Charles D’Olive: Ten Fun Facts


  1. He was the last WWI aviator to be declared an ace in 1963, his final victory being credited to him following a records correction.
  2. He entered the Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps in 1917 as a private, quickly becoming a sergeant when ground school began. There were no barracks and no uniforms. 4th School Squadron Cadets received pay of $100 per month to finance boarding in Memphis, Tennessee where they used the bowl of the half-mile racetrack at the fairgrounds as a landing field. The Squadron had a total of three Jennies at the time, which were disassembled and transported by freight train to Ashburn Field, Chicago when the squadron was relocated. Cadets commissioned as lieutenants the day they soloed.                                           
  3. He was roommates with Quentin Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt’s youngest son, while the two attended gunnery school together in Arcachon.
  4. He was both the first in the 93rd Aero Squadron to score a victory on 12 September 1918, shooting down a Fokker D.VII near Vieville-en-Haye. The 93rd continues its legacy today as the 93rd Bomb Squadron, part of Air Force Reserve Command operating out of Louisiana.
  5. On 18 October 1918, the day he scored his fifth and final victory shooting down a German plane, he himself was also shot down.
  6. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross “for extraordinary heroism in action near St. Benoit, France, September 13, 1918, First Lieutenant D’Olive, in conjunction with another American pilot, engaged and fought five enemy planes. Outnumbered and fighting against tremendous odds, he shot down three enemy planes and outfought the entire enemy formation.”
  7. He joined the Daedalians in 1964, after being introduced to the organization by Howard Johnson at a formal dining out given by the 170th Fighter Group of the Montana Air National Guard. He had been invited to address a group of Montana’s surviving WWI pilots being honored at the event. Eddie Rickenbacker, fellow ace and good friend, was one of his references.
  8. Following the war, he became a business executive in Iowa. He remained active in several WWI aviation organizations and encouraged and mentored a number of young pilots throughout his life.
  9. The Air Force Reserve Command Historian Office commissioned a painting in 2016 of his September 1918 three-victory flight. It was unveiled at the National Museum of the United States Air Force on 1 October 2016.
  10. His definition of a hero, shared at a Daedalian event in 1971 was “dumb enough to get in a jam, lucky enough to shoot himself out while someone was watching.”



Old and Bold Pilots

Founder Story by Kip Cooper reprinted from The San Diego Union Newspaper, published Monday, January 29, 1979.


There are pilots who are old and there are pilots who are bold, but there are no pilots who are both old and bold.

This is the Navy way of saying careful pilots live to a ripe old age.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Carlton Palmer of San Carlos is living proof that there are exceptions to every rule.

Palmer was one of the pioneers in naval aviation, having made the first landing in a military-type plane on the Navy’s first aircraft carrier: the Langley, commissioned in March 1922 following its conversion from the collier Jupiter.

He has made dead-stick landings in treetops, cornfields, and tidal flats.

He flew off battleships before the days of catapults, after helping construct a 51-foot runway atop a gun turret.

Palmer, who will celebrate his 89th birthday Feb. 11, said in an interview that fewer than 10 of the early naval aviators of his era are still alive.

Still hale and hearty, with a firm handshake and a steady voice, Palmer has suffered a hearing loss as a result of open-cockpit dive-bombing.

He says his memory is fading, but he speaks with accuracy and affection of the old days of aviation.

Palmer became interested in flying while serving on the old auxiliary cruiser Dixie during the Mexican revolution.

“We were stationed about 10 miles from the mouth of the Tampico River to stop gunrunners trying to get arms to Pancho Villa,” Palmer recalled.

“No one on our ship had liberty and the water was covered with oil, so there was no fishing (a favorite pastime of sailors in that day).

“Then our ice machine broke down, our frozen meat and vegetables spoiled and we were down to eating our limited canned goods.”

“We got mail once a month. Then a Mexican schooner came by loaded with watermelons and we bought all of them and we lived on watermelons for a week.”

Palmer said about that time, the Navy was asking for aviation volunteers.

“So, I said to myself it would be fun to fly an airplane. And it couldn’t be any worse than this.”

Palmer was sent to Pensacola, Fla., for flight training, becoming naval aviator No. 116, although he had begun training months earlier than some aviators with lower numbers.

That happened, said Palmer, because the Yale University Class of 1916 wanted to get into aviation. That class was trained by the Royal Flying Corps in Canada in about a month, graduating before the aviators then training in Florida.

Palmer said he made 23 of the first 99 landings on the Langley, using training-type planes. In the winter of 1921, he made the first landing on the Langley.

“You may have a little trouble with the Navy on that,” Palmer said, “because they don’t want to admit that. But it’s true.” (The Navy lists the first landing as occurring in 1922.)

“We built the arresting gear on the Langley ourselves and we practiced landings on the Langley while it was anchored in Chesapeake Bay.

“We made the landings while the ship was anchored because there was an economy wave at the time and the Navy didn’t want to burn the oil to take the Langley out to sea.”

Palmer stayed on the Langley two years and then went aboard the Saratoga, which traveled through the then-new Panama Canal and came to San Diego.

There was a lot of opposition from senior officers in the Navy to the air arm in those days and battleships were the admirals’ favorite warship, Palmer recalled.

During one exercise about 400 miles off Hawaii in the pioneer days of naval aviation, Palmer said a non-aviation admiral insisted that the pilots speed up their takeoff intervals from 15 seconds to eight seconds.

“You can understand that when we got down to eight-second intervals each plane was taking off in the slipstream of the one ahead,” Palmer said.

He said a young pilot behind him was blown into the ocean by the slipstream from Palmer’s plane and drowned despite the efforts of another pilot who dived 60 feet from the deck of the ship into the water, swimming underwater after the rapidly sinking plane.

The second man in the two-seat VE-7 plane was rescued by the other pilot.

Palmer said that after World War I, “we brought back three British airplanes on the battleship Texas and long before the days of catapults we build a 51-foot platform over the No. 2 gun turret, the highest from the water.

“We flew off the platforms all winter under our own power and no one was injured.

“We had radios and we would spot for the battleships; but we couldn’t land on the Texas, so we landed on tidal flats in Cuba.

“We lived in an old Spanish battery that had no water, toilets, or electricity.”

Palmer said the plan was to land the planes on the mud flats, bring a motorboat from the Texas to shore and then have sailors lift the places into the boats, where they would be taken to the Texas and hoisted back aboard.

The first attempt to land on the mudflats was a disaster, Palmer recalls. His commanding officer, a Lt. Cmdr. Eddie McDonnell, was piloting the plane and Palmer was riding the back seat.

McDonnell hit the top of a tree and spun off into the brush about 6 feet high.

“We carried an axe in each plane in those days and McDonnell yelled for me to get an axe and chop him out of there.”

After they dragged the plane back to the mudflats, he said, McDonnell took off and hit the top of another tree. The plane nosedived into the ground, knocking McDonnell out and throwing Palmer about 50 feet through the air into the brush.

“I wasn’t hurt, but McDonnell was unconscious and bleeding. And the plane was a total wreck.”

After sailors cleared away much of the brush, planes landed on the flats without further incident.

Palmer said the Navy was lenient with its pilots after World War I, allowing them to use their airplanes to take sightseeing and hunting and fishing trips.

One Saturday, Palmer flew to an island in the James River of the Capt. John Smith – Pocahontas legend to fish, and was returning to his base in Virginia when his engine conked out.

He made a dead-stick landing in a cornfield. Just as the plane was coming to a halt, the engine started up again so he took off.

“That was a bad mistake because the engine quit again over a heavily wooded area and I had no alternative but to land.

“I hit the top of a great big tree. The plane spun around 180 degrees and then drifted down through the trees and hit the ground. The airplane was a complete wreck but I didn’t have a scratch.”

Palmer has been married 64 years to Marie Bailey, great-granddaughter of the man who owned Bailey’s Corner, then a 1,000-acre farmland and now the site of a huge apartment complex in Virginia near Washington, D.C., that bears his name.

Grandfather of the Preflight Checklist

Maj. Ployer P. Hill, Founder #891


On. Oct. 30, 1935, an experimental military aircraft taxied down the runway at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. The Boeing Model 299 — the most technologically sophisticated airplane of its time — took off with Maj. Ployer P. Hill as pilot. Hill was the Chief of the Flying Branch, Material Division, at Wright Field and the U.S. Army Air Corps’ top test pilot, having test flown nearly every Air Corps aircraft between 1918 and 1935. This was his first flight in the B-299.

The takeoff roll was uneventful, as was the takeoff. However, on ascending, the B-299 suddenly pitched up, stalled and crashed, then caught fire. Hill and Boeing’s Chief Test Pilot Leslie R. Tower, died due to injuries. The other three on board (Lt. Donald Leander Putt, co-pilot and Air Corps’ project pilot; C.W. Benton, company mechanic; and Henry Igo of the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company) escaped. 1st Lt. Robert K. Giovannoli, a test pilot, saw the crash and immediately went to help. He made two trips into the burning wreck to rescue Hill and Tower.

The wreck shocked the aviation industry and prompted questions about the future of flight.

Investigators found the B-299 to be in perfect mechanical condition, and pilot error was ruled out of the question since it was such a routine takeoff. Eventually, it was determined that the crew forgot to check the wind-gust locks on the elevators and rudder on its preflight. These devices that control surfaces from moving when a plane is on the ground, were disengaged, making them uncontrollable in flight.

As a direct result of this deadly crash, a checklist to prevent such oversights in the future was created to ensure all flight control components are fully usable. This checklist was designed to be read so all items would be accounted for prior, during and after every flight. It was adopted by the Air Corps and airlines, essentially establishing the first safety management system in aviation history. Today, no one can take off or land without using the checklist.

More about Hill

Born in 1894 near Boston, Hill, a scholar-athlete, attended Brown University graduating in 1916 with high honors in engineering.
He enlisted in the Army’s Aviation Section in 1917, received commission and trained as a bomber pilot. However, the Great War ended before he made it to Europe.

Hill remained in uniform and became an expert in aerial photography, leading to him commanding air photo units in the U.S. and abroad. He worked his way to be a highly regarded test pilot. In 1932, Hill was named a full-time test pilot at Wright Field, Ohio. He went on to become a major and chief of the Flying Branch of Material Division.

After his death, the Ogden Air Depot in Utah would be renamed Hill Field in his honor. In 1948, it was renamed Hill Air Force Base.

War Story: Hero Medals for Mixer and I

by MAJ Robert Nelson, USA (Ret.), Daedalian Life Member #4970

Whenever Charlie (the VC – also known as Chuck, Charles, Gooks, Slopes or Dinks) mortared our airfield at Vinh Long, it was always at night, between the hours of midnight and 0200. They’ d set up a mortar tube, launch anywhere from four to twelve rounds and then break up and skedaddle out of the area before anyone could react.

To combat this little bit of skullduggery the Army came up with a counter-mortar radar that would detect the incoming rounds and through triangulation figure out where the rounds were coming from. The Vinh Long airfield operations center also kept an armed Cobra on patrol overhead from the hours of 2200  to 0400. Two aircraft, with crews, were on alert with the flying broken up between the two birds.

Our Apache troop pulled the alert duty every third day and was rotated among the members of the gun platoon. The other two nights were covered by the guns of B and C Troop. One particular night, I was tagged for alert duty along with a new guy as my front seat, Donn Wilimzic, later with the call sign “Mixer”, and another crew with their aircraft. We would report for duty around sundown to our own Apache operations center and then go out to the line and preflight our aircraft, move them to the alert pad, shut them down and have the aircraft “cocked” for instantaneous departure in case of attack.

This particular night was really hot and humid. No attacks had occurred for the last several weeks. Just before we were scheduled to crank the aircraft and take off to start flying our patrol, the second of the night, Mixer and I looked at each other and came to the same conclusion – leave our Chicken Plates on the ground – it was much cooler flying without them restricting the air flow around our bodies. That would haunt us later.

After taking off and establishing a circular pattern over the airfield at 2000 feet above the ground, I pulled out a device  I had made to attach to my helmet to simulate instrument conditions. I was going to get some practice flying on instruments, as we only had rudimentary instruments in the Cobra. If I ever got caught in weather, I wanted to be able to fly on instruments well enough to get me out of the instrument conditions and back to flying visually. Figured it could save my life someday. So, I put the hood on my helmet and told Mixer I was going on instruments and to look out for any traffic in the area.

I spent about thirty minutes flying around, practicing maintaining my altitude and heading by instrument reference. I listed for any radio traffic on the airfield, which would mean I had company in the air. Nada – it was a quiet night. I was directly over the airfield when I got an excited call over the airfield tower frequency.

It was the counter-mortar radar crew – “Incoming rounds from the southwest, bearing 220 degrees!” I ripped my instrument hood off, looked down at the airfield, saw the mortar rounds going off, looked in the direction I’d been given and, on a bend in a canal southwest of the airfield saw the telltale flash of a mortar tube launching a round.

I rolled in on the target, armed my weapons systems and fired several pairs of rockets, dead on target!! The counter-mortar crew yelled “On Target!” and I knew I had hit the bad guys. Feeling elated I broke my dive and turned the aircraft to recover my inertia and climb back up. As I broke from the gun-run I was down to 500 feet above the ground and really moving.

But, Charlie had changed his usual hit and run plan that night. Three anti-aircraft weapons had been set up just off the west end of our runway in a triangulated position to catch aircraft that would launch once the rounds started falling. They had not counted on me being able to hit the mortar tubes so quickly. But, on my break from my gun-run, I flew right over the west end of the airfield and they responded accordingly – all three of them.

Things went from quiet and dark to extremely bright and terrifying. I had never seen so many tracers coming by my aircraft – I was the only target and they were determined to knock me down. As I flew through the cone of fire coming up from those anti-aircraft positions, I glimpsed Mixer’s face in the mirror we had for visual contact between the back and front seat positions.

He keyed his microphone and asked, “Know what I wish I had?”

I responded with “Your Chicken Plate.”

They were sitting back on the ground, in the revetment where we had left them.

I climbed, turned, and came back down in a gun-run on the closest enemy firing position, which was a .51 caliber machine gun. I could tell the caliber because the tracer rounds were as big as basketballs. This night I had an aircraft with a Scout configuration – two miniguns on the inboard wing stations and two rocket pods on the outboard stations. I switched from rockets to my inboard weapons station – my two miniguns – and started putting out a stream of rounds at a rate of 4000 rounds per minute per minigun. I touched that enemy antiaircraft emplacement with a combined 8000 rounds per minute and they immediately stopped firing – because I tore the gun and the crew to pieces.

The other two were still trying to knock me down and I climbed up to engage the other two positions. All of a sudden, flares started popping around me, the counter mortar battery had fired off some flares to illuminate the area. They had gone off above me and were swinging down under their individual parachutes and illuminating the area.

I swung back up out of the dive, rolled left and lined up on the second VC gun position. He stopped firing as I was inbound but I hit him with another stream of rounds and closed him down for good also. As I climbed back up for a run at the third enemy position, those folks had seen what had happened to their compatriots and departed the area. The fight was over.

It had taken less time to happen than it took me to write about. It was over in minutes. Seemed like a lifetime when it happened.

I later talked to the other members of my troop. They said they were standing on top of the bunkers in the troop area cheering me on. They had a grandstand view of the action and couldn’t believe the amount of ground fire I was flying through and cheered and yelled whenever I would come in on my gun runs and let fly with my ordinance. Gentle Ben and the rest of the guys said it was awesome. But I didn’t sustain one hit on my aircraft. That amazed me!

My troop did an aerial sweep of the area at first light with the scouts, with me as the covering gunship. I insisted even though I could have turned it over to another gun lead. I wanted to know how I’d done. The scouts found the destroyed weapons and body parts and blood trails to attest to the effectiveness of the weapons I employed.  

That action earned me the first of the three Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) medals I was awarded.  It was the one I felt the most satisfaction over, but in reality, I was just doing my job. I also never flew without my chicken plate again.

Maj. Rob “Apache 40” Nelson on break during his tour

The First Daedalian

From the Daedalus Flyer Archives

Have you ever wondered who was the first Daedalian? The answer of course, is Daedalus II, also known as Lt. General Harold L. “Hall” George, USAF (Ret). Here is the story of how it happened, taken from the minutes of a meeting held at Maxwell Field, Alabama, over 40 years ago.

In November 1933, a group of Army Air Corps officers met in the quarters of Captain Harold L. George at Maxwell Field, Alabama, created themselves an ad hoc committee and determined that they were going to organize a society of those who first flew their country’s airplanes in time of war. The committee was composed of: Charles Y. Banfill, John F. Barker, Roland Birnn, Leo H. Dawson, Harold L. George, George M. Palmer, Edwin R. McReynolds, Odas O. Moon, Charles T. Skow, William R. Sweeley and Bernard S. Thompson.

Organization of such a society had been discussed since by the seven or eight hundred pilots them comprising the total strength of the Army Air Service, but, for a multitude of reasons, no final action had been taken. The newly organized ad hoc committee was determined it was going to create such an organization even if they would constitute the entire membership. They elected Captain Hal George as committee chairman; and, after numerous meetings, had drawn up a constitution, determined the eligibility for membership, and with the assistance of a Professor of History at the University of Alabama, decided that Daedalus – although a mythological being – would be their Patron Saint, and that the organization would be named the Order of Daedalians.

The committee then called a meeting of all the officers on duty at Maxwell, including students at the Air Corps Tactical School. There were 35 officers who met the requirements for eligibility of membership:

  1. Commissioned officers in the military services of the United State
  2. Pilots of heavier-than-air aircraft
  3. Having achieved both of the above not later than the Armistice of WWI, November 11, 1918.

Captain George called the meeting to order, and First Lieutenant Roland Birnn, acting secretary of the ad hoc committee, told the officers present what the committee had accomplished, read them the constitution, and announced the name they had decided upon – ORDER OF DAEDALIANS.

Captain George then asked if any present were in disagreement; and if so, they would be permitted to leave. There was no dissent – the vote was unanimous.

Lieutenant Birnn then asked Captain George to stand – raise his right hand – and repeat after him the Promise of a Daedalian to the other officers.

It was on that day, March 26, 1934, in the auditorium of Austin Hall, Maxwell Field, that the Order of Daedalians was born. It was on that day that Captain Harold L. George, now Lieutenant General Hal George became the first Daedalian.

History & Heritage: Planophere Celebrates its 150th Anniversary

By Dr. Dick Hallion, Daedalian Honorary Member #50043

Thursday August 18, 2021 marks the 150th Anniversary of the first flight of a rubber-band-powered model airplane, a milestone in aviation, indeed world, history.

Called a “Planophore,” it was first flown in front of numerous witnesses in the Tuileries gardens in Paris on Friday, 18 August 1871 by the son of a French Navy admiral, Alphonse Pénaud. 

It had a long 20-inch dowel body, an elegant 18-inch wing, and small tail surfaces. Twisted rubber cords running from the nose of the dowel to a bearing at the rear spun a large pusher propeller. 

That day, Pénaud wound the prop through two hundred forty revolutions, held the model at head-height, and let it go. It subsequently flew forty meters (approximately 131 feet), in eleven seconds.

Pénaud’s flight demonstrated that a full-size powered airplane could fly, something many so-called experts doubted, provided that it had a powerful-enough engine and some method of control for the pilot. 

Those challenges were elegantly solved by the Wright Brothers with their Kitty Hawk Flyer, flown four times on December 17, 1903. Coincidentally, on its first flight, it covered one hundred twenty-six feet in twelve seconds, virtually the same distance and duration the Planophore achieved in the Tuileries gardens.

The rubber-band-powered model airplane inspired millions of young people who became the aviators and engineers who gave us the aerospace world of today.  It all started with Alphonse Pénaud one hundred fifty years ago.

The Living Legacy of the Flying Tigers

By Samuel Hui via The Diplomat

A Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk I decorated with the colors of the “Flying Tigers”.

August 1, 2021 marks the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Republic of China Air Force, more commonly known as the Flying Tigers. Under the leadership of Claire Lee Chennault, a retired captain of the United States Army Air Corps, the Flying Tigers shot down 229 Japanese aircraft in the air and destroyed an additional 68 on the ground during the group’s existence between August 1941 and July 1942. During the same time, only 14 AVG pilots were killed, captured, or missing in air combat against the Japanese Army Air Force. In addition, another six of them were killed in accidents and a pilot and a ground crewman were killed on the ground when Japanese bombers attacked their bases.

The Original Flying Tigers

The United States had not yet entered World War II when the Flying Tigers were founded. All 359 members of the AVG were recruited by the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company (CAMCO) based in Loiwing in China’s Yunnan province. That made all members of the AVG mercenaries who flew for the ROC Air Force. The White Sun and Blue Sky markings, the national emblem of the ROC, could be seen clearly on the wings of their Curtiss P-40 fighters.

The success they achieved boosted the morale of Free China and its Allies during the first six months of the war in Asia and the Pacific. At that time, the American, British, and Dutch forces were losing everywhere in Southeast Asia and the Central Pacific. The shark mouth markings along with the ROC emblem on the P-40s symbolized the final victory of Allies, which would arrive four years later.

I was lucky enough to attend one of the AVG reunions held in San Diego in 2003, when many of these heroes were still alive. As an aviation enthusiast, the experience of meeting and speaking to legendary WWII pilots like Tex Hill, Dick Rossi, and Peter Wright was incredible.

I will never forget the day when Hill talked to me about his personal relationship with Chennault and Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, as well as his post-war visits to Taiwan. He said he liked the P-51 Mustang, which he flew later as the commander of 23rd Fighter Group, better than the P-40 Tomahawk he flew when he was with the AVG. When I asked why, he answered that the P-51 outperformed the P-40. Hill also said that he went to Cihu Mausoleum every time when he visited Taiwan to show his respect to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the wartime leader of the Republic of China. He was a true friend of Taiwan who believed that one day all Chinese people can live under a democratic system.

Both Hill and Wright passed away in 2007, and Rossi in 2008. The death of Frank Losonsky, a crew chief in the AVG’s 3rd Squadron, on February 6, 2020, marked the passing of the last of the original members of the Flying Tigers. However, the influence of the Flying Tigers did not end with the induction of the American Volunteer Group into the United States Army Air Force in the summer of 1942. It did not end with the death of the last surviving Flying Tiger in 2020, either.

The Americans and Early Chinese Aviation

The involvement of American aviators in Chinese aviation history began in the early 20th century. Fung Joe Guey (also known as Feng Ru), the first Chinese pilot and aircraft designer, was able to complete his first flight in Oakland, California in 1909 with financial support from the American public. In 1911, many Chinese American aviators, including Fung, returned to China to join Dr. Sun Yet-sen’s revolution. Young Sen-yat, one of those Chinese American pilots, became the director of the Aviation Bureau in 1923. It was considered the true beginning of the ROC Air Force.

After the Northern Expedition, Chiang Kai-shek began to expand his air force through purchasing U.S. aircraft and recruiting U.S. advisers. On February 22, 1932, Robert M. Short, a demonstration pilot from Tacoma, became the first American aviator to give up his life defending the sky of China from the Japanese invasion. During a ferry flight from Nanking to Hangzhou, Short witnessed the Mitsubishi B1M carrier-based bombers of the Imperial Japanese Navy dropping bombs on innocent Chinese civilians in the city of Soochow. He attacked one of the B1M bombers and killed its navigator in his Boeing 218 biplane. Short was then shot down and killed by the Japanese A1N2 carrier-based fighters deployed to escort the B1Ms. The ROC government awarded Short the honorary rank of colonel in the Chinese Air Force. A monument of Short was also erected at the entrance to the Hungjao aerodrome in Shanghai to commemorate this American hero.

More American advisors were recruited by Chiang Kai-shek after the establishment of the Chinese Aviation School at Hangzhou. Under the leadership of retired Major John H. Jouett, 17 American instructor pilots were hired to turn the Chinese Aviation School into a replica of the United States’ Randolph Field. They spent two years in the war-torn nation completing the training of 335 Chinese cadets using an American system similar to the one used at Randolph Field in Texas. With those 335 Chinese pilots and U.S. aircraft such as Curtiss Hawk II and Hawk III fighters, Northrop Grumman light bombers, and Martin 139WC bombers, the ROC Air Force was able to resist for three months after Japan launched its full invasion against China in the summer of 1937.

Chennault was the second American chief advisor Chiang Kai-shek hired to supervise the training of next-generation Chinese pilots. In his memoir, “Way of a Fighter,” Chennault said that he believed that sending Chinese Air Force cadets to the United States for training would not only improve their fighting skills in the air, but also spread the values of American democracy in China. A democratic China would not only be a friendly market for U.S. goods, but also a determined partner of the United States in protecting the Free World.

The ROC Air Force Becomes Fully Americanized

Chennault’s dream finally came to its realization when President Franklin D. Roosevelt added the ROC to the lend-lease program on May 6, 1941. Brigadier General Henry B. Clagett, the commander of the United States Army Air Corps in the Philippines, visited Chungking (known today as Chongqing, and the wartime capital of China during World War II) to survey the ROC Air Force. He suggested launching a training program for the ROC Air Force pilots in the United States. The program began on November, one month before the Pearl Harbor attack. The training program demonstrated that the Flying Tigers was only part of a larger U.S. plan to modernize the ROC Air Force.

With Chennault’s support, the United States trained the Chinese cadets to become both fighter and bomber pilots. It also marked the beginning of the training of Chinese fighter pilots at Luke Field in Maricopa County, Arizona. Senator Barry M. Goldwater, a lifelong friend of Free China, once served as the director of ground training at Luke Field. He was responsible for the training of the ROC Air Force cadets there. General Kuo Ju-lin, who later became the commander in chief of the ROC Air Force in Taiwan, was among the cadets whom then-Captain Goldwater worked with.

After the AVG was taken over by the United States Army Air Forces in 1942 and became the 23rd Fighter Group, Chennault personally selected 12 cadets from the first batch of Luke Field’s Chinese graduates to join. Four Chinese pilots were sent to each of his fighter squadrons, the 74th, 75th, and 76th, to learn American combat tactics. Lt. Col. Chen Pin-chin, currently living in Hong Kong, is the last survivor of those 12 Chinese pilots who joined the 23rd FG in the summer of 1943. He can be considered one of the last Chinese Flying Tigers, since the 23rd FG is the direct successor of the Flying Tigers.

The Chinese pilots fought well enough with their American counterparts that Chennault decided to expand this effort into the Chinese American Composite Wing. By incorporating the ROCAF’s 1st Bomb Group, 3rd Fighter Group, and 5th Fighter Group into Claire Chennault’s 14th Air Force, more Chinese airmen could fight side by side with their American comrades. Major General Fred W. O. Chiao, who served as deputy commander of the 29th Squadron, 5th Fighter Group, explained that the CACW was a unique arrangement Chennault created to help familiarize the Chinese pilots and ground crews with the American system and equipment.

There had already been similar examples of Polish, Czech, and other pilots fighting under British command in the Royal Air Force. However, there was no example of the “dual-command” system in use in any air force before the creation of the CACW. Under this “dual-command” system, there would an American wing commander working together with a Chinese wing commander. This was repeated at the group and squadron level. This allowed the American commanders to lead Chinese pilots and Chinese commanders to lead American pilots in combat.

General Chiao, as deputy commander of the 29th Squadron, had an opportunity to lead both Chinese and American airmen escorting B-24 Liberators from the 308th Bomb Group against Japanese targets in occupied China. His unit had earned the Presidential Unit Citation for not losing a single bomber to the Japanese during those missions. Chiao later said that the best memory of his time with the CACW was not how many Japanese Ki-43 Oscars or Ki-44 Tojos were shot down by him or his airmen, but flying with the American pilots from both his 29th Squadron and the 75th Squadron of the 23rd FG as brothers-in-arms over the sky of central China.

After World War II, the ROC was defeated on the mainland by the Communist Party of China and forced to retreat to the island of Taiwan. With the lessons they learned from their American brothers and more advanced fighter jets such as F-86 Sabres, F-100 Super Sabres, and F-104 Starfighters provided by the United States, the ROC Air Force was able to control the sky over the Taiwan Straits for more than 50 years. As General Kuo said in his interview with Carl Molesworth, “Today, all the CAF units… glorify their tradition, spirit of loyalty, and bravery and the adventurous morale shown in the period of the CACW, and they stick firmly to the democracy camp to curb the expansion of Communism.”

Kuo was right. All three units incorporated into the CACW during WWII still exist today in Taiwan. They are the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, equipped with the indigenous AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo fighters, based in Tainan; the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing, equipped with the F-CK-1s, based in Ching Chuan Kang Air Base, Taichung; and the 5th Tactical Composite Wing, equipped with the U.S.-built F-16 fighters, based in Hualian. Taiwan began to send its F-16 pilots to be trained at Luke Air Force Base again beginning in 1996, continuing the legacy of the wartime cooperation between the two air forces.

In a future conflict with the PLA Air Force from mainland China, it may not be necessary for U.S. pilots to come to Taiwan to fly for the ROC Air Force again as the Flying Tigers did 80 years ago. However, it is still very important for ROC Air Force pilots to acquire knowledge and training from the United States like their CACW predecessors. As more ROC F-16 pilots from Luke Air Force Base fly over Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, the brotherhood and comradeship of the aviators from both nations should be remembered by future generations in Taiwan and the United States as well.

Early Encounters with the C-6: Bill Sievert Founder # 272

Amigos del Ciel:

The cover picture of a C-6 powered Curtiss Oriole on the September Daedalus Flyer was very nostalgic. (Incidentally, never before had I seen sleeve loops on a trench coat.) My first contact with this post WWI aircraft was at Rockewell Field, North Island, San Diego, California in the summer of 1919. (The U.S. Navy had made only minor encroachments on North Island at that time).

I was in the 2nd Observation Squadron (Gil Ervin, C.O.) and we were awaiting transport to the Philippines. One weekend my very high rank (?) drew O.D. duty. (No BOQ at ROckwell and a few of us lucky ones lived in the Hotel del Coronado Annex at a very special rate of one dollar a day. The quarters, heat and light allowance of a second looie just about toook care of the rent. There were also special rates in the dining room and grill so it was a case of turning over our monthly paychecks to the hotel cashier.)

About four o’clock on this particular Saturday afternoon, from in front of headquarters, I noticed an unfamiliar type of aircraft perform a landing pattern and then land. I met the aircraft in the OD’s side car as it taxied up to the hangar line and shut down the vertical and uncovered engine.

Very soon from the front cockpit there emerged a lady clad in full fox hunting attire (red coat, white breeches and riding boots). It was quickly determined that the lady was Mary Roberts Rinehart, the well known authoress, and the charter flight had just come from Chaplin (Syd) Field, Venice, California (located then between now LAX and SMO) for a weekend in Coronado. Transportation was requested to the Hotel Del but only the motorcycle sidecar was available. So Mrs. Rinehart got to the headquarters building that way and there phoned the hotel, not for a taxi, but a “limousine”.

Meanwhile the pilot stated he would RON so that meant taxiing the aircraft into the parking area. I “declined” the pleasure of propping the C-6 so we changed places and I taxied the Oriole in my first experience with a non-military aircraft.

In passing, might mention that after returnign from the Philippines I flew a Curtiss Seagull C-6 powered and with a battery operated self-starter! This was at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, Chicago, the summer & fall of 1921. All our Founder members will appreciate the “self-commencer” innovation after several years of hand “twirling” OX’s, Hissos and Liberties. The C-6 engine (Kirkham design) was the sire of the V1570 and D-12 engines we all know how smooth they were.

Finally, I might remark that the spooky stage plays of Mary Roberts Rinehart were quite an aid to romance. It seems that young ladies, after attending an evening performance of the play, were averse to being left alone.

Hope to see you all at the 1971 Convention if the Tucson Flight can wangle Air Force transportation. It couldn’t this year.

Vaya con Dios,

Bill Sievert ID 272

Jet Fighters for Thailand

by Col. John L. Wagner, USAF (Ret.)

Perhaps the idea to bring the Thai Air Force into the jet age came from someone in the American Embassy, the Thai Government, Far East Air Forces Headquarters, or the Pentagon. In any case, the overall concept of strengthening our allies and containing Soviet expansion via mutual assistance was a chapter right out of John Foster Dulles’ book, War or Peace.

After the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and the division of Vietnam at the 17th parallel, Secretary of State Dulles made a trip to Manila. The result was an attempt to establish ties and defenses among various southeast Asian countries and the United States. However, the strong words on paper about defending freedom, the treaty organization, and follow on SEATO Headquarters lacked substance until backed up with military hardware.

Undoubtedly, other U.S. Services had to divvy up their share to our new SEATO allies. But that is another story and young lieutenants in the 1950s weren’t allowed much of a peek at the “Big Picture”. Accordingly, my intent here is to cover only a portion of one relatively small activity, albeit one that started the Thai Air Force in tactical jet aviation thirty years ago.

The fellow who said it takes two years to implement any decision from Washington sure hit the nail on the head when it came to this project. This is not to denigrate the system, it merely recognizes the lead times needed to get people, jet trainers, supplies and support in place when the destination is literally at the end of a supply line ten thousand miles away.

Assuming the decision to furnish straight wing F-84s to Thailand was made in late 1954 or early 1955, it was 1956 before our outfit the 49th Fighter Bomber Group was brought into the act. At that time, one flight of the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron – Blacksheep – was placed on alert for a classified mission. Special instructions were issued regarding flight routes, airlift, tanker and rescue support, clothing for social events, protocol, etc. The rest of us in the group were envious to say the least.

Under the dynamic leadership of Col. Gil Pritchard and 5th Air Force Commander Roger Ramey every bomb commander in the group felt a tremendous sense of esprit being a part of a top priority special weapons outfit. The group’s four F-84 squadrons were stationed throughout the Japanese Islands from northern Honshu to Okinawa. Our mobility was assured by C-119 and C-124 airlift and KB-50 tankers.

Each pilot had a classified password which insured “head of the line” base supply and maintenance support to him and his aircraft anywhere in the theatre. Some of our squadron mates had just participated in setting a world record by flying non-stop from Japan to Australia. The group was on the leading edge of air force activity in the far east. Consequently, every one of us wanted a part of any new action.

The Thai goodwill visit (or show of force depending who was writing the copy) by the 8th FBS came off without serious hitch. The Blacksheep garnered many kudos and there were some interesting additions to the stories making the rounds of various clubs during the long winter nights at Misawa AB. One upshot of the visit was that the Thais were promised Thunderjets in the near future. They probably would have received them on schedule, if it weren’t for a few unusual turns in world events.

Low time F-84Es previously given the French were earmarked for delivery to the Thais. The aircraft were to be transported by sea from France to Japan, retrofitted and then flown to Thailand. The year 1956, however, had a couple of crises in Hungary and the Suez that impacted the sea shipment. The ship was delayed in canal passage. Since the aircraft were stored on deck and not cocooned for permanent or long-term storage the sun and sand played havoc with various aircraft systems. When the fighters finally reached Japan and were put it back in flying condition at Kisarasu AB in the Tokyo area in late fall 1956.

Volunteers to deliver those fighters to Thailand were easy to come by. The challenge was getting selected. Major John Saffel, the group project officer, came up with a novel idea. He’d lead the flight and each squadron could furnish a pilot. Perhaps being single and a squadron time hog with no big plans for Christmas holidays contributed to my luck. In any case, I was delighted when I was selected.

After catching a courier flight from Misawa AB to Yokota AB, I recall meeting the other participants at the Yokota Club. It was there I learned my aircraft, unlike the others in the flight, was not at Yokota but still at Kisarasu AB. This was a mere three-hour ground trip through Tokyo and around the bay.

We discussed configuration/model differences and flight planning details. Several things were worthy of note, such as cockpit switches, no inflight refueling door on the model, smooth wing tip tanks without probes, two underslung tanks as opposed to UHF, etc. The mission would involve three legs to Okinawa, the P.I., and Thailand. We’d need light winds and duckbutt (HU-16) support for the last leg.

For the first leg, rather than waste time with me flying back to Yokota AB, we’d rendezvous over Tokyo at 20,000 feet and press on to Kadena AB from there. The jet stream was strong and would slow us down on the first leg. Fully briefed, I ordered wheels and agreed to call John at base ops to coordinate take-off time after I completed preflight and signed off paperwork for the aircraft.

Everything went as planned for takeoff and rendezvous. By the time we went “feet wet” down around Kagoshima it was clear the winds were stronger than predicted and we had a long flight ahead of us. About halfway from Kyushu to Okinawa I received my first little thrill. We were cruising at about 33,000 feet in loose fingertip when the canopy on my aircraft snapped back along its rails to the full open position.

I experienced rapid decompression, loss of everything loose in the cockpit, and freezing cold all in an instant. The other members of the flight spotted what happened and quickly inquired about my status. After pushing my eyeballs back in, lowering my goggles (these were pre-visor days), and evaluating the situation, I told John that I assumed the canopy rail cockpit pressurization seal blew out.

This was not an unusual occurrence, but it was the first instance I knew of where the canopy also came open. I told John I planned to manually shut off air pressure coming into the cockpit area and attempt to close the canopy. It worked, and except for pressure breathing on oxygen the rest of the first leg was uneventful.

Our stop over at Kadena AB was brief. The canopy seal was replaced, and we were on schedule for the second leg. It started out normally until the element leader began to join up with John and called out he had a rough engine. His wingman moved in close and told him to pull up his speed brake; sure enough the problem disappeared.

This may sound trivial but the difference in flying an F-84E with two underslung tanks and slab speedbrake, and a 48th Group F-84G with its usual one underslung tank and perforated speedbrake was significant. This was especially true if the pilot was trying to analyze unusual noises and buffest with a slightly embalmed brain from the previous night at the club.

The second leg also convinced us that despite the fact none of the aircraft in the flight had over fifty hours total flying time, they were far from trouble free. My canopy continued to give trouble. Counting check flights after attempted repairs it came open in flight five times before it was fixed for good. Back in the 1950s, Navy jocks made a habit of flying around in certain jets with rail canopies open but I never did like it.

More seriously, all the aircraft seemed to have sniffle valve problems and a tendency to leak precious fuel at the most inappropriate times – like out in the middle of the ocean. “Marsh” Marshall had the most unusual problem with the main fuel tank under his seat.  Fuel shut off valves in the tank were obviously malfunctioning. The tank was expanding at times to the point it was actually causing his seat to move.

Once on the ground at Clark AB, we all agreed on the need to get these birds in top shape before we attempted the final leg. There was too much water, too few navigation aids, too much time and distance flying and too little timely weather information to include another unknown about aircraft reliability. As a result, we spent many unplanned days at Clark getting the aircraft fixed and flight checked to our satisfaction.

John decided to take Marsh’s aircraft because the tank expansion problem still existed. It was his project and he realized he was running out of time and ideas to get it completed. As it turned out, the gods smiled on him. The winds were fifteen knots on the tail instead of on the nose, the weather was pre-monsoon and good all the way and the duckbutt support on station was a big help.

When we landed at Don Muang International Airport, Thai and USAF people met us with a couple of tall cool ones that really hit the spot. As we left the flight line, I clearly recall Thai crew chiefs running with buckets to catch fuel leaking from their new hogs.

We joshed MAAG pilots Charlie House and Charlie Kapuscak all the way to Nick’s Hungarian #1. Those birds now belonged to the Thais and the USAF assistance team would have their work cut out for themselves keeping them in flying shape.

They obviously succeeded because the Royal Thai Air Force is still going strong in jets.


Now that we Daedalians have had opportunity to contemplate the significance of the accomplishment of the World War I Pilot Officers, I think it is time for us to consider the manner of extending the glory of those accomplishments throughout the ages to come. In our busy lives, few people have had opportunity to properly evaluate the impact of flying upon humanity. In my collection of mementos, I have a small square of fabric taken from the first heavier than air aircraft that ever flew. Just think how we would value a small piece of the first boat or the first wheel that ever turned. All previous civilization was developed as a result of boats and wheels. The aircraft, as such, is a much greater accomplishment than the boat or the wheel. Aircraft operation is not delimited by shore lines or paved highways. The flying officers of the Aviation Section of the United States Army Signal Corps made flying a commonplace performance. More than any other group of people in the whole world, we developed the vehicle which the Wright Brothers had proven to be possible. Our experience gained during those early days was the foundation of the air industry, air transportation, and air military operation. We have lived so closely with this that few of us realize those profound accomplishments. I think those accomplishments justify an ageless continuation of the names of the many who contributed to this great purpose.

Having attended most of the Daedalian meetings throughout the years, I am cognizant of the thinning ranks of those people who have contributed so much to the progress of the world. If greater steps are not taken in the near future to perpetuate our organization, we will be a last man’s club in the next generation. I think that our accomplishments were too great to let those memories die in such a short space of time. I believe that the world at large, probably more than we ourselves, appreciate those things which we have accomplished.

In order that our organization may have a purpose for ageless existence, I propose that we dedicate our efforts to a ceaseless program of improving the safety of flight. We presently have the Daedalian Trophy which is awarded annually to the Air Force Command having the best safety record throughout the previous Fiscal Year, ending on each 30 June. I think we should go further than this. We should also have an award for that national or international scheduled air line organization which had the best safety record for the previous calendar year. Further, we should foster technical studies on safety of flying and publicize those features of aeronautics and aircraft which do and which do not contribute to the safety of flight.

While our periodic meetings provide great personal interest and satisfaction in visiting with our comrades of past years and meeting new members, I believe our achievements in the development of aviation as a vehicle for the greater promotion of international amity transcends the personal satisfaction of social meetings and warrants our embarking upon a worldwide program for the promotion of safety of flight. As that many of us have not taken time to contemplate the magnitude of our collective achievements and its impact upon both the civilized and uncivilized world and eventually upon the universe.

These thoughts are submitted to you in the hope that you may take time to consider how our organization can go forward with such a creed.

Major General, USAF
Wing Commander

The Wright Brothers Flyer after it completed its first flight in 1903.