Worthy Son: Harold Loud’s Military Training, June-August 1917

Part 1.  Entry into the Army; Ground School, University of Illinois, June-August 1917 


When the United States entered the war against Germany and its allies early in April of 1917, a standardized training program for Air Service pilots did not exist.  Many men volunteered for Military service in general, and flight training particularly, but there were few facilities and little useful equipment available for training.  There were two army flight training schools, one at North Island, San Diego, and the other, hurriedly established, at Mineola, on Long Island, New York.  Prior to the onset of American involvement in the war, there were 130 officers in the Air Service, of whom 65 were flying officers; these were assisted by just over 1100 enlisted personnel.  There were only about 200 aircraft in the Air Service, and these were obsolescent and under-powered.[1]  Although the French and British had been actively involved in aircraft production and pilot training for over two and a half years before the United States entered the conflict, American experience in these areas was limited.  It was not until early in 1918 that the United States began to develop the training fields and the training aircraft that could accommodate the large numbers of student pilots necessary to fill the ranks of the Air Service aero squadrons planned for wartime operation.

Before they attended flight training, potential aviators were required to attend ground school, typically a two-month period during which academic and military training instruction was provided.  Ground training schools were established at a number of universities across the United States, including the University of California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Ohio State University, the University of Texas, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Princeton University.[2]  Harold Loud was directed to attend the training program at the University of Illinois.  The schools provided living quarters, food, classrooms, and teachers for academic courses, while the government provided uniforms, military instructors, and the cadre of military officers who administered the program.  The primary purpose of the schools was to provide “basic knowledge of the sciences underlying aviation,” and secondarily to identify individuals who were not temperamentally or academically suited to become aviators.  On the average, one in five who entered the ground school program did not complete it.[3]

During the eight weeks’ course of instruction the students studied both academic and military subjects.  Academic topics included the theory of flight and meteorology (weather), while the military topics included technical instruction in radio operation, Morse code, aerial photography, reconnaissance procedures, coordination with ground units, map reading, machine gun operation, aircraft engine operation, and drill.[4]  Loud mentions almost every one of these classes in his letters home.  There was pressure to excel in military training as well as to master the academic content, as performance in the academic course of instruction would be used to prioritize students for their follow-on assignments.

He hoped that if his final standing was sufficiently high, he might be able to be request that he be sent to flight training at Selfridge Field, which was about twenty-five miles northeast of Detroit, where he would be able to visit family members in their Detroit residence.  As it turned out, he was sent to the training program at Wright Field, north of Dayton.  Loud did not realize it, but the system had done him a favor, as the flight training program at Selfridge Field was not fully developed due to a delay in completing the field and a lack of training aircraft, while the program at Wright Field was successfully underway.

The initial correspondence in this section consists of letters from Harold to army officials requesting confirmation of his efforts to enlist and of responses to his requests by army officials.  As can be seen by the dates on the correspondence, Harold volunteered for the Air Service less than one week from the date that the United States entered the war.  He left his studies at the University of Michigan and traveled to Washington D.C., to use the influence of his uncle, Congressman George Loud, to facilitate his entry into the army.  Then he returned to Michigan, alternating between the family’s Detroit and Oscoda residences.  He waited several weeks for official notification, but once notified, he responded promptly.  Harold received a letter dated 12 June 1917 directing him to report to his ground school at Urbana, Illinois, and he must have traveled to Illinois quickly, because his first letter to his parents is dated one week later, 19 June, indicating that he has already had time to become integrated into the military routine, and had been assigned to kitchen police (K.P.) duty.  He must have traveled to Detroit and then to Urbana by train over the weekend of 16/17 June.

As Harold notes in his letter dated July 8, he was visited over the 4th of July holiday by his father and mother, a visit that helped to lift his spirits significantly.  He completed his academic and military program successfully, and departed Urbana by the middle of August to enter his flight training program at Wright Field.


Washington DC

April 19, 1917

Dearest Father and Mother:

I have heard nothing so far as to when I am to take my examination.  If we do not hear by this afternoon or tomorrow morning, I think that Uncle George will go up to the office and see about it.  As soon as I know anything definite I shall wire you.

We were over to the Johnsons’ last evening for dinner and had a lovely time.  They are certainly delightful people.  They very kindly asked me to stay with them after Uncle George and Aunt Elizabeth return to Michigan.[5]  I thanked them for the invitation and told them it would be most acceptable.  I told them I had better ascertain when I was to leave the city before accepting.  I wished to talk it over with Aunt Elizabeth to learn if she thought it would be all right for me to accept and to make sure it would not be imposing on the Johnsons.[6]  Uncle George says they are not the kind of people who would give an invitation if they did not really wish you to accept.  I think it would be very nice and as soon as I know more about my plans I may go to stay with them.

Yesterday we went up to the Capitol and heard a rather hot discussion over a bill which was finally passed.  The question involved was: whether we should allow foreign officers to come to this country and enlist the men who were still citizens of their country.  Today I think the conscription bill is to come up.

This afternoon I am going down to Miss Madeira’s School to call on Elizabeth Jennison.  I wrote her a little note about “whiffenpoofs” and “cocktails” and last evening she called me up.  She said she was wise to those things now and we could not kid her any more.[7]

It is rather tiresome, just sitting around waiting and not knowing when my examination is to come off.

With love to all, Harold


War Department

Office of Chief Signal Officer


April 25, 1917


Mr. Harold Edgar Loud

20 Davenport Street

Detroit, Michigan


  1. You are informed that the Board before which you recently appeared for the purpose of determining your professional, physical, and moral qualifications for commission in the Aviation Section, Signal Officers’ Reserve Corps, has rendered favorable report in your case.
  2. You are requested to notify this office when you desire to enlist and to be sent to an aviation school for instruction.
  3. After enlistment, facilities will be afforded you to undergo a course of instruction in aviation at a designated school, as soon as a vacancy exists.

Very respectfully,

George O. Squier, Brigadier General, S. O.

By John B. Bennet,

Lieut. Col., 17th Infantry


Oscoda, Michigan

June 6, 1917


Captain Lippincott,

Signal Officer, U. S. Army

Washington DC

Dear Sir:

Perhaps you may recall me as the young man who called on you with his uncle, Congressman Loud, on April 12th, relative to entering the Aviation Section, Signal Officers’ Reserve Corps.

On the following day I left with you my application for examination.  On April 21 I took my examination and shortly after I received a form letter dated April 25, a copy of which I enclose.

Since then, I have heard nothing and I am beginning to worry lest there may be something that I have left undone which is resulting in this delay.  The uncertainty of waiting unfits me for any other work, and I am exceedingly desirous of doing service of some kind.

May I ask for your advice?  I am anxious for action and while I fully appreciate the honor of being an officer in the service, I am willing to forego this if I can only get into the work and let that come later if it can and I am worthy of it.  Do you think I had better continue waiting or shall I enlist in the Aviation Section of the U. S. Army?

I dislike to bother you with this matter, but I am now at our summer home, in the woods, near Oscoda, Michigan, on the borderland of nowhere, and I do not know where else to seek advice.  My address is now Oscoda, Michigan.

Very respectfully yours,

Harold E. Loud


Oscoda, Michigan

June 6, 1917

Chief Signal Officer, U. S. A.,

Washington DC

Dear Sir:

On April 25th, I was notified that the Board had rendered a favorable report on my examination.  Since then I have heard nothing.  Please change my address to Oscoda, Michigan.

Respectfully yours,

Harold E. Loud


221 Woodward Avenue

June 12, 1917

Recruiting Officer

Mr. Harold E. Loud, Oscoda, Michigan


  1. I am directed by the Department Commander to enlist you as a Private 1st class, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, and if you pass, to send you to the University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill., at once for duty.
  2. I enclose you a transportation order for which the railroad agent will give you tickets to Detroit, Michigan. Sign it in the place marked X.


E. Phelps,

Major, U. S. A., Retired


Champaign, Illinois

June 19, 1917

Dearest Mother and Father:

I began this letter last night, but I had no more than started to write than the lights went out.  Before I forget it, let me say that my address will be: Aviation Training School, Care of YMCA, Champaign, Illinois.

At present we are stationed at the Armory and take our meals at the YMCA, but we shall move from here soon, we don’t know when.  We have a graduate from West Point in command of us and, believe me, he is strict.[8]  We started right in drilling and learning wireless as soon as we arrived, and today we have been going since 5 AM.  We have over two hours off at noon.

The work is awfully hard, but I know it is going to be good for us.  We have no use for civilian clothes here, as we are in uniform all the time.  They allow us to have our trunks in the barracks, though each one has a locker and a barracks bag.

Today I am on kitchen police duty, i.e., I have to wait on table.  They pick eight men each day for this work.  It is not much fun, but you get lots more to eat.  The food is good, but you don’t get a terrible lot of it unless on duty.  We can have all the bread and butter we want, and I can eat lots of that, which is more than some of the others can do.

We are going to have our pictures taken some time today.  I am perfectly well and feeling fine.  Will write and tell you more when I get time.

Love to all.



Champaign, Illinois

June 23, 1917

Dearest Family:

At last I have an afternoon off, and the first thing I am going to do is to write and tell you all about the school and what we are doing.

I will start from the beginning and go right down the week.  On Monday afternoon, when I arrived, we went first to the University Building, as we were told that the Captain was there.  We found that he had moved his office to the Armory, so we went over there.  We had to report to him in regular military manner, and a couple of the boys told me how to do it.  I got away with it pretty well, only I neglected to say “Sir” after one of my answers.  He proceeded to bawl me out in general, and since then I have not neglected the “Sir” on any occasion.

After reporting, I was assigned to Squadron A.  A boy from Ann Arbor is in this squadron, also Harry Finkelstadt.[9]  Each week we are advanced a squadron.  Next week our squadron will become Squadron B.  The first four weeks we are juniors, and the last four seniors.  For three weeks we will have four hours’ drill a day and after that only one hour.  As we advance, we drop the drill and take on more studies.  At present we have four hours’ drill, two hours’ wireless, and one hour military science.  Besides this, we have calisthenics and study periods.  Our schedule for next week is as follows: 5:30 AM Reveille, 6:00 Mess, 7:00 Drill, 9:00 Military Lecture, 10:00 Signal Practice (Wireless), 11:00 to 11:30 Calisthenics, 12:00 Mess, 2:00 PM Drill, 3:00 Wireless, 4:00 Drill, 5:00 Time Off, 6:00 Mess, 7:00 to 8:30, Study Hour, and 10:00 Lights Out.

From this you can see that we do not have much time off and, believe me, when 9:30 comes around you are tired enough to go to bed without waiting for taps.  We have moved from the Armory and are now living at the YMCA.  We have the entire building to ourselves and it is much nicer than the Armory.  We still have our canvas cots and they are not very soft; however, we are getting used to them.  Wednesday I was on guard duty and had to pace up and down in front of the door to see that no one came in who was not connected with the school.  I was on from four to six thirty and let me tell you I was tired when I was relieved.  Thursday I was on kitchen police.  Thus far I have been on guard duty once and kitchen police twice.  The bright spot in the latter is that you can go into the restaurant and get anything you want to eat and all you want of it.  The food is very good.  It is not fancy, just plain substantial food and plenty of it.  We get all the milk and bread and butter we want and plenty of other things but some of the boys who have always eaten off silver plates are having a pretty hard time of it.

I am rooming with three other boys here at the Y.  One is George Ohrstrom,[10] a boy I knew in Ann Arbor, and the two others are from Chicago.  They are all nice fellows and I like them very much; in fact, all the boys here are a very good sort.  They are all college graduates or boys who have just left college.  We have all ordered one uniform from the Government but we do not expect to get it for at least five weeks.  The Captain says we should all have two and advises that one be tailor-made so that when we get our commission, as we will all do upon completion of the course, we can use these tailor-made suits and have bars put on them.  If I can, I may go to Chicago next weekend and be measured for one of them.  They may cost between forty and fifty dollars.  I may need some more money as we have to pay for our laundry and even the boys who have been here six weeks have not received any pay.  We are to receive $33.00 a month.

I surely was stiff at first after the strenuous work but am in fine shape now and with the regular hours and continued work I should keep in the pink of condition.  I am getting rid of all surplus fat having already lost six pounds during the few days I have been here.  I expect to gain all that back and more too before long and it won’t be fat either.

How I do miss the dear old lake [Van Ettan Lake] and all of you but the work though hard is very interesting and I am doing my best.  I can receive four words a minute on the wireless now.  The test before we leave is to receive eight words and send twelve.  I am sure I shall be able to do that all right.  There is a bare possibility that I can get to the Detroit field [Selfridge Field] after I leave here.  The chances are though that I will go to Rantoul [Chanute Field] which is just fifteen miles from here.

Write to me soon and often.  I shall write when I have time but during the week it is not easy to do so.

Loads of love to all.


P.S. Please send this letter to Florence.  Your letter just came and I was surely glad to get it.  I am glad that everything is going so well at the lake.  I hope that Roxanne and Harry can stay longer than they now intend.[11]



The Armory at the University of Illinois, Springfield, Illinois, which briefly housed Harold Loud during the summer of 1917.


Champaign, Illinois

July 8, 1917

Dearest Family:

Another week has passed and the rumor now is that the course is to be shortened one week and perhaps two.  The two senior squadrons, who have yet one week and two weeks to go, were ordered to take their finals last Friday and Saturday.  You see they are just opening up Rantoul this week and we think most of the boys will be sent there.

It did seem good to have Father and Mother with me on the Fourth [of July] and I did so hate to see them go.  I am going to try to get a leave of absence for the weekend after next.  I have not yet mentioned it to the Captain.

I went out to Rantoul again yesterday and I cannot say that I am stuck on the place.  Their machines have not arrived yet but they are expecting them today.  One hundred and fifty of the enlisted men (mechanics and carpenters) arrived from San Antonio to care for the machines.  Friday the advance guard of the Ashburn flyers came down in an automobile.[12]  They told us that the crowd would be here Saturday or Sunday.

I think this Fourth of July week has sort of upset the Captain.  He surely is not feeling right for I have not heard him speak a pleasant word during the latter part of the week.  Our squadron is composed of forty-two men and he says that only thirty are to go on through to the next squadron [the next level of training].

Nothing much has happened this week except the regular line of drill.  This week we only have one hour of drill each day each day and the rest of the time is devoted to studying and reciting.  We are to begin the study of maps this week and also that of signaling with electric lights.  I think the further we get along the more interesting the work will be.

My puttees came and they are beauties.  The salesman we talked with when you were here saved them for me and called me up to let me know they had arrived, just as he said he would do.  My suit has not yet arrived although it was shipped the fifth.  I am anxious to get it and when I do I shall have a snapshot taken just to show you how I look in a real uniform.

I went up to a fraternity dance last night and had a very good time.  I met several very nice girls.  As I said when you were here: cake etc. will be most acceptable at all times and you cannot send it too often.

I wonder if father could not ask Uncle George to find out if there is any way by which I might make sure of being sent to Selfridge Field when I go from here.  Why I suggest this indirect way is that our Captain said he did not want any of us to try to be switched.  However, many of the boys are doing it in some such way.  You must not give as a reason that I wish to be there, but as you all live in Detroit, you would like to have me near there if possible.  My cold is much better and I am sure that in a few days it will have left me completely.    Aside from the cold, I am in fine shape and never felt better.

A number of the boys are going over to Rantoul this afternoon on the interurban [train], and if I don’t feel too sleepy I may go with them.  It surely is surprising, the rapidity with which the work over there is progressing.  We have about one hundred and seventy-five boys here now.  There are some pretty funny fellows in the last bunches that have arrived.  You see they have lifted the college requirement [that is, entrants were not required to have completed their college degree].

Write to me soon and tell me all that is happening at the lake.

With greatest love to all, Harold


Champaign, Illinois

Sunday, July 15, 1917

Dearest Family:

First of all, let me thank you for the cake and candy.  They both arrived in perfect condition, not a bit mushed up, and they certainly were good.  The way some of the boys ate the cake you would have thought they had never tasted home-made food before.  A goodly bunch of my friends were in the room when the box came, and as a result its contents did not last very long.  I will send the box and the pan back this week, hoping it may soon be re-filled.  I was a little more lucky with the candy as only my roommates were in when it came.  It managed to hold out for one whole day.  It was awfully good and you may be sure that more will always be welcome.

This last week has been a great relief.  You see I am now in the senior wing and we only have one hour of drill a day.  We are devoting more of our time to studies and I find them very interesting.  They now consist of wireless, airplane construction, meteorology, bombs and bombing, ammunition, gasoline engines, and the theory of flight.  I took my exam in wireless last Friday and passed it.  We had to send forty letters in one minute, not making more than two mistakes.  We could take three trials and pick the best.  I took all three and in the last one there were no mistakes.  I was rather nervous on the first trial and got all balled up on that account and on the second trial it was just poor sending.

The first class was graduated last week.  Some, most of them in fact, go to Rantoul.  One or two go to Selfridge and one to Dayton.  The boy in the class that came from Detroit was sent to Rantoul.

My new suit [uniform] has come and it surely is a peach.  I have not had an opportunity to have the promised picture taken in it but hope I may soon.  As soon as I do I shall send you one.  I am enclosing a snap shot taken in fatigues or service uniform.  I think it is pretty good for one of its kind.  If you wish I will have it enlarged to about postal card size.

Harry Finkelstadt is over in Chicago this weekend with his parents.  His mother said that you had been over to tell her what an easy time we were having here.

Thank you very much for paying for my shoes.  I am awfully sorry that I let the bill run that way.  I also thank you for sending my college marks.  I cannot understand what the “dr” on the English means.  It is supposed to be “dropped” but I did not drop it.  There is some mistake about it but as it is only one hour I shall do nothing concerning it at present.  Letters from you and Roxanne and Esther all came this week and it did seem, oh so good to hear from you all and to learn what is going on at home.

I am sorry that you are having trouble with the motorboat.  Father said that you finally managed to get it going but I hope you will have no more trouble with it.  If you write to Roxane this week tell her that a knitted helmet [liner] would be very acceptable.  I cannot explain very well but perhaps this sketch will convey some idea to you.  You see it covers the head and neck completely and is open only at the front for the face to show through.  It should be long enough to fit under the sweater and it would be best in khaki color.

This morning I went to church with George Ohrstrom and Hopkins.[13]  We did not care for it very much as the sermon and music were rather below par.  It seemed difficult for the man to express himself and he did not hold the attention of his congregation very well.  Next Sunday I think we shall try another one.

My cold and cough have left me entirely and since I have cut down on the smoking I have begun to gain in weight.  I am feeling very well.

It hardly seems possible that we have been here four weeks.  That is just half of the time that we are supposed to remain at this school.  The [Detroit] Free Press comes every day now and although it is a day behind the Chicago papers it seems good and homelike to get it.  Also I enjoy the Oscoda Press so when you have finished reading it please send it along to me if it is not too much trouble.

It was a shame that Harry McKenna had to get scarlet fever.  It must have been an awful disappointment to him.[14]

Write to me soon and do not forget that food of the home-made variety is always most welcome.

With greatest love, Harold

P.S.  I am enclosing some interiors [photos] of the armory.  They are not very good.  I tried to raise a mustache last week but the hair was so ununiform in color that I gave it up.  Some were red, some gray and some black; it was a sorry mess.


Champaign, Illinois

July 22, 1917

Dearest Family:

Another week has passed and now there are but three more to go.  The past week has been a very interesting one.  All of the work is interesting now and it will continue to be so I am sure.  I took another exam yesterday and I am sure that I passed.  It was on bombs and bombing.

I did not go to church this morning as I had intended.  I was up at the Armory all the forenoon working on the machine gun.  I think I have the gun down pat now and I am ready for my exams on it.  I went over the exams in gasoline engines the other day and I think I could pass it without much trouble.  My past experience [working on automobiles] will help me very materially.  Some of the boys who have had no experience with engines are having a rather hard time of it.  Also I am mighty glad I took astronomy at school because we are studying that now and I find it comes back to me quite readily.  One of the boys who graduated from Michigan last year and who has been at Fort Sheridan, came down here today.  It seemed mighty good to see him again.

Roxane sent me Mrs. Talley’s[15] letter and I was glad to get it.  Also I was delighted to receive a letter from Mother.  Don’t worry about the cake pan for I have not sent it yet.  I have not been down town all this week but will send it soon.

The schedules have been changed all around and our drill now comes between four and five in the afternoon.  The classes are the same though we start on engine lab. this week and I know that will be easy for me.  We also start on artillery observation.

Roxane writes that Lynn seems to be enjoying his work at Plattsburg[16] much better than he did at first.  I am glad to hear this.  Last night I took a young lady to a dance; it was the first time I have not gone “stag.”  I had a dandy time.

I am still shy on that long-promised snap shot.  I shall try to look a little more dignified in the next one.  I shall try to write a letter during the week as I realize that this is a rather poor one.  It is so hot that I can’t think.

With love always, Harold


Champaign, Illinois

July 29, 1917

Dearest Family:

The past week has been quite a fortunate one for me for I think I have received something in almost every mail.   Just read this list and then say if you think I have been lucky.  First on Monday came a peach of a cake from Elizabeth Jennison, then came a big box of wonderful doughnuts from Roxane, then a beautiful sweater from Esther and Saturday afternoon there arrived a box of candy and a box of salted peanuts from the Kuhns.  As yet I do not know to whom my thanks are due for the latter.[17]

The compass from the “Fearless” came and it was in very good shape excepting that it is rather weak and needs to be re-magnetized.  The reason I wanted it was this: the Instructor asked if anyone had a ship’s compass and when I told him that I had he asked if it would be possible to get it here.  We are studying compasses and when we get to the flying field we must furnish one for the machines.  The Instructor says that mine is a very good compass and will be all right for the airplane.  Thank you for sending it.[18]

Yesterday we had our second shot of anti-typhoid serum.  I think I forgot to tell you that we had our first one eleven days ago.  Dr. Talley was right; it did not affect me in any way except that it made my arm rather sore.  Some of the boys, however, are quite sick from it.

We are having the worst weather I have ever seen.  If you think it was warm last summer you ought to be here now.  The nights do not even cool down.  When our drill is over I am absolutely wringing wet.  There is one consolation, however, and that is that we have only two more weeks here and only one week of drill.  The last week of our stay we are put in charge of other squads and drill them.  During this week and the next we have ten exams to get off.  This means a lot of studying but I am not worrying over the final outcome.

Word came the other day that from six to ten men would be picked from each graduating class to go direct to France for their training and then come back here to be made squadron commanders.  The picking is supposed to be done according to marks but as shown in last week’s class it is governed mostly by “pull.”

Our Captain got his Major’s commission the other day.  He has had rather rapid promotion.  When he came here to take charge of the school he was only a 1st Lieutenant.

I have seen nothing in the paper of late about the new aviation field at Mt. Clemens [Selfridge Field].  I think I shall not say a word as to where I wish to go but just take a chance on it.  There are five or six Detroit boys here now and one of them says he knows Gordon.  He is a friend of the Wileys and went with them on their skiing parties last winter.  His name is Stanley.[19]

The chances look pretty good for a week’s leave of absence after I finish here.  At least they did look pretty good until this weekend.  The Major has had a fierce grouch on this week; he put seven boys in our squadron back a week.  I am still hanging on and, believe me, I am not going to do a thing to get in wrong as I do not want any setbacks for mine.  We had a pay day last week but I did not get any money as my service record has not been sent on from Detroit.  After I went in to see him about it, the Major telegraphed to Detroit for it.  He was very nice to me but the boy who preceded me got bawled out for fair.  He is getting now so that he knows my name and face and I count that one thing in my favor.

Saturday a boy and myself were going over to Rantoul to get a ride in a machine.  This boy knows Captain Brown who is in charge there.  At noon Captain Brown called up to say there would be no flying that day.  We are hoping for better luck another time.[20]

The cake pan has at last gone back and you should have it by now.  You can send it back any time now but be sure it is full.  Thank Roxane for me for the doughnuts.  I certainly did enjoy them.  They went fine with some jam and marmalade that Myralyn Miller sent to one of the boys.[21]

I must stop now and get to my work.  It will be nothing for me but grind, grind, grind from now on.

With loads of love, Harold

P.S. I did all my own laundry this week thereby saving about a dollar. I did not have the use of a tub but washed the things in the shower-bath.


Champaign, Illinois

Saturday Evening, August 4, 1917

Dearest Family:

It is so nice and cool this evening that I think I shall write now instead of tomorrow as it may be uncomfortably hot then.  It will be surprising if it is not for this has been a desperate week.  My back and stomach are all broken out with prickly heat and it drives me wild during drills.  Thanks goodness we are all through with the drills now.  You see next week is my last week here if all goes well.  There are five exams during that time.  Thus far we have had six and I have heard from all but one.  I did very well in all of them, so well, in fact, that some of my former Professors would be quite astonished if they could see the papers.

Today we had our machine-gun exam.  We had to take out a part and put a new one in and the time allowed was one minute and a half.  I did it in .6 of a minute.  Only one other boy in the class did as well and I got 100% on it.  I am a little worried over the gasoline engine exam as it is to be purely theory and not practical as I had expected.  Of course I do not think I shall flunk on it but I shall be lucky if I get above 90%.  That seems to be the hardest exam given and about seven boys in each class flunk it.

Yesterday, six of the boys of the graduating class were ordered to Fort Wood, New York.[22]  This means that they go to France for their training.  They pick them according to scholarship and military efficiency.  I stand a fairly good chance at it but, although it would be an honor to be chosen, I am not quite sure that I am anxious to go.  Those who go over now will come back and be squadron commanders which will probably mean a commission as a Major.

Tell Florence that I greatly appreciated the candy and peanuts and I wish to thank her for them.  They came in perfect shape.

With only one week to go, let me tell you all the fellows in our squad are pretty well on edge and you can hardly blame them; the least little thing may mean another week here and the Major is getting more strict every day.

I had a letter from Lucy Levis today.  You see she is only about six hours by train from here and she may be over here soon as she knows several girls in this town.  Perce, she tells me, has passed his exams and is going into the Marine Corps.  Also she wishes to be remembered to Mother and Father.[23]

Today we had our last shot of typhoid inoculation and as a little added attraction we were vaccinated.  This time I did not yell as I did when a little shaver, and Dr. Hovis touched my arm with the blunt end of the needle.[24]  You can believe me, though, this man was not very gentle for he was doing about four every minute and he had to scratch rather fast.  I suppose I shall have a fine arm in a few days if the thing takes.

We have been given a book which contains all the notes and lectures on all the courses we have had.  It makes quite a book about three inches thick and ten by twelve the other way.

I have not received any pay as yet and if I don’t get it soon I shall need more money from home.  I have about six dollars now and if you will send me about twenty-five more it will put me on the safe side so that if I can come home I shall have the funds with which to get there.

Tomorrow may be called a day of rest but it is going to be one of continuous study for me.  The exam we have for Monday only covers five subjects so you can see the range of questions he can choose from.  It is called “Flying” and includes instruments, photography, meteorology, astronomy, and cross-country flying.  I do not imagine it will be extra hard but I am going to take no chances.

I am sure that Albert is feeling bad about being called.  Tell him for me that, inasmuch as he is in, to get down and dig for all there is in him and if he does exceptionally well he will be rewarded for it by promotion.[25]

The kids’ show must have been pretty good from all reports but hasn’t Gordon got any way to put in his time to better advantage than that.  It seems to me there are plenty of things to do around the island.  At least there always used to be when I was home.

I think I had better stop writing now and get to work.

With greatest love, Harold




This is to certify that Harold E. Loud has passed the examinations held on the eleventh day of August, 1917, at the University of Illinois.


By direction of the Chief Signal Officer

Hiram [Bingham][26]

Major, A.S., S.C., U.S.A.

George W. Krapf,

Major, Signal Corps,



Champaign, Illinois

Monday, August 13, 1917

Dearest Family:

At last I have finished the course here and have received my orders to go to Fairfield, Ohio, which is just outside of the city of Dayton.  I am surely thankful to be sent there instead of Rantoul.  I know it sounds like “sour grapes” but really I am not at all disappointed at not being sent to France.  The men were not picked according to scholarship but mainly through pull.  Harry Fink[enstaedt] was sent but he was one of the bunch who really deserved to go for he worked awfully hard.

The exam in engines which I thought was going to be so hard was not so bad after all.  Nevertheless there were four fellows unfortunate enough to flunk it.  I got 98% on it and there were only two men higher.  This has been a very busy day, packing up our belongings and getting ready to leave.

Since receiving our orders we are not held to attend the different formations and you can’t imagine how good it seems to be really free once more.  We leave tonight [on the train] at ten o’clock.  There are about thirty of us going and we have a sleeper [car] all to ourselves.   The Government does not pay for that but only for our tickets.  We are due to arrive in Dayton tomorrow morning and as the field is just opening up, I presume we will be put to work unpacking machines.  I shall try to get a leave of absence when I get there, if such a thing is possible.

Tell Roxane that the cakes were wonderful and they certainly were enjoyed.  I am wondering if we shall be allowed to receive boxes of home things when we are in barracks at Fairfield.

I had thought of coming to Detroit last week-end but then I realized that you all were up at the Lake.  There would not have been time for me to get to Van Ettan and so I just stayed here.  I am so excited that I can hardly write but I shall try to write you a good letter when I get to the new Field.  As yet, I cannot give you my address.

With greatest love, Harold



[1] Arthur Sweetser, The American Air Service: A Record of its Problems, its Difficulties, its Failures, and its Final Achievements (New York: Appleton, 1919), p. 54; Edgar S. Gorrell, The Measure of America’s World War Effort (Norwich VT: Norwich University, 1940), p. 2.

[2] Gorrell, p. 16.

[3] Sweetser, pp. 103-104.

[4] Sweetser, p. 104.

[5] “Uncle George,” is Harold’s Congessman uncle, George Loud, and Elizabeth was George Loud’s wife at the time.

[6] The Johnsons: not further identified.

[7] The Madeira School is a college preparatory school for girls.  It was initially established by Lucy Madeira Wing near Dupont Circle in Washington DC in 1906.  The school was moved to the northern Virginia suburb of McLean in 1931.  Elizabeth Jennison: a student at the Madeira School; not further identified.

[8] The commanding officer, George Krapf, was raised in Connecticut.  He was a West Point graduate, class of 1913.  During World War I he was the commander of the U. S. School of Military Aeronautics at Urbana, Illinois.  Then he was Officer in Charge of Flying at Call Field, Wichita Falls, Texas; Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois; Carlstrom Field, Arcadia, Florida; and Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas.  He later transferred to the Balloon Corps.  He resigned from the U. S. Army in April, 1919, but later joined the Massachusetts National Guard and the U. S. Army Reserve.  He served briefly in World War II.  He died in 1953.

[9] Harry Finkenstaedt was a friend of Harold Loud and a former student at the University of Michigan.  During World War I he served with the Air Service on the Italian Front.

[10] George Lewis Ohrstrom graduated from the University of Michigan in 1917.  During World War I he served in the U. S. Air Service as a pilot in the 104th Aero Squadron.  He was one of the pilots and observers credited with shooting down a German plane on November 10, 1918, the last German plane to be shot down during the war.

[11] Florence was Harold Loud’s oldest sister.  Roxane was Harold’s next oldest sister, who was married to Harold (Harry)  ??  .

[12] The Ashburn Flying Field was the first flying field established in Chicago, Illinois.  It was located in a community to the southwest of the center of the city, not far from Midway Airport, and opened in November 1916.  It was used briefly to train pilots for the Air Service, but its training staff was transferred to Chanute Field in Rantoul, Illinois, in the summer of 1917.

[13] George Ohrstrom: previously identified; Hopkins: not further identified.

[14] Harry McKenna: not further identified.

[15] Mrs. Talley: wife of Dr. Talley, who was apparently the family doctor.  They were friends of the Loud family; not further identified.

[16] Located in upstate New York, Plattsburgh had been established as a training field by the U. S. Army in the early 1800s.  Due to its large training area and proximity to New York City, it was increasingly used as an army training facility in the years before the United States entered World War I.  “Lynn” not further identified; presumably a family member.

[17] Roxane and Esther: Harold’s sisters.  The Kuhns and Elizabeth Jennison: not further identified.

[18] Harold Loud was misinformed about the use of ship’s compasses in aircraft.

[19] Gordon: Harold’s younger brother.  The Wileys and Stanley: not further identified.

[20] Captain Brown: an Air Service flying officer; not further identified.

[21] Myralyn Miller: not further identified.

[22] Fort Wood was a military fort built during the U. S. Civil War on Bedloe’s Island in New York harbor.  It featured the traditional star-shaped fortification.  After the Civil War, the fortification section served as the base structure for the Statue of Liberty, which was erected in 1886.  The U. S. Army continued to use a portion of the island as a military garrison until 1944.  The island has since been named Liberty Island.

[23] Lucy Levis and Perce [Percival?]: not further identified.

[24] Dr. Hovis: apparently another family doctor.

[25] Albert: not further identified.

[26] Hiram Bingham was a famous explorer and a faculty member at Yale University before the war.  With his background as an educator, he was assigned to a number of administrative positions in Air Service training programs.  He was an officer in the Air Service and was the third commanding officer of the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center at Issoudun, France, from August 1918 until the end of the war.  After the war he served in Congress and continued to be a strong supporter of military and civilian aviation.  He would have been the commanding officer at Issoudun when Harold Loud completed his training program there.