Wilbur Wright Field
Riverside, Ohio
Wright Field 1920.JPG
Wilbur Wright Field, c. 1920
Wilbur Wright Field is located in Ohio
Wilbur Wright Field
Wilbur Wright Field
Coordinates39°46′46″N 84°6′16″W / 39.77944°N 84.10444°W / 39.77944; -84.10444 (Wilbur Wright Field)Coordinates: 39°46′46″N 84°6′16″W / 39.77944°N 84.10444°W / 39.77944; -84.10444 (Wilbur Wright Field)
TypePilot training airfield
Site information
Controlled byAir Service, United States Army
United States Army Air Forces
ConditionNational Museum of the United States Air Force
Site history
In use1917–1951
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
Garrison information
GarrisonTraining Section, Air Service
This Douglas O-46 bears the Spearhead insignia of Wilbur Wright Field (1931-1942) on its fuselage.
This Douglas O-46 bears the Spearhead insignia of Wilbur Wright Field (1931-1942) on its fuselage.

Wilbur Wright Field was a military installation and an airfield used as a World War I pilot, mechanic, and armorer training facility and, under different designations, conducted United States Army Air Corps and Air Forces flight testing. Located near Riverside, Ohio, the site is officially "Area B" of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base[citation needed] and includes the National Museum of the United States Air Force built on the airfield.


World War I

Wilbur Wright Field was established in 1917[1] for World War I on 2,075 acres (840 ha) of land adjacent to the Mad River which included the 1910 Wright Brothers' Huffman Prairie Flying Field and that was leased to the Army by the Miami Conservancy District.[2] Logistics support to Wilbur Wright Field was by the adjacent Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot established in January 1918[3]: 7  and which also supplied three[specify] other Midwest Signal Corps aviation schools.[2] A Signal Corps Aviation School began in June 1917 for providing combat pilots to the Western Front in France, and the field housed an aviation mechanic's school and an armorer's school.[2] On 19 June 1918, Lt. Frank Stuart Patterson at the airfield was testing machine gun/propeller synchronization when a tie rod failure broke the wings off his Airco DH.4M while diving from 15,000 ft (4,600 m).[4][failed verification] Also in 1918, McCook Field near Dayton between Keowee Street and the Great Miami River began using space and mechanics at Wilbur Wright Field.[citation needed] Following World War I, the training school[which?] at Wilbur Wright Field was discontinued.[2]

Training units assigned to Wilbur Wright Field[5]

Re-designated Squadron "I"; October 1918-February 1919
Re-designated Squadron "K"; October 1918
Re-designated Squadron "P"; November 1918-April 1919
Re-designated Squadron "A", July–December 1918; Assigned to Armorers' School
Re-designated Squadron "L", October 1918-February 1919
Re-designated Squadron "M" October 1918
Re-designated Squadron "Q" November 1918-April 1919
Re-designated Squadron "B" July 1918-April 1919

Combat units trained at Wilbur Wright Field[5]

Service units trained at Wilbur Wright Field[5]

Inter-war years

1923 records for speed, distance, and endurance were set by an April 16 Fokker T-2 flight from Wilbur Wright Field which used a 50 km (31 mi) course around the water tower, the McCook Field water tower, and a pylon placed at New Carlisle.[6] In June 1923, an Air Service TC-1 airship "was wrecked in a storm at Wilbur Wright Field"[7] and by 1924, the field had "an interlock system" radio beacon using Morse code command guidance (dash-dot "N" for port, dot-dash "A" for starboard) illuminating instrument board lights.[3]: 155  The Field Service Section at Wilbur Wright Field merged with McCook's Engineering Division to form the Materiel Division on 15 October 1926 ("moved to Wright Field when McCook Field closed in 1927").[8] The Air Service's "control station for the model airway"—which scheduled military flights of the Airways Section—moved to Wilbur Wright Field from McCook Field in the late 1920s (originally "at Bolling Field until 1925").[3]


The Fairfield Air Depot formed when the leased area of Wilbur Wright Field and the Army-owned land of the Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot merged soon after World War I.[specify] For an aerial war game of 1929, "Fairfield" was the headquarters of the Blue air force: a Blue "airdrome north of Dayton at Troy" was strafed on May 16 ("a raid on the airdrome at Fairfield" was later expected), "Dayton" was the May 21 take off site for a round-trip bomber attack on New York, and "target areas at Fairfield" were used for live bombing on May 25.[3]: 242–5  A provisional division was "assembled at Dayton" on May 16, 1931, for maneuvers in which "Maj. Henry H. Arnold, division G-4 (Supply), had stocks at Pittsburgh; Cleveland; Buffalo; Middletown, Pennsylvania; Aberdeen, Maryland; and Bolling Field to service units as they flew eastward."[3]: 236  The depot remained active until 1946.[2]

Wright Field

In 1924, the city of Dayton purchased 4,500 acres (1,821 ha), the portion of Fairfield Air Depot leased in 1917 for Wilbur Wright Field, along with an additional 750 acres (300 ha) in Montgomery County to the southwest (now part of Riverside). The combined area[clarification needed] was named Wright Field to honor both Wright Brothers.[need quotation to verify] A new installation with permanent brick facilities was constructed to replace McCook Field and was dedicated on October 12, 1927. The transfer of 4,500 tons of engineering material, office equipment and other assets at McCook Field to Wright Field began on March 25, 1927, and was 85% complete by June 1 after moving 1,859 truckloads.[citation needed] "The Engineering School shut down for the school year 1927-28 at Wright Field,[3] which had the Army Air Corps Museum in Building 12.[9]

By November 1930, "the laboratory at Wright Field" had planes fitted as flying laboratories"[10] (e.g., B-19 "flying laboratory" with "8-foot tires"),[11]: 139  and the equipment of the 1929 Full Flight Laboratory (closed out[where?] by the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had established the principle of safe fog flying) was moved to Wright Field by the end of 1931. Materiel Division’s Fog Flying Unit under 1st Lt. Albert F. Hegenberger used the equipment for blind landings.[3]

Patterson Field

Patterson Field named for Frank Stuart Patterson was designated on 6 July 1931 as the area[specify] of Wright Field east of Huffman Dam (including Fairfield Air Depot, Huffman Prairie, and Wright Field's airfield). Patterson Field became the location of the Materiel Division of the Air Corps[citation needed] and a key logistics center and in 1935, quarters were built at Patterson Field[3]: 350  which in 1939 still "was without runways...heavier aircraft met difficulty in landing in inclement weather."[12]: 7  Wright Field retained the land west of the Huffman Dam and became the research and development center of the Air Corps.[13]

Pre-war events

Engineering and flight activities of the two installations after the designation of Patterson Field included numerous aviation achievements and failures prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor:

Date Field Event
1932 May Patterson Blind landings at Patterson Field were conducted by the Fog Flying Unit using a variation of Doolitte's landing system from Mitchel Field.[3]: 278 
1933-01 Wright Both metal, two-place, low-wing monoplanes from Consolidated Aircraft (Y lP-25 for pursuit, XA-11 for attack) crashed during tests.[3]
1933-05 Patterson The Blue air force flew a simulated attack on Fort Knox representing "a rail and supply center" (the Red force's 1st Pursuit Group "maintained surveillance of Patterson Field" and relayed bombers' take off via a transport plane circling near Cincinnati.).[3]: 414 
1933-07 Wright The Materiel Division 1st course on the Mark XV Norden bombsight instructed "a few officers in care, maintenance, and operation" (2nd class finished September 1, 1934.)[3]
1935-08-28 Wright "Automatic radio navigation equipment comprising Sperry automatic pilot mechanically linked to standard radio compass" tested by Equipment Branch.[11]: 354 
1935-10-30 Wright The "Flying Fortress" prototype "Boeing 299 crashed during testing [after] no one had unlocked the rudder and elevator controls", killing the Flying Division chief and Boeing test pilot.[3]
1935-12-31 [specify] "Device insuring automatic fuel transfer in airplanes with reserve fuel tanks developed by Air Corps Materiel Division."[11]: 354 
1936 fall Wright Douglas Aircraft "delivered the first B-18 to Wright Field".[3]
1936-12 Wright The XB-15, "largest bombardment plane to date, from Boeing Plant at Seattle" arrived for testing.[11]: 354 
1937-05-20 Patterson The 10th Transport Group with Maj. Hugh A. Bivins commander (the group was headquartered as a Regular Army group.)[14] was activated as the Air Corps' "operational transport unit" with C-27s and C-33s
1937-09-01 Patterson The Air Corps Weather School began—20 of 25 in the first class graduated January 28.[15]
1939-04-20 Patterson "Air Corps school for autogiro training and maintenance opens".[11]: 354 
1939-05 Wright "First 4-blade controllable-pitch propeller known to be built in U. S. is installed on a P-36A".[11]: 355 
1939-07-30 Wright World record (payload): "Maj. C. V. Haynes and Capt. W. D. Old fly Army Boeing B-15 to 8200 ft. with...15½ tons".[11]: 355 
1940-06 Wright Construction began at Wright Field for World War II ($48,817,078 through September 1945), "the most extensive of all AAF command facilities."[12]: 140 
1941-06 Wright Dayton's Price Brothers Company began constructing 2 concrete USACE runways: NW-SE next to the flight line and E-W along the southern edge of the property (completed February 1942). A SW-NE runway was completed in 1944.[16][verification needed]
1941-06-21 Patterson Air Corps Ferrying Command opened an "installation point" at Patterson Field (moved to Romulus, Michigan by August).[17]
1941-10-17 Patterson Air Service Command established under the Materiel Division, OCAC, from the "Air Corps Provisional Maintenance Comd" formed on March 15, 1941 (renamed Air Corps Maintenance Command April 29,[11] elevated from provisional status on 30 June). ASC was removed from the Material Div on 11 December; "stored, overhauled, and repaired AAF aircraft and equipment" in World War II; and developed a network of base facilities [including] 11 air depots.[18] (moved to Washington DC on December 15, but returned to Patterson Field on December 15, 1942.)[8]

AAF and USAF base

The Army Air Forces Technical Base was formed on December 15, 1945, when Wright Field, Patterson Field, Dayton Army Air Field in Vandalia and Clinton County AAF in Wilmington merged. After the USAF was created, the base was renamed Air Force Technical Base in December 1947 and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in January 1948.. The former Wright Field became Area B of the combined installation, the southern portion of Patterson Field became Area A, and the northern portion of Patterson Field, including the jet runway built in 1946–47, Area C.


  1. ^ William R. Evinger: Directory of Military Bases in the U.S., Oryx Press, Phoenix, Ariz., 1991, p. 147.
  2. ^ a b c d e Wright-Patterson Air Force Base history
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Maurer, Maurer. Aviation in the US Army, 1919-1939 (Report). ISBN 0-912799-38-2. On July 17, 1926,…the Air Corps got two new brigadier generals [promoted from lieutenant colonel, including] William E. Gillmore to be Chief of the Materiel Division to be created at Dayton, Ohio. … Major Schroeder and Lieutenant Macready’s altitude work had a direct bearing on air power for it led to superchargers, oxygen systems, and other equipment … The Boeing 299 crashed during testing at Wright Field on October 30, 1935. Aboard were Tower and four men from the Materiel Division-Maj. Ployer P. Hill, Chief of the Flying Branch, pilot; 1st Lt. Donald L. Putt, copilot; John B. Cutting, engineer; and Mark H. Koogler, mechanic. Taking off, the plane climbed steeply to 300 feet, stalled, crashed, and caught fire. Tower and Hill died. Investigation disclosed that no one had unlocked the rudder and elevator controls.
  4. ^ "Part V: Wright Field 1927-1948" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-06.
  5. ^ a b c Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the First World War, Volume 3, Part 3, Center of Military History, United States Army, 1949 (1988 Reprint)
  6. ^ ASNL [Air Service News Letter], Feb 20, 1923, pp 7-8. (Maurer Ch. XI citation 31, p. 181)
  7. ^ Citation 34 (Cited by Maurer's Training chapter, p. 63)
  8. ^ a b Benson, Lawrence R. (2007). Acquisition Management in the United States Air Force and its Predecessors (PDF) (Report). Air Force History and Museums Program. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved 2013-09-05. To manage logistics functions, the Air Corps Maintenance Command was formed on 29 April 1941 at Patterson Field, located adjacent to Wright Field. This command, originally built from the Materiel Division's Field Service Section, was replaced on 17 October 1941 by the Air Service Command. In December 1941 it came directly under General Arnold. For exactly one year, until 15 December 1942, the command's headquarters were located in Washington, D.C., but thereafter returned to Patterson Field. ...the AAF made two changes on 16 March 1942. It redesignated the growing office of the Chief of the Materiel Division in Washington as the Materiel Command, while redesignating subordinate elements at Wright Field as the Materiel Center. On 1 April 1943 Headquarters Materiel Command moved back to Wright Field to be near the headquarters of the Air Service Command, but it left behind the former commander and much of his staff as the Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Materiel, Maintenance, and Distribution.
  9. ^ "Southwest Ohio Fairfield Air Depot / Wright Field". Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields. Airfields-Freeman.com. Retrieved 2013-09-19. Building 12 (which originally served as the Army Air Corps Museum) is on the left.
  10. ^ "title tbd". Signal Corps Bulletin: 5–11. November–December 1930. (Cited by Maurer p. 558)
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Arnold, Henry H.--Foreword (June 1944--Special Edition for AAF Organizations) [May 1944]. AAF: The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces. New York: Pocket Books. Army Air Forces Board--The Army Air Forces Board is the AAF laboratory group for tactical research and experimentation. The board utilizes the personnel and facilities of the AAF Tactical Center and the Proving Ground Command to conduct tests which precede its decisions and recommendations. … The Air Service Command has 11 air depots as well as a number of special depots and stations. … AAF ENGINEERING SCHOOL--3 months' course. At Wright Field, Ohio, the Materiel Command gives a course in aeronautical engineering for pilots with degrees. … AIR SERVICE COMMAND--Patterson Field, Fairfield, Ohio; Maj. Gen. W. H. Frank. … AIR SERVICE COMMAND (ASC) is the stockroom and garage of the AAF. Operating within the continental U.S., it receives all our aircraft and aircraft equipment and supplies… ASC is organized into 11 subordinate area air service commands, each operating in a designated area of the U. S. … AIR FORCE AIR SERVICE COMMANDS perform within the theaters of operations [the] supply and maintenance functions similar to those of the ASC within the continental U. S. … Near the center of each of 11 continental Air Service Command areas is an air depot. An air depot is a large wholesale house and warehouse, normally stocked with 2 months' supply of the types of property required in its area. In addition it performs heavy aircraft maintenance work. … Near the major ports of embarkation, the Air Service Command operates in-transit depots, which carry small stocks of AAF technical supplies… ((cite book)): Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ a b Futrell, Robert F. (July 1947). Development of AAF Base Facilities in the United States: 1939-1945 (Report). Vol. ARS-69: US Air Force Historical Study No 69 (Copy No. 2). Air Historical Office. The headquarters and the experimental activities of the Material Division, OCAC, were located at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, a new field which had been occupied in 1927.22 (p. 7)
  13. ^ [full citation needed]Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.
  14. ^ "Ltr, Brig Gcn Augustine W. Robins, Ch, Materiel Div, to CAC, Apr 13, 1937, in AFHRC 145.91 - 136; Maurer, Combat Units, pp 52-53" (Cited by Maurer p. 368)
  15. ^ "ACNLs, Jun 1, 1938, pp 1-2, Oct 1, 1938, pp 3-4; Aircraft Record Card, 36-349, in AFHRC." (Cited by Maurer p. 397)
  16. ^ Walker, Lois F. & Wickam, Shelby Z. (1986). From Huffman Prairie to the Moon: A History of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Office of History, 2750th Air Base Wing, WPAFB. p. 476. ISBN 0-16-002204-5.
  17. ^ "The Origins of the Ferrying Div., ATC, May 1941 to Dec. 1941, v. 1, pp. 81-89; ltr., Col. F. M. Kennedy, Chief, D&G Div., to TAG, sub.: Lease of Wayne County Airport, Michigan, 11 June 1941, in AAG 601.53." (Futrell Ch. IV citation 245, pp. 144, 236)
  18. ^ "Hist. AAF MC, 1926 thru 1941, v. 1, pp. 51-53 in AFSHO 200.1, v. 1. (cited by Futrell p. 140)