A Most Unusual Ship

A Most Unusual Ship

Pilot: Lt. Harold E. Mensch – assigned from Chatillon 12-11-18 (see pg.428 of ‘Wings of Honor’)

Observer: Lt. Clarence W. Gregory, Field Artillery (F.A.) assigned to the 85th AS on 11-5-18 to Armistice.
(see Gorrell entry on 85th Aero Squadron roster & ‘Wings of Honor’ pg.387)

DH.4 #13 (serial #32227) was assigned to the 85th Aero Squadron on 10/11/18. This machine was at Sinzig, Germany as late as May 13, 1919. Barely a month later, this ship was turned into the 2nd Aviation Production center at Romorantin, France as the 85th AS was discharged from overseas duty.

Besides the exotic camouflage scheme, there are some fascinating details of #13 to note:

– A Wyrm shooting blood(?) drops from mouth painted just forward of pilot’s seat with the tail extending across top surface of lower wing.
– A horseshoe and pilot’s name painted just below seat.
– Below observer’s seat is painted ‘clean your feet’ to the left of observer’s name.
– A pilot parachuting from burning/shot down plane painted on rudder (the burning plane painted on opposite side of rudder)


October 24, 2013 · 6:46 am

Postwar Wreck of an 85th Aero Squadron Plane

The wreck of 85th Aero Squadron pilot Lt. Arthur Mitchell, and the student observer Capt. Burgess, in DH.4 #17 (serial # 22905). According to the accident report, the motor cut out on take-off and crashed at end of field (report lists the field as Congoult Aerodrome) due to red gas and water in gas. It was suggested the remedy to prevent future incidents was change from red fighting gas to white gas & filter it thru a chamois.

Both occupants were able to walk away…Crash of #17, 85th AS - Lt. Mitchell & Capt. Burgess(4.1) (Large)


Filed under WWI

The First Aerial Photography Class At Cornell University, 1917

First Aerial Photography Class December 1917 (1) copy

Here is a nice group portrait of the first U.S. Army aerial photography class held at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
Note each individual is numbered with corresponding identification on back. They are:

1) Roy Evans – Olyphant, PA
2) J.J Morgan – ‘In Service’ Alaska
3) K. Wright – St. Paul, MN
4) Abe Wright – Texas
5) J. Schneberger (unsure of first initial)- Chicago, Ill
6) R.C. Calvert – Sweetwater, TX
7) Ben H. Grimm – Hoboken, NJ
8) W.G. Imig. – Oskaloosa, Iowa
9) H.L. Derby – Minneapolis, MN
10) J.F. Chappell – Owensboro, KY
11) C.W. Reeves – Atlanta, GA
12) Ted Sobieralski – South Bend, Ind
13) W.L. Scott – Pittsburgh, PA
14) W.W. Diehl – Washington, D.C.
15) F. Van Thyne – Chicago, Ill
16) E.S. Rhine – East Orange, NJ
17) C.F. Underwood – Summit, NJ
18) A.C. Hardy – Berkeley, Cal
19) J.M. Evans – Berkeley, Cal
*20) O.G. Williams – Scranton, PA & Olyphant, Bethlehem, Slatington & Allentown, PA
21) “Eddie” Stoner – Cincinnati, OH
22) G.C. Eddy – Denver, Col.
23) L.L. Kaylor – Waynseboro, PA & Rockingham, VA
24) Guy Watkins – Augusta, GA
*25) Corp. G.S. Kommenitch – New York City (Montengro). Note Kommenitch is credited with taking this group photo
26) A. Muro – New York City
27) Jas. L. McGarrigle – Philadelphia, PA
28) J. Murtha – New York City
29) L.L. Lenard – Chicago, Ill
30) H.F. Holgerson – Chicago, Ill
31) R.F. Thompson – Binghamton, NY
*32) G.W. Goddard – Syracus, NY. A celebrated Air Force Brig. General, George William Goddard went on to a long career in aviation & aerial photography. See here for a biography on Goddard: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_William_Goddard
33) Bill Melkowski – Chicago, Ill
34) F.L. Winship – Glen Falls, NY
35) G. DeLuca – New York City (OGW seems uncertain of this)
36) A.S. Precinauskas – Chicago, Ill
37) G.F. Morgan – Ithaca, NY
38) G. Buttassi – West Hoboken, NJ
39) Julius Pavek – Racine, Wis
40) A. Perrotti – Chicago, Ill
41) Sgt. R.K. Lloyde – Champaign, ill
42) E.J. MacIntosh – Alexandria, VA
43) S.J. Siakel – Chicago, Ill
44) J.P. Toberman – Norman, Okla
45) O.K. Bradbury – Orange, Mass
46) H.G. Verner, Westfield, Mass
47) Baumgardner – St. Loius, MO
48) R.E. Derby – Minneapolis, MN
49) E.W. Snyder – Syracuse, NY
50) J. Doonan – New York City
51) A.E. Block – Boston, Mass. Unsure of first initial. OGW lists it as both A.E. Block or D.E. Block
52) K. Whetsel, Fargo, ND
53) J.M. Hill – Washington, DC
54) F.E. Layton – Livia, KY
55) H.L. Hooper – Ellsworth, Maine
56) G.C. Cowley – Houston, TX
57) H.L. Walker – Leominster, Mass
58) C.E. Chathams – Altoona, PA

If you know of any of the individuals listed above, please contact me!


Filed under WWI

Owen Griffith Williams: One of the First Qualified U.S. Air Service Aerial Photographers in WWI

OGW Posing in 278th Aero Sqdn DH4 'Katheleen'

OGW Posing in 278th Aero Sqdn DH4 ‘Katheleen’

Owen G. Williams was born March 13, 1894 in Slatington, Pennsylvania. Williams entered the U.S. Army on October 9, 1917 & was sent to the aerial photography school at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He graduated in March 1918 as a qualified observer & aerial photographer. While at Cornell, he was made assistant instructor & Sergeant-in-Charge of all photography at the University. Williams was one of the first group of nineteen Cornell graduates to leave for overseas duty. He was made Sergeant-in-Charge of this 1st group (25 in all, including motorcyclists & truck drivers) as they left for France.

Williams states that due to the high loss of life amongst qualified English & French photographers, the U.S. Army decided no experienced ‘photog’, or anyone that had taken the course, was allowed to fly. He was not only deprived of a 2nd Lt. commission, but was also deprived of the additional $75 per month due to his photographic knowledge. Williams & the rest of this group, who had arrived in France in September 1918, were detailed to ground work, laboratory work, handling & setting the apertures and time on the cameras for the observers who were not trained photogs.

Williams saw service along the Alsatian front (Oct. 1, 1918 – Nov. 1, 1918) & St. Michiel (Nov. 1, 1918 to Nov. 11, 1918). After the Armistice, he was called upon to cover 45 sq. miles of the Hindenburg Line with a camera. Williams was in 8 of the 11 Metz forts & photographed everything on the surface of the ground, as well as everything under the surface, sometimes about 50 or more feet below ground.

Williams’ first flight was on December 1, 1918 in which he covered the St.Mihiel Sector. Thereafter, he would cover Cologne (Dec. 5, 1918), take pictures of area occupied by the 2nd Army, & would spend 10 weeks plotting dugouts, trenches, fortifications along the Hindenburg Line.

On June 6, 1919, Owen returned to Bethlehem, PA upon his discharge from the military. He did a few month’s work as a photographer before being employed as a traveling salesman for an insurance company. He would also be employed for 8 years as an Inheritance Tax Investigator & Appraiser for the Department of Revenue.

Williams died on November 27, 1982 and is buried in Bethlehem, PA (Nisky Hill Cemetery). Most of the photos Williams took during the war (approx. 800 images) ended up at the National Archives.


Filed under WWI