The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor signaled the United States’ entry into World War II. While the nation had been supplying weapons and equipment to Allied Forces, the formal declaration of war required a rapid advancement in training those who would engage in combat against the enemy by land, sea and air. Because of a temperate climate and flat terrain, 14 Army Air Forces flight installations were located in Texas, including one near the Bryan/College Station area.
Seeing a sizable financial windfall, local officials were eager for a base to be established in the Brazos County region. The Chamber of Commerce Citizen's Committee recommended a several-thousand-acre site southeast of the recently incorporated town of College Station; however, the Army's Site Board of Officers chose a nearly 2,000-acre location to the northwest of Bryan, located in the Brazos River bottomland.
Under eminent domain law, the U.S. federal government secured that land from 46 different property owners at a total cost of more than $120,000. In protest, several individuals refused to accept payment in the hopes that after the war the land might be returned to them.
Noted local historian Henry Mayo charts the course of the settlement of the area which would ultimately become the site of both the Bryan Army Air Field and the RELLIS Campus.
Henry Mayo has lived in the College Station area his entire life. He grew up working for his father’s surveying and engineering company, Joe Orr, Inc., which he leads today. He has been an active member of many local organizations, including chair of the Brazos County Historical Commission and past president of the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History. He is highly regarded as a local and state history expert, writes a regular local history e-blast, and serves as a tank commander in World War II battle reenactments.