Texas Lakes Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

World War I Aviation and the Connection to Lakes Trail Communities


Following the United States entry into the war in April 1917, the US Army immediately began a massive building program to construct flying fields to train pilots and provide advanced training in aerial fighting, observation and bombing.  By late 1917, 15 primary flying training fields had been constructed and an additional 12 fields were built for elementary and advanced training in bombing, pursuit, observation, and aerial gunnery.  To simplify construction, all the flying fields were built to a standard set of blueprints.

The Signal Corps established eight ground schools at colleges and universities across the country as a lead-in to the flying training program.  One School of Military Aviation was located at the University of Texas in Austin.  Following graduation from the ground schools, cadets were sent to Camp Dick in Dallas to await orders assigning them to one of the primary flying training fields.  Camp Dick was constructed on the State Fairgrounds.

Five of the 27 flying fields were in the Texas Lakes Trail region – Barron Field near Everman, Carruthers Field in Benbrook, and Love Field in Dallas were primary flying training fields where aviation cadets learned to fly.  Love Field was also used as an aviation supply and repair depot.  Taliaferro Field north of Fort Worth was the first of four aerial gunnery schools and included a gunnery range where pilots could learn the art of air-to-air and air-to-ground gunnery.  The range was located west of the flying field and extended from the Colorado Gulf Coast Highway (now US 287 Business north of Saginaw) to the West Fork of the Trinity River (now at the bottom of Eagle Mountain Lake).  Additional gunnery targets were also mounted on small barges on Lake Worth.  Call Field in Wichita Falls provided elementary training for observation pilots and aerial observers.  Call Field also had a carrier pigeon loft.  The pigeons were used to relay messages from the observation plane back to Call Field as part of the training program.

The three flying fields around Fort Worth shared a unique place in military aviation training.  In July 1917, the Royal Flying Corps Canada selected the three fields around Fort Worth to conduct training operations during the winter months.  Between November 1917 and April 1918, Royal Flying Corps Canada provided the initial staff of instructors and over 250 Canadian-built Curtiss JN-4 aircraft to train Americans, as well as Canadian and British pilots and ground support personnel at Barron and Carruthers Fields and at the first aerial gunnery training school at Taliaferro Field.  When the RFC returned to Canada, 180 serviceable airplanes were transferred to the US Army Air Service.

By late 1919, all the fields were closed; however, Barron Field and Love Field continued to support some US Army Air Service operations, including pilot training for the Air Service Reserves.  Barron Field was briefly used as Fort Worth’s first municipal airport and Love Field became Dallas’ municipal airport in 1927.

Barron, Call, and Love Fields have Texas State Historical markers.  The City of Benbrook erected a monument to Carruthers Field and Captain Vernon Castle, Royal Flying Corps, Commander of No. 84 Canadian Training Squadron, who died in an aircraft accident at the field on February 15, 1918.  Before the War, Vernon Castle and his wife Irene were a world-famous dance team and performed on Broadway and in early movies.  Vernon Castle is buried in New York City.

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