Logan Field Was Home of First Maryland Flying Unit

  • Published
  • By Capt. Wayde Minami
  • 175th Wing Public Affairs
Today, little remains beyond a historical marker, but when it opened in 1920, Logan Field was a major step forward for Maryland aviation: It was the state's first commercial aviation facility - and the first home of what would later become the Maryland Air National Guard.

Logan Field was located in Dundalk, Md., southeast of Baltimore. The 100-acre site, which was bordered by Dundalk Avenue, Belclare Road and Sollers Point Road, was owned by the Bethlehem Steel Company.

Originally named Dundalk Flying Field, the space was rented by the city of Baltimore for $2,000 a year, with the state of Maryland providing an additional $500 to cover operating expenses.

But just as the airfield was opening, tragedy struck. On July 5, 1920, Army Lt. Patrick H. Logan was fatally injured after his Nieuport 28, nicknamed the "Red Devil," crashed at the field's inaugural air show.

Lieutenant Logan had been performing a tailspin at an altitude of 2,000 feet, when the tail structure of his biplane bent, jamming the flight controls. The plane plummeted to the ground in front of thousands of horrified on-lookers. He died in surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital a few hours later. On July 11, the closing day of the air show, the Dundalk Flying Field was renamed in Lieutenant Logan's honor.

One of the organizations using the newly dedicated Logan Field was the American Flying Club of Baltimore, a number of whose members were also Army Air Corps reserve officers. In March 1921, members of the club met with a representative of the state of Maryland to discuss forming a military air unit. From that core group, the Maryland National Guard's first flying unit, the 104th Observation Squadron, was created.

The 104th was federally recognized on June 29, 1921, at the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore. Although it was not the first National Guard flying unit to achieve federal recognition, it had the distinction of being the first to actually be equipped with aircraft, which were based at Logan Field.

The National Guard facilities at Logan consisted of four Bessonneau Type H hangars. The Bessonneau was a World War I vintage canvas transportable hangar, capable of being erected in 48 hours. These, along with the handful of civil airport buildings, including a small clapboard passenger terminal, were clustered in the southwest corner of the field. The field's three runways were "paved" with turf and cinder. Although primitive by modern standards, Logan Field was considered one of the East Coast's premier airfields at the time.

By the 1930s, Logan Field was at the height of its glory. It boasted regular flights between Baltimore and Washington, New York, Atlantic City, and Miami. It also hosted regular air meets and was visited by such aviation luminaries as Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan. The Guard facilities had also been improved, with the canvas hangars replaced by permanent structures made of tar-covered corrugated iron.

But as aviation technology advanced, the constraints of Logan's size began to be felt. Logan's one 3,000-foot and two 2,000-foot sod and cinder runways were simply too small for the ever-more-powerful aircraft being designed. In 1929, construction began on a replacement field.

The new airport would be located adjacent to Logan on an artificial peninsula being created along the Patapsco River. Dubbed "Baltimore Municipal Airport," it would include a seaplane ramp and a hangar for the National Guard. But while the seaplane ramp was finished by 1932, unexpected construction delays prevented the facilities for land-based aircraft from being completed until 1940.

The combination of the new airport and the onset of World War II marked the end for Logan Field. When the 104th Observation Squadron was mobilized in February 1941, the Army relocated it to Detrick Field in Frederick County, the first of several bases it would occupy during the war. Following the U.S. entry into World War II, the War Department assumed control of both Logan Field and Baltimore Municipal Airport.

While Baltimore Municipal Airport continued to serve as an active military airfield during the war, Logan Field was put to other uses. The military took over the city's lease in February 1943 and closed the field to air traffic. Instead of an airfield, Logan became a prisoner of war camp. German POWs housed at the facility were used as a labor force for nearby farms. By 1944, Logan Field was no longer listed as an airfield on aviator sectional charts.

With the end of the war in 1945, the space was returned to civilian control. But with a vastly superior airport available literally across the street, there was no incentive to return Logan to active service as an airfield. Instead, the land was used to help meet the demand for housing caused by the large number of returning veterans. Within a few years, Logan Field had been transformed into the neighborhood of Logan Village, and no visible remnant remained of what had once been the East Coast's premier airfield.