Monday, July 17, 2017

The Creation of Quantico Marine Base (World War I)

     America entered World War I in April, 1917. Told to expand its training capabilities, the U.S. Marine Corps began inspecting promising sites in the spring of 1917.  Some five thousand acres along Quantico Creek in Prince William County, Virginia, were leased from an ailing development company which had been promoting the area for recreation.  The area was largely uninhabited.  There was an officially incorporated town, a shipyard, and a small hotel that had been built to attract tourists.  The first Marine contingent to arrive consisted of ninety one enlisted men and four officers.  Soon thousands would come pouring in for training.  There were not enough barracks, and the troops did their laundry in the river.  Troops unaccustomed to a Virginia summer complained, “Quantico was hotter than a pistol and muddier than a pigsty”.

   Aviation first arrived at Quantico in July 1918, when two kite balloons were flown to spot artillery fire. Soon four seaplanes were assigned to Quantico. Naval aviation actually began in 1911, only six years after the Wright brothers’ first successful flight, with a Congressional appropriation of $25,000.  This money went for the purchase of three aircraft, one from the Wright brothers themselves.  The first Marine aviator (he was the fifth Naval aviator) was 1st Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham.  On December 7, 1917, the Marine aviators were ordered overseas to fight in France, and to take part in anti-submarine warfare.  In 1919, a flying field was laid out at Quantico and land leased to accommodate a squadron returning from combat in Europe. The facility was later named Brown Field, in memory of 2nd Lt Walter V. Brown, who lost his life in an early accident at that location. 

     By 1920 Quantico Marine Corps Base had become a permanent fixture in Northern Virginia, as Marine Corps schools were founded and the Corps embarked on the mission to, “make this post and the whole Marine Corps a great university."

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