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.

Fly-By-Wire, Old Style

by Lt.Col. Ted Fite, USAF (Ret.), Daedalian Life Member #4069

Some of my young friends who are F-16 jocks have been bragging about their state-of-the-art fly-by-wire side-stick controls, as if they’d invented a new way of flying. That’s like thinking they invented sex. T’aint so! Like sex, we just didn’t make so much noise about it in public. Take a look at the picture. Look vaguely familiar? It is just what it looks like – a fly-by-wire side-stick control. But we had two of them, one on each side of the cockpit! (The Airbus and YC-17 are just catching up).

Actually, the picture is from AAF Manual 50-13, “Pilot Training for the Flying Fortress,” revised 1 May 1945! It shows a formation stick, which was in the B-16G, (the Fortress with a chin turret, for you late-night TV buffs). My 1945 Class I-2-D met up with this gadget in the school at Hendricks Army Airfield, which later became Sebring Racetrack.

We’d gone up to Lockbourne AAF, Ohio in August after B-25 transition, and the war had folded up enroute. We had some war-weary airplanes, and I had an instructor who had also flown a combat tour in Mustangs. He claimed that if you could make a 30-second overhead in a P=-51, you should be able to make a 60-second pattern in a B-17. If! We never did, but it did amaze me how fast that big bird could be muscled around. I remember thinking “We’re going to cartwheel this bastard through the fence, and the C.O. will cream us.” Never a thought about merely getting killed.

I had all of five hours in the bird when we were all shipped down to Sebring to finish training. Before driving down with a friend, I flew down in one of the older airplanes as co-pilot with my instructor. That was quite a change from the vast experience required to even get close to the first models. (And the very first one crashed in 1935 with the elevator controls locked).

At Hendricks, we got some brand-new G’s and that C.O. let it be known that he’d hang us if we dinged one of his new beauties. The plane was lovely to look at, and lovely to fly. Today’s pilots would think they were in a wrestling match since we no boost except in auto pilot. Nevertheless, the B-17 was steady as a rock, one fine formation and instrument aircraft. We flew formation with ½ wingspan clearance. That leads to our first experiences with the formation stick.

We were just starting to feel like pros in formation when we were introduced to his new gizmo. It hooked up electrically with the C-1 auto pilot and from there to the auto pilot servos which connected to the control cables. The C-1 had both sensitivity and rate adjustments and allowed the bombardier to fly his run with the Norden bomb sight. We tried the formation stick out in a three-plane vee, which was a minor tactical error. I was in the left seat and had the auto pilot set up on fairly high control rate.  On the instructor’s word, I switched the stick control to Servo Boost, and mashed the transfer button. Hoo, boy! Sort of like going from an old Goony Bird to a T-38. There was no feel. We were left wing, and I was very happy that my first jink was to the left and up. When I got sight of the other two birds again, they’d spread out from “half wing” to “same way, same day,” and it looked like we were practicing flak evasion instead of formation. It took another hour to get some confidence with the stick. Back on the ground, the students agreed that we really could do without this state-of-the-art. Surprisingly, a couple of the instructors concurred, at least so long as they still had to ride with us. (Actually, the stick also had another purpose. It allegedly could get a Fort home with the rudder cables shot away and an engine out, but a stick approach was pretty hairy).

I graduated as first pilot in December 1945, with the grand total of 115 hours in the B-17, hundreds of hours less than the early Fortress pilots needed to get near the bird. Then off to Occupation Germany in March. Lo and behold, no more B-17s. We were blowing them up by the hundreds and giving them to the bewildered Germans for pots and pans. Me? My orders sent me to Furth-Nuremberg, assigned the 10th Recce Group, a classified photo outfit, (low level predecessor to the U-2), equipped with – Mustangs! (Marv Zipp, of Stinson’s Flight, was the C.O.)

But that’s another terrifying tale!

The author:
Red Ted Fite was a Former Flight 30 Flight Captain. He graduated with his pilot’s wings, with the 3-year West Point Class of 1945. His last flying assignment was with the 3rd Bomb Wing (Tactical), in the Far East, flying B-57s. He was one of our most colorful and dedicated members throughout his life, writing dozens of letters into HQ with advice, information and support on our work through the years, in addition to several articles for publication until his death in 2019. He truly lived up the tenets of the Daedalians and is deeply missed.

From the Archives: Daedalian Founding Documents

As World War I opened in Europe in 1914, the airplane was a new technology considered little more than a toy of the wealthy or exhibition item suitable for public fairs and functions. Its ability to serve a legitimate military or tranportation purpose was taken lightly, if not outright dismissed.

However, by the time the United States entered the war, the role of airplanes for military uses was considered so important that the Allies requested the Americans furnish 5,000 combat pilots for the Western Front by early spring of 1918. At the time, only 40 military pilots had been trained in the United States, 11 of whom had died in training accidents.

A call for volunteers went out. By the time the Armistice was signed, some 11,000 American airmen had received their wings in the Army, and another 2,000 aviators in the Navy and Marine Corps had earned their wings. All were motivated by the desire to serve their country in its hour of need.

Following the war, several attempts were made to solidify the bonds of aerial comradeship in some form of organziation. While various informal groups popped up intermittently over the years, no formal structure came into being until the 1930s.

As another war beckoned on the horizon in 1932, momentum built to establish a formal fraternal organization of World War I pilots. This organization was intended to establish a standard that would serve as a reminder to Americans and the world that unity, patriotism, courage, and the spirit of self-sacrifice was an essential part of our national fabric. The organization also served as a reminder of America’s growing air power as a means to preserve freedom and deter powerful aggressors.

A group of representative pilots came together in 1933 while stationed at Maxwell Field, Alabama to consolidate these ideas. The Order of Daedalians was officially chartered on March 26, 1934. Members were composed of those commissioned officers who, no later than the Armistice of 1918, held ratings as pilots of heavier-than-air powered aircraft.

The name, the “Order of Daedalians” originated from the legend of Daedalus, the first person to accomplish heavier-than-air flight. It was considered proper and fitting for an organization composed of those who were the first to fly their country’s airplanes in time of war.

Daedalians 87th Anniversary Quiz:

  1. What is our mission statement?
  2. Who was originally eligible to be a member?
  3. What rated positions must a military aviator hold, or have previously held, in order to be eligible for membership in the Daedalians at this time?
  4. How many charter members were there?
    BONUS: Name one.
  5. How many local flights does our organization currently have?
  6. What are the three categories of membership?
  7. How did we get our name?
  8. What is a Founder member?
    BONUS: Name one.
  9. Name three of our programs.
  10. Who was the first female Daedalian?
  11. What are the tenets of the Daedalians?
  12. Who is our current Executive Director?