Ohio History Journal

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McCook Field, 1917-1927

McCook Field, 1917-1927




IT IS FITTING that Dayton, the birthplace of aviation, should be

the site of one of the great air fields of the United States Air Force.

And it is appropriate that the field, which for many years has played

a major role in the development of aircraft and equipment for the

air force, should bear the name of Wright. The history of that

air force activity in the Dayton area, however, goes back to a

field that was not named for the Wright brothers but for the

"Fighting McCooks" of Civil War fame.1

McCook Field was established in 1917 to meet a particular need

that developed after the United States entered World War I. Ten

years earlier the army had set up an aeronautical division in the

signal corps, and in 1909 it had acquired its first plane, from the

Wright brothers. But military aviation had made little progress in

America. In April 1917 the army had a few planes, none of which

was suitable for combat. At the same time, America's aircraft

industry was in its infancy and was not prepared to produce large

numbers of planes. Nevertheless, by June the United States Govern-

ment had developed a program which called for the production by

July 1, 1918, of more than twenty-two thousand airplanes--ten

thousand for training and twelve thousand for combat.

It soon became evident that the United States alone could not

carry out such an ambitious program. The government decided,

therefore, to build training planes in the United States and purchase


*Maurer Maurer, of the Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, is

administrative assistant to the chief historian of the United States Air Force. He was

formerly a historian for the Air Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force

Base, Dayton, Ohio.

1 The present Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the logistic center for the air

force, was formed by combining Wright and Patterson fields. The latter, originally

Wilbur Wright Field, at Fairfield, Ohio, has a history, as a government installation,

that goes back to May 1917. The history of the air force's materiel activities in the

Dayton area, however, does not trace back to Wilbur Wright Field, but to Wright

Field, and thence back to McCook Field.