Tag Archives: Columbus NM

RAID DAY COMMITTEE MEETS TO PLAN FOR MARCH 9, 2019

L to R: Background are Bill Armendariz – Editor in Chief of the Deming Headlight newspaper, Maria Jimenez of Casas Grandes, Mexico, and Alma Villezcas, FASF Treasurer; in forground are (L to R)  July McClure, FASF Aerodrome Editor and John Read retired Mgr. of Pancho Villa State Park.  Before his retirement last month, John made all the arrangements for the upcoming RAID DAY events at the local New Mexico State Park.

This past Friday, key members of the 2019 Raid Day Planning Committee met at the famous Palomas, Mexico “PINK STORE” (longtime commercial suporter of the FASF!) to discuss the upcoming annual RAID DAY event in Columbus.  The below photos capture most of the participants.

The majority of the group are all long time active members of the FASF.

This year the memorial event, which commemorates the disasterous raid on the town of Columbus, NM, by Mexican Revolutionary General Francisco “Pancho” Villa, a tragedy which took the lives of some 18 innocent Americans, will fall on a Saturday, March 9th.

Some 1500 of the Villistas (as Villa’s troops became known) attacked the sleeping village under cover of darkness that fateful day.  In response to this attack, then US President Wilson ordered US Army General “Black Jack” Pershing to organize the “Punitive Expedition” as a means of capturing or destroying Villa in retaliation for the attack.  It was this Expeditionary force that gave rise to the first US Military deployment in sustained combat circumstances of two new weapons: The Airplane and the Motorized ground vehicle.

Thus, the incident saw the launching of the World’s Greatest Air Power in the small rural community of Columbus, NM.   There will be many events taking place on RAID DAY, from public historical presentations at both Pancho Villa State Park and at the Columbus Library.

FASF President, Ric Lambart, will conduct a slide and video presentation at the Library at 9:30 AM entitled “How Pancho Villa Saved the United States.”  Three historian experts on the Raid will make their presentations starting at 1:00 PM at the Pancho Villa State Park Recreation Hall.

The traditional RAID DAY Cabalgata Binacional, where horsemen (and women) from deep in Mexico ride into Columbus to join with hundreds of American riders, coming down from the North, will begin to enter the Village Plaza at approximately 11:00 AM.

The Columbus Historical Society (CHS), under the leadership of local Historian, Richard Dean (whose grandfather was one of the civilians killed by the Villistas), will also hold its own traditional solemn Memorial Service at the Society’s Depot Museum at 10:00 AM.

The joining of the Mexican and American riders is an annual gesture of the peace and goodwill now in effect between the two nations.  All throughout the town, there will be vendors supplying Mexican and American food.  There will also be entertainment by local musicians, such as the FASF’s own July McClure, along with Mariachi bands, and traditional Mexican folkloric dancers.  There will be much to see at this always well-attended event.

    In background (L to R),, John Read discussing plans with July McClure and Headlight Editor, Bill Armendariz.

L to R above: John Read speaking with (standing) Raul Martinez, Cabalgata Parade Marshall and CEO of the Pancho Villa Development Corporation.  The Pink Store waiter is speakiong to Norma Gomez, RAID DAY and CABALGATA EVENT organizer and Columbus Chamber of Commerce Secretary.  July McClure is enjoying her lunch and Bill Armendariz gets some event information from Norma.

The above photo of the planners was taken by Bill Armendariz.  L to R: Ric Lambart John Read, Raul Martinez, July McClure, Norma Gomez, Alma’s visiting guest from her homw down in Mexico, Sra. Maria Jimenez and Alma Villezcas in the foreground.

First Aero’s John Read Retires from NM State Parks Dept.

Today, only three days to go before retiring as Manager of New Mexico’s Pancho Villa State Park (PVSP) in Columbus, one of the FASF’s earliest and most active members and enthusiastic supporters, John Read (at left), was honored at a surprise celebration, held at his beloved Park in Columbus, the very spot which once housed U.S. Army troops under General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, during the famous Punitive Expedition of 1916 and 1917.  High resolution still photographs and video follow story down below . . .

Camp Furlong 1916-17 Recreation Hall

 

Today’s celebratory event was actually held in the very same “Recreation Hall” (at right) in which U.S. Army infantry, cavalry, and Signal Corps Aviation troops held their various recreational activities over a century ago.  The Army Fort and Garrison at Columbus became known as “Camp Furlong.”

 

Since arriving in Columbus, Mr. Read has maintained a continuous presence in all FASF activities, often helping the Foundation put on various presentations for the general public, and acting as one of its principle historical consultants.

General “Black Jack” Pershing

He supported and even hosted the very first public event put on by the FASF, when the United States Air Force (USAF) flew its then Deputy Historian, Dr. Roger Miller, out to Columbus to put on the group’s very first public History sell-out extravaganza.

It was New Mexico’s interesting employment opportunities and the excitement of the Southwest that initially drew the Reads from their home in Tampa, Florida to New Mexico. When John arrived at Columbus, in 2008, his first task was to become the Park’s new Heritage Educator.  Prior to his arrival in Columbus, John first worked as a Park Ranger at the Roswell NM State park. 

Although Read’s major during college was in the Sciences, and notwithstanding his years of teaching science in Florida, he nevertheless became a dedicated student of history, in particular the history of those events which surrounded Columbus during those years just prior to our entry into the “War to End All Wars,” better known today as WWI, in Europe.

Aside from his heavy workload at managing the New Mexico PVSP operation, John has still continued his love of Science, foraging into advanced theoretical physics concepts, such as Quantum Mechanics and String Theory, and he has also become in income producing YouTube presenter of New Mexico High Desert Exploration and Aventure Videos.

It was during that Punitive Expedition that the United States first engaged its fledgling, and as yet unproven Army First Aero Squadron, in sustained combat.  And, of course, it was this very history-making development in Columbus, over a century ago, that led to the small Mexican border town’s becoming the “Birthplace of American Air Power,” and the Rebirth Site of American Civil aviation, as well.

However, it was not just this history that captured Mr. Read’s interest, but the entire series of related historic events that arose out the Columbus engagement in that historic Punitive Expedition.

Let’s take a quick glance of some of John’s more notable contributions, which so greatly enhanced the PVSP’s status as a historical site and local landmark for visitors and history buffs:

  • He created 1st website for the Pancho Villa State Park Friends (Volunteer Docent) group
  • Expanded and helped re-organize for more effectiveness, the PVSP Friend’s Group
  • Obtained large donation of new historic Expedition Artifacts for display in the exhibit Hall
  • Got donations of numerous original 13th Cavalry Army Uniforms from the Expedition
  • Acquired large collection of impressively mounted new Photo Plaques re the Raid
  • Promoted + sold many FASF souvenirs to park visitors, to help PVSP Friends’ funding
  • Created and marketed numerous other Expedition and “Raid” gifts for tourists
  • Got for display a valuable US 48 star Flag used by the expedition in Mexico in 1917-17
  • Acquired from Pancho’s grandson (Mex. Atty) for display, aluminum death mask of Villa
  • Put on display an actual artillery shell found in Mexico from the Expedition’s action there
  • Got donation of  Bill Rakocy collection (SW Historian/Artist & Writer) exhibit for display
  • Sold numerous new donors to make exhibit donations to the Park for its prized collection
  • Coordinated historical education “Staff Rides” (Field Trips) for USA Sgt. Majors Academy
  • Regularly coordinated USA Sergeant Majors Academy “Staff Rides” (Field Trips) thru PVSP
  • Did research: why PVSP was named after the Mexican Revolutionary who raided the US*
  • Greatly expanded the Park’s fostering and promoting of large Antique Car Show each year
  • Managed and orchestrated huge “Raid Centenniall” extravaganza in 2016, which featured:
    • A large group of 13th Cavalry Reenactors from all across the United States
    • Had Actress/Singer Helen Patton, Gen. Patton’s granddaughter perform for FASF
    • Had Congressman/FASF member, Steve Pearce  present US Capitol Flag to the FASF
    • Arranged Special FASF Presentation to the overflow crowd of Centennial visitors
    • Otherwise coordinated hundreds of enactors and others for successful Centennia

Here, for your enjoyment, are some of today’s photos . . . click to see full high-resolution view

Some of guests line up to get their event lunch

Guests begin to assemble in the Camp Furlong Recreation Hall to hear John’s retirement ceremony

L to R in foreground: Park volunteers, Dave and Marlene Ferguson, Josephine Gosiak, Shirley and Steve Schou, and with their backs to cameral, PVSP Friends’ VIPs, Jeane and Bud Canfield

L to R facing camera and standing: FASF Aerodrome Editor, July McClure, John Read, and seated, Maria Rangel, FASF member, Ted Williams (turned toward John and a park volunteer) and Bud Canfield, long time FASF Advisor.

L to R: July McClure, John Read, Maria Rangel, Ted Williams, Bud and Jeane Canfield.

L to R above: Guest of honor, John Read and his wife, Elly Read.

New Mexico State Park employees and staff, along with guests, listen to event MC and Park Regional Manager, Evaristo Giron, as he descried John Read’s numerous achievements during his tenure as the PVSP manager.

               John and Elly Read listen to Mr. Evaristo’s praise of John’s many accomplishments as Park Manager.

L to R: Evaristo Giron tells crowd of some more of John’s achievements as John waves one of his thank you cards with its many grateful anc congratulatory signatures.

 FASF ALL! – – – and also PVSP Friends’ Group Officers: July McClure (Treasurer), Elly and John Read, Maria Rangel (Secretary), Todd Montes (President – & US Postmaster for Columbus), Bud and Jeane Canfield, early PVSP Friends’ Group officers and organizers.

Guest of honor, John Read, with his principal long-time support staff Park Rangers:, L to R: Junior Martinez and Martin Nunez.

               John  Read with long-time friend and one of FASF organizers and its Webmaster, Ric Lambart

A happy new retiree and his bride about to savor their hard earned new life without so much daily responsibilities.

                      John Read’s New Mexico State Park’s Recognition for Outstanding Service Commemorative Plaque.

  • CLICK HERE to see John Read’s treatise on the strange story behind park’s Pancho Villa name.

The below video of event is 15:55 in length:

 

Why Are Those Coveted Navy Pilot’s Shoes Brown, Not Black?

   Jerry Dixon in Columbus 2018

Ever wonder why, unlike all other U. S. Navy Officers, Naval aviators always wear brown, rather than the normal black shoes?  Well, FASF Aviation News Scout, and former U.S. Marine Corps Pilot, Jerry Dixon, (at Left) once again discovered another intriguing piece of U. S. Navy historical trivia.

The piece Jerry discovered was found on a U.S. Navy Aviation Blog site, appropriately enough called “The Brown Shoes Project!”  This story, which is indirectly, also a peek into U.S. Naval aviation itself, was written by retired USN Pilot, LCDR William Estes in his letter to Pat Francis:

“Naval aviation officially began 08 May 1911 with the first order of a “Flying Machine” from the Wright Brothers. (See the photo immediately below, of the U.S. Navy’s version of the Wright Flyer – Model B) This purchase also included aeronautical training of naval personnel who would become the first naval flight instructors who would be the founders in spearheading Naval aviation as we know it today.

Please keep in mind that our First Aero Squadron was also based here at Rockwell Field shortly before it moved back East to Texas, and then on to Columbus, NM, for its role in the Punitive Expedition.  The initial cadre of First Aero Squadron Pilots had been stationed at Rockwell field, as well.

Early photo of the U.S. Navy’s Model B of the Wright Flyer.

To train these future naval aviators in the new Wright Brother’s flying machine, Rockwell Army Airfield was commissioned to be the first U.S. Military Flying School.

Above is a 1914 aerial photograph of San Diego’s Rockwell Army Airfield, the nation’s first full-time Flight School. Although it is now called simply, North Island Naval Air Station, by its current sole occupant, the U.S. Navy.  You should notice that there are no runways in evidence.  This is because runways, as such, had not yet even been invented!

The new airfield was located on the northernmost island (see photo above) of the island chain in San Diego, California.  It was decided that it would be jointly shared with the Navy as the most suitable airfield site in the local area, an area chosen because the flying weather was some of the most consistently good flying weather to be found anywhere in the U.S.

In October 1935, the entire Rockwell Field facility was transferred to the Navy by presidential executive order of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The last Army units departed in 1939. Later, the Army Corps of Engineers was commissioned to dredge the channel immediately to its East, and to also fill in the island’s low areas, leveling the island chain’s surface. accordingly, the name “North Island” emerged as Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California.  See a current photo just below to see how it now appears.

2017: U.S. Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California.  This photo is taken looking to the South.  The Bay, which was dredged by the Army Corps of Engineers, is to the left above.  The current U.S. Navy Submarine Station San Diego, is immediately out of this picture’s bottom, across the channel’s inlet to the Pacific Ocean, the the right above.

                         Memorial Commemorative Plaque at Rockwell/North Island NAS, San Diego, CA

                     First Aero Squadron personnel with their Burgess Model H No. 26 at North Island in 1915

Now, quoting Commander Estes: “Six commission officers were selected from the surface fleet as the first student Naval aviation aviator trainees to be taught by these naval flight instructors.

These pioneer naval aviator trainees coming from the surface fleet wore uniform low quarter, square-toed, black rough out leather shoes which served best on the coal-burning ships, which commonly produced great quantities of black soot from the ship’s stacks.

Arriving for duty at the North Island Air Field for training flights, the six students experienced a foreign environment of brown dust on the soft surface air field.  They found themselves being constantly required to remove the dust from their black shoes, which was irritating enough to cause them to look for a better alternative to this shoe cleaning nuisance.

In the midst of their training, while often times funding their own petrol expenses, the six discussed alternatives to their problem, deciding that brown shoes might serve best to solve their problem with seniors who were putting what they felt was too much into uniform appearances.  With that, all six decided that brown high top shoes with brown leggings was their solution. On a Saturday morning, the six located a cobbler shop on 32nd Street in San Diego, California whom they commissioned to produce same at a time and price they could live with.

Upon taking custody of their prize a short time later, the test of practical use of their new Brown Shoes and acceptance from their senior cadre members became a function of time.

Within a few days, the practicality of the Shoes of Brown proved to be an acceptable solution to the student aviators. The six then met to discuss how to bring about change of the uniform regulation to include the Brown Shoes and high top leggings as distinctive part of the aviators permanent uniform.

With some discussion on how to approach their proposal, they concluded that a petition to bring about change for a distinctive aviators uniform would best serve their plight.

A few days later, they met to compose a petition which would later be approved and endorsed by their seniors and forwarded to the Navy Bureau for consideration.

On 13 November 1913, the Navy Bureau signed approval to the uniform regulations to include The Shoes of Brown with Brown high top leggings as part of the permanent uniform for Naval Aerial Aviators.

U.S. Navy officers with Black Shoes.

This change carried itself through World War II to 1944 while logistically, the brown shoes were not in production due to priority war efforts. However, in stock supply would be issued and the wearing of same was still authorized. At the end of the war in 1945, production of brown shoes was again continued and issued until July 1976.

Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., USN, was a two term CNO from 01 Jul 1970 to 01 Jul 1974. An Admiral from the surface navy (Black Shoe) had a desire for significant change within the Navy and its policies. With that, one of his initiatives was to end an era of Naval Aviation with the removal of the Brown Shoes from the Navy.

With the stage set, at midnight on July 1, 1976, the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations), by instruction to Naval Uniform Department of NMPC (Naval Military Personnel Command), ended an era in tradition of naval aviation distinction and pride. “A Naval Aviation tradition came to an end when Brown Shoes were stricken from the Officer’s and Chief’s uniforms. The tradition distinguished the Brown Shoe Navy of the Aviators from the Black Shoes of the Surface Officers.”

U. S. Naval Aviator, a Commander, in Khaki Uniform – but with an aviator’s traditikonal Brown Shoes

In September 1979, I was assigned to TRARON Ten as a T-2B/C “Buckeye” flight instructor (The Dirty 100) at NAS (Naval Air Station) Pensacola, Florida. With my keen interest in history, I began initiatives to resurrect The Shoes of Brown as part of the permanent uniform for Naval Aviation in the same spirit as those in lead who first set the initiative.

With several cross-country flights to the Naval Archives at NMPC in Washington DC, I researched for the original aviators petition in an effort to author, in kind, the same which would be reborn at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, the Cradle of Naval Aviation.

Receptive and in support of the Brown Shoes initiatives, Captain Jude J. Lahr, USN, Commodore, Training Air Wing 6, gave the “Thumbs Up with a Sierra Hotel” for same.

With that, I drafted a petition which was headed by and reads: “RESURRECTION OF THE BROWN SHOES – WHEREAS, In the course of history of Naval Aviation, the “SHOES OF BROWN”, first adopted in November 1913, have held a position of revered, cherished esteem in the hearts of all those associated with Naval Air, second only to the “WINGS OF GOLD”, and – WHEREAS, in the course of human events it becomes necessary to recognize an overwhelming desire to return the esprit of heritage amongst the cadre of AIRDALES (The affectionate name Navy personnel use to describe their Pilots and aviation support crews), now – THEREFORE, let the feelings be known that we the undersigned, all duly designated NAVAL AVIATORS, NAVAL FLIGHT OFFICERS, FLIGHT SURGEONS and FLIGHT PHYSIOLOGIST, do hereby affix our signatures and designators to this petition calling for the immediate change to the Naval Uniform Regulations which would allow the “SHOES OF BROWN” to once again take their rightful position below the “WINGS OF GOLD.

The first and most fitting to sign was Captain Jude J. Lahr, USN followed by senior CNET cadre members to include Captain Robert L. Rasmussen, USN, parent Command­ing Officers (NASP, NASC, NAMI, NAMRL) and other command seniors, mid-grades and juniors alike and was unanimously received and signed as presented.

Numerous requests from commands throughout the United States, foreign ashore activities and carriers on the line requested the petition be sent them for signing via telephone, message and post mail.

Upon completion of my shore tour, I was then assigned to USS MIDWAY (CV-41). I continued initiatives with the Brown Shoes petition after receiving a “SH” approval from Commanding Officer, Captain Charles R. McGrail, Jr., USN.  After an overwhelming receptive Carrier Air Wing 5 and ships company cadre, Captain McGrail later signed out the petition in Red with “forwarded Most Strongly Recommending Approval” to the CNO/NMPC on commands letterhead stationery with a personal note.

LCDR William Estes, USN Retired Aviator and Resident of Salzburg, Austria, “Flew West” on October 12, 2013.  A memorial was held in his honor at Pensacola NAS, FL.

 Following my 2.5 year Midway tour, I returned to Training Air Wing 6 as a T-2C Buckeye flight instructor with TRARON Ten.  On the morning of 12 Sep 85, while airborne on a APM/Spin Hop with a student, I received a UHF radio call from the squadron duty officer (SDO) to “BUSTER” return to base with no explanation. On return to squadron spaces to meet with the SDO, the Skipper escorted me to his office where he moments later received a telephone call from SECNAV, The Honorable John F. Lehman, Jr. (a Tailhooker himself) who congratulated me as being the spearhead in Resurrecting the Brown Shoes back to the “AIRDALES” (affectionate name given by the Navy to its aviation crew members) of U. S. Naval Aviation.  SECNAV (Secretary of the Navy) Lehman informed me that he was going to announce that month, the return of the Brown Shoes at the 1985 TAILHOOK Convention and that he wanted to personally authorize me to be The First to wear the “Coveted Shoes of Brown” before his announcement.”

FAS Editor, July McClure, Gets CFD & FASF Awards for Service

 Capt. July McClure

Chief Andres Ramos

Long time Editor of the First Aero’s Aerodrome Newsletter, July McClure, (at left) made two home runs yesterday at the Columbus Fire Department’s Annual Open House event.  The two awards caught July by complete surprise, which made the recognition that much more special.  Fire Chief, Andres Ramos (at right), presented July with a special award in appreciation of her continuous thirty-three (33!) years of volunteer service with the Fire Department and community of Columbus, New Mexico. July is a Captain in the Columbus Fire Department.

The Fire Department facilities are just West of the  historic 1916 First Aero Squadron Airfield.

Next it was the FASF’s turn, as this writer had the honor and privilege of presenting July with a special FASF Recognition (for volunteer service) Certificate of Appreciation for her years of work as both the Editor-in-Chief of the Aerodrome Newsletter, and for her role as official Recorder of Board of Trustee Meetings, not to mention her hours of work at various public events helping the FASF staff its exhibition booths.   July is a woman of diverse talents, one with which Columbus has been blessed for well over thirty-five years. 

Born in Washington, DC, of parents who were both professional musicians, and whose Dad, Jimmy,  was also a US Naval Aviator, she was then was raised in Colorado, where she went on to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural Anthropology.  But the call of entertainment was too strong, and she quickly joined a cross-country touring orchestra as both an instrumentalist and vocalist, which included a gig in a West Coast radio comedy show. 

When she later married, and moved to Columbus, her profession changed to that of a Journalist, where she ended up  working as a full time staff reporter for both the Deming Headlight Newspaper and the Desert Winds Magazine. 

However, Ms. McClure never lost either her interest in acting – or music – continuing her second career as an actor, appearing at least once almost every year in various theatrical productions.  July also owns the esteemed Tumbleweed Theater in downtown Columbus, and regularly performs as a musician across SW New Mexico, most often as a member of the Spring Canyon band, which features Dev Olliver of Columbus and Paul Smith of Deming..

She often joins up with other local entertainers such as Bud and Jeane Canfield  (Bud is one of the First Aero Advisors) and Deborah  (“Dev”) Olliver, who’s photos of July from yesterday appear below.  Dev, herself, is in another of yesterday’s photos, seen chatting with Columbus’ new Mayor, Bruce D’Salas.  July has also served a number of times as an elected member of the Columbus City Council and consistently remains active in area politics.  The following photos depict yesterday’s Open House Events at the Columbus Fire Station facilities.    

HTo see any photos in full HD resolution, simply click on them H

                                   July, as left, opens her FASF Achievement Award as Ric Lambart looks on.

FASF Award for Oustanding Echievement given  July McClure at Columbus Public Event on May 5, 2018

                                      Ric reads the Award’s Inscription to the audience as July looks on.

L to R above: Captain July McClure, trying to read the Fire Department’s Award Inscription as Former Fire Chief, Pablo Montoya, looks on and Presenter, Fire Chief Andres Ramos, reads the Award’s text to the crowd.

                                           Captain McClure proudly shows the Award to the audience.

The Emergency Air Ambulance Helicopter landed on the City Baseball Field across from the Fire Station so the public could tour it up close.

View of one of entrances to the Fire Station – Below the Blue Canopy seen through the doorway, is where some of the volunteer Fire Fighters worked over the grill to prepare the event’s barbeque main course.

View of some of the many pies and cakes prepared by the public, which were auctioned off to the highest bidders as a way to raise money for the Fire Fighters.

The Emergency Native Air Ambulance flight Crew enjoys the event’s food: At left is Teresa Nystrom, Flight Paramedic; center is Billi McNary, Flight Nurse, and the Helicopter’s Pilot, Manny Garcia, is at right.  Their Air Ambulance Helicopter is stationed at the Deming Airport.  Their presence at the Volunteer festivities was courtesy of NATIVE AIR AMBULANCE, an AIR METHODS COMPANY.

Part of the crowd of visitors.

More of the guests enjoy their meals.

Additional visitors arrive and search for dining table space.

L to R: New Columbus Mayor, Bruce D’Salas chats with FASF Photographer, Dev Olliver.

L to R above: Chief Ramos watches as Battalian Chief, Walter Simpson (who also received a Service Award), cuts into the Fire Department Cake, and Captain McClure and Assistant Fire Chief, Pablo Montoya, also look on.

 

The Birth of American Air Power in Columbus: 1916 -1917

Remember to turn up your volume to hear the above video!

The United States Air Force flew Dr. Roger G. Miller to Columbus, New Mexico, to deliver this 58 minute presentation in commemoration of the Birth of American Air Power.  Dr. Miller’s fascinating slide show included many before unseen 95-year-old archival photographs taken in Columbus during the launching of America’s first sustained military aviation operation.

This Army aircraft engagement was part of the legendary “Punitive Expedition” into Mexico sent out of Columbus in retaliation for the nighttime March 9th, 1916 raid on the town by Mexico’s revolutionary General Francisco “Pancho” Villa and his troops.  Before Villa’s three hour attack was over, he had lost almost a quarter of his some 400 men to the fierce American gunfire that ensued from the local Army garrison’s soldiers, but many buildings had been burned to the ground by the invaders and 18 U.S. soldiers and civilians had been slaughtered.

Not only was the retaliatory Army campaign considered the launching of what is now the world’s greatest Air Power, but many give the military engagement credit for instigating what also became the leading civil aviation power in the world.  While the early Columbus aircraft deployment is best known for its military contribution, the subsequent entry of the United States into Europe’s  World War I had a great deal to do with the postwar explosion of civil aviation in the states as well.

Why?  Because the veritable Curtiss “Jenny” biplanes used out of the Columbus airfield were mass-produced by the United States and Canada for several years during WWI in order to train  thousands of young American and Canadian men to be military pilots.  The Great War was soon concluded in 1918, and because the thousands of Jennys were no longer needed, they were quickly sold by the government as surplus at the end of that deadly conflict.

Many young Army and Navy pilots, who were fortunate enough to come home intact from the bloody fields and skies above Europe, had fallen in love with the exciting experience of flying and they enthusiastically purchased the surplus biplanes for as little as $200.  It was these sturdy “Jenny” aircraft that quickly became the backbone of U. S. civil aviation, as they were soon profitably carrying “Airmail” for the Federal Government.  They were also flown all across the states from the Atlantic to the Pacific by the ex-military pilots in what has become known as the American “Barnstorming” era.

It was these same Barnstorming young pilots who gave thousands of Americans their first taste of flying aloft in their noisy open-cockpit machines, which in turn helped incite America’s love affair with powered flight.  It was only a matter of a few more years before some of these young aviators were able to convince the government to subsidize their use of newer and larger aircraft to carry passengers between cities.  Because there weren’t yet enough passengers willing to forgo their trips by the much safer railroads, the new “Airline” entrepreneurs cleverly also bid to carry the U.S. mail on their passenger planes.  It was this federal subsidy to carry the airmail that enabled the fledgling airlines to turn a profit.  Thus began what also soon became the world’s leading civil aviation “power.”

Dr. Miller’s presentation is a colorful and exciting introduction into that great historical military experiment which is considered to be the Birth of American Air Power.  Although the Wright Brother’s are universally given credit for the first successful powered flight in 1903, the United States quickly fell behind the Europeans in aircraft innovation and development.  In fact, while the veritable “Jenny” airplane made a fine flight training aircraft (over 8,000 of them were mass-produced), it proved no match for any of the military airplanes used in the Great War, resulting in the Curtiss Jenny biplane being restricted to non-combat pilot training in the United States and Canada.  When our pilots arrived to battle the Germans in that bloody conflagration, they were compelled to fly either the significantly superior French or British flying machines.

Soon after the end of hostilities on the Continent, however, things quickly changed, with the lessons of the “war to end all wars” taken to heart, American aircraft manufacturers sprung up around the country in a fierce competition to produce better, safer – and faster – airplanes. The U. S. soon leapt ahead of the European nations in its capacity to produce genuinely safe modern airplanes – – – for both civilian and military purposes.  And, with virtually no lapses, the United States has successfully maintained that position of world leadership in both aviation and its evolution into space flight.

This video would not have been possible without the great assistance and hours of effort put in by the following local Columbus FASF members:  John Read, now Pancho Villa State Park Chief Ranger; Allen Rosenberg (a founding member of the FASF!) and Larry Miller, who worked together doing the videography; former FASF Trustee and Secretary of the Board, Bud Canfield and his wife, Jeane, who handled all the catering for the entire event, and Wayne and Debbi Evans, who handled all the vehicle parking duties.  This presentation by Dr. Miller was the first public program staged by the FASF and it was a true sell out. The attendees soon filled the small auditorium and spilled out into the main Exhibit Hall. Last, but not least, of course, was the fascinating presention by our guest, Dr. Roger Miller, USAF Deputy Historian and the USAF, which made his visit possible.

THANKS AGAIN TO:

Roger, John, Allen, Larry, Bud and Jeane, and  Wayne and Debbi!