(Click on a headline below to open its story – See more news stories below Westacott 2 Jennys Painting)
Above is a slide show of Jennys and their brave pilots – from 1916 to the present
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Painted by internationally acclaimed aviation artist and FASF Advisor, Peter R. Westacott
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ABOUT the FASF
The Pancho Villa Raid—The First Aero Squadron Responds
By Founding President of the FASF – Gene Valdes
On March 9, 1916, the United States was invaded by forces under the command of the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. Villa and his troops attacked both civilians and the military outpost in the small border town of Columbus, New Mexico. Eighteen Americans were killed before the Villa rebels were turned back.
In response, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the American military, the so-called “Punitive Expedition,” to cross into Mexico to locate and destroy Villa and his fighting forces. Accompanying the US ground forces, which grew to almost 10,000 men, was a small detachment of US Army airplanes which were based at a landing field outside of Columbus. This deployment of the First Aero Squadron, flying Curtiss “Jenny” biplanes, was the first use of US Army (now Air Force) airplanes in a U.S. military campaign. Their Columbus-based operation was, in effect, the birth of what later became the United States Air Force – and, later with the development of rotary wing aircraft (helicopters), what is now known as the Army’s Aviation Branch.
Who We Are
In 2007, a group of aviation enthusiasts and other interested citizens met to discuss what might be done to protect the site of the original landing field and flight line where the First Aero Squadron was based in 1916/17. While the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was threatened by ever expanding residential and commercial development. It was even listed as one of most endangered historic sites in New Mexico.
By 2008 the group had formed the First Aero Squadron Foundation (FASF) with the mission of securing, preserving and restoring the historic Aerodrome. We are a New Mexico non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation: Donations are tax deductible. We have a 9-member governing Board and an Advisory Board of national experts in military, history, civilian aviation and the arts. We have well over 200 members nationwide – and are growing by leaps and bounds. All our Board members are volunteers.
What We Have Done So Far
In 2009, the FASF purchased 60 acres of the historic site, comprising part of the original 1916 Aerodrome as well as the old Columbus Municipal Airport, itself steeped in history. Thanks to the dedication of the Board and our Friends, we own this land free and clear. In 2012 we graded a 2,600 runway on the site of the original Columbus Municipal Airport east-west runway which had become overgrown with mesquite, cacti and other desert plants, making the field unusable by aircraft. In 2014, we acquired access to and an option to buy the 160 acre parcel to the east of the first 60-acre parcel, which we are now engaged in paying off – and we are already, thanks to our “Buy an Acre” campaign, more than half-way there. With both parcels under FASF control, the entire original landmarked historic site is now protected. We are no longer on anyone’s endangered list!
With the historic site secured, our next step is to build a Commemorative Monument to honor all the intrepid early airmen and their crews who pioneered the beginnings of American air power – and its lead in world civil aviation development. We will reconstruct the original 1916 Aerodrome and build a museum to house a representative selection of early World War I and pre-World War II aircraft.
Part of our mission is education. We hold presentations to inform the public—including future pilots and historians—of our early aviation beginnings in which the Columbus Aerodrome figured so prominently. We believe that it is important for everyone to know the important history of our nation’s Air Force that began in a tiny town in Southern New Mexico.
How You Can Become Involved
First, if you have never been to Columbus, please come visit. Anyone of our locally-based Board Members would be happy to give you a tour of the area and the property. Second, please consider joining FASF. We are a small but enthusiastic group and we would welcome your participation in our efforts to preserve an important piece of this country’s proud heritage. Please browse the rest of our website and click right here to see how you can join in our efforts.
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