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The First Yale Unit
by
Ralph D. Paine

The Book and the Author

Bound in with Vol. I of the exemplar I transcribed, a holding of the University of Chicago Library, is the following little slip which states the situation well:

Mrs. Henry P. Davison has had this book written by Ralph Paine to show the part played by the Yale Unit in the World War. The book has much that will prove of historical value and it has been suggested that it be sent to various libraries throughout the world. It gives me much pleasure to send you a copy.

Lewis S. Thompson

Red Bank,
New Jersey

The First Yale Unit was a group of twenty-nine Yale college students, almost all of them jocks, who became fascinated by flying, and realizing that World War I would eventually be coming to America, decided to get a hop on everyone else, teach themselves to fly — at the time, a new and very dangerous sport — and thus be ready to serve their country as aviators when the call came. The socially homogeneous group had the advantages of privilege and money: the sport is also a very expensive one, and their patriotic families backed them with a very substantial outlay of funds and the influence of their connections, without which the venture would have been impossible.

Their story has recently been told again (by Marc Wortman, The Millionaires' Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys Who Fought the Great War and Invented American Air Power, Perseus Books Group, 2006) with the advantages of nearly a century of history since that allowed the author to track the members of the Unit thru their entire career, and to write it more neutrally:

Ralph Paine's earlier book though, by its nature, was able to draw on pretty much all the primary sources — the members of the Unit themselves, their letters, their families, Yale University, and official Navy records — and has preserved to posterity (and subsequent authors) the story of an amazing enterprise of youth and initiative and patriotism. Not only was the First Yale Unit the main seed from which American naval aviation would grow, but many of the members of the First Yale Unit, parlaying their own war record and of course the ever-present influence of their families, went on to become movers in the American government, one of them, Bob Lovett, serving as Secretary of Defense during the Corean War.

Col. Thompson was thus quite right: the book has much of historical value; not only in giving us a portrait of the Unit and its members and chronicling the early days of American naval aviation, but also in its account of some of the inner workings of the air war in 1917‑1918, and touching on the history of France, England, Italy, and Brazil. The author chosen to write the book, Ralph Delahaye Paine, a journalist, was a logical choice: he had written many other books for a popular audience, often on sports or naval matters, and wrote for the Navy during the War.

You may be coming here from my little site on French History; chapters more particularly relevant to France — in particular, the heroic resistance of the city of Dunkerque — are marked on this page by a small French flag 
[image ALT: A French flag.]
			.

The book is inscribed:

To
the memory of
Henry Pomeroy Davison
whose foresight, enthusiasm and faith
made the Yale Unit possible

Contents

Volume I

Vol. I p. ix Foreword

v

New Warfare in the Sky

1

Trubee Converts his Parents

11

The Summons to Peacock Point

22

The Status of Naval Aviation

30

The Summer at Port Washington

37

Solos and Strange Adventures

48

From the Campus to New London

59

Rolling Down to Palm Beach

86

The Wags and Some Others

97

Plane Living and High Flying

111

Finding a Northern Base

123

The War and Naval Aviation

135

The Station at Huntington

145

Trubee, the Crippled Leader

157

The Girls' Radio Unit

172

Au Revoir to the Colonel

178

Bay Shore and Rockaway

187

Way Down South in Texas

203

The Crowd at Hampton Roads

211

'Bill' Thompson's Hard Luck

221

Ireland's Job at Morehead City

231

p. x Erl Gould and Key West

240

A Test Pilot in Ordnance

261

In Steam Engineering

271

With the Second Yale Unit

289

The Mission to Brazil

297

Volume II

Vol. II p. v Girding on Their Swords 
[image ALT: A French flag.]

1

The Day's Work on the French Coast 
[image ALT: A French flag.]

19

'Ken' Smith is Lost at Sea 
[image ALT: A French flag.]

31

The Wags at Le Croisic 
[image ALT: A French flag.]

49

Île Tudy and Bombing a Sub 
[image ALT: A French flag.]

59

Farwell Plays a Lone Hand 
[image ALT: A French flag.]

70

The Big Boats at Felixstowe

74

'Al' Sturtevant 's Last Flight

89

Captain Christiansen's Own Story

101

Gosport and Scotland

119

Gates Goes to Dunkirk 
[image ALT: A French flag.]

140

Flying over the Enemy's Lines 
[image ALT: A French flag.]

149

Lovett and the Northern Bombing Group 
[image ALT: A French flag.]

168

Curtis Read Pays the Price 
[image ALT: A French flag.]

190

Petulant Pilgrims to Italy

213

Hopping over the Alps

232

Bartow Read at Porto Corsini

242

With McIlwaine, Beach, and Ames

251

Dave Ingalls, the Naval Ace

267

The Killingholme Patrols

293

p. vi 'Di' Gates is Shot Down

313

A Prisoner in Germany

329

Kenneth MacLeish's Path to Glory

350

List of Illustrations

Volume I

Vol. I p. xi Mr. Henry Pomeroy Davison

Frontispiece

Mrs. Davison

16

Trubee Davison landing at Peacock Point, 1916

16

Part of the Port Washington Crowd in 1916

28

The Original Group of 1916, Taken at Palm Beach

32

Bob Lovett

38

Huntington Race Crew

38

The Floating Hangar at Port Washington, 1916

44

At Work in the Floating Hangar, 1916

44

H‑16

50

New Hangars at Port Washington

50

Time for Oranges

56

Bob Lovett and Harry Davison in a 'Red Bug'

56

The 'Twin'

62

Rest Hour at Palm Beach

62

The Lewis Gun Mounted on the 'Twin'

70

Waiting a Turn to Fly

70

Oliver James

76

The Test Stand

76

The Runways and Shop at West Palm Beach

82

Entire Personnel of Unit at Palm Beach

86

The Big Chiefs: Lieutenant McDonnell, Colonel p. xiiThompson, Dr. McAlpin, Radio Stewart, Foster Rockwell

90

Curt Read, Ella, and Trubee Davison Leaving the Salt Air

92

Beginning a Flight at Palm Beach

92

The 'Mary Ann'

94

The Lewis Gun Mounted on an F Boat at Palm Beach

94

The Regular Navy Contingent at Palm Beach

98

The 'Wag' Crew; Bob Lovett, Instructor

104

Colonel Thompson and the 'Loot'

112

Chip McIlwaine

120

Sully, 'Big Boots,' and Fred Golder

120

The Huntington Hangars

126

The Main House at Huntington

130

Albert Ditman and his Police Dog

130

The Runways at Huntington

136

Curt Read

140

'Biltmore'

146

A Burgess-Dunne

148

An R‑6

148

The 'Whileaway'

150

Ready to Count the Bounces of a Returning Soloist

154

Testimonial to F. Trubee Davison

156

Tents at Huntington

174

p. xiii The Huntington Shop

174

At Huntington

178

Allan Ames and Erl Gould Fixing Machine-Gun Targets at Huntington

188

Graham Brush and Reg Coombe Starting on a Target Flight at Huntington

188

Personnel at Bayshore

192

R‑6 Taking off at Rockaway

196

Blimp Hangar, Rockaway

196

U. S. Navy Blimp

200

Crashed N‑9

200

Number 7 Crew at Palm Beach; 'Di' Gates, Instructor

208

Number 6 Crew at Palm Beach; Trubee Davison, Instructor

218

The Crew of the 'Mary Ann' at Palm Beach

224

'Di' Gates and Dave Ingalls in an F Boat

234

Erl Gould, Bill Rockefeller, at Huntington

242

Rear Admiral W. B. Fletcher Visiting Erl Gould at Key West

248

The Upper Beach, Naval Air Station, Key West

248

An F Boat at Palm Beach

258

The Crew of Number 8 at Palm Beach; Caleb Bragg, Instructor

266

Roll-Call at Palm Beach

274

Al Sturtevant and Bart Read, at Huntington

286

Volume II

Vol. II p. vii F. Trubee Davison

Frontispiece

Rear Admiral William Sowden Sims, U. S. Navy

2

Rear Admiral H. I. Cone

8

U. S. N. Aviation Training Station at Moutchic, France

14

Landon's Plane on the Branch of Croix-de‑Vie

32

Smith, Landon, Walker, and Coombe at Le Croisic

32

Henry Landon

50

Freddie Beach and George Moseley

50

United States Battleship at Brest

62

German Sub in Action

78

Albert Dillon Sturtevant

90

Yale Varsity Crew, 1915

98

Results of Two Crashes at Dunkirk

142

Dugout for Civilians at Dunkirk

144

Results of a Hun Bomb on a House One Hundred Yards from Officers' Quarters, Dunkirk

144

Awaiting Return of Patrol, Dunkirk

148

Erecting Hangar near Dunkirk

148

Scout Machine Starting out on Patrol from Dunkirk

150

Fifteen-Inch German Gun 'Loegenboom' which Fired on Dunkirk

156

Offices and Sick-Bay, Dunkirk

160

C. O.'s Office, Dunkirk

160

p. viii Bob Lovett, Visiting Senators, and a Caproni

168

Some of Bob's Bombs and Observers

168

Mole and Harbor Entrance, Zeebrugge

174

Explosion at Zeebrugge

182

Station at Pauillac, France

186

Curtis Seaman Read

190

Over the Alps with Harry Davison

226

Entrance to the Officers' Quarters, St. Inglevert

238

Officers' Quarters, St. Inglevert

238

Macchi 5 Taking off at Porto Corsini

242

Bart Read's Squadron in Italy

246

Bart, Pilots, and Italian Plane

246

French Mechanics Spad Squadron at St. Pol, Dunkirk

252

Freddie Beach and 'Di' Gates Getting Ready for Patrol

252

German Destroyer and Sub Hit by Allied Bomb in Bruges Harbor

256

Allied Bombing, Bruges

262

Germans Inspecting 'Dud' English Bomb

262

Anti-Aircraft at Bruges

268

German Concrete Submarine Shelters, Bruges

268

German Hangar Destroyed by Allied Bombs

274

German Sheds

274

German Destroyers at Bruges

280

German Destroyer Shelter at Bruges, Struck by British Bombs

286

German Concrete Dugouts on the Mole, Zeebrugge

286

p. ix Handley-Page down at Bruges

290

German Wounded

290

Personnel at Killingholme

294

'Doc' McAlpin at Killingholme

298

Lawrence's Plane on Patrol from Killingholme

298

An F‑5 L

302

Zeppelin Shot down by English Planes in the North Sea

306

Machine-Gun Target at Dunkirk Station

314

German Seaplanes

320

'Di' Gates, C. O. at Dunkirk

330

American Prisoners of War in Germany

330

Kenneth MacLeish

350

Ken MacLeish's Grave at Schoore, Belgium

364

Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition followed in this transcription was the first and I believe only edition, Cambridge, Printed at The Riverside Press, 1925. That year's copyright (by Kate T. Davison) was not renewed in 1952 or 1953 as required by the then law in order to be maintained, and the book is thus in the public domain: details here on the copyright law involved.

Illustrations

The 132 illustrations, all photographs, are placed on their own high-quality glossy pages, often very near the text to which they relate. The placement was not optimal, however, and I've taken advantage of the flexibility offered by the Web to move some of them to what I feel are better places. Their original placement is given in the table above, but the links are of course to the new location. In one instance (the 'Biltmore' on p146 of Vol. I) the subject of the photo is unmentioned in the text; and 'Big Boots' (Vol. I, p120) is similarly unidentified.

It is also to be regretted in some cases that the source of the photographs was not given by the author.

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line);p57 these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

Proofreading

As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if successful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

My transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree; a red background would mean that the page had not been proofread. As elsewhere on this site, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The printed book was very well proofread, except for foreign words and names, which are frequently garbled. I marked the typographical errors, when important, with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic ‑‑> in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any other mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.



[image ALT: A stylized line drawing of a World War I biplane against some cumulus clouds. Taken from the binding of the hardcover book, it serves as the icon on this site for the book 'The First Yale Unit'.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is the vignette on the cover of each volume of the book, colors as little changed as possible.


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Site updated: 11 Sep 13