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 2 Early Days in Europe September–December 1917 During the summer and early fall of 1917, several members of the Yale Unit received orders to proceed overseas, where the navy had begun creating an extensive system of patrol stations, flight schools, and supply bases from scratch.With aviation officers in very short supply,theYale gang offered nearly the only available source of additional trained personnel. In fact, the navy had not yet dispatched a single flying officer to Europe for combat duty.A small force of 122 enlisted men,the First Aeronautic Detachment ,reached France in early June,their exact training and mission yet to be determined. Four commissioned fliers accompanied them—KennethWhiting , Godfrey Chevalier,Virgil Griffin, and Grattan Dichman—with orders to oversee training of their enlisted charges.They later assumed a variety of administrative and staff positions. A few other aviators arrived during the summer,either to investigate conditions in Europe,to gather technical information ,or to fill out expanding staffs in Paris and elsewhere.Until the navy’s new ground and flight schools in the United States functioned smoothly, however,pilots to conduct antisubmarine missions necessarily came from the first college groups hastily trained in the spring and summer of 1917.1 1.The First Aeronautic Detachment formed at NAS Pensacola in early May 1917 under the command of Lt.KennethWhiting,NA #16,and departed for Europe at the end of the month.The men of this detachment reached the Continent in early June, the first organized U.S. military force to land in France.Their story is recounted in detail in Geoffrey Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat: U.S. Naval Aviation in Europe inWorld War I (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010), 5–42. See also Lawrence Sheely, ed., Sailor of the Air:The 1917–1919 Letters and Diary of USN CMM/A Irving Edward Sheely (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993), the published diary and letters  Early Days in Europe Bob Lovett and Di Gates of the Yale Unit departed first for the war zone, sailing to England in mid-August.2 Fellow unit members JohnVorys and Al Sturtevant soon followed.3 A larger contingent, consisting of David Ingalls, Freddy Beach, Sam Walker, Ken Smith, Reginald Coombe, Chip McIlwaine, Henry Landon, and Ken MacLeish, received orders to travel in late September aboard the old liner Philadelphia, now pressed into service as a transport.4 They all looked forward to their new duties with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. David Ingalls began keeping a diary, what he called“this simple book,”while aboard Philadelphia, and with only a few interruptions , he continued to do so until the war ended fifteen months later. Like so many Americans crossing the submarine-infested Atlantic in the fall of 1917, Ingalls experienced the exhilaration and occasional panic of traversing the war zone.According to cabinmate Henry “Hen” Landon, they heard many wild rumors and thrilling stories while aboard, so many that they slept in their clothes, with their .45 service Colts close by.When fellow aviator Ken Smith spotted a porpoise knifing through the waves, Landon “nearly died in [his] tracks,” expecting an explosion to send their ship to the bottom.5 of one of the enlisted members of the unit.The officers included Lt. Grattan Dichman , NA #30; Lt. (jg) Godfrey deC. Chevalier, NA #7; and Lt. (jg) Virgil Griffin, NA #41.A similar process occurred with early army aviators.The first detachment of 53 American cadets reached Liverpool on September 2, 1918, and by December, more than 450 had made the trip. Of this group, 216 eventually flew with RAF squadrons, 90 were posted to the Allied Expeditionary Force (AEF), 20 transferred to France for further training, and 60 returned to the United States.The story of this “Lost Battalion” is engagingly related in Elliott White Springs, War Birds: Diary of an Unknown Aviator (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1926). A more academic treatment is contained in Rossano,“The Apprenticeship (How the AlliesTrained the American Air Service),” American Aviation Historical Society Journal 28, no. 1 (Spring 1983): 22–26. 2. Both Lovett and Gates went on to successful postwar careers in finance and much additional government service. Robert Lovett labored as assistant secretary of war for air throughout World War II, then was undersecretary of state, deputy secretary of defense, and finally secretary of defense during the KoreanWar.Artemus Gates spent the World War II years as assistant secretary of the navy (AIR). 3.These were JohnVorys...


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