In 1917, during World War I, the Houston Chamber of Commerce lobbied the federal government to establish an air field here. Named for Lt. Eric Lamar Ellington, an Illinois aviator killed in a California plane crash in 1913, it opened in November 1917.Texas in World War II, V+60
The site transferred to the National Guard during the 1920s, and following a fire and demolition, all that remained by the 1930s was a concrete water tank. The government retained ownership, leasing the site for grazing cattle. By the 1940s, the threat of another world conflict caused the U.S. to reactivate the base. Ellington was vital to American war planning during World War II due to its strategic location near oil refineries and the Houston Ship Channel. Construction began in 1940, and among the first improvements was a service apron believed to be the largest concrete slab in the world at the time. Troops began arriving at the modernized facility in April 1941.
Ellington was primarily a pilot training center, but navigators and bombardiers, as well as aviators from other countries, also trained here. Because the field was operational prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, one of every ten Army pilots went through its flying school in the first two years of the war. Later, the Army Air Force ran an advanced navigator training school here.
After the war, Ellington was home to a Texas Air National Guard unit. During the Cold War, it again became an active Air Force base, primarily for navigator training. The Air Force abandoned the base in 1976, and the site has since been shared by the Texas Air National Guard, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Texas Army Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the City of Houston, which, since 1984, has used much of it for a municipal airport.