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FOUNDER SPOTLIGHT: WILLIAM J. ARMSTRONG SR.

A Daedalian Legacy

Remembering a father and grandfather’s service

By Annette Crawford, MSgt., USAF (Retired)

(This story was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of the Daedalus Flyer.)

It all started with an email from four siblings. Their father, a Hereditary Member, had passed away. Even though the email was brief, it was obvious they were proud of their father?s service, and that of his father, a Founder Member. A request for more information about William J. Armstrong Jr. and Sr. was answered with more emails filled with fond memories and photos.

So while an obituary normally marks the end of a life, in this case, it?s where the story begins.

 

William Joseph Armstrong, Jr., 94, a retired U.S. Air Force Intelligence Officer and Antique Dealer in New Market, MD, died Friday, November 18, 2016 at Frederick Memorial Hospital. His wife, Jane Philbrick Armstrong, predeceased him April 23, 2007, after 56 years of marriage.

Born May 13, 1922, in Philadelphia, PA, the son of William Joseph and Anna Costello Armstrong, he was raised there and graduated from La Salle College High School. During World War II he served with the 20th Air Force on Guam as a B-29 mechanic. He also attended Brigham Young University in the Army Specialized Training Program.

After his discharge he finished college at UCLA with a BS degree in Industrial Management.

When the Korean War began, Mr. Armstrong was working in Seattle and was recalled to active duty as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer. Subsequently, he was assigned to intelligence duties in the U.S. Air Force Security Service, specializing in the Soviet Union and the Russian language. He studied at Syracuse and Columbia Universities and the U.S. Army Russian Institute at Oberammergau, Germany. He served overseas tours in Alaska and Germany. At the time he retired from active duty as a Major, he was assigned to the National Security Agency.

?After retiring from the Air Force in 1968; he joined his wife in the antiques business in New Market, Comus Antiques, specializing in brass and copper refinishing. Mr. Armstrong was active in civic affairs including Christmas in New Market and New Market Days. He was a longtime chairman of the New Market Historic District Commission and was in charge of publicity for the New Market Antique Dealers Association for many years.

?He was a member of the Rotary Club of Frederick, the American Legion and VFW, the Order of Daedalians, Royal Air Force, London, and Frederick Cotillion. He was a Tennessee Squire.

 

He leaves two daughters, Carol Green and husband Dennis, of Ijamsville, Nancy Musser and husband Jonathan of Falls Church, VA, two sons, William J. III, and wife, Dr. Pamela of Damascus, and Robert P. and wife Iva, of Frederick, twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

 

?My father went into the service during WWII along with his brothers. One brother went into the Air Force and the other went into the Navy, while my dad started out in the Army,? wrote his daughter, Carol Green.

Armstrong found a rewarding career in intelligence when he was recalled to active duty during the Korean War.

?He was about to leave for Korea and my mother and I were scheduled to move in with my grandparents, however, his orders changed and they sent him to language schools in several locations where he learned Russian fluently,? said Green, the oldest of the four Armstrong siblings.

?My father’s work was always classified, so we never actually knew what he did. A great friend, who served in the military with my father, told me that ?Your father did many things to help the U.S .during the Cold War,? and he also said he worked with my father, but never could learn Russian, so he had great admiration for my father and his immense vocabulary in the Russian language,? she said.

Armstrong was one of three sons of William Joseph Armstrong Sr., Daedalian Founder Member 1356, who was assigned to the 17th Aero Squadron in Great Britain.

?He is mentioned in ?Hostile Skies ? A Combat History of the American Air Service in World War I,? by James J. Hudson. On page 208 it says that in August 1918, ??pilots of the 17th scored the squadron’s third and fourth official victories and surged far ahead of their 148th Squadron rivals when Lieutenants W.J. Armstrong and Merton L. Campbell shot down a Fokker triplane and a Fokker D-7 near Roulers. Frederick Clapp, the squadron adjutant, barely had time to record the new success, however, before the 148th narrowed the gap once again. Less than an hour after Armstrong and Campbell’s victims plunged into the Belgium countryside Field Kindley and Elliott Springs knocked down a pair of Fokker biplanes in the outskirts of Ostend to shove the ?White Triangle’s? score to three. Springs’s victory was his fourth.??

Green?s grandfather played a role in one of the more amusing anecdotes to come out of the air war over Germany. On page 214 of Hudson?s book it says:

Maj. William J. Armstrong
Founder Member #1356

?While escorting RAF bombers in a raid against submarine shelters, marine works and docks in the Bruges-Ostend area, Lieutenants William J. Armstrong, Ralph Snoke, and Harris Alderman were wounded in an aerial battle with enemy scouts. Armstrong was rather seriously injured and barely managed to get home again before landing heavily on top of a British DH. The other two were less seriously hurt. Alderman, better known by his squadron mates as Aldy, had been wounded by a bullet which had ricocheted through his fuel tank and struck him ?where he sat.? It seems that all three wounded officers were sent to Queen Alexandra Hospital near Dunkirk to recover.

?A day or so later, King George V visited the hospital and on touring the wards came upon the American fliers. The King chatted briefly with each pilot and asked about their wounds. When he reached Aldy no wound was visible, so he asked, ?And where were you wounded??

?According to the squadron historian, Aldy had a terrible moment of self-consciousness, but his quick-witted reply was: ?Over Ostend, your Majesty.? The King understood. A smile of delighted amusement crept over his face and spread to the officers of his suite. Aldy?s wound became, from that moment, as it were, a public possession and its exact location was always thereafter described in polite society ? for had not a king understood? ? as, ?Over Ostend.??

?We have several letters that my grandfather wrote to his parents,? Green said. ?His nickname in the military was ?Army.? Sadly, my grandfather died the day before I turned 1 so his death was 11/26/1952. I am the oldest. I do regret that we did not get to know him.?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William J. Armstrong Sr.,
Founder Member #1356, (left)
and his son, William J. Armstrong, Jr.,
Hereditary Life Member (right)