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It’s a bird, it’s a plane!

In the early days of Fort Monmouth, when it was known as Camp Alfred Vail, the Army in conjunction with the aspiring radio laboratory operated an airfield and maintained four hanger buildings. The information here is heavily borrowed from a history of the Fort and CECOM that was generated by the CECOM History Office. We tell this story here to introduce a couple of photographs of the airfield operations. These photographs, and other photographs related to the airfield and as well of numerous other subjects are included as part of a larger collection of materials that was received by the Historical Office in 2011. This blog site has hosted numbers of the photographs from this collection.

Shortly after the laboratory operations that were set up at the Camp became operational it followed that the air-to-ground radio equipment that was being produced required ninety to ninety-five airplane flights a week for testing. As noted in a Fort Monmouth history, due to the number of flights, residents had mistakenly believed that Camp Alfred Vail was an airfield.

CE Museum Photo #390

CE Museum Photo #390

To carry out the testing, two squadrons for the United States Army Air Service were assigned to the base in 1918, including the 504th Aero Squadron arriving on 4 February 1918. This Squadron consisted of one officer and 100 enlisted men; the first planes along with the Squadron, arrived at the Camp in March 1918. The second Squadron, the 122nd Aero Squadron, consisted of 12 officers and 157 enlisted men.

Flying activity at Camp Alfred Vail reached its peak with personnel of the 122nd Aero Squadron operating a total of twenty aircraft that included two DeHaviland 4s, nine Curtiss JN4-Hs, six Curtiss 4-6Hos, and three Curtiss JN-4Ds.

The first flights did not take off until May 1918 as the 122nd was quarantined upon arrival due to several cases of measles.

Following the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, the Aviation Section was moved from Camp Alfred Vail. As stated by the Historical Office in various editions of Fort Monmouth’s history, the laboratory “had made enormous headway in adapting radio to aircraft for World War I.”

On 13 December 1918, orders were received to ship all aeronautical equipment from the Camp. The Hanger buildings were then adapted for use by the Radio Laboratory. The last of the Hangers was demolished in the 1970s. The photographic collection maintained by the history office contains a number of photographs related to the hangers as well as some additional photographs showing the Hanger buildings in operation.

CE Museum Photo #392

CE Museum Photo #392

These photographs and others are available through the CECOM Historical Office. The Historical Office is located at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Contact us via our Web-based contact form at for additional information.

This post was written by Floyd Hertweck.

Posted in From the Archives.

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