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An Exercise in Good Judgment – Part 2


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Lt. Colonel Henry B. Hersey, U.S.A., Junior Military Aeronaut, AEF 1918-1919

 

Henry Blanchard Hersey (1861-1948) was a pioneer balloonist who, except for a few short periods of military service, was employed as a civilian by the U. S. Weather Bureau from 1885 to 1932.

 

During the Spanish America War he left the U. S. Weather Bureau while in Arizona and organized a squadron of cavalry composed of hard-riding horsemen of that region for which he received an appointment as Major in the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry ... better known as Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders.” However, unlike as is claimed in the new "balloon book” he never flew a balloon while in Cuba.

 

In 1902 Frank S. Lahm at age 66 qualified as a spherical balloon pilot with the Aero Club of France. In 1905 he gave Henry B. Hersey his first balloon flight in his balloon the Katherine Hamilton. Henry B. Hersey was later issued Spherical Balloon Pilot license number 6 by the Aero Club of America. In 1906 he assisted Lieut. Frank P. Lahm, U.S.A., as co-pilot in winning the International Balloon Race, obtaining the Gordon Bennett Cup for America.

 

Henry B. Hersey again left the U. S. Weather Bureau in May 1917 while living in Washington, DC to volunteer for military service with the rank of Major in the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps. Shortly after that he was given charge of the U. S. Army Balloon School at Fort Omaha, Nebraska and officially qualified there as a Junior Military Aeronaut in July 1917. In November 1917 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

 

Relieved of command at Fort Omaha in October 1918 and given overseas orders, he arrived in France on November 4, 1918, just seven days before cessation of hostilities. In March 1919 he left the Army and in May 1919 returned to the U. S. Weather Bureau in Washington, DC. He retired in 1932 as Chief of the U. S. Weather Bureau in Los Angeles, CA.

 

Lt. Colonel Henry B. Hersey, regardless of his qualifications as a civilian balloonist, was never rated a Military Aeronaut. In other words, in order for an officer to receive a Military Aeronaut rating he had to serve as a Junior or Reserve Military Aeronaut on active duty for three years. The only exception to that rule would have been in war time provided the officer received exceptional recognition by an Act of Congress. In more precise terms, Lt. Colonel Henry B. Hersey was never qualified to be a Military Aeronaut. He received a Junior Military Aeronaut rating in July 1917 and could not have possibly qualify to wear a Military Aeronaut badge with star affixed above the shield unless he had stayed on active duty until July 1920 but he resigned his commission in March 1919; therefore, had he ever been caught wearing a MA badge while on active duty he would have been charged with being in strict violation of Army Regulations. Furthermore, it is a matter or public record that not one officer who served with the Balloon Section of the American Expeditionary Forces and Army of Occupation ever held a Military Aeronaut rating while overseas.

 

Even in lieu of what you now know, “the balloon book” shows a picture of what is purported to be a Class-A uniform that belonged to Lt. Colonel Hersey with a crudely fashioned bullion Military Aeronaut badge sewn to it, along with metal rank insignia for a full-bird Colonel made by Gaunt attached to the epaulets. There is also a picture of a Mackinaw (overcoat) also said to have been worn by him with an identical crudely fashioned MA wing badge attached to it. Both badges were obviously made by the same individual.

 

Pictured below is a well known portrait of Lt. Colonel Henry B. Hersey wearing one of his actual overseas uniforms with overseas stripe and correct Junior Military Aeronaut wing badge attached to it; however, the picture is not shown in the new book. Below the picture are images of the two highly questionable Military Aeronaut wing badges a;sp said to have been worn by him om the book.

 

In conclusion; the book is an excellent reference for any World War One wing badge collector who would rather know what questionable Military Aeronaut or Junior and Reserve Military Aeronaut wing badges should be avoided; therefore, if you buy it just don’t drink the cool-aid.

 

The author of the new balloon book has or had agreed at one time to sale it to members of this forum at a special price of $65.00 post paid. One of the Forum Moderators is a friend of the author and can tell you how to contact him. Undate. See thread, Examples of Fake Fantasy & Reproduction Wings, post number 82.

 

Sources to back up this review:

 

Adjutant General’s Office: Official ARMY REGISTER for 1918. Government Printing Office -1918.

 

Adjutant General’s Office: Official ARMY REGISTER for 1919. Government Printing Office -1919.

 

Albert F. Simpson Historical Research Division. The World War 1 Diary of Col. Frank P. Lahm, Air Service, A.E.F. Historical Research Division – Aerospace Studies Institute Air University Maxwell AFB, Alabama. December 1970.

 

Campbell, J. Duncan. Aviation Badges and Insignia of the United States Army 1913-1946. Unpublished 1st Draft dated 17 May 1972.

 

Campbell, J. Duncan. Aviation Badges and Insignia of the United States Army 1913-1946, The Triangle Press, Third Printing, 1991.

 

Chandler, Charles deforest & Lahm, Frank P. How Our Army Grew Wings. The Ronald Press Company. 1943.

 

Department of Defense. List of Airplane Pilot Officers of the United States Army Air Service Commissioned Prior to 12 November 1918.

 

Foulois, Benjamin D. and Glines, C. V.: From the Wright Brothers to the Astronauts. McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968.

 

Gardner, Lester. Who’s Who in American Aeronautics - 1922. The Gardner, Moffat Co.

 

Gardner, Lester. Who’s Who in American Aeronautics - 1925. The Gardner, Moffat Co.

 

Gardner, Lester. Who’s Who in American Aeronautics - 1928. The Gardner, Moffat Co.

 

Juliette A. Hennessy. The United States Army Air Arm April 1861 to April 1917. USAF Historical Division. 1986 edition.

 

Hoagland, Roland W. The Blue Book of Aviation. The Hoagland Company, 1932 Edition.

 

Marquis Who’s Who: Who was Who in America – Volume II (1943-1951). Reed Reference Publishing Company.

 

Morris, Terry R. United States Army Air Service Wing Badges – Uniforms and Insignia 1913-1918, Scott A. Duff Publications, First Printing, 1995.

 

Ovitt, S. W, 1st Lieut, A.S. & Bowers, L. G. Bowers, 1st Lieut., A.S.. THE BALLOON SECTION of the AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES. The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Co. 1919.

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Can I ask you a question, Cliff?

 

Do you know if any aviators were actually granted the right to wear Military Aviator badge by act of Congress? Was that a courtesy that was every extended to anyone, either for early work in aeronautics or flight training or aviation engineering?

 

Thanks.

 

Patrick

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Can I ask you a question, Cliff?

 

Do you know if any aviators were actually granted the right to wear Military Aviator badge by act of Congress?

Yes and I will post the list of names and dates below. There is one thing to consider about the list. The awards were granted several months after World War One was over; therefore, most of the aviators had already returned to civilian life and they may not have ever bothered to purchase a MA wing badge.

 

Was that a courtesy that was every extended to anyone, either for early work in aeronautics or flight training or aviation engineering?

 

Thanks.

 

Patrick

Yes. The regulation was very specific. It could be awarded to any Army pilot who had served less than three years active duty but only by an Act of Congress ... and for his service during war time. I think some people believe the reg only applied to pilot's who had shot down more than 5 enemy aircraft but that was not always the case.

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Awarded Military Aviator rating on April 23, 1919

 

Harold H. Ashley

Dena H. Crissay

Edward P. Curtis

Willis A. Dickema

Elmer R. Haslett

Frank D. Lackland

Archie Miller

Stanley H. Noyes

Kenneth L. Porter

 

Awarded Military Aviator rating on June 2, 1919

 

Louis G. Bernheimer

Paul F. Baer

Thomas G. Cassady

John C. Donaldson

Charles W. Drew

William P. Erwin

James A. Keating

Edward V. Rickenbecker

Robert F. Raymond, Jr.

Elliott W. Springs

Edgar G. Tobin

George A. Vaughn

Donald D. Warner

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Impressive group of men in that list!

 

You're a wealth .of information.

 

Best, Dennis

"RETREAT HELL.....WE JUST GOT HERE"

 

LOOKING TO PURCHASE IDENTIFIED WW1 AVIATION GROUPINGS, INCLUDING MEDALS, UNIFORMS, STUDIO PHOTOS.

PURCHASE ANY AND ALL ID'ED WW1 NAVY CORPSMAN OR PHYSICIAN GROUPINGS; MEDALS &/or UNIFORMS.

WW1 USMC ID'ED OFFICER'S GROUPS, esp. MARINE AVIATORS -

ANY LARGE FORMAT 5X7 OR LARGER IMAGES OF MARINE OFFICERS & AERO PILOTS

 

 

Collecting/Preserving/Researching WW1 Marine Corps Items and WW1 Aviation Items

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Cliff, here is another general question.

 

Why would it take an Act of Congress to upgrade from a junior/reserve military aviator to a military aviator? It wouldn't necessarily have changed that officer's rank, command status, or commissioning status. I suspect that he may have been paid a bit more and likely BECAUSE he was a military aviator, been given more responsibility, but was it actually written in the regulations that to bypass the normal requirements to become a military aviator, you needed an Act of Congress to approve it before it could happen? At best, this would have been something that I would have thought would have been decided at the level of the General Headquarters of the Aviation section (who better to appreciate the qualities of a pilot) or maybe (at the very highest level) at the Staff Headquarters in the Pentagon. I just find it kind of interesting that Congress would have been required to approve this jump in a rating, when (IIRC) you dont need an Act of Congress to actually become a pilot.

 

It would be interesting to me to hear you feelings on this, if you dont mind? thumbsup.gif

 

Patirck

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That’s a great question Patrick, and one that could be expected from an academician.

 

It was only by an Act of Congress in 1914 that the Aviation Section was established within the Signal Corps, and in clear and precise terms the Act set forth the distinction between a Junior Military Aviator (JMA) and Military Aviator (MA). Only after serving a minimum of three years of active duty service could a JMA ever be “eligible” for a MA rating. After three years he could appear before a military examining board for evaluation and approval. That was the law set by Congress and it was meant to keep matters fair and equitable. By requiring a JMA to serve a minimum of three years before being granted a MA rating, Congress was able to prevent the Army from allowing any favoritism or special consideration to any officer that might shorten his three year requirement. Pretty cleaver.

 

Things can and do change. When the US declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917 the Army had approximately 56 pilots in the Aviation Section, but when the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918 it had over 12,500. Sometime between those two dates the War Department issued a general order which in circumstance restated the three year MA requirement set by the Act of 1914. Next, because of the high number of flying officers on duty at the end of hostilities there was pressure to amend the regulation in special cases. Congress then made an amendment to the Act allowing the three year requirement to be waived for an officer’s “outstanding achievement” during the war. I know of only two dates that those approvals were granted by Congress, 23 April 1919 and 2 June 1919 but there may have been more.

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This posting is not intended to be off-topic. It is for the benefit of forum members who might be seriously interested in learning factual information about U.S. Army Light-than-Air (LTA) operations and hopefully rectify/correct several errors or misconceptions found in other related publications...

 

U.S. Army Airships 1908-1942

by James R. Shock

Atlantis Productions (2002)

 

This book is a definitive history of U.S. Army Airship and Balloon operations beginning in 1908 with greater emphasis on Army Airship and Balloon operations after World War One.

 

Included is a chapter which I wrote that features a roster intended as the most complete listing possible of all Regular Army and Reserve commissioned and enlisted airship and balloon pilots who served from 1919 to 1942. Included are 254 capsule biographies covering most of these men of which 193 were definitely qualified Airship Pilots.

 

8” X 10” soft cover, 220 pages, 200 illustrations of balloons, airships, and the officers who flew them

 

Available at these online bookstores for $25.00 post paid:

 

Airship International Press

Historic Aviation

Atlantis Production

 

I received no financial compensation for assisting with the publication of this book.

 

Cliff

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