Mitchel Field – A Camera Trip Through Mitchel Field (PDF)



History of Mitchel Field ……. No older than the Air Corps as a flying field, Mitchel Field is carrying on the long military history of the land on which it is located. Guardian of New York City from aloft, Mitchel Field is filled with activity which is the modern repetition of war preparations made at Camp Winfield Scott during the War between the States, Camp Black during the Spanish-American War, and Camp Mills during World War I, for all those camps were located on the same level ground which is now Mitchel Field. The present installation dates from July 16, 1918, when it was named for Major John Purroy Mitchel, Air Service, Signal Reserve Corps, who was killed in an air accident at Gerster Field, La., on July 6, 1918. Major Mitchel had been mayor of New York City and a great advocate of aviation. The land for what is now Mitchel Field had been leased July 1, 1917 and was designated as an “Aeronautical General Supply Depot and Concentration Camp.” The concentration camp meant that it was where supplies were concentrated, not the sinister meaning attached to the words today. Later the field was known as Field No. 2, Mineola, and operations began under the command of Lt. Col. Archie Miller, Air Service, Signal Corps. The new station served as a base for Hazelhurst, Lufberry, and Roosevelt fields, three airports clustered around what had been the Hempstead Plains acreage. Camp Mills was the training ground of the Rainbow (42nd) Division which included the “Fighting 69th.” The land that was then Camp Mills is now Sub-Post No. 2 of Mitchel Field, and still colloquially known as Camp Mills. With the Armistice of 1918, the fate of Mitchel Field for a while was in doubt. Other flying fields in the vicinity were considered for permanent installations, but the General Staff selected Mitchel Field because of its great acreage and its opportunities for necessary expansion. Thus, in 1920 the land was bought by the government and designated as an active flying field. Mitchel Field was originally built to house a great number of men temporarily, while the needs of the Regular Army Air Corps was for a post to house a comparatively small number of men permanently. In 1924, the temporary buildings of 1917 were beginning to deteriorate, and preparations were made for conversion to a permanent post. The conversion was completed in 1932 with the Georgian style architecture which prevails in the residential buildings and barracks. Mitchel Field has been called one of the more beautiful Army posts in the country; and before the exigencies of war demanded, it was one of Long Island’s favorite visiting places. Since war was declared, the Field has been closed to the general public. Officers who were on duty here in 1918 say that the two white birch trees on the parade ground are the only remaining landmarks, now visible, of World War I. Mitchel Field has been called the cradle of American military aviation. It has also figured in the application of aviation to civilian needs. It served as a base for Air Corps Reserve training during the summer months when its planes worked with the National Guard of neighboring states in training activities. The field has been the scene of many famous flights and first experiments. The first airplane jumping contest in the nation was held here October 12, 1923. Four contestants leaped from planes at 4,500 feet altitude and parachuted to within 400 feet of one another on the field less than 90 seconds apart. Army flyers started broadcasting successfully from planes at 4,000 altitude over a distance of 200 miles. This important landmark in the development of aviation was done at Mitchel Field in August, 1924, the result of a new method of broadcasting invented by a Lieutenant Connell on duty at Mitchel Field. Early in 1924 experiments were begun which resulted in establishment of air mail service on July 1, 1924. On July 4, 1924, Mitchel Field witnessed the greatest collection of fighting planes ever seen up to that time in the United States. When a squadron of Army flyers arrived at Mitchel Field on September 8, 1924, they completed a round-the-world flight which had begun on the Pacific Coast. Among the crowd assembled to meet their arrival was the Prince of Wales, now the Duke of Windsor, who had seen them as they passed through England. Lieutenant James H. Doolittle, now a major general, made the world’s first “blind” landing in a flight at Mitchel Field September 21, 1929. The take-off, flight, and landing were made “under the hood” using only his instruments for guidance.