Pair of authors to present Selfridge's aviation legacy

April 8, 2010


Apr. 8--It was the training ground for pilots such as Charles Lindbergh and an aircraft testing ground during and after World War I.

Such history about Selfridge Air National Guard Base is to be shared Wednesday by Deborah Larsen, assistant director of the Mt. Clemens Public Library, and Selfridge Air Museum Executive Director Lt. Col. Louis Nigro, authors of the book, "Selfridge Field." The base is now known as Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

The pair is to speak during an author's series at the Detroit Historical Museum. They wrote their book four years ago.

"I hope people become aware of how much aviation history is in their own backyard," Larsen said. "You don't think much about it, but so many advancements happened there."

Selfridge Field was founded in 1917 on 640 acres in Harrison Township and was named in honor of Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge, the first military officer to die in a modern airplane crash.

"Selfridge is the second oldest military base in the nation and a vital part of this community," Nigro said.

Originally founded as an aviation school, the field became an aircraft testing ground, Larsen said.

"They conducted a lot of air races there, and it nearly closed at the end of World War I," Larsen said.

Air racing continued and was a regular occurrence after World War II.

Many pilots, including Lindbergh, Jimmy Doolittle, Emmett (Rosie) O'Donnell and Curtis LeMay, were trained at the field. The base was eventually nicknamed Home of the Generals because many of the young pilots earned the rank of general officer.

In 1947, the name was changed from Selfridge Field to Selfridge Air Force Base. By 1971, the base was transferred from the Air Force to the Michigan Air National Guard. It now has 3,600 acres.

Nigro oversees the Selfridge Air Museum, which houses artifacts such as photos and items spanning Selfridge's history. The museum is located on the base, but is run privately by volunteers, Nigro said.

"It's important to preserve the history here," Nigro said.

Contact MELANIE D. SCOTT: 586-826-7267 or [email protected]