Photo Courtesy of Charles E. Peck
Who were these WWI US Aviators, and where was this photo taken?
Clues from the Book: It would appear that this photo was taken at the training field 1/2 hour from Clermont- Ferrand. 12 April 1918: "Since my last letter to you I have been ordered away from the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center and am now quite a few miles away from that point and in beautiful section of France. I am well and like the place very well. Fuortunately, found that several of the old crowd had been ordered here to make up the new squadron. Tom Noonan showed up here and we were all glad to see him. There are not but a few of us and we have, I think, been lucky in men selected to form the squadron."
- 'Ken' Yarrow- Philadelphia, Pa.
- Emmet M. 'Manny' Manier- Nashville, Tenn.
- Manny Manier appears to have been one of the MIT trainees who sailed on the RMS Baltic in Sept. 1917. In Peck's scrapbook, He appears in an Oct. 1917 photo w/ John C. Tyler, William Hoyle England, (Portland Oregon) and another photo with W.C. "Billy" McCabe (New Haven, NY, Georgetown Law), Tyler, Harry B. "Buck" Freeman, Harold B. "Bunny" Merz, and F.V. "Pep" Foster. Another photo of Manny and Tyler has the note: 'Vanderbilt Univeristy- Law- Phi Delta Theta'.
When the Americans were pulled from their French Escadrilles in October, 1918 to be assigned to American Units, Peck's Capitaine would not allow him to fly over enemy lines on his last day, but Emmet, who was with another Escadrille, did fly on his last day with his French Unit, his pocket full of his leave money. He was shot down in flames, October 2, 1918 (pg 117). Peck and Manny were planning to room together in Paris after the war, And one year after Manny's death, Peck writes about him, ('A true Southern breed from the Old School of Southern Gentlemen....') and how no remains have ever been found, or marker left for him (pg 174). He includes him in a list of 'that little bunch of 14 ...training at Tours .... who about a year ago had that memorable first Thanksgiving Dinner in France'. The list of the original 14 at Tours (page 126):
'Bunny' Merz (Wounded over the lines); 'Manny'Manier - Down in Flames Oct. 2 '18; 'Pep' Foster (Missing), K.G. West (shot down in the last week of the war), 'Oxtail' Gatton -shot down in last trip of war (Crois de Guerre); John Tyler -shot down in flames. (Croix de Guerre), 'King' Douglas (last news still living), 'Buck' Freeman (shot down over Germany); 'Sheep' Alexander - Wounded over the lines- (American D.S.C); 'Sid' Marine (smashed up in a crash back of the front), 'Gen' Strauch (Down in Flames over Germany), 'Billy' McCabe (never reached the front), and 'Si' Headle (never reached the front).
- 'Bill' Caulkins - Rochester, NY
- June 23, 1918 (pg 89) w/ Tyler, Somers, and Birch was assigned to Escadrille Br. 129 (indicating that this photo was taken at the final finishing school?) April, 1919: Bill Caulkins CO of the 163rd, which is in same place and now composed almost entirely of 'Rainbow Pilots' "You will find his photo in some of the groups taken at Clermont"
- James 'Jimony' Hall- Washington, D.C.
- Jim Hall joins the US squadron to which Peck has been assigned (163rd) on November 10, 1918, and is his roommate. This photo means that Hall was previously with this training group, wherever it was. Further correspondence in 1919 discusses Jim Hall's return home to D.C., his continued receipt of flight pay, and questions the authenticity of souvenirs shown to Peck's little brother.
- 'Major' Davis- Kansas City
- A photo in the scrapbook positioned w/ the 1918 photos shows Jim Hall and Maj Davis w/ the remains of a prop of Maj's machine which he crashed w/ Jim riding with him.
- 'Willie' Howler- Pittsburgh, Pa.
- Ralph C. J. 'Bud' Somers/Sommers - Jersey City, New Jersey
- 23 June, 1918: Bud Somers, Tyler, Caulkins and Birch were assigned to Escadrille Br. 129. On October 9, 1918, Peck writes that he has heard that Somers has gone down with his Observer, Bud Buckley (New Haven, Conn. and with the 5th Squadron at MIT summer of 1917), after being assigned as instructors at Cleremont. Author of a book about New Jersey Pilots, Mike O'Neal says Somers survived the war, but Buckley indeed did go down about that time, reportedly KIA.
Buckley is Charles T. Buckley (or Charles H. dependant upon which source you believe) who served also with Br. 129 and was killed in action 10/10/18. Buckley is listed in the BOAL report as having flown 35+ hours over the lines with Br129 and was with the first group of "fighting observers" assigned to Cazeaux and Cleremont before serving with the French. There's an impossible to distinguish photo in the BOAL report showing Buckley along with NJ-ites Valentine Burger (C.46 & 90th Aero), Harry Craig (KIA with the French) & Norman Becker (Brit IAF).
- 'John' Tyler-Brooklyn, NY
- Tyler was at MIT, and sailed on the Baltic, and is from Williams College (pg 20). Photos in the scrapbook taken at Tours, France has a single photo of John Tyler noting that he also attended Boston Tech in Engineering and was a member of Psi Upsilon. Group photos taken at the same time in Tours show him with Emmet Manier, William Holyle England, from Portland Oregon, and again w/ Manier, McCabe, Freeman, Merz, Foster and Marine. On Oct. 21, 1917 Peck writes that Tyler speaks French very well which helps when they go into town for a bath and dinner.
23 June, 1918: Assigned to Br. 129.
Sept. 18, 1918: Tyler and Chapin shot down by German airplanes. They had been called back 3 weeks earlier into an American Squadron..."it seems so hard to have them slaughtered up there with that slipshod, slave-driven crowd..." Both had been decorated while with the French.
Page 142: "Rich, Jack Brown and I went up hunting for John TylerÕs and some other graves at Conflans, Metz, and Pont-e Mousson". They found John TylerÕs grave near Conflans. "he was murdered ...in one of the flaming coffins which the States so kindly furnished him with" They fixed up his grave a bit and took some pictures to send home. 'General' Strauch was his observer, and they are both in the same grave in the French Civilian cemetery at Conflans. John Tyler was with the 20th Squadron when he was shot down. (pg. 147)
- 'Cap' Parks- Norfok, Va. (Captain Vic Parks)
- June 19, 1918: A man older than the rest of us, but a great fellow. He and I, with our observers, will join#123. Page 91:" 23 August, 1918: " Yesterday, Captain Parks, the other American pilot with us, and his observer, left to rejoin the American Air Service. The Captain will command and take a new American escadrille to the front. He was just sick over going...." 20 November, 1918: Captain Parks' escadrille, the 166th selected to go in with the occupying Army...." found he needed pilots and would be tickled to death to request Headquarters to transfer Dominic Rich and me to his squadron."Captain Parks is a regular Army Officer who came oer with Pershing in the 16th Infantry last June and then transferred to Aviation last October. He trained at Tours the same time I did and at one time was commanding officer of the cadets there. ....it seems rather funny to be rooming with the man who used to rule us with an iron hand. I like him very ver much and find him a great source of information on things military and am learning something new every day. "
- Dominic 'Dominique' Rich - New York City
- Apparently a member of the 163rd Aero Squadron, put in to go with the 166th, but they were assigned to be instructors at Clermont, which was closing, and they were then assigned to attend school at the University of Dijon. Dominic Rich had been a Jr. at Harvard when he enlisted.
- 'Ox-tail' Cyrus C. Gatton- Bosman, Mont.
- Footballl player University of Montana and U of Wisconsin. Shot down in the last trip his Escadrille, Br. 127, made over the lines. Had trained at Tours and was one of that bunch of 14 who had come over on the Baltic-- possibly also trained at MIT.
- 'Chap' Roger F. Chapin - Boston, Mass.
- June 23, 1918: Chapin and Gatton were assigned to Escadrille Br. 127, along with Chapin's Observor, Lt. Laird. Chapin and Tyler shot down by Germans September 18, 1918. (pg. 111)
"I bunked with him all the time we were at Clermont at school and was with him while waiting to go to the Front. Then John and "Chap" were out here with the French with me, and, while not in my escadrille, we saw each other all the time, both on the ground and in the air. They were called back to the Americans about three weeks or so ago and were shot down up there on the American sector, flying with an Americna (green) squadron. Theywere both exceptionallly fine men and beautiful pilots and it seems so hard to have them slaughtered up there with that slipshod, slave-driven crowd.... Both had been decorated while with thee French. John had two Boche when he left, and "Chap" had had a number of nasty combats in which he showed fine skill and a cool head to have escaped what seemed inevitable to be shot down..."
- ___ Peck -Wash. D.C.
- 'Tommy Noonan' - Albany, New York
- Member of SAE at George Washington University. Had gone to Paris as Secretary to the American Consul in 1914. Enlisted in Paris and sent to Aviation training field at Tours around the end of August, 1917. In June, 1919, learned from NoonanÕs wife that Tom was on duty in Romania.
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