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Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: August 17, 2018

The First Squadron of the School of Aeronautics at OSU during WWI.

The First Squadron of the School of Aeronautics at OSU during WWI. Photo: OSU Archives

A century ago in 1918, a new building was christened on the Ohio State campus with an odd roof described as a “queer looking saw-tooth.” The unique design of the Army Aviation building included roof sections made of glass placed toward the north side to provide a diffused, but steady flood of lighting into the building. The glass looked like teeth sticking up from the building.

By the summer of 1918, young boys were lining the windows of the building watching the World War I aviators work on airplanes, learning how to patch wings and maintain the engines. The building was big enough to hold several planes and the WWI flyers would occasionally roll a plane down a hill to a large field and use it as an airstrip. That field would soon be the site of Ohio Stadium.

A article in The Lantern described the “frail frame of the wings” of the small planes, which were “covered with just ordinary linen treated with fluids.” It was hard to believe anyone would try to fly such a device, much less use it in battle.

The 1918 Aviation hanger would become the home of WOSU Radio.

The 1918 Aviation hanger would become the home of WOSU Radio.

 

Other parts of the Aviation building were used to study the operation of machine guns and teach wireless telegraphy using Morse code.

One of the wireless instructors was a teenager himself, Robert Higgy. After the war, Higgy would become the chief engineer at WEAO radio (later renamed WOSU) and then the first director of radio in 1927.

He would lead one of the pioneering educational stations from offices and studios in what was the Aviation building. The AM radio station was joined by FM in 1949 and would continue as station headquarters until it moved to the Fawcett Center in 1970. All told, the WOSU radio operations spent about 50 years in what was originally the WWI Army Aviation building.