A Short History of The Air University, Maxwell AFB, and the 42nd Air Base Wing
AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL DIRECTORATE OF HISTORY
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The history of Maxwell Air Force Base began with Orville and Wilbur Wright, who, wanting to take advantage of their 1903 historic flight, decided in early 1910 to open a flying school to teach civilians how to fly and to promote the sale of their airplane. Wilbur, after looking at locations in Florida, came to Montgomery, Alabama. After his initial visit in February, the Wright Brothers decided to open the nation s first civilian flying school on an old cotton plantation near Montgomery that subsequently become Maxwell Air Force Base AFB. Unfortunately, the school closed after only a few months of operation. After the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the Army Air Service established Aircraft and Engine Repair Depot No. 3 at the former Wright flying field. The depot operations continued until early 1919. In 1921, the 22nd later Observation Squadron became the first major operational unit at the depot. On 8 November 1922, the War Department named the depot Maxwell Field in honor of Second Lieutenant William C. Maxwell. A native of Natchez, Alabama, Lieutenant Maxwell died on 12 August 1920 in the Philippines when his DH-4 aircraft struck a flagpole after swerving to avoid striking a group of children at play. The 22nd Observation Squadron helped establish an airmail route between the Gulf Coast and northern Great Lakes area and the foundation of a permanent airmail service. After torrential rains caused severe flooding in southern Alabama in March 1929, Maj Walter Weaver, the Maxwell Field installation commander, ordered the squadron to fly daily airdrop missions to help the flood victims. Between 14 and 20 March, Maxwell pilots flew 346 sorties and covered approximately 60,000 miles, marking the first major operation in which US military forces airdropped relief supplies in a major civilian emergency.
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