Celebrating Wright State’s 50th: Online Historical Photos Gallery

Throughout the year of 2017, Special Collections & Archives will help celebrate Wright State University’s 50th anniversary with a series of posts honoring the university’s history. We will explore our past through the use of historical resources available in the university archives that help document the story of the university, our faculty, staff, students and alumni.

In today’s post we will explore the online Historical Photos Gallery. This project was started in mid 2016 as we looked towards the pending 50th anniversary and knew there would be a lot of interest in photos from the university’s past. The University Photograph Collection includes over 23,000 images going back to 1963, beginning with the early artistic renderings for the campus master plan as well as the initial construction photos of Allyn Hall, as the former pasture lands of the George Warner property began to quickly transform into a new state university. What began as a single campus building soon developed into the campus Quad, with four primary academic buildings, (Allyn, Oelman, Millett, and Fawcett Halls), and a public square in the middle.

Maybe the most useful archival records for demonstrating campus growth are the aerial photographs contained within the collection. Below are several of the campus aerials showing the growth of Wright State from a single building standing alongside a cornfield to the large academic campus of today.This online gallery provides a fascinating look back at WSU and helps tell our story through images of the campus, our faculty, staff, students, and pursuits over the years. We hope that these may provide just an introduction to a deeper exploration of the university’s history as we celebrate our 50th anniversary. We will be adding additional photos throughout the year, and invite you to investigate Wright State’s history further through the materials made available online as well as in person at Special Collections & Archives.

 

Architects Rendering for Dayton Campus, 1962

Aerial view of Allyn Hall and campus land, ca. 1964

Aerial view, central campus, October 1974

Aerial view, University Center and P.E. Building, 1974

Aerial view, 1985

Aerial of Nutter Center, October 1990

Aerial view, April 2000

1970

2005

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Flying Blind: The Army’s First Night Fighters of World War II

By Kyle Thede, SC&A intern and Public History graduate student

In the spring of 1942, only months into the United States’ involvement in World War II, the Army Air Forces were taking steps into uncharted territory. While Britain’s Royal Air Force had deployed night fighters (with limited success) in the closing stages of the Battle of Britain, the practice had remained an experimental pursuit for America. Efforts to develop suitable airborne radar had been undertaken and refined ever since English ground-based radar had proved ineffective in coordinating aerial combat, and the U.S.’s first purpose-built night fighter, Northrop’s P-61 Black Widow, was still in the design and prototyping stages. As a stopgap measure, both Britain and America converted a number of Douglas’ DB-7 “Havoc” (“Boston” to the British) light bombers using newly developed radar equipment as well as powerful Turbinlite searchlights.

Douglas DB-7B, Jefferies Aviation Collection (MS-344)

At the beginning of April, William C. Odell found himself in the midst of these preparations while posted at Fort Benning, Georgia, as a Havoc pilot in the 15th Bombardment Squadron. Only days before he and his squadron-mates were due to set sail from New York, the 15th was re-organized into the 1st Pursuit Squadron, the first such unit in the Army Air Forces to specialize in night fighting. It wasn’t a transition that came naturally for the squadron personnel. The new night fighter training program involved hundreds of hours of both ground school and flying courses specializing in some of the most demanding tasks that can be asked of an airman, such as blind landings, navigating in the dark, and enemy aircraft recognition. Little wonder, then, that Odell noted in his diary that “it seems as if we are to be guinea pigs for our Air Force in this new venture.”

Odell Diary, April 1-7, 1942, MS-120, box 1, file 13

Night fighting also presented a medical challenge in addition to the obvious technical ones. Odell’s diary remarks that the squadron’s Flight Surgeon was “rather apprehensive” about the whole undertaking, and that most of his comrades increased their vitamin intake to help improve their night vision. This anxiety came on top of the fact that, despite being only days away from deployment, the Army Air Forces’ first night fighting unit had no idea where they were actually going. The Pacific seemed the least likely theatre, since the squadron only packed winter clothing for the trip ahead, but as Odell pointed out, “one can’t guess at the Army’s plans.”

As it turned out, the 1st Pursuit Squadron’s foray into the developing field of night fighting didn’t even last through the end of the transatlantic voyage to their eventual destination, England. En route, the unit was reverted to its original light bombing role, and attached to VIII Bomber Command upon their arrival. Still, the re-re-named 15th Bombardment Squadron, although no longer the first of its kind, managed to earn another historical distinction of note. On July 4, 1942 – Independence Day – flying borrowed RAF Boston bombers alongside those of the British 226 Squadron, aircrews from the 15th flew the first Army Air Force bombing raid to hit Axis-occupied territory, striking four Luftwaffe airfields in the Netherlands. The American air war over Europe had begun.

Northrop P-61A, Jefferies Aviation Collection, MS-120, box 130, file 7

Odell Flight Record, May 1942, MS-120, box 1, file 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Maurer, Maurer. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, edited by Maurer Maurer, Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1982.

McFarland, Stephen L. Conquering the Night. Air Force History and Museums Program, 1998.

Odell, William C., diary entry, April 1st-7th, 1942, MS-120, box 1, file 13.

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April 3, 2017: Ryan Riffle and Mary Pacinda to Present “Charles Snyder: Old Osborn Aviation Pioneer”

Charles Snyder Aeroplane Photographs (SC-130)

The next meeting of the Huffman Prairie Aviation Historical Society will take place on Monday, April 3, at 7:00pm. All are welcome!

The program will be held at the East Interpretive Center, Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, 2380 Memorial Road (intersection of State Route 444 and Kauffman Road), Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Presented by the Fairborn Historical Society, Ryan Riffle and Mary Pacinda will shared “Charles Snyder: Old Osborn Aviation Pioneer.” Charles Snyder was a contemporary of the Wright Brothers and was experimenting with flight at the same time they were. Snyder, in fact, knew the Wright Brothers, who were frequent visitors to his blacksmith shop—and later his aeroplane factory—in Old Osborn.

It was often easier for the Wrights to take the trolley from Huffman Prairie to Snyder’s shop, a mere four miles away, than it was to travel back to their own shop in Dayton. Once in Osborn, they would have Snyder manufacture parts for their own aeroplanes, following their specifications. Snyder would then take the trolley to Huffman Prairie to deliver and help install the parts. Although virtually unknown today, in the early 1900s Snyder designed, flew, and sold aircraft of his own design. His flying field was close enough to Huffman Prairie that both he and the Wrights could see each other testing their craft. Snyder was locally well-known for his aircraft, probably as much as the Wrights were.

Like many aviation pioneers of that time, Snyder flew his planes in shows at county fairs. Sometimes he managed to sell one to a spectator if the money was right. In the early 1920s, Snyder, seeing no profit in his own aviation endeavors, moved his shop to New Carlisle and returned to his original trade: blacksmith. From there, he disappeared into history while other aviation pioneers continued without him.

For questions, please call 937-775-2092 or email archives@www.libraries.wright.edu.

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