Ellington Field JRB

World War I

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In 1917, the U.S. government purchased 1,280 acres (5.2 km²) of land from Dr. R. W. Knox and the Wright Land Company to establish an airbase in Houston. The location, near Genoa Township in southeast Houston, was selected because the weather conditions were ideal for flight training. Soldiers from nearby Camp Logan briefly assisted with the construction of the airfield when civilian workers went on strike. Soon after construction began on the airfield, the base was named after Lt. Eric Lamar Ellington, an Army pilot killed four years earlier in a plane crash in San Diego.

The base, which consisted of a few hangars and some wooden headquarters buildings, was completed in a matter of months. By the end of 1917, the field was ready to receive its first squadron – the 120th Aero Squadron, which was transferred from Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, along with its Curtiss JN4 Jenny biplanes, which were shipped in wooden crates via railroad.[5] In December, the first planes from Ellington Field flew over Houston for a benefit for the American Red Cross. A flight of ten JN-4s took off from grass runways and followed the interurban tracks stretching north from Genoa to Houston. Throngs of men, women, and children watched in amazement as the JN-4s flew overhead. The roar of the aircraft was almost drowned out by the wail of sirens and factory whistles as the planes passed over. As the planes circled the city, they dropped paper flyers for the American Red Cross. Next, the formation flew to Camp Logan and then turned south toward Galveston Island. The entire flight took about an hour.

During World War I, Ellington served as an advanced flight training base. As of 1918, Ellington had its own gunnery and bombing range on a small peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico near San Leon, Texas.

Ellington Field 1918

 

For the first months of operation, Ellington Field had no pilot fatalities. Within the year, however, this record changed for the worse. By August 1918, Ellington Field recorded the most pilot fatalities of the 18 U.S. Army Air Service training bases in the United States. Ellington became well known in military circles, and had a series of "firsts", including the first camp newspaper, the first American aerial gunnery and bombing range, the first "canteen girls", and the first aerial ambulance in American military history. Before the end of the war, approximately 5,000 men and 250 aircraft were assigned to the base.

Ellington was considered surplus to requirements after World War I and the base was inactivated as an active duty airfield in January 1920. A small caretaker unit was kept at the airfield for administrative reasons, but generally, the only flight activity during this time was from Army pilots stationed at Kelly Field who flew down to practice landings on Ellington's runways

Training units assigned to Ellington Field were:

Post Headquarters, Ellington Field, November 1917-January 1920
120th Aero Squadron (Service), November 1917-February 1918 (Deployed to: American Expeditionary Forces, France)
69th Aero Squadron (II), February 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "A", July–November 1918
70th Aero Squadron (II), March 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "B", July–November 1918
113th Aero Squadron (II), March 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "C", July–November 1918
232d Aero Squadron (II), April 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "D", July–November 1918
233d Aero Squadron (II), April 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "E", July–November 1918
250th Aero Squadron, November 1917
Re-designated as Squadron "F", July–November 1918
272d Aero Squadron, April 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "G", July–November 1918
285th Aero Squadron, March 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "H", July–November 1918
286th Aero Squadron, March 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "I", July–November 1918
303d Aero Squadron (Service), June 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "K", July–November 1918
Squadron "L", August–December 1918
Squadron "M", September–December 1918
Squadron "N", November–December 1918
850th Aero Squadron,
Re-designated as Squadron "O",
Squadron "X", September–December 1918
Squadron "Y", September–December 1918
Squadron "Z", September–December 1918
Flying School Detachment (Consolidation of Squadrons A-Z), November 1918-September 1919

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