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Wright Field

From Ohio History Central
Wright Field map.jpg

Beginning in the 1910s, with World War I's outbreak, the United States government began investigating the use of airplanes in war. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA). This committee suggested establishing a center to research the use of airplanes in the military and also to seek improvements in airplane technology. Due to the presence of several automobile and aircraft plants in Ohio, the NACA established this center at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio.

By 1924, the United States Air Corps had outgrown the facilities at McCook Field. Hoping to keep the Air Corps in Dayton, the city officials and residents donated 5,250 acres of land on the city's outskirts. The Air Corps accepted the land and built Wright Field on the site. The base was named Wright Field to honor Orville and Wilbur Wright's contributions to flight. The Wrights had tested many of their early airplanes in the vicinity of Wright Field. Wright Field formally opened in 1927.

In 1926, the United States government created the Army Air Corps, replacing the earlier Air Corps. The Army Air Corps stationed its Materiel Division at Wright Field. Here, scientists continued to improve aircraft. The scientists also realized that they had to work together to create the best possible plane. Before creation of the Army Air Corps, researchers studied individual parts of the plane, like engines, armor, wings, and propellers. Now scientists continued to specialize in individual components of planes, but they realized that changes in a plane's armor would affect all other parts of the plane. The same held true for changes in engines, wings, and the other parts of a plane. Under the Army Air Corps, the researchers now kept a dialog open between the various experts.

Despite Wright Field's existence, the United States Army Air Corps entered World War II at a severe disadvantage numerically and technologically when compared to the Air Forces of other nations. To help overcome these weaknesses, the federal government, in 1940, designated 300 million dollars to improve Wright Field and to create an Air Corps with at least 5,500 planes. In 1941, only forty buildings existed at Wright Field, but by 1944, the airfield consisted of more than three hundred buildings. During World War II, research continued on airplanes, with much attention focused upon improving the horsepower of plane engines, airplanes' ranges and maneuverability, safety features for crews, and weapons. Workers at Wright Field helped to design and to construct numerous airplanes, such as the C-47 Skytrain, the C-54 Skymaster, the Curtiss C-46 Commando, the Sikorsky XR-4, the Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk, the B-24 Liberator, and the B-29 Superfortress, among many others, during World War II.

Upon World War II's conclusion, Wright Field continued to play a major role in aircraft research and construction. In 1947, the United States government created the United States Air Force, eliminating the Army Air Forces and establishing a new branch to the United States military. That same year, the Air Force combined Wright Field with nearby Patterson Field, creating Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Research continues at the base's facilities today, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is also home to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

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