Photo credit: "Possibly WWI Fighter Plane, 1916," Prints & Photographs Div., Library of Congress, Reproduction Number LC-D418-407 DLC
[Also click here to check out this fascinating and funny website of photos and info about early aircraft].
The United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, three years after the war began in Europe. Airplanes were a relatively new technology at that time, especially untried in the arena of war. U.S. industry had been supplying England and France with some planes during the first part of the war. A number of different aircraft designs were tested. By the time the U.S. got involved in the war, the Allies decided to try using air assaults, since ground offensives had reached a stalemate. The preferred material for airplane structure was Sitka spruce wood for its qualities of strength, light weight, and clear straight grain, “and would not splinter when struck by a rifle bullet” [quote by Lt. Col. Disque, cited in “The Spruce Production Division,” Forest History Today, Spring, 1999. See this site also for detailed history & photos]. The wooden framework was then covered with a canvas-like membrane.
On November 6, 1917, Disque was promoted to Colonel and was given command of the Spruce Production Division (as part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps). Headquarters were stationed in the Yeon Building in downtown Portland, Oregon. The main operations center for troop movement & training was Vancouver Barracks, Vancouver, Washington. Vancouver was also the site of the main sawmill called the Cut-Up Plant, which was also constructed and run by “spruce soldiers” [see this link for extensive history of the Vancouver Barracks & photo of the Cut-Up Plant on page 7 of 173 pp.].
There were five military field districts of the Spruce Production Division. In addition to the Headquarters in Portland, and the Vancouver Barracks, the districts were located in Puget Sound, WA; Grays Harbor & Wallapa Bay, WA; Clatsop & Coos Counties, OR; and Lincoln County, OR. Over 26,000 soldiers and about 1,000 officers established 234 camps in these sections of the Washington and Oregon coasts.
The war ended on November 11, 1918.
Posted by jackie.