The Aerodrome is the Journal of the First Aero Squadron Foundation
You will always find the latest issue on this page.
The Aerodrome’s Editor-in-Chief is our founding President, Gene Valdes
New FASF Board Seated
A new FASF Board of Trustees was installed at the Board’s February 8th meeting. The incoming 9-member Board consists of 6 current and 3 new members. The new trustees include Kathleen Martín, Cathy Myers and Lew Stratton. Former 1st Vice President Ric Lambart also began a new term. In addition to Ric, continuing on the Board are immediate Past President Bill Wehner, John Orton, Scott Schmid, Bud Canfield, and Gene Valdes. Following the new Board installation, officers were elected: Ric Lambart, President; John Orton, 1st Vice-President, Cathy Myers 2nd VP, Bud Canfield, Secretary and Gene Valdes, Treasurer. Photos of the new members follow:
Kathleen Martín (left) is a cultural anthropologist with a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College. Most recently, she was a faculty member at Florida International University in Miami. Amazingly, Kathleen’s grandfather was a soldier in the Punitive Expedition. Kathleen lives in Deming, NM.
Cathy Myers (Right) received her Master’s Degree from Utah State University. She has been flying for a number of years and is the current President of the New Mexico Pilots Association. Cathy resides in Las Cruces, NM.
Lew Stratton (left) is a former college professor with a Doctorate in Chemistry and Biochemistry. Lew, who now lives in Columbus, NM, taught at Furman University in South Carolina from 1967-2000. Lew is an avid RV enthusiast, and is often found on the road.
“Buy an Acre” Update
Recapping for our new members, last Fall the FASF made the final payment on the original 60-acre tract that it had purchased in 2009. That tract contains part, but not all, of the landing field that the First Aero Squadron used during the 1916-17 Punitive Expedition. The rest of the First Aero Squadron landing field and flight line was located on an adjacent 160-acre parcel owned by a private party. By coincidence, that parcel was put up for sale just as the FASF finalized its purchase of the 60-acre tract. At the time, the FASF was not in a position to purchase the 160 acres. On their own initiative, past President Bill Wehner and his wife Mary purchased the 160-acre parcel and announced their intention to deed it to the FASF at cost once the organization was able to reimburse them.
In a true grass roots movement, FASF member Stan Walsh was the first to send in a check for $250 to “buy an acre” to help the FASF purchase the 160-acre tract. The total amount Bill and Mary paid for the land came to about $250 per acre times 160. Soon other members sent in donations, many in memory of a special person. As of this printing the donors include:
“TWENTY ACRE PURCHASE”
- Requested to Remain Anonymous. Initial 20 acre purchase plus pledge to match with another 20 acres through December 31, 2014 [See Separate Article on this donor’s pledge].
“FIVE ACRE PURCHASE”
- Requested to Remain Anonymous. One acre down plus pledge to purchase 4 more acres in 2014, in honor of “All Aviators Who Have Gone West.”
“TWO ACRE PURCHASES”
- Oscar Bayer, Arroyo Grande, CA, in memory of his son Timothy O. Bayer, a Korean and Vietnam Veteran who also served on the FASF Board of Trustees;
- Charles “Pete” & Christine Adolph, Albuquerque, NM, one acre in honor of Elmer Hamlin, the 2nd acre for Christine & Pete Adolph;
- Ronald J. & Connie M. Massicot, Breaux Bridge, LA, in honor of MacRae Sisters;
- Cathy & Tom Willmott, Santa Fe, NM.
“ONE ACRE PURCHASES”
- Stan Walsh, Ranchos Palos Verdes, CA, in honor of Billie Schauffler, pioneer aviator, who flew with the First Aero Squadron in Columbus in 1917;
- Stephen Owens, Grants, NM;
- David F. Clemmer, Gaithersburg, MD;
- Mr. Lynn Krogh, Centennial, CO, in honor of the late James Greenwood, past Chair of the FASF Advisory Board, who had a long and illustrious career in aviation, including a period as the legendary Bill Lear’s right-hand man;
- James A. McMahon, Lewes, DE;
- Glen Desplinter, Milan, IL;
- Judith Dodson, Columbus, NM, in memory of her late husband, decorated WWII Bomber Pilot, Daniel B. Dodson, who flew “the hump” over the Himlayas in B-24 Liberators;
- Gene & Dorian Valdes, Columbus, NM;
- Christopher & Rhoda Brown, Tucson, AZ, in honor of Ralph A. O’Neill, decorated Nogales, AZ First World War fighter pilot and Ace, an aviation and airline pioneer;
- Byrd J. Raby, Normandy, TN, in memory of Russ Noble, Bisbee, AZ, charter member of the International Cessna 170 Association;
- Ken & Sheila Emery, Columbus, NM;
- Terry Drew, Aptos, Ca, in honor of his grandfather, George Thomas Drew, who learned to fly in Columbus during the 1916-17 Punitive Expedition;
- Colonel William A. Lafferty, USAF, ret., Tucson, AZ;
- Patricia M. Walsh, East Atlantic Beach, NY, in memory of her late husband, Gerald Calixus Walsh, who had the original vision for preserving the historic site;
- Suzanne S. Azar, former Mayor of El Paso, TX and well known aviatrix;
- June Riddle, Columbus, NM, in honor of her late husband 2nd Lt. Jack Meacham Riddle, US Army Air Corps;
- James Beyer, Fayetteville, TN;
- Peter Emery, Farmington, NM, in honor of his grandmother Marjorie Lewis Carroll, an accomplished pilot and manager of the Nashua, NH Airport during World War II;
- Dr. Richard Hallion, Shalimar, FL, in honor of all early Army aviators;
- Stuart Meerscheidt, Las Cruces, NM;
- Duane Shockey, San Diego, CA;
- Michael E. Owen, Tucson, AZ;
- Marion J. Pratt, Sedona, AZ, in honor of Stuart and Jeremy Pratt;
- Dorothy V. Benham, Blanco, TX, in honor of John D. Benham, Sr., cofounder of the International Cessna 170 Association;
- George and Rita Mock, Anderson, IL.
- Kenneth L. Peck, Smithville, TX;
- Charles Bogart, Frankfort, KY;
“SHARE AN ACRE PURCHASES”
- Gary C. Warne, Altamonte Springs, FL, in honor of his grandfather Carl R. Warne, who served in the First Army of the AEF and who was awarded 2 Battle Stars and a purple Heart in World War I;
- Alfred Kitch, Riverside, IL.
$5,000 Donated & Pledged
On November 29, 2013, an FASF member and spouse contributed $5000 toward the purchase of 20 acres under the First Aero’s “Buy an Acre” campaign. The donor couple has requested that their contribution be anonymous. Not only did our anonymous couple donate $5,000 but they also pledged to match all contributions from November 29, 2013 until December 31, 2014 up to $5,000. In their words: “We’d like to issue a ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ challenge to the membership: we’ll match all contributions (from anyone in any amount) from now until the end of 2014 towards the purchase of up to 20 additional acres ($5,000.00).” Thanks to our anonymous couple for their extremely generous contribution!
EAA Chapter Donation
Wes Baker, President, and Carl Brown, Treasurer of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) Las Cruces, New Mexico Chapter, just announced that their EAA group is contributing $1,250 to the FASF fund for the “Buy an Acre” land acquisition campaign. This contribution will be in the names of five of the chapter’s members who have passed on, in memorial to their time and contributions to the EAA chapter 555. Thanks to EAA Chapter 555 for their contribution!
New Business Members
In what is a very promising initiative to gain business and corporate support for the FASF, the Deming Visitors Center and Big O Tires in Deming have signed on as FASF members. President Ric Lambart, who signed up these two new members, is contacting other businesses and corporations to gain their support as well. It’s certainly a very worthwhile endeavor.
1st Aero Squadron History
Editor’s Note: The following article is by author and historian John L. Deuble Jr. Deuble, who is a member of the FASF Advisory Board, has graciously given the FASF exclusive permission to publish articles from his upcoming book in The Aerodrome.
EXPERT MILITARY AVIATORS
POSTED TO CAMP FURLONG
By John L. Deuble, Jr.
When the 1sT Aero Squadron was ordered to join General Pershing’s Mexican Punitive Expedition on March 12, 1916, the squadron had seventeen rated pilots – eleven officers and six enlisted men. The squadron’s officer pilots represented the largest number of rated and experienced pilots among all squadrons within the U.S. Army Signal Corps Aviation Section. In the summer of 1912, the Aero Club of America recognized an advanced grade of pilot skill, i.e., beyond Federation Aeronautique Internationale [FAI] Certification. This was the Expert Pilot Certification. Within the newly arrived 1st Aero Squadron pilots at Camp Furlong, six officer pilots [B.D. Foulois, C.G. Chapman, H.A. Dargue, J.E. Carberry, R.H. Willis, and T.S. Dodd] held the Expert Pilot Certification. In addition, these pilots held the coveted Military Aviation Badge.
In March 12, the Secretary of War established regulations [War Department Bulletin No. 6 dated February 23, 1912] that provided for physical fitness examination and flight testing to qualify “pilots” for rating as Military Aviators. When these qualifications were met, a certificate was awarded to those aviators. This document stated that they were “rated” as a Military Aviator; however, these certificates were not authorized until 1913.
The flight requirements for the Military Aviation Badge were: attain an altitude of at least 2,500 feet; pilot an aircraft for at least five minutes in a wind of fifteen miles per hour or greater; carry a passenger to an altitude of 500 feet, with a combined weight of pilot and passenger of 250 pounds or more, and make a dead-stick landing to within 150 feet of a designated point; and make a military reconnaissance flight of at least twenty miles cross-country at an average altitude of 1,500 feet.
General Order No. 39 issued by the War Department on May 27, 1913, authorized a badge for military aviators. When the Aviation Section – Signal Corps was established in 1912, Signal Corps personnel assigned or personnel detached from other Army branches formed the Aviation Section. On May 4, 1914, War Department Bulletin No. 35 specified two levels of qualification. All aviators were to be ranked as “Junior Military Aviators,” and those who held the rank of Captain or above with at least three years flying experience would be rated as “Military Aviators.”
The design of the Military Aviator Badge was an eagle in flight carrying signal flags. It was suspended from a bar inscribed “Military Aviator.” These badges were manufactured by the Ordnance Department at the Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. The badge was struck in 14kt gold, and then coated with 24kt gold. Hand embellishments by a skilled engraver completed the process. Only twenty-four of the badges were manufactured and awarded.
Six pilots within the initial officer pilot group of the 1st Aero Squadron deployed to Camp Furlong were awarded the Signal Corps Military Aviator Badge.
Number 1st Aero Aviator Awarded
3 1st. Lt. Benjamin D. Foulois July 13, 1912
23 1st. Lt. Townsend F. Dodd Dec. 30, 1913
13 2nd Lt. Carleton G. Chapman June 26, 1913
15 2nd Lt. Herbert A. Dargue July 19, 1913
16 2nd Lt. Joseph E. Carberry Sep. 25, 1913
21 2nd Lt. Robert H. Willis, Jr. Dec. 26, 1913
The rapid buildup of Army aviators in World War I made it uneconomically possible to issue a gold badge to every rated pilot. A new set of wings replaced the original Military Aviator Badge [Special Regulation No. 41 dated August 15, 1917]. This new design was an embroidered three-inch, double winged shield made of silver bullion on a dark blue felt background with the gold letters “U.S.” superimposed on the shield. These embroidered badges were replaced by Executive Order in 1918 with the first silver metal wings and shield design.
This article was reprinted with the author’s permission from the following sources: John L. Deuble, Jr. Camp Furlong – Columbus, New Mexico 1912-1926 and John L. Deuble, Jr. The 1st Aero Squadron 1913-2013 – A Century of Military Aviation Leadership and Service. Note: A complete bibliography accompanied this article. It is available on the FASF website.
The December 2013 issue of The Aerodrome published the above photo of Air Force wings and asked for help in identifying them. The above wings were donated to the FASF by Diane Patton, a volunteer at the Deming Visitor’s Center. The above emblem is not a First Aero Squadron emblem. This was confirmed by our expert on the subject, John L. Deuble, Jr. John’s response is as follows:
“Badge is a WWII memorabilia item; unofficial crew members wings. Description: silver wings, USAAF symbol – white star, red circle in center with gold wings [wing design varies]; blue background with yellow circle border. The ‘1’
represents the 1st Air Force. These badges were purchased by aircrew members and sent to loved ones. Have seen similar badges for the 8th Air Force [Europe World War II] and the 15th Air Force [Mediterranean WWII]”
“Following the Pearl Harbor attack, the 1st Air Force became the Army Air Forces Anti-submarine Command. Most of its forces came from the 1st Bomber Command. Its mission was to address the German U-Boat threat along the Atlantic Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean. The First Bombardment Squadron [lineage from the First Aero Squadron] was part of this command in 1941 and early 1942. Squadron operated from Piarco Field, Waller Field, and Edinburg Field, Trinidad [BWI]. Its aircraft initially were B-18s and then B-17s.”
Thanks, John, for your very interesting and authoritative response!
By Immediate Past President Bill Wehner
The recent board election brought some expected changes and a couple of surprises. Congratulations are in order for our new leader Ric Lambart, and for our 3 new trustees. In every change of order, however, there are unfortunately losses:
Ken Emery (left) chose not to run again because he is caring for his wife who is ill. When I first talked to Ken about the possibility of joining the FASF, he was not wild about the idea – he had just retired from a Forest Service job as tower-bound fire-watcher in Arizona. He was also retired from half a dozen other careers, including that of a cultural anthropologist. Well, that got my attention so I pressed him until he decided to join us. As it turned out, Ken was not only a tireless and careful researcher, he was at home at the podium as well as being a talented writer whose work graced these pages as well as local and regional publications. Ken also became a trusted ear and good council who I could count on for straight and unbiased answers when I wavered on the road. I, and this Board, will greatly miss his input and his insight.
Martha Skinner (right) retired from the Board to run again for Columbus Village Trustee in support of her brother Philip Skinner who ran for and was just elected Village Mayor. Martha has done it all. She sits on the Border Commission and runs a hotel bearing her name. She has served the Village several times as Trustee and as its Mayor, and she has served FASF well. At various times she has been Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, and perhaps most importantly, a calm voice of reason. Her experience, objectivity and good judgment will be sorely missed.
Jim Davis (left) is our expert on aeronautica who makes his home in the nation’s capital. He is a walking, talking encyclopedia (remember those?) who has been more than generous with his knowledge, his hundreds of aviation contacts, his personal time and certainly his treasure. Jim has been unselfishly dedicated to the success of FASF from the very beginning. This was demonstrated again when asked by the nominations committee to step aside in favor of the new slate of candidates, he said simply, “Whatever the Foundation needs me to do.” Jim has been appointed to the Advisory Board along with Ken and Martha.
Our new President has announced an ambitious program of growth and development. We certainly wish him and the new trustees well.
From the President’s Desk
By President Ric Lambart
Being elected as your President is not just an honor, but a genuine privilege. It will clearly take lots of hard work and good luck to even begin to fill the shoes of our previous leaders: Founding President Gene Valdes, and my immediate predecessor, Bill Wehner.
In just 7 short years we have gone from an idea which, staffed only with volunteers, has already resulted in several significant material achievements: Among the foremost are the successful acquisition of the original airfield land; the solidification and refining of our organization to include younger generations; and the establishment of a working relationship with the present-day United States Air Force, the organization which evolved from the events in Columbus 98 years ago.
Initially we were able to gather enough local people to make up our Board of Trustees, all of whom helped immeasurably to get us where we are today. Next, we expanded our Board to include active Trustees from more distant cities, such as Deming and Las Cruces New Mexico, and even El Paso Texas. But we certainly can’t overlook our two most distant active Trustees, Foundation Historian, Jim Davis of Virginia, who has just retired from the Board—but not from our active membership—and Kris Lethin, our first Webmaster, now based in Alaska. Thanks also to some of our other recently retired (but still active as members) founding Trustees: Former Mayor of Columbus Martha Skinner, and our local First Aero Squadron historian and archaeologist, Ken Emery.
We also need to recognize some of our non-Board members who have contributed immeasurably to what we’ve been able to do: Colonel Bill Lafferty, one of our founders and current Honorary Chair of our Advisory Board; Suzanne Azar, first and only female Mayor of El Paso, TX; Mrs. Patricia Walsh, of New York, who deeded her 60 acre aerodrome property to the Foundation; Lyn and Tom Benedict, our official 2013 FASF Achievers of the Year, who helped us open our first functional landing strip on the First Aero Airfield and even designed and built its windsock assembly; and last but not least, FASF member Colonel “Chi Chi” Rodriguez, who made history as the first Commander of the First Aero Squadron (now based at Beale AFB in California) to return to his squadron’s historical roots by bringing his entire family to visit us here in Columbus last year. Our membership has increased to the point where we now even have members abroad. Our various educational exhibitions, presenters and the events that featured them, have been both educational and popular – and sometimes historic.
Our mission is to commemorate the otherwise unsung heroes of that 1916-17 pre-WWI era who risked their lives each time they strapped themselves into those dangerously unstable early flying machines—and pioneered the use of aircraft to support ground troops in their search for Pancho Villa, the man who had launched the sneak attack on tiny Columbus, NM. That is what we are all about.
Pancho Villa’s men killed 10 innocent civilians and 8 US Army personnel stationed in the local garrison. What our early flyers accomplished was both innovative and also hugely successful.
They provided eyes in the sky, and that unique new airborne perspective gave a big advantage to their Punitive Expedition’s commander, General John “Black Jack” Pershing. What our young pilots did, as they flew out of Columbus and into Mexico, was inherently dangerous for them, but proved lifesaving to their comrades on the ground. Their ability to see beyond the mountains and into hiding places that would have otherwise allowed the Villistas to launch surprise attacks and ambushes against the US Cavalry troops was unprecedented. Indeed, what these young airmen did made history, giving birth to what is today the world’s greatest air power.
Their achievements in proving the worth of aircraft to the military also helped prepare them for what happened all too soon over the distant battlefields of Europe, during the so-called “war to end all wars.” But equally important, their hard work and inventiveness also helped keep America on track as one of the leading pioneers in civilian aviation, as well. A surprising number of these young men went on to have stellar careers in U. S. civilian and military aviation. You can learn about them by reading the individual biographies on our web site (see the article First Aviators, in the Articles section), so colorfully written by our own archaeologist-turned-historian, Ken Emery. The young Captain, Bennie Foulois, who commanded his fellow pilots in Columbus, went on to become the Chief Commanding General of the post-WWI Army Air Corps, and helped President Franklin Roosevelt rescue the Air Mail service, when serious corruption problems caused the temporarily cessation of those flights by the airlines of the day.
It is this background that provides the meaning to what we are working to accomplish from our base in tiny Columbus, New Mexico. We intend to use the property we have spent the past seven years acquiring to enable us to rebuild the old Army Airfield’s Flight Line, along with its machine shops and hangars, and then, later on, design and build one of the finest memorial museums in which to hangar real, airworthy, flying machines from this pioneering era in American aviation history. Regularly held commemorative air shows and other aviation events should then become recurring celebratory events to help Columbus and nearby Deming further enhance and develop their hospitality and tourist industries.
The Foundation’s next immediate two-year objective is to organize and host the Centennial Celebration of the birth of the world’s greatest air power, right here in our hometown of Columbus.
To achieve this ambitious goal we will have to:
1. Set up an official FASF home office facility;
2. Complete the purchase of the entire historic airfield land area;
3. Reconstruct the First Aero’s Flight Line;
4. And do whatever else is possible to prepare the site for the actual Centennial Celebration event, which should draw many thousands of visitors to Columbus from across the country, and even from Mexico.
If we can also manage to develop and exhibit site drawings for the future FASF Aviation Museum within this time frame, this will be a big plus. In any case, we must coordinate the extensive planning for the Centennial event with the surrounding communities, as well as with both military and civilian air show groups, so that the celebration will be fully recognized for its high quality entertainment and educational achievements.
Ric Lambart, FASF