In 1917, a new army aviation field, Field #2, was established just south of Hazelhurst Field to serve as an additional training and storage base. Hundreds of aviators were trained for war at these training fields, two of the largest in the United States. Numerous buildings and tents were erected on Roosevelt and Field #2 in 1918 in order to meet this rapid expansion. In July 1918, Field #2 was renamed Mitchel Field in honor of former New York City Mayor John Purroy Mitchel who was killed while training for the Air Service in Louisiana.
Mitchel Field continued to grow after World War I. Between 1929 and 1932 a major new construction program was undertaken. New barracks, officers clubs, housing, warehouses, and operations buildings were constructed, as well as eight massive steel and concrete hangars.
Between the wars, Mitchel became a premier air corps base, somewhat of a military Country Club atmosphere with fine housing, clubs, pools, polo fields and tree-lined streets. It became home to several observation, fighter and bombardment groups and it hosted the 1920 and 1925 National Air Races.
In 1922, the Army laid out its first air route, a model airway, from Mitchel field to McCook Field, Ohio. In 1938, Mitchel was the starting point for the first nonstop transcontinental bomber flight, made by Army B-18s. Mitchel Field also served as a base from which the first demonstration of long-range aerial reconnaissance was made.
During World War II, Mitchel was the main point of air defense for New York City, equipped with two squadrons of P-40 fighters. In the late 1940s, it was headquarters of the Air Defense Command, First Air Force and Continental Air Command. By 1949, Mitchel was relieved of the responsibility for defending New York City because of the many problems associated with operating tactical aircraft in an urban area.
After several notable crashes, including a P-47 into Hofstra Universities Barnard Hall, public pressure ultimately led to closure. The last active unit to be based at Mitchel was the 514th Troop Carrier Wing flying Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcars. Due to the noise, small size of the field, and several spectacular crashes, Mitchel was closed in 1961 with the property being turned over to the County of Nassau.
The original Mitchel Field included the land now occupied by the Nassau Coliseum, the Mitchel Athletic Complex, Hofstra University and Nassau Community College. Roughly 108 acres of Mitchel Field's original 1,170 acres — once dominated by runways, air fields and taxiways — remain intact, including three of five hangars, a firehouse, two maintenance buildings once used for aircraft assembly and machine shops, military housing and a commissary.
It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.
Brodsky, Robert. “Historic Air Base Added to National Register.” Newsday, Newsday, 1 Aug. 2018, www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/mitchel-air-base-national-register-1.20211864
“Mitchel Field at the Cradle of Aviation.” Cradle of Aviation Museum, www.cradleofaviation.org/history/history/air_fields/mitchel_field.html