For more than twenty-five years now I have been deeply interested in the history of military aviation in the United States. While surveying the published material on early aviation history, I was struck by the scant number of published books and journal articles on airfields and air bases. Furthermore, none of those available dealt with the question of why contemporary air bases are located where they are. When I raised this question with colleagues, Air Force officers, and others who might know, I received many opinions and much speculation, but no solid answers. Further pursuit of an answer to my question led me to the present study of the factors that have influenced the selection, retention, abandonment, and development of ground facilities for the U.S. Army Air Corps and its predecessor organizations.
This book will serve several purposes. First, an accurate history of the development of early airfields should help to correct the previously held views and assumptions on the subject. Many of those views and assumptions were the result of a lack of in-depth research in this area of aviation history. The long neglect of research did not stem from a dearth of source material. Printed hearings, documents, reports, and other materials generated by Congress, which annually dealt with airfields and air bases, are voluminous. Maps, blueprints, staff studies and reports, the correspondence of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, and several hundred volumes of Constructing Quartermaster Completion Reports in the National Archives yield a wealth of information for the researcher. Scores of unit histories and typescript field histories--many written during World War II--technical manuals, the correspondence of the Office of the Chief of Air Service and the Chief of the Air Crops, and numerous personal papers in the Albert F. Simpson Historical Research Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, are invaluable for the researcher in this area. Contemporary news and trade periodicals contain hundreds of articles on the construction and operation of airfields, many written by serving officers or civilians closely connected with the