In February 1908, the Board of Ordnance and Fortifications accepted two bids from A. M. Herring and J. F. Scott to build flying machines for the Army. A few months later, the Board accepted a third bid from the Wright brothers, also for a flying machine. 1 Only the Wright brothers were able to deliver an acceptable machine. At the time the Army made arrangements for the testing of these machines, no one in the Army really had any idea just what type of facilities would be required for the new aeroplanes or where they should be located for proper operation. Over the next eight or nine years, a small group of Army officers gained a great deal of experience in the selection, establishment, design, and construction of fields from which the Army's meager but growing armada of aeroplanes could operate. Operating under the handicap of being a new and untried service and lacking broad financial support from Congress, this group of officers, drawn mostly from those who dared take the flimsy machines aloft, gradually accumulated the knowledge and expertise to select, acquire,and establish the flying fields that America would so desperately need when war came in April 1917.
The handicaps under which early aviation functioned in the United States were manifold. Aviation appropriations for the years before America entered World War I amounted to less than $20 million out of a total military appropriation of $650 million for the last four prewar years. Moreover, only one legislative act during these years specifically provided for the purchase of real estate. 2 While a rather comprehensive program for the development of a nationwide system of flying fields had been proposed as early as 1913, neither the General Staff nor Congress was willing to support such a program. But fortune was on the side of the young air arm. Among its volunteers were a number of extraordinarily gifted and dedicated men who, despite the paltry sums of money available and the ever- present danger to their lives, were able to establish and operate almost a score of flying fields at various locations in the United States and its possessions. Some of these fields were quickly abandoned as unadaptable to the Army's needs; others were to become the nucleus of a vast system of air bases and aviation training installations.