Sgt. Garlick (No. 1) and his Detachment, Feb. 26, 1918
Courtesy of March ARB History Office

     The story of March Field began at a time when the United States was rushing to build up its military forces in anticipation of an entry into World War I. News from the front in Europe had not been good as it explained for those at home the horror and boundless human misery associated with stalemated trench warfare. Several European news sources reported significant German efforts at this time to build a fleet of flying machines that could well alter the nature of modern warfare and possibly carry the war to the skies. In response, Congressional appropriations in early 1917 in the neighborhood of $640,000,000 attempted to back the plans of General George O. Squier, the Army's chief signal officer, to "put the Yankee punch into the war by building an army in the air." At the same time the War Department announced its intentions to build several new military installations. Efforts by Mr. Frank Miller, then owner of the Mission Inn in Riverside, Hiram Johnson and other California notables, succeeded in gaining War Department approval to construct an airfield at Alessandro Field located near Riverside, an airstrip used by aviators from Rockwell Field on cross-country flights from San Diego. A parade in Riverside on February 9, 1918, gave notice than an army flying field would soon be coming to Riverside.
      The Army wasted no time in establishing a new airfield. Sergeant Charles E. Garlick, who had landed at Alessandro Field in a "Jenny" in November, 1917, was selected to lead the advance contingent of four men to the new base from Rockwell Field. On February 26, 1918, Garlick and his crew and a group of mule skinners from nearby Colton, known to be experts in clearing land as well as for their colorful syntax, began the task of excavating the building foundations at Alessandro. On March 20, 1918, Alessandro Flying Training Field became March Field, named in honor of Second Lieutenant Peyton C. March, Jr., son of the Army Chief of Staff, who had been killed in a flying accident in Texas the previous month. By late April, 1918, enough progress had been made in the construction of the new field to allow the arrival of the first troops. The commander of the 818 Aero Squadron detachment, Captain William Carruthers, took over as the field's first commander and for a time operated out of an office in the Mission Inn. Within a record 60 days the grain stubble-covered plain of Moreno Valley had been partially transformed to include 12 hangers, six barracks equipped for 150 men each, mess halls, a machine shop, a post exchange, a hospital, a supply depot, an aero repair building, bachelor officer's quarters and a residence for the commanding officer. On May 15 when the first JN-4D "Jenny" took off, March Field seemed to have come into its own as a training installation. The signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, did not halt training at March Field initially but by 1921, the decision had been made to phase down all activities at the new base in accordance with sharply reduced military budgets. In April, 1923, March Field closed its doors with one sergeant left in charge.
      March Field remained quiet for only a short time. In July, 1926, Congress created the Army Air Corps and approved the Army's five-year plan which called for an expansion in pilot training and the activation of tactical units. Accordingly, funds were appropriated for the reopening of March Field in March of 1927. Colonel William C. Gardenhire, assigned to direct the refurbishment of the base, had just directed his crews to replace underpinnings of many of the previous buildings when he received word the future construction would be in Spanish Mission architectural design. In time, March Field would receive permanent structures. The rehabilitation effort was nearly complete in August, 1927, when Major Millard F. Harmon reported in to take over the job of base commander and commandant of the flying school. Classes began shortly after his arrival. In the months ahead Air Force leaders such as Hoyt Vandenberg, Nathan Twining, Thomas Power and Curtis LeMay completed their initial flight training at March Field. The base, however, was about to enter a new era.
Editor's Note:
The complete story may be found by clicking on:
the History Of March Air Force Reserve Base
page which is found on the website of:
the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, March Air Reserve Base, California, USA

The date of his death is unknown.
Editor's Note:
If you have any information on this Early Flier,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

BackNext Home