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Inaugural of the U.S. Army Pan American Goodwill Flight: Photographs by Jack Specht

November 13, 2015

The Pan American Goodwill Flight of 1926 and 27 was a public relations goodwill mission to promote U.S. aviation in Central and South America. It was proposed by Maj. Gen. Mason Patrick, chief of the Army Air Corp. Ten distinguished military pilots, with good mechanical skills, were selected to fly the five Loening amphibian airplanes, each named for a city in the United States. Because of its geographical location and prominent connection to military aviation, San Antonio was designated as the starting point and base of operations. On December 21, 1926 the aircraft left Kelly Field on a 22,000 mile journey through Mexico, Central America, South America, and up to Washington, DC.   The flight concluded on May 2, 1927 at Bolling Field with thousands of spectators waiting at the flight line. President Calvin Coolidge was there to award the pilots the first Distinguished Flying Crosses.

The San Antonio Light began regular coverage of the flight in November 1926. By the end of the month, the pilots had arrived in San Antonio. Jack Specht, the paper’s staff photographer, was sent to take a group portrait of the men.  He would accompany reporters on subsequent trips to take additional photographs of the airmen, their aircraft, and the christening ceremony. News articles that December describe the hectic schedule of the pilots and the aircraft mechanics during those three weeks of preparations at Duncan Field. The mechanics worked long hours assembling the biplanes and making mechanical adjustments. The pilots attended lectures, assisted the mechanics, and tested the planes. During their spare moments, the pilots were honored at luncheons and dinners by an enthusiastic local population.

Fifty two 4×5 glass plate negatives related to the departure of the Pan American Goodwill Flight are preserved in our collection. These are some of those images made by Jack Specht.

 

Christening ceremony for the five Loening amphibians at Duncan Field, December 20, 1926. Leila McDaniel, mother of Captain Arthur McDaniel, and Annie Robinson, wife of Lt. Charles Robinson, christen the “San Antonio.” (MS 359: L-0672-E)

Christening ceremony for the five Loening amphibians at Duncan Field, December 20, 1926. Leila McDaniel, mother of Captain Arthur McDaniel, and Annie Robinson, wife of Lt. Charles Robinson, christen the “San Antonio.” (Detail of MS 359: L-0672-E)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loening OA-1A, airplane of choice for the trip, was a two-seat biplane with features of both a seaplane and landplane, Duncan Field, December 1926. (MS 359: L-0739-K)

Loening OA-1A, the airplane of choice for the trip, was a two-seat biplane with features of both a seaplane and landplane, Duncan Field, December 1926. (MS 359: L-0739-K)

 

Maj. Herbert A. Dargue, commander of the flight, and Grover C. Loening, designer of the planes and president of Loening Aeronautical Engineering Company, Duncan Field, December 1926. (MS 359: L-0737-J)

Maj. Herbert A. Dargue, commander of the flight, and Grover C. Loening, designer of the planes and president of Loening Aeronautical Engineering Company, stand beside the flagship “New York,” Duncan Field, December 1926. (MS 359: L-0737-J)

 

Maj. Dargue, pioneer military aviator, holds letters of good will, from President Calvin Coolidge, to be delivered to the leaders of the 19 countries on the flight itinerary. (MS 359: L-0737-C)

Maj. Dargue, pioneer military aviator, holds President Coolidge’s letters of good will to be delivered to the leaders of the 19 countries on the flight itinerary. (MS 359: L-0737-C)

 

San Antonio native Captain Arthur B. McDaniel (left), second in command of the flight, and Lt. Charles McK. Robinson stand beside their plane, December 1926. Thousands of local residents welcomed their return to Kelly Field in the “San Antonio” on May 11, 1927. (MS 359: L-0672-D)

San Antonio native Captain Arthur B. McDaniel (left), second in command of the flight, and Lt. Charles McK. Robinson stand beside their plane, December 1926.  Thousands of local residents welcomed their return to Kelly Field in the “San Antonio” on May 11, 1927. (MS 359: L-0672-D)

 

Pilots of the “San Francisco” Capt. Ira C. Eaker (left) and Lt. Muir S. Fairchild stand beside the flight insignia, designed by Duncan Field employee B. F. Ginther, December 1926. The “San Francisco,” the

Pilots of the “San Francisco” Capt. Ira C. Eaker (left) and Lt. Muir S. Fairchild stand beside the flight insignia, designed by Duncan Field employee B. F. Ginther, December 1926.  The “San Francisco,” the only plane to complete all the scheduled stops, is now on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udavr-Hazy Center.  (MS 359: L-0739-C)

 

Capt. Ira C. Eaker, flight publicity manager, poses for one of the individual portraits taken to accompany biographical sketches of the fliers that were published in the San Antonio Light during December 1926. Eaker, a native of Llano County, was a pioneer aviator and was Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces at the end of World War II. (MS 359: L-0736-A)

Capt. Ira C. Eaker, flight publicity manager, poses for one of the individual portraits that were taken by Specht to accompany biographical sketches of the fliers that were published in the San Antonio Light during December 1926.  Eaker, a native of Llano County, was prominent in military aviation throughout his life.  In 1978 he received a special Congressional Gold Medal for his contributions to the development of aviation.  (MS 359: L-0736-A

 

The pilots pause before making practice flights and landings on Medina Lake, Duncan Field, December 17, 1926. (Left to right) Capt. Arthur McDaniel and Lt. Charles Robinson, “San Antonio” pilots; Capt. Clinton Woolsey and Lt. John Benton, “Detroit” pilots; Maj. Herbert Dargue and Lt. Ennis Whitehead, flagship “New York” pilots; Lt. Bernard Thompson and Lt. Leonard Weddington, “St. Louis” pilots; and Capt. Ira Eaker and Lt. Muir Fairchild, “San Francisco” pilots. (MS 359: L-0738-B)

The pilots pause before making practice flights and landings on Medina Lake, Duncan Field, December 17, 1926. (Left to right) Capt. Arthur McDaniel and Lt. Charles Robinson, “San Antonio” pilots; Capt. Clinton Woolsey and Lt. John Benton, “Detroit” pilots; Maj. Herbert Dargue and Lt. Ennis Whitehead, flagship “New York” pilots; Lt. Bernard Thompson and Lt. Leonard Weddington, “St. Louis” pilots; and Capt. Ira Eaker and Lt. Muir Fairchild, “San Francisco” pilots. (MS 359: L-0738-B)

 

Capt. Clinton F. Woolsey, flight engineering officer, takes a break from his job in the test hanger, early December 1926. Woolsey and co-pilot Lt. John W. Benton were killed following a mid-air collision with the “New York” near Buenos Aires. Because Benton was on the wing without a parachute, Woolsey attempted to land the plane rather than parachute to safety like the pilots in the other plane. (MS 359: L-0738-H)

Capt. Clinton F. Woolsey, flight engineering officer, takes a break from his job in the test hanger, early December 1926.  In February, Woolsey and co-pilot Lt. John W. Benton were killed following a mid-air collision of their plane, “Detroit,” with the “New York” near Buenos Aires. Because Benton was on the wing without a parachute, Woolsey attempted to land the plane rather than parachute to safety like the pilots in the other plane. (MS 359: L-0738-H)

 

Mechanics prepare planes for practice flights and a landing on Medina Lake, December 17, 1926. (MS 359: L-0739-M)

Mechanics prepare planes for practice flights and a landing on Medina Lake, December 17, 1926. (MS 359: L-0739-M)

 

The Loening amphibians fly in a five-ship formation for the first time, December 17, 1926. Kelly Field in distance. (MS 359: L-0739-O)

The Loening amphibians fly in a five-ship formation for the first time, December 17, 1926. Kelly Field in distance. (MS 359: L-0739-O)

 

Maj. Gen. Mason Patrick (third from left) talks to Grover Loening following the christening services and send-off speeches held during intermittent drizzle, Duncan Field, December 20, 1926. At about that time, word was received that the flight would be delayed due to the muddy field. The planes were towed to neighboring Kelly Field for takeoff the following day from a paved runway.

Maj. Gen. Mason Patrick (third from left), who made a special trip from Washington for the occasion, talks to Grover Loening following the send-off speeches that were held during intermittent drizzle, Duncan Field, December 20, 1926. At about that time, word was received that the flight would be delayed due to the muddy field. The planes were towed to neighboring Kelly Field for takeoff the following day from a paved runway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ronald Putman permalink
    January 19, 2017 5:50 pm

    Awesome pictures!!!! I’m proud to say that my grandfather was among those on this adventure and sadly lost his life while participating. He was my grandmothers loving husband and the father of my mother, Rosalie and her sister Mary, who ended up returning to their Brussels, Belgium homeland until she met my father who was in the military during the war in the 1940’s. Gran
    dma passed away in Brussels in approximately 1962, and my mother passed in 1972 in Dearborn Michigan. Although I never met Grandpa Clinton Woolsey, I grew up learning of his bravery and passion for the field of early aviation. Ronald Putman, Kokomo, Indiana.

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