley Field,Virginia. McCook was exempted from theCivil Service and control by the Secretary ofWar, which enabled it to operate more like aprivate business than a military post. McCookField quickly emerged as the center ofAmerican air power technology. Its engineersTHREE MILITARYINSTALLATIONSFollowing the United States declarationof war on Germany in 1917, the WarDepartment began a rapid expansion of militaryfacilities. Edward A. Deeds, a prominentDayton industrialist and member of the U.S.Munitions Standard Board and AircraftProduction Board, assisted his home town with2

Bomber. When McCook Field closed, the fivefoot tunnel was moved to Wright Field where itremained in use until 2011. Work at McCookField encompassed liquid- and air-cooledengines, superchargers, controllable-pitchpropellers, fuels and fuel systems, armamentsystems for aircraft, flight instrumentation,parachutes, flight clothing, advanced materials,aerial photographic equipment, a large numberof experimental aircraft, and specializedequipment to test all of these items. McCook’stechnicians even tested airplanes designed orMcCook Field (Mrs. Darlene Gerhardt)and technicians researched, developed,manufactured, tested, and evaluated militaryaircraft, plus all associated components andequipment.Their achievements were sosubstantial that in May 1919 all experimentalaircraft activities being handled at LangleyField were transferred to McCook Field.The Engineering Division’s facilitiesincluded a 1,000 foot by 100 foot macadam andcinder primary runway to support test flightoperations. A 14-inch walnut wind tunnelpatterned after one designed by Orville Wrighthelped calibrate airspeed instruments and studythe aerodynamic properties of shapes. In 1921,the field’s technicians built a five-foot windtunnel which was immediately put to usetesting a scale model of the XNBL-1 BarlingColonel Thurman H. Bane, first commandant of the AirService Engineering Schoolmanufactured by foreign nations. In fact,virtually all significant aeronautical engineeringdevelopments at the time took place at McCookField.Theseachievementsincludedcontrollable and reversible pitch propellers,aircraft engine superchargers, bullet-proof andleak-proof gasoline tanks, the radio beam, anon-magnetic aircraft clock, an air ambulance,the air-cooled radial engine, mapping and nightobservation cameras, the Nelson machine gunsynchronization control system, and the firstpractical free-fall parachute. Also developedwere night flying techniques and a modelCivilian guards working at the main entrance to McCookField3

airway that became the forerunner of themodern network of continental andintercontinental commercial air routes.Under the leadership of ColonelThurman H. Bane, McCook Field madeanother lasting contribution to aeronauticalengineering.In 1919, Colonel Baneestablished the Air Service Engineering Schoolto provide “proper technical training” to AirService officers. The school would eventuallyevolve into the Air Force Institute ofTechnology.Wilbur Wright FieldWilbur Wright Field also housed anAviation Mechanics’ School which openedDecember 17, 1917. The school graduated1,181 airplane, airplane motor, and motortransport mechanics. A related program sentstudents to local civilian airplane and enginefactories and garages to receive on-the-jobtraining.Dayton’s other two military facilities,Wilbur Wright Field and the Fairfield AviationAn Aviation Armorers’ Schoolinaugurated operations on March 18, 1918. Itssix week course encompassed a complete studyof machine guns, their sights andsynchronization mechanisms, and the storageand mounting of bombs. The school sent 485enlisted graduates to the Air Service. TheSignal Corps also assigned Wilbur WrightField the mission of testing all machine gunsissued to the Aviation Section to ensure thatthey were properly adjusted and in good firingAir Service Engineering School classroom in the 1920sGeneral Supply Depot, were co-located in whatis now Area A (formerly Area C) of WrightPatterson AFB. Wilbur Wright Field sat on2,075-acres next to the Mad River. The Armyleased the land, which included the HuffmanPrairie Flying Field, from the MiamiConservancy District. The field hosted aSignal Corps Aviation School to train pilots.School operations began June 28, 1917 withcadets flying Curtiss JN-4D and Standard SJ-1single-engine biplane trainers. The schoolgraduated 82 pilots by December when flighttraining operations were moved to installationsin the south for the winter. They resumed atthe field in April 1918.Fairfield Air Depot and Building 1, 1919(U.S. Air Force Museum)4

Building 1 with its covered trainway is the oldest militarybuilding at Wright-Patterson AFBMechanics School students study an airplane fuselage,January 25, 1918. (U.S. Air Force Museum)of 1917 on 40 acres of land adjacent to WilburWright Field that the Army had purchased fromthe Miami Conservancy District. The depot’smission was to provide logistics support toWilbur Wright Field and other aviation schoolsin the Midwest. Building 1, the first militarybuilding on the installation, stored freight andsupplies as well as serving as the depotheadquarters until 1933.The U-shapedstructure housed a 600-foot double rail spurbetween its outstretched wings. The spurconnected the depot to the Big Four RailroadCompany line in the nearby town of Fairfield.Six other buildings, including three steelstorage hangars and a garage, enabled the depotto receive, store, and issue equipment andsupplies to the Signal Corps’ schoolsthroughout the region.condition. During a test on June 19, 1918,Lieutenant Frank Stuart Patterson, the son ofFrank J. Patterson and nephew of John H.Patterson, co-founders of Dayton’s NationalCash Register Company, was killed when hisDH-4 crashed after successfully completingtests of a Nelson machine gun synchronizer.The conclusion of the war to end all wars inNovember 1918 ended all training.Cooperation between Wilbur WrightField and McCook Field began March 1, 1918when McCook Field requested hangar spaceand use of the airfield for experimental testflying. Wilbur Wright Field’s large, open, andrelatively isolated flying field was ideal fortesting the Air Service’s experimental aircraftand the larger, more powerful models beingdeve