First Aviators

By FASF Historian Ken Emery

Col. Townsend Foster Dodd

Col. Dodd at Fort Sam Houston

Colonel Dodd was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the Coast Artillery Corps on 9/25/1909. He was transferred to the Aviation Section, Signal Corps in 1912. On 2/13/1913 he established a non-stop duration of flight record by flying 244.18 miles in 4 hours, 43 minutes in aircraft SC 26, a Burgess H Model. He also won the Mackay Trophy in 1914. Dodd was ordered to join the 1st Aero Squadron at Texas City, Texas, on 3/9/1913. He qualified as a Military Aviator 12/30/1913 and was one of the “original military aviators” listed in the War Department General Order #39, dated 5/27/1913. In June, 1913, he transferred with the 1st Aero Squadron to the San Diego Signal Corps Aviation School. There, he participated in various experiments and on boards to establish training requirements and aircraft specifications. Dodd went with the 1st Aero to Galveston during the Vera Cruz incident in 1914, then to Fort Sill. Shortly after the Squadron moved to Fort Sam Houston, Dodd participated with Captain Benjamin D. Foulois on the first tactical reconnaissance over hostile territory in Air Service history on 3/15/1916 with Pershing’s Punitive Expedition into Mexico.

He was selected by General Pershing as Aviation Officer of the American Expeditionary Force in 1917 and was appointed Lieutenant Colonel in the Signal Corps. He was superseded in that job by Colonel William Mitchell who outranked him. Dodd served as Chief of Materiel and Assistant Chief of Supply, Air Service, then as G-2, Air Service, First Army. He was promoted to Colonel 8/14/1918. Reverting to his pre-war rank of Captain, Dodd was serving as Commander of Langley Field when he was killed in an air crash on 10/5/1919 at Bustleton Field, Philadephia, while participating in the New York to Los Angeles transcontinental air race. On May 10, 1928, Dodd Field was designated in War Department General Order Number 5. It was named in honor of Colonel Dodd who had previously served at the field and had been commander of the Aviation Post when the 3rd Aero Squadron was stationed there. Active flight operations were terminated in October, 1931, and official date of closure of Dodd Field as an aviation facility has not been determined.

University: University of Illinois, Engineering
Graduation Year: 1907
Service branch: Army Air Corps
Rank: Colonel
Date of Birth: 3/6/1886
Date of Death: 10/5/1919

Major Gen. Benjamin Foulois

Major Gen. Benjamin Foulois

Benjamin Delahauf Foulois, the first chief of the Army Air Corps to be a military aviator, had a number of “firsts” in his long and illustrious career. His accomplishments spanned 56 years during active-duty and retired military aviation service.

He was born in Washington, Conn., in 1879. Foulois enlisted as a volunteer in 1898, about six months later, he rejoined the Infantry as a private. He was commissioned officer of Infantry in 1901 until 1908 when he graduated from Signal School. Foulois was then assigned to the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, Washington, D.C. During this tour he operated the first dirigible balloon purchased by the U.S. government. He was also one of the first three officers in the Army to operate the first military airplane purchased by the government from the Wright Brothers in 1909. He accompanied Orville Wright on the final trial flight from Fort Myer, Va., breaking three world’s records – speed, altitude and duration cross-country.

Transferring to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, Foulois was in charge of the first airplane owned and used in the service of the U.S. Army. He was the only pilot, navigator, instructor, observer and commander in the heavier-than-air division of the U.S. Army from November 1909 to April 1911, and made many mechanical improvements, later incorporated in subsequent models of airplanes. He corresponded with the Wright Brothers to learn to fly, and correct his piloting errors. From May to July 1911 he was detailed with the Maneuver Division at San Antonio, and while there he designed and used the first radio receiving set ever used in a military airplane. During this period he also broke the world cross-country record with a passenger, and carried out the first aerial reconnaissance flights.

Transferred to the Militia Bureau, Washington, D.C., in July 1911, Foulois was in charge of all Signal Corps and engineering units of the National Guard. From 1912 to 1915, he attended Signal Corps Aviation School and assumed command of the First Aero Squadron.

Under his command, the squadron participated in the Mexican Punitive Expedition (March to August 1916) with General John J. Pershing, the supreme commander of the expedition. The First Aero flew hundreds of reconnaissance, photo and courier missions. The squadron demonstrated that the airplane was no longer an experiment or novelty, but a practical tool with many use military applications.

In May 1918 he was appointed chief of air service, First Army. When our European pipe lines began to “leak badly,” he was designated assistant chief of the air service, zone of the advance, and two months later he became assistant chief of air service, Services of Supply.

Appointed assistant chief of the Air Corps in December 1927, Foulois became chief of the Materiel Division at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, in 1929. He was then reassigned to the Office of the Chief of Air Corps, Washington, D.C., in July 1930. In May 1931 he commanded the Air Corps exercises, leadership of which earned him the Mackey Trophy for that year. On Dec. 19, 1931 he was designated chief of the Air Corps.

Foulois retired from active duty Dec. 31, 1935, after 37 years of service.

He was the president of the Air Force Historical Foundation from 1956 to 1965. He received many honors, including the Air Force Association Citation of Honor in the 50th Anniversary Year of the Silver Wings in 1963 and was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame also in 1963. Foulois tells his story in “From the Wright Brothers to the Astronauts” (McGrawHill, 1968). He died April 25, 1967.

Major Gen. Herbert A. Dargue

Maj. Gen. Herbert A. Dargue

Herbert Arthur “Bert” Dargue (November 17, 1886 – in Brooklyn, New York – December 12, 1941 in California) was a career officer in the United States Army, reaching the rank of major General in the Army Air Forces. He was a pioneer military aviator and one of the first ten recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Dargue entered the United States Military Academy on June 15, 1907. He graduated on June 13, 1911 and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Coast Artillery Corps. In March 1913, while stationed in the Philippines, he was trained to fly by 1st Lt. Frank P. Lahm, and was detailed to the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps on July 23, 1914. On December 16, 1914, he participated in the first military communication by radio while in flight. From March to July 1916, he was a member of the 1st Aero Squadron when it supported the Punitive Expedition in Mexico.

In 1926 he aided in drafting the legislation that became the Air Corps Act, which led to the establishment of the United States Army Air Corps.

From December 21, 1926 to May 2, 1927, Dargue led the Pan American Good Will Flight, a public relations mission to promote U.S. aviation in South America. Flying five Loening OA-1A seaplanes, each named for an American city, Dargue, Capt. Ira C. Eaker, and eight other Army aviators traveled 22,000 miles (35,200 km) in 59 flight days, stopping at 72 cities along the route. The ten airmen, two of whom died in an accident during the mission, were awarded certificates for the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Henry Stimson chose Dargue to lead the investigation of why the United States had been unprepared for the attack, and placed him in command of the US Army units there. However, while flying to Hawaii to take his new post, Dargue’s B-18 crashed in the Sierra Nevada mountains, outside Bishop, California, and he was killed.

Major Gen. Ralph Royce
(Compiled from various Internet sources & Wikipedia by Kris Lethin)

Maj. Gen. Ralph Royce

Royce was supremely prepared for a career in military aviation. He was born June 28, 1890 at Marquette, MI. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY from 1910-1914 and received his B.A. and commission as second lieutenant of infantry upon graduation.

He learned to fly in 1915 at North Island, San Diego, CA. He was promoted to 1st Lt. and Captain in 1916 and flew with the 1st Aero Squadron in Mexico and in France, 1916-1919. He was promoted to Major in 1917. For his service in France, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre with the citation: “Commanding the 1st American Observation Escadrille, he insisted on making the first reconnaissance above the enemy lines himself. Gives to his pilots generally an example of admirable dash and intrepidity.”

From 1920-26 he was commanding officer of the p;rimary flying school at Carlstrom Field, Arcadia, FL. In 1926 he was transferred to Langley for duty as a student at the Air Corps Tactical School. We find him at Tucson on July 8, 1927 with his home base identified as Langley. After graduation a year later he went to Ft. Leavenworth, KS as a student in the General Service School.

Military Career

  • 1928 – 1930 Commanding Officer of the 1st Pursuit Group, Selfridge Field, Michigan
  • 1930  Commanding Officer of the “Arctic Patrol” Winter Test Flight of the 1st Pursuit Group (18 Curtiss P-1C fighters, two C-9 Ford transports, one C-1 Douglas transport, and one 02-K Douglas observation aircraft) from Selfridge Field, Michigan to Spokane, Washington and return, during a period of extreme cold, snow and other bad flying and operating conditions. Royce was awarded the 1930 Mackay Trophy in recognition of this achievement.
  • 1930 – 1933 Duty with the War Department General Staff, Washington, D.C.
  • 1933 Temporary duty as Operations and Training Officer (G-3), General Headquarters Air Force (Provisional), March Field, California
  • 1933 – 1934 Student at the Army War College, Washington Barracks, D.C.
  • 1934 Operations Officer of the Alaska Flight commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Henry H. “Hap” Arnold. Arnold and his executive and operations officers, Majors Hugh J. Knerr and Royce respectively, led ten Martin B-10 bombers on an 18,000 mile round-trip flight from Bolling Field, D.C. to Fairbanks, Alaska during which they photographed some 20,000 square miles of Alaskan territory, providing data that was useful later in World War II. The mission garnered Arnold the Distinguished Flying Cross and the 1934 Mackay Trophy (his second) for the most meritorious flight of the year. To Arnold’s dismay, none of the other crew members received any award.
  • 1934 – 1937 Commanding Officer of the 1st Pursuit Group, Selfridge Field, Michigan
  • 1937 – 1939 Air Officer, Philippine Department
  • 1939 – 1941 Commanding Officer of the 7th Bombardment Group, Hamilton Field, California; from 07.09.1940, Fort Douglas, Utah
  • 1941 Assistant Military Attaché at the American Embassy in London, England
  • 1941 – 1942 Military Attaché for Air at the American Embassy in London, England
  • 1942 Chief of the Air Staff, U.S. Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA)
  • 1942 Leader of the Royce Mission, a force of three B 17 and seven B 25 bombers deployed from Australia to secret staging bases on Mindanao, Philippines for attacks on Japanese targets at Manila, Cebu, and Davao
  • 1942 Senior Air Officer, Allied Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific
  • 1942 – 1943 Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces Southeastern Training Center, Maxwell Field, Alabama
  • 1943 Commanding General of the First Air Force, Mitchel Field, New York
  • 1943 – 1944 Commanding General of the U.S. Army Forces in the Middle East (USAFIME)
  • 1944 Deputy Commander of the Ninth Air Force, England; from 15.09.1944, France
  • 1944 – 1945 Deputy Air Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force and Commanding General of the U.S. Component
  • 1944 – 1945 Commanding General of the First Tactical Air Force (Provisional)
  • 1945 Commanding General of the Personnel Distribution Command, Louisville, Kentucky
  • 1946 Retired (disability in line of duty)

Edgar Staley Gorrell
1891 -1945

Edgar Staley Gorrell

Edgar Gorrell was born in Baltimore, Maryland, graduated form West Point in 1912 and was assigned to the infantry with whom he served two years in Alaska.  He joined the Air Service in 1915 and attended flight school at North Island, San Diego.  Upon graduation in June, 1915 and receiving his Junior Military Aviation certificate in July, he was posted to the First Aero Squadron.

Edgar arrived in Columbus in March, 1916 with his squadron.  He flew (and endured) in Mexico along with his fellows and contributed as both pilot and observer.  Perhaps his major contribution was his criticism of the quality of the Curtiss JN-2/3 Jennys and the conditions the squadron faced

A newspaper reporter, Webb Miller, wrote a scathing article for his paper which was picked up by papers all over the nation.  With Washington in a dither, an investigation ensued.  Only Gorrell admitted to having spoken to Miller.  Apparently, it didn’t hurt his career for soon he was enrolled at MIT where he obtained a Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering.  The revelation of the sad state of the Air Service helped to persuade Congress to appropriate funds for more and better equipment.

Gorrell left Columbus for MIT in September, 1916.  When he graduated the next spring, he was stationed in D.C. as an intelligence officer in the Aeronautic Division.  Ordered to France in June, he became part of Gen. Pershing’s staff and on August 15, 1917 was appointed the first Chief of the Technical Section, Air Service, AEF.  By December, Edgar was Chief of Strategical Aviation.  While filling these two roles, Gorrell wrote “Bombardment Plan for the Air Service, AEF” in 1917.

This plan followed closely the plan proposed by the British for the Royal Flying Corps.  It called for the development and use of long range bombers to attack the enemies’ heartland; the manufacturing and distribution center and transportation infrastructure as well as tactical bombing against front line troops.  It detailed priorities and requisites that should be followed for successful campaigns.   He followed this up with a second paper, “The Future Role of American Bombardment Aviation”.  These ideas, though enthusiastically accepted by Pershing, Foulois, Mitchell and others, weren’t implemented due to lack of bombers and time.  The Armistice intervened and Gorrell’s papers were shelved.

On conclusion of WWI, Gen. Patrick, Chief of Air Service, AEF, ordered his personnel to forward reports of their own and their units’ activities during the war to Colonel Gorrell (he had become a colonel on October 28, 1918. at age 27).  Patrick wanted to know what had been learned by the Air Service.  He ordered everyone to do this prior to their going home!  Some reports were well done; others hastily prepared.  The Second Artillery Aerial Observation School at Souge (France) even resorted to a form letter!  Gorrell compiled and edited all this information during 1919.  “History of the Air Service, AEF” has 282 volumes and is commonly called “Gorrell’s History”.

Edgar Gorrell resigned from the Army in 1920 and joined the Nordyke and Marmon Co.  In 1925, he became associated with the Stutz Motor Car Co.; he later became President of that firm in 1929.  (While at North Island, Gorrell drove a Studebaker.  Roy Brown, a fellow student, had a Stutz Bearcat with bucket seats four huge cylinders, each with four valves, and made a lot of noise!  (One wonders if Edgar might have been a little envious so later “bought” the company.)  Stutz stopped production in 1935 and Gorrell was elected the first president of the Air Transport Association of America in 1936.  He held this post until his death.

During these years, he headed an investment company that he founded in D.C. and served on several government commissions.  One of these, the “Army Air Service Investigating Commission” was formed to look at the future of the Army Air Corps.  Among the members were Benjamin Foulois, Jimmy Doolittle and Hugh Drum.

Gorrell’s time in the military was short but he made some serious contributions.  His History speaks for itself, an epic work.  The earlier papers that he wrote concerning “strategic bombardment”, though not put into effect in WWI, were not forgotten.  Before WWII most of his ideas were included in the Army Air Corps Tactical Manual.  Major General Laurence S. Kater called Gorrell’s strategic bombardment plan the “earliest, clearest and least known statement of the American conception of the employment of an air power.”

Edgar Gorrell died in Washington, D.C. in 1945.  At his request, his ashes were scattered over West Point from a military airplane.

Born: Baltimore, Maryland
Died: Washington, D.C
Served: U.S. Army (1912 – 1920)
Rank: Colonel
Commands: Chief of the Technical Section  of the Air Service, AEF Chief of Strategical Aviation for the AEF
Award: Companion of the Distinguished  Service Order (Great Britain)
Civilian: President of Stutz Motor Car Co., President of Air Transport Association of America


Robert Henry Willis, Jr.
1886 – 1918

Robert Willis FAS '16

Robert Henry Willis was born in Williston, South Carolina.  He attended The Citadel (often called the West Point of the South) and graduated the First Honor Graduate of the Class of 1908.  He was commissioned a 2ndLt. and then assigned to the 6th Infantry at Helena, Montana.

On January 1, 1910, the 6th was sent to the Philippines where Willis served, primarily on Mindanao, until his outfit returned to San Francisco in the summer of 1912.  While there, an aviator gave him a ride over the bay and he fell in love with flying.

He was accepted into the Signal Corps Flight School at San Diego and, after a long furlough, started training in 1913. He received both the F.A.I. airplane pilot certificate and the Military Aviator rating in December.  In 1914, the Aero Club of America rated him an Expert and he received his J.M.A. rating in November.

The reorganization of the First Aero Squadron on July 1, 1915 has Lt. Willis listed as a member. (He may have been a Capt. according to one source.)  He moved with it to Fort Sill, OK; Fort Sam Houston, TX; and to Columbus, NM in the aftermath of the Villa raid.

On March 19, 1916, at about 5:15 P.M., the squadron took off for Casas Grande, Mexico.  In the gathering gloom, the formation quickly broke up in the gathering dusk.  Four of the planes landed at Ascension, Mex.; one returned to Columbus while three others flew south blindly.  At one point Willis and Gorrell almost collided as they zeroed in on a fire that they thought might mark the landing strip.  Finally, out of gas, Willis was forced to land 5 or 6 miles south of Pearson (now known as Mata Ortiz).  His plane, #41, suffered severe damage and he abandoned it and hiked north.  Hiding during the day and walking at night, it took him 2 days to reach Casas Grande.  He returned with a squad a few days later to find that the plane had been stripped.  Only the engine was salvageable.

Willis, as an observer with Lt. Dargue in #43, crashed in rough country in the hills west of Chihuahua City, Mex. on April 19th.  The plane landed on a 45 degree slope, bottom side up.  Dargue was banged up a bit, but Willis suffered a 3 to 4 inch gash in his scalp and he was hanging from the plane caught by his ankle which was severely bruised.  The airplane was a total loss so they burned it and started walking to San Antonio, Chih., 65 miles away.  It took nearly two days.  A few days later, they were in Columbus and Willis was sent to the base hospital at Ft. Sam Houston.  He spent nearly three months recuperating and it was discovered that he had walked to San Antonio with a broken ankle!

After a short return to Columbus he was posted to Washington, D.C. to be part of the committee to select machine guns for the U.S. Army.  He was its Recorder and received a letter from the Board’s President commending him for his outstanding work.  He then served for a time inspecting airplane factories in Buffalo, Boston and New York.  During this time in August, 1917, he became a Lieutenant Colonel and sailed for France on October, 29th.

On September 1, 1918, his orders came to become Chief of Air Service of the Seventh Army Corps.  A few days before he was to report, he accidentally shot himself with a pistol.  He was buried with full military honors in the cemetery at Remiremont, France.

Thus his promising military career was cut short.  One can only speculate as to what he might have achieved.  The letter to Willis’ father from General Pershing best summarizes his character.

August 17, 1920

Dear Mr. Willis:

I have your letter of July 20th, regarding your son Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. Willis, Jr., who lost his life during the World War.

I knew this young officer as a member of the small group of aviators on duty with the American Punitive Expedition in Mexico, where I had ample opportunity to observe his work.  Being imbued with the ideals of the true soldier, his service was in keeping with the high standards of our army, and I was pleased to have him as a member of the flying corps in France.  Colonel Willis was a man of pleasing personality and an officer in whose ability I had the greatest confidence and I was deeply grieved to learn of his untimely death.

With sincerest sympathy in your great loss, believe me.

Sincerely yours,

John J. Pershing

Rbt.Willis FAS w TriGeared Biplane
Robert Willis, Jr. Pictured above with his Martin TT Trainer.  (From the collection of John Moore, courtesy of Copeland Willis III, 2-28-08)

Robert Henry Willis, Jr.1886 – 1918
Died: Remiremont, France
Served: U.S. Army (1908 -1918)
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Chief of Air Service, Seventh Army Corps
(died prior to assuming position)

Ira Adelbert Rader
Ira A. Rader 001

Ira A. Rader was born in Mayten, California on July 30, 1887. He attended the University of California Berkley for one year then entered West Point. He graduated in 1911 with a B.S. in engineering and was assigned to the 19th Infantry Regiment in the Philippines. A year later, still in the Philippines, he transferred to the 24th Infantry.

Lt. Rader returned to the U.S. on leave in 1914 and volunteered for the Army Air Service. He started training at North Island, San Diego in December. He soloed in May, 1915, received his F.A.I. certificate in June and his J.M.A. rating in July and was assigned to the First Aero Squadron at Fort Sill, OK. He moved with the squadron to San Antonio, then on to Columbus for the Punitive Expedition into Mexico.

Between March 19 and April 14, 1916, Rader served competently and uneventfully with the squadron scouting and carrying dispatches. But on the 14th, while delivering dispatches to the 11th cavalry, he landed in country too rough for his Jenny, #52, to handle. He was 100 miles from the nearest U.S. base and the plane was so badly damaged he was forced to leave it. The cavalry graciously loaned him a sick mule which he rode at the end of the column, the latest in the long line of camp followers.

Rader, now a Captain, was ordered to Mineola, NY on September 19th, 1916 to serve with the Signal Corps Aviation School. At this time, most of the experienced pilots of the First Aero Squadron were being dispersed to various bases to serve in training and organizational capacities. This assignment lasted until July 20, 1917 when he was promoted and became the Departmental Aeronautical Officer, Central Dept., Chicago, IL. In October he was ordered to France and arrived there on November 12, 1917.

Major Rader was attached to Headquarters, Chief of Air Service; Paris, briefly, then was given command of the Seventh Aviation Instruction Center at Clermont-Ferrand from November 27th until September 11, 1918. On the 13th, he was promoted to Lt. Colonel and joined the First Bombardment Group at Amanty. He flew on missions over the lines during the St. Mihiel and Champagne campaigns.

He sailed to the U.S. on October 9th as Special Representative of Training Dept., Air Service, and on November 4th took command of Ellington Field, the largest aviation training facility in the nation. During the inter-war years, Ira Rader served in a number of capacities and attended four army schools. He became a temporary Colonel in 1936 and Colonel permanently on June 1 of 1940. In 1939, he commanded Barksdale Field near Shrevesport, LA, then the largest airfield in the world.

Colonel Rader was in Staffordshire, England in charge of the 8th Air Force Reinforcement Depot during WWII. He retired of July 31, 1947 after 36 years in the army, 33 of them in the Air Service. He died September 14, 1958 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Ira Adelbert Rader 1887 – 1958
Born: Mayten, California
Died: Hendersonville, No. Carolina
Served: US Army 1910 – 1924
Rank: Colonel
Seventh Aviation Instruction Center
Ellington Field
Barksdale Field
8th Air Force Reinforcement
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star
French Croix de Guerre with Palm

Joseph Eugene Carberry
1887 – 1961

Joseph E. Carberry 1913

Joseph E. Carberry was born on July 20, 1887 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He graduated from West Point in 1910 with honors and was posted to the 6th Infantry. Carberry was selected for flight duty in 1913 and ordered to North Island, California for training. He must have been adept because here he received his F.A.I. certificate #251 in July, and his M.A. (Military Aviation) rating in September. The Aero Club of America rated him an Expert Aviator on November 17, all in 1913. His J.M.A. (Junior Military Aviator) came on July 23, 1914 and he was placed on official flying status. Prior to this, though, he had already made contributions. In August, 1913, Lt. Carberry recommended that airfield symbols be used on maps to identify landing places. A “Y” was to mark a good landing field and a “V” for a possible field. Lt. Thomas Bowen, who subsequently became a flyer, was on a mapping assignment near San Diego and undertook to do the work. Standards weren’t terribly high. A “good” field had to have a runway at least 300 yards long in all directions, firm soil and no shrubbery over 2 ft. high. A “possible” field was a 250 yd. runway in one direction, at least 50 yards wide. Sandy soil was OK, shrubs couldn’t be over 3 ft. high and there could be no high obstructions around the field. A new army altitude record for two people was set on the December 26 1913. Lieutenant Carberry, with Lieutenant Taliafero as his passenger, reached 7800 ft. Three days later, with Lieutenant Seydel, observer, he won the Mackay Trophy. And, in 1915, with Captain Foulois as passenger, he established another altitude record: 11,690 ft.! The First Aero Squadron was reorganized in 1915 and included Lieutenant Carberry. He was sent to the Curtiss plant to evaluate the JN-2s that were being purchased. He flew one on June 4, 1915, but doubted that its rate of climb met the Army’s requirements, nevertheless he recommended that they be accepted. The JN-2s turned out to be woefully inadequate and Curtiss was forced to modify them into JN-3s.

Carberry was one of the 11 pilots who came to Columbus with the First Aero Squadron on March 15, 1916 and served in Mexico with the Punitive Expedition. By the end of April, the Jennies were worn out or destroyed and the squadron was back in Columbus where it would remain until August, 1917. Carberry, however, was given a new assignment. First Lieutenant Carberry took command of the Signal Corps Aviation Station, Mineola (later Hazelhurst Field) on July 22, 1916. It was the Army’s second flying school and was established to train flyers from the various state militias. The first group was from New York, and trainees from other states came later. Carberry was named Acting Aviation Officer Eastern Department in September, but didn’t assume that role until November. He held these positions until he went to France with the AEF for advanced flight training. Upon arrival in France, Captain Carberry became a member of a Board of Officers to make aviation recommendations. Colonel Edgar Russell headed the board which included, among others, Billy Mitchell and Townsend Dodd. Carberry served as recorder. The board convened on June 19, 1917 and on July 4, suggested the organization of tactical and strategic aviation for the AEF.

With his assignment to the board completed, Captain Carberry remained on General Pershing’s staff and was in charge of establishing airfields in France. By 1918, he was back in the U.S. as director of Air Service Instruction, and by June, the now Lt. Colonel Carberry was chief of Heavier-Than-Air training for the Air Service. As such, he reported that the lack of coordination between aircraft production and the training program was his greatest problem. Advanced, specialized and technical training was severely hampered by shortages of engines, spare parts and high performance planes.

Joseph Carberry apparently suffered an illness (influenza?) during or after this time for, in 1919, he left the Army General Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas for Rockwell Field, San Diego. He retired from the military in 1924 and in 1933 moved to Arcadia, California. He died in Los Angeles on November 12, 1961 and is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.

Joseph Eugene Carberry1887 – 1961
Born: Waukesha, Wisconsin
Died: Los Angeles, California
Served: US Army   1910 – 1924
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Signal Corps Aviation Station, Mineola, Long Island, New York
Director of Air Service Instruction

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Ken Emery also wrote about these pioneer military aviators in various issues of the Aerodrome, which you can look up under the Newsletter Archives section.  

2 thoughts on “First Aviators

  1. Lee Schmid

    My great uncle was Col.V.L. Burge, who in 1912 became the first enlisted military pilot. Thank you, Lee Schmid

  2. Kenneth Kodger

    Is there a list of all the USA pilots who flew in WW1? A list of USA pilots who flew reconnaissance for the French before USA entered WW1?


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