Worthy Son: Harold Loud’s Military Training, August – December 1917

Part 2.  Flying School, Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, August-December 1917  

Introduction 

In the late spring of 1917, the federal government authorized the development of three training airfields in the states of Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio.[1]  The Michigan training field, Selfridge Field, was named after Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, an army officer who died in a plane crash at Fort Myer, Virginia, in 1907.  He was a passenger in a Wright airplane piloted by Orville Wright.  Wright was injured when the aircraft suffered an in-flight structural failure, but Selfridge, the son of a prominent military officer, was killed.  The Illinois training field, Chanute Field, was located on the east side of Rantoul, Illinois.  It was named after aviation pioneer Octave Chanute, from Chicago, who had experimented with a variety of flying machines.  The third field, named after Wilbur Wright, was located north of Dayton, Ohio.  Wilbur was the eldest of the Wright brothers, who had successfully flown a powered aircraft at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903; Wilbur had died from typhoid fever in 1912.

After their successful flight at Kitty Hawk, the Wright brothers had continued their aircraft development at Dayton, where they had been printers and bicycle makers before they designed their successful flying machines, and the Dayton businessmen were eager to demonstrate Dayton’s importance to the aviation world.  Accordingly, they had aggressively developed a plan for a flying field just north of the Huffman Prairie area, which the Wright brothers had used to demonstrate improvements in their flying machines and to give instructions to aspiring aviators, among whom were many army aviators, like Henry “Hap” Arnold and Thomas Milling, future leaders of the U. S. Army Air Forces.

The flying field north of Dayton, near the small community of Fairfield, was quickly prepared, as the flying surface was graded and new buildings constructed.  Authorization to begin construction of the airfield was given on May 16, 1917, and construction activity began on May 27.  The field was nearly completed when the first flying students arrived in the middle of July.[2]  There was one other local advantage as well: Dayton quickly became the location of a thriving aircraft-building industry, so that aircraft could be supplied much more easily at Wright Field than at any of the other two fields.  The aircraft that were constructed for the Air Service were of the design of Glenn Curtiss, however, and not of the Wright brothers, because the Curtiss design was simpler and more efficient than the Wright brothers’ design.  When Wilbur Wright passed away, the Wright Airplane Company lost its most important creative element.

For these reasons—quick and aggressive local response and ready availability of aircraft—the flight training program at Wright Field was by far the most successful of the training programs at the three midwest fields constructed during the summer of 1917.  Although Harold was initially disappointed that he had not been assigned to Selfridge Field, so that he could be near his parents’ home in Detroit, he soon came to appreciate the benefits of his assignment to Wright Field.  The training program there was well organized, compared to those at the other fields, and flying resources were more readily available.  He arrived at Wright Field by the 14th of August and began flying two days later, on 16 August.  Although he never identifies the aircraft on which he received flight instruction, it was probably the Curtiss JN-4, known more familiarly as the “Jenny.”  It was one of two types of training aircraft used at Wright Field; the other was the Standard SJ.[3]

His ground school courses continued at Wright Field.  All students attended classes on machine gun operation, aircraft construction, aircraft motors, radio, map reading, and military and physical training.  The student first flew with an instructor until he was approved to fly solo, after which point he continued to fly solo for a number of hours, building confidence in himself and his ability to control the aircraft.  To complete the program successfully, the student was required to demonstrate a sequence of flying maneuvers, to complete a flight to high altitude, and fly a cross-country flight.[4]  Due to an illness which required surgery and the onset of winter weather, Harold was able to complete only the first of these three requirements at Wright Field.  He completed the altitude and cross-country flights at Ellington Field, Texas.

It is difficult for modern readers, living in a world in which travel by aircraft is commonplace, to imagine a world in which no one had ever flown in an airplane.  In 1917, when Harold Loud and his fellow airmen climbed into their training aircraft, they were among the first people to leave the surface of the earth and fly above tree-top level.  Some of their flight instructors had only flown for the first time themselves a few weeks earlier.  Student aviators had to master the aircraft controls—elevator, aileron, and rudder—within a few hours if they hoped to continue in the program.  Flying conditions were primitive—sitting in open cockpits, flying in clothing ill-suited for cold and windy conditions, the noises and smells of the engine distracting them.  The experience of taking off, turning, maneuvering, and landing was all new.  Student pilots had to adjust to new experiences quickly and correctly if they wished to remain in the program.

It is clear in his letters home that Harold was delighted with conditions at Wright Field and enjoyed his training experiences.  Unfortunately, a medical condition developed that caused him to have to temporarily withdraw from the program for a period of six weeks.  Early in September he sent a telegram to his father and mother requesting that they travel to Dayton.  When they arrived, they saw that he was ill, and they sought approval for his release so that he could visit a family doctor in Detroit.  The commander of the field, Major Arthur Christie, promptly approved the request.  After visiting specialists in Detroit, Harold was diagnosed with an internal ailment and was operated on, probably for removal of the gall bladder.  He did not return to Wright Field until just before the middle of November.  He was kept on barracks duty (unable to participate in any military activities or to continue his flying training) for an additional two weeks.  During his period of recuperation he was able to find some diversion in the Dayton social scene, especially when he and some other Wright Field aviators were invited to partake of a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Frank Stuart Patterson, son of Frank Jefferson Patterson, co-founder, with John H. Patterson, of the National Cash Register Company.

Then, shortly after the first of December, he was allowed to continue his flying training, and to his delight, was able to fly solo (the necessary requirement for successful completion of his flying training program) on December 3rd.  He flew several times more in December, even though the weather was cold, and snow on the surface of the flying field made takeoffs and landings challenging.  Before the end of December he was notified that he would be moving to the next phase of his flying training program, at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas.

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Dayton, Ohio

August 14, 1917

Dearest Family:

We arrived at Fairfield all safe and sound this afternoon and I am so happy because everything looks so good here.  The barracks are identical with those at Rantoul and we have the double-decked spring cots to sleep in.  Everything is so new and white and the field is in wonderful shape.  There were nine machines up at one time this afternoon and it was a beautiful sight.  The food which we expected would not be as good as that we have been having, is excellent.  Tonight is the first time I have enjoyed a piece of meat since you were in Champaign with me on the Fourth of July and we ate at the “Chop Suey” and had such a bully good steak.

There is one thing that seems very strange to me and that is the way in which military discipline is carried out.  An officer seems almost insulted if you salute him because it puts him to the trouble of saluting back.  We all seem to stand on about the same footing . . . .  Of course our past weeks [of military training] have done us no harm and were, very likely, just what we needed.  The boys from the other ground schools say they were treated just as we were and in one of them they were not allowed to go off the campus without a pass.

Going down, there were enough men in our bunch so that we could get a special Pullman car.  We did not have to change cars once but were switched from one train to another and finally landed at the field itself.  We are located about ten miles from Dayton and one mile from a little town called Fairfield.  The field lies in a sort of ravine about a mile wide and three miles long.  The barracks are located up on the hill [on the east side of the field] and the surrounding country is really beautiful.  We are all so tickled over being sent here that we can do nothing but rave about the place.

From what the other boys, who have been here a couple of weeks, say we shall be very lucky if we get on the flying list by next Monday.  They usually keep you waiting a week or so until some of those [flying students] ahead start soloing and thus release some of the instructors.  You may be sure we are all very anxious to get on as soon as possible.  A boy who was at Ann Arbor when I left there, has passed his tests and received his commission.  If I fail to get on the flying list by Saturday, I shall try to get off and go to Detroit for the weekend.  That is, of course, if any of you folks are going to be there.  If you are all up at the Lake [Van Ettan Lake, near Oscoda] it would be foolish for me to go to Detroit.  By leaving here at noon one can get to Detroit [by train] about eight o’clock, so you see it is not so very far.

Quite a number of boys have cars down here.  Some of them are wonderful cars, but most of them are Buick Roadsters and Fords.  I realize I am asking an awful lot, but don’t you think I could have a car of some kind down here?  It would make it so much pleasanter, as we have quite a bit of time off duty and being continually around the barracks will get awfully tiresome.

We have three things to study here besides the flying.  We have French, map making, and gasoline motors.  The latter will be entirely practical work on the engines in the planes, so I am not worrying any over that.  Maps will not be so very hard, but languages were always hard for me.  I am hoping it is a conversational course and I am quite sure it will be.  I will make the best of the opportunity and get all I can out of it.

After seeing this place, I am beginning to think that the boys who were sent to France got the worst of it, because I do not see how anything could be better than this.  I do not envy them at all any more.  As I said before, this is not “sour grapes,” but the real truth.  To me, the hard part about their going is that it splits our bunch up.  Some who were sent were very good friends of mine and I hated to leave them.

The weather here is much cooler than we have been having and, believe me, it is a relief.  I am quite fortunate in the location of my bunk.  I am right on the end of the line, near the showers and wash bowls.

Well, the boys are beginning to come in and get ready for bed, and as I am pretty tired I think I shall turn in too.  As we have no tables, we have to write on our laps and I have not gotten used to it yet.

With greatest love, Harold

P.S.  I almost forgot one of the most important things.  We have not been paid yet.  Also, no clothes are issued here and we have to buy quite a few.  Will have to get a leather coat for flying, that costs fifteen to twenty dollars, and some other things.  So you see I will need some money.  If you will send me a check, I will appreciate it very much.

HaroldLoudWrightField

Wilbur Wright Field, Fairborn (Dayton) Ohio.  Picture taken from an altitude of 500 feet, looking north, late summer 1917.

 

The Wilbur Wright Field

Near Dayton, Ohio

August 21, 1917

Dearest Family:  I was awfully sorry that you were not in Detroit last Sunday.  You see, I had expected to hear from you and had already secured my pass, so I thought I would take a chance.  I am glad that I went, for I saw Lynn and heard all about what he had been doing.

The Cadillac [one of the automobiles the Loud family owned in Detroit] looks just like a new car and once the engine is started it runs like a clock.  I found that it would not throttle down like it should, and the starter does not turn the engine over fast enough to start it.  The battery was rather dead, so I filled it up with water and by towing the car behind the Studie [Studebaker, another Loud family automobile], we got it started.  I then let it run for a while and charged up the battery and left the car in the garage.  Roxane will call up the service station and have them send a man over to adjust it.

I had a peach of a time in Detroit, even though my stay was rather short.  I reached there about six o’clock Saturday evening and went direct to Roxane’s.  We went to the Country Club for dinner and I saw a lot of young people whom I knew.  I also met some of the Lieutenants from Selfridge and from what they say, I think I was lucky to be sent to Dayton.  They do not seem to think very much of the field and much less of the commanding officer.  I gathered from what they said that he is a second Major K[rapf].[5]

This is a wonderful place.  There is but one drawback and that is the dust, but I imagine it is the same in this respect at all the fields.  We have been having ideal flying weather and I started last Thursday.  Thus far I have had 105 minutes.  Today I had all three controls [aileron, elevator, and rudder] for the first time and I did pretty well.  I succeeded in taking the machine twice around the field, making all the turns alone.  I was only corrected twice by the instructor.  About Friday, I imagine, he will change seats with us and then we will practice taking off and landing.  At present, the instructor takes the machine up about two thousand feet and then we take control.  When we get ready to make the landing, he brings the machine down.  Oh! it is the most wonderful thing I have ever done and it is not nearly as dangerous as people think.  You must come down here and stay for a couple of days.  I really think you would enjoy it and I am sure, after watching the flying for a short time, you would cease to worry.

I am awfully sorry that I neglected to tell you that the box of cookies came.  They arrived in fine shape and they were wonderful.  Also the check came.  Those last two weeks at Champaign were such exciting and anxious ones that I hardly knew what I was doing.  I am also sorry that I neglected to state the amount of money I needed this time.  I telegraphed you for it because, you see, they do not allow us to go up without a helmet and I had to borrow the money from one of the boys with which to buy one.

Now in regard to my enlistment record.  From what the sergeant old me, I am sure it was all straightened out before I left Champaign; but you see we were transferred before pay-day, and also we did not get here in time to sign the payroll.  This means that we receive no money from the Government until the next pay-day, which will be the sixth of September.  They are not very prompt in paying and it may be the middle of the month before we get it.  We will have to sign the pay-roll the end of this month and then I can make sure about my enlistment record.  If it does not stand clear, then I will surely get them going on it.

I wish I could have been with you when you went fishing.  I certainly would give a great deal for a good fishing trip.  You had such good luck, too, and I am glad of that.  Were any of them extra large and how about that rainbow trout?

I was interested to learn that the Duncans had taken a cottage at the Lake.  Give my love to all of them and especially to “Grandma” Duncan.[6]  I have some pictures taken in my flying outfit, that are being printed, and I will send an extra one for her.  Ben and Donald must be having an exciting time.

It is too bad that poor little Billie is not feeling very well.[7]  I hope it will prove to be just some little ailment and nothing serious.  Should he develop tuberculosis, it would be best to put him to sleep with some chloroform.

You say you may scrap the old Marquette car.  I agree with you that it seems a shame to scrap the engine, for that is really a very good motor and it might come in mighty handy some time, although at present there is no possible use in sight for it.  I would save the motor complete; magneto, carburetor, switch and coil, gasoline tank and electric light generator.  In fact, it would be a good thing to save the whole chassis and just scrap the aluminum body.[8]  When I asked for a car, I did not expect you to buy a new one; in fact, I would rather have an old car.  I do not wish to inconvenience you in the least and I am sure you need the car more than I do.  If, when you leave the Lake for the summer, you can let Gordon drive the Dodge down here, I think it would be fine.

Among the ever-present rumors that are floating around, there is one to the effect that we are to have a holiday on Labor Day.  If, by any good chance, that happens to be true, I shall try to get to Detroit again for that weekend, and I do hope you will all be there.  If the Dodge car was there then, we could leave Monday morning with it and reach Dayton that night.

We have had rather hard luck with our French class, as our flying hours have interfered with it.  However, now that the schedule has been changed, it will be all right.  We get up at 4:45 and start flying at 6.  We are through at 9:30 and have the rest of the morning for classes.

It is raining pitchforks tonight and if it keeps up we will not be able to fly tomorrow.  The field has been awfully dry of late and the rain will do it good.  There are six of us in our flying class, and we have a peach of an instructor.  He has been with [Glenn] Curtiss for eight years and I think he is a wonder.  He is not one of those daredevil flyers, but a very conservative and safe one, and we have all the confidence in the world in him.  He does not try to rush us, but gives us one thing at a time and works up gradually.  Another good thing is that he will not recommend us for solo flying until he is absolutely sure we are capable of it.[9]

With greatest love, Harold

 

Dayton, Ohio

Sunday, August 26, 1917

Dearest Family:

Since I wrote the last letter, Mother’s [letter] has come saying you would all be up north [in Oscoda] on Labor Day.  That will be the only weekend when I can have a Monday off also, but even that hardly gives me the time to get to Oscoda and back.  However, I shall see the Major and see if I can have a couple of days longer.  He is pretty strict and many requests for passes are being turned down.  One of the boys got away on Thursday last, but his folks telegraphed that his mother was ill.  Sickness at home seems to be the only reason for granting a pass.

The past week was a rather poor one for flying.  I was only up twice during the entire week.  We have had hard luck with our motor and our instructor refuses to go up unless the motor is in perfect condition.  They are putting a new one in today and I look for better luck from now on.  It was impossible to fly on Wednesday and Thursday on account of the rain which turned the field into a vast sea of mud so that it was impossible to land or start on it.  Friday I had some ride; the wind was blowing a gale and only the first machines could go up.  We happened to have one of these.  We were up for seventeen minutes and so far as learning anything was concerned, it was that many minutes lost; but it was great sport.  We had hardly to move along the ground before a puff would hit us and we would jump about twenty feet into the air.  It was a series of bumps and drops all the time, and some of them were of pretty good size.  Once, on one of the turns, a puff hit us and the instructor claims it bumped us up at last one hundred feet.  Quite some bump I thought.

Today a couple of us came in to Dayton to have dinner at the hotel and to attend church, and I am writing this letter from there.  Unless you hear from me to the contrary or unless I hear from you, I shall not come home this weekend, but will wait another week.

About the car, I think Gordon had better drive it down, as I would hardly have time.  It is almost too much to make the drive in one day.  I think Gordon would enjoy a day or two here and it would be worth his coming for.  Tell Roxane that the shirts came and that I think they will be enough.  They are just what I wanted and the size is just right.  The check came also.  Our pay day was yesterday, but none of us who arrived lately received any pay.  I went over to headquarters to see about my enlistment, and I found that my papers seem to have been lost, and so I had to make them all out again.  My pay, if I ever get it, will start from the eighteenth of June.

The boys are waiting and I must go with them.

With greatest love always, Harold

P. S. I am having a little snapshot picture enlarged. It will show you what I look like in my flying outfit.

 

Wilbur Wright Field

Near Dayton. Ohio

August 28, 1917

Dearest Family:

So far, this has been rather a slow week.  We have had ideal flying weather, but our machine is out of order and they cannot get the parts to fix it up with.  There is a chance that we may be up in the morning, so we are a little cheerful.  It gets rather tiresome sitting around down there on the field without anything in particular to do.

A funny thing happened today and one would think that after a man had been in the service as long as we have that a man would know better than to do it.  I think I told you that we are getting up at 4:45 and this poor boob went to the Major and complained that the sergeant was getting us up too early in the morning.  The Major did not say much to the fellow, but he called the sergeant over and told him to give us another roll call at five o’clock in the afternoon.  Also, so the sergeant told me tonight, the Major instructed him to put this fellow on all the duties he could think of and to rag him and keep him toeing the mark continually, so that when he had a soft thing again, he would know enough to keep still.  Believe me, I learned long ago, at least it seems like a long time ago, that to speak when spoken to is a pretty good rule to follow in the Army.

As I have not heard from you, I do not know whether I am to come home this week or not.  This would be the best weekend for me to come, but if the entire family is to be at the Lake, there would be no use of my going to Detroit.  Sunday we went to church and listened to a very good patriotic sermon which I enjoyed very much.  Afterwards we went to the hotel and had a very good dinner.  We have very good food at the Field, but this dinner surely did taste good.  Do not forget that cookies and cakes are just as welcome as ever.

In your letters of late, you have not said much as to how things are going at the Lake.  How is the motor boat acting and does the pump work all right?  Did you try to put the tennis court in shape this summer?  You have said nothing more about little Billie; does he seem to get any better?  I certainly do hope that it is nothing serious.

You must not forget that I am expecting you all down here in the near future.  I think you would really enjoy it and after you had seen the flying, I know you would not feel so anxious.  Why can you not leave the Lake a little early this summer and come to Dayton for a while?  I would surely love to have you.  Several of the boys say that their parents are to spend most of the winter in Dayton.

We have an exam in topography tomorrow and then I think that the class is all over.  Our French professor is going on a leave of absence and one of the boys here who speaks French is to take the class.  We have made a start in French but we have not received our books yet.  The book is simply a pamphlet that our instructor has made out, which contains many words and phrases which we will need when we reach France.  It is to be a purely conversational course, with very little grammar, and I am mighty glad of it too.

Give my love to all who are at the Island, and I would surely give a good deal to be there with you on Labor Day.

With greatest love, Harold

 

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Note from Edward Loud dated September 1, 1927:

It was the intention about this time that his mother and I would motor to Dayton for a weekend visit, taking with us other members of the family.  Before we got around to do this, a telegram came from Harold asking that his mother and I come by train and alone.  This we did and found upon our arrival that the lad had been quite ill and although he was now far from well, he was up and about; but looked and acted like an old man.  He said he could not get permission to go to Detroit, but thought if I applied direct to the Major, he might let him go.  This turned out to be true, for our request that we might take him to Detroit for a diagnosis of his ailment was not only granted, but every effort was made to enable us to go by the first train.

After a thorough examination by Dr. Haass, at the time considered to be one of the best diagnostitians in Detroit, it was decided an operation was necessary, and this disclosed that his illness in Dayton was caused by or resulted in an inflamed condition resulting in adhesions of the gall bladder, liver, and other parts.

It was not until about the 10th of November that Harold was allowed by the Detroit doctors to return to Dayton and he was told that he must not be surprised or disappointed if they refused to allow him to continue in service.

It was this illness that caused Harold to fall behind the class he started with, and delayed his being sent overseas.

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Detroit

September 24, 1917

Major [Arthur] Christy [sic]

Wilbur Wright Field

Dayton, Ohio

Dear Sir:

In regard to my son, Harold E. Loud, Squadron A, Unit 1.  We reached Detroit last Friday evening and the following day I took him to Dr. Haass, a leading diagnostitian of this city.  I requested the Doctor to report to you.  He tells me this has been done and that the five days’ leave of absence will not be sufficient.  He also tells me that he has asked that this be extended, but did not say for how long.

I respectfully ask that Cadet Loud’s leave of absence be extended to such time as the Doctor specified.  The result of X-ray and other tests, as divulged since the Doctor wrote, are much more encouraging and it is now almost certain that the trouble is not tubercular.  The Doctor said this morning that he thought the boy would be in condition to resume his work in about two weeks.

My son is anxious to get back, and I assure you that he will report at the earliest moment that the Doctor deems it safe that he should do so.

Will you please wire me, collect message, at 560 Iroquois Avenue, Detroit, regarding the extension of the leave asked for.

Respectfully yours,

Edward F. Loud

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WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM

Dayton, O.

November 15, 1917

Edw F. Loud, 686 Iroquois Avenue, Detroit

Have been put on barracks duty for two weeks.  Will not be allowed to fly for some time.  Had a little trouble about reporting as I did not have pass.  Expect to get pay tomorrow but Major may have turned it in.  I am feeling fine.  Love to all.  Harold

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Wilbur Wright Field

November 16, 1917

Dearest Family:

On my return to the Field, the doctors put me on barracks duty, just as I had expected they would do.  All I do now is to eat, sleep, and report each morning at the hospital.  I am not supposed to go to any classes or formation.  The Doctor said this morning that they wished to wait and see if this life agreed with me; that they would keep at this for about a month.  After that, I think I will be put on light duty of some kind.

Everything here is about the same as when I went away.  Many of the boys have left for other Fields, but there are still quite a number here that I know.  We have a new Commander of the Squadron, and he is a peach.  Things are pretty strict, but it is not nearly as bad as when I left.  We are obliged to stay at the post during the week, but are allowed to be off from Saturday PM to Sunday PM.

Today I am going over to the Major’s to get my pay and to straighten out something about my enlistment papers.  It seems that there is something wrong about them.  I have a roll of papers here big enough for a trunk.  I did not know my name could appear in so many places.

I am told that the giving of a 2nd Lieutenant’s commission will apply only to those who have not graduated from ground school as yet, so I will get a 1st Lieutenancy as soon as I pass my tests, just as promised in Washington when I enlisted.  There is some talk of moving us South [to Texas] and as we are not getting any new pupils here, it rather looks as though this might be true.  This is not a good location for flying during the winter months.  The air is not clear and one cannot go very high without losing sight of the earth.  The grounds here have been all fixed up and you would hardly know the place if you saw it; the roads are now good and the grounds [flying field] have been leveled off.  The barracks are nice and warm and we have plenty of warm water.  I am feeling fine.  Write soon.

With love to all, Harold

 

Wilbur Wright Field

November 21, 1917

Dearest Family:

I am still on barracks duty and it may be some time before I am off.  I am attending classes and that is about all I do except sleep and exercise.  I am feeling fine and am getting stronger every day.  When I see all the machines flying around it is hard to resist the temptation to go up myself.  I have been up but only once.  I do not know whether it was an order or not but my former instructor came to me today and instructed me to report at 3 PM saying he wished to see if I could still fly.  Let me tell you I was surely satisfied with the result.  We went up about a thousand feet with me in the back seat and the instructor in control; then he went through a bunch of stunts to see if I would get dizzy.  I did not and then he gave me the control.  When we came down he said I was doing better than when I left and as soon as the doctor said so I could report [for further flying instruction].

As I said in my former letter, all the officers have been switched around.  A Lieutenant Colonel is in charge and he is a terror.  He took Major Christy’s place.  Major Boots is over us and he is a peach.  Since the Colonel has been so strict he has let up and taken our part.  The Colonel is to be removed in a week or so.[10]

At last I have received my pay.  It was not $250 as I expected but only $196.13.  I have deposited it in a bank in Dayton.  Tomorrow afternoon I am going to town to buy some clothes.  A store there has some wonderful woolen underwear that only costs $5 a suit.  It is quite heavy but we will need that weight I think.  I have ordered a peach of a new suit.  The material is whipcord and it is to be made by a tailor at the post.  He can certainly make suits too.

It is very uncertain as to what we are to do here.  Each day brings a new rumor as to when and where we are to go.  It is quite probable, I think, that we will go either to Texas or Louisiana about the 10th of December.  Also it looks as though they were not going to send any more of us overseas until next spring.  Everybody seems pleased with the idea of flying all winter in this country.

How about Thanksgiving?  Don’t you think that you and Gordon and Esther could spend it with me here?  I would love to have you all come.  It seems as though there were more autos here now than ever before.  We are allowed to go to Dayton for dinner at night but must be back by nine o’clock.  We are allowed to be off from Saturday noon until Sunday night at nine.  I sure would like to have a car here now.  If you could let me have the Dodge I would get it in fine shape as I have so much spare time in which I could work on it.

The scar from my operation does not bother me at all and I have had absolutely no pain from the wound.  Drs. Haass and Ballin found the trouble all right for I am sure feeling fine.[11]  I am following Dr. Ballin’s instructions and am not urging this information on the doctors here.  I shall let them take their own sweet time.

With loads of love, Harold

 

Wilbur Wright Field

November 27, 1917

Dearest Family:

We have had our first snow and there has been no flying as a result.  The men were all put to work assembling planes and it looks from the way they are putting planes together that we are here to stay.

Last weekend I had a wonderful time.  A boy named Charles Grimm, whom I met at the Cornell game, invited me to his home.  I stayed there Saturday night and all day Sunday.  They were very nice to me, treating me as though I was one of the family and calling me Harold.  It was the nearest thing to home that I have ever experienced.  Mrs. Grimm says the door is always open and for me to come there whenever I am in town.[12]  I also met some very nice Dayton girls and had a peach of a time.  I don’t care now if we are kept here all winter.

It seems to me that you have been rather lax of late in writing to me, and believe me, I do miss your letters.  I would like my hunting boots and heavy socks just as soon as I can get them.  Also cake, pies, and candy can be used to great advantage.  I do hope you are coming here for Thanksgiving.  I am almost positive we are to have the day off.

We have a new Commander again and he is a real soldier.  He is very strict and strong for discipline.  He is working out a system of self-government and the fellows are cooperating.  We believe it is going to be a big success.  He works hard for us and we will get many privileges if we do our part.

I am feeling better all the time and I expect soon to be flying again.  It has been nothing but a good rest for me ever since I got back.  I am exercising quite a bit now, nothing strenuous but just enough to get in shape for the work that soon will come.  Write to me soon.

With love, Harold

 

Wilbur Wright Field

November 30, 1917

Dearest Family:

Letters from both Father and Mother were received and I was surely glad to get them.  I would have loved to have been with you for Thanksgiving, but as we only had the one day off, this was quite impossible.

First I must tell you what I did, for I really had a wonderful time, although it would have been much nicer to have been with you.  We were released on Wednesday night at five o’clock and did not have to report back until eleven PM Thursday.  Several of us went to Dayton and took rooms at the hotel.  By three of us going in one room, it cost us only one dollar apiece.  Most of the boys went to the theater, but I had an invitation to the big charity ball and so went there.  I sat in a box with the Shaffers.  We had a peach of a time and I got back to our hotel about two o’clock in the morning.  I slept until noon the next day and then went out to the Pattersons for Thanksgiving dinner.  Twenty of us cadets were there and they certainly treated us most royally.  Cars were sent for us and the dinner was a wonder.

I must tell you about the arrangement of the table.  It was not a solid round table, but a circular rim about a yard wide, and in the center were ferns and jonquils.  This space in the center where the flowers were was about twelve feet in diameter.  It was the most beautiful banquet table I ever sat down to.  Now for the meal: there was grapefruit, soup, turkey with dressing and cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and string beans.  Then we had fruit salad served in pineapple shells; then ice cream and cake, followed by coffee and smokes.  In addition to the items I have mentioned, there were nuts, olives and celery.  It was a sight to behold to see twenty hungry cadets eating off china with silver and real service after months of mess-hall training!  Only one accident though—one boy upset his coffee.

Mr. and Mrs. Patterson are charming people.  We did not meet the elder Mr. Patterson.  Our host was his son and he is going into the aviation section and is learning to fly at the field in Dayton.[13]  So much for Thanksgiving.  Most of us were back at the field by seven o’clock, ready for bed and none the worse for the feast.

I received the candy and nuts that you sent, and they were sure good.  The nuts were particularly fine and it was very nice of you to shell them for me.

We were called to muster today, so we will probably be paid within a week.  I have a bank account in Dayton and I think I have done pretty well.  When I returned to the Field after my illness, I drew approximately $190.  I have a new suit [uniform], trunk, helmet, gloves, and underwear, and I still have about $100.  I will be careful of my money and try not to spend it foolishly.  I will send home the money for the balance on my Liberty Bond as soon as we are paid.  This is the last pay day we have before Christmas.

It is practically certain that we shall move from here by the middle of next month.  We do not know where to, but the weather here is so bad that we hardly get two days a week of good flying.  I am flying again, but have not been assigned to duty as yet.  It may be a couple of weeks before I go to regular duty.  I feel fine and would never know that I had undergone an operation.  I do not tell them so, but am letting them take their own time about it.  My instructor thinks my operation did me good as I handle the machine much better than I did before.  I am making landings now and I hope soon to be turned loose [allowed to fly solo].

The quotations you sent were very interesting and very good in thought.  I shall surely try to do as you would want me to do, and bank on me: I shall do my best.

Since the new Major came, he has cut out the French classes.  In fact, most all the classes have been cut out and most of the time is put in on the field.  They want to have every one soloing before we leave.  If the Frenchmen were here, I might [ask for a] tutor; but they have gone.

When we move, I don’t know whether we will go direct or be allowed a couple of days’ leave.

Tomorrow I am going to the Grimms for dinner and the night.  Hopkins is also going.  They are surely good to me and I do appreciate it.  Do write to me soon.

With greatest love to all, Harold

 

Wilbur Wright Field

December 3, 1917

Dearest Family:

Today has been one of the most exciting days in my life!  It came so unexpected too.  This morning I reported at the Field in the usual manner and as I had the first ride on Saturday, I thought I would be the last man up today.  We got the ship out and Mr. Hall, our instructor, called my name.  We went around three times and made the landings good.  Then he got out and proceeded to tie the handkerchief on the tail of the ship, which signifies a solo man on his first flight.  He then told me to go, and Oh I was so excited I shook all over!  However, as soon as I was well clear of the ground, all nervousness left me and I was so happy that I let out three or four wild whoops.  I sailed alone for seventeen minutes, and made four good landings.  Now I am on the solo list.  This afternoon it was pretty windy, but I got along all right.  I have had only 307 minutes of instruction and Mr. Hall says that is the least time for any man he has turned out [allowed to fly solo].[14]

Last weekend I spent at the Grimms again and had a better time than before, if that be possible.  They are surely good to me.  I am going in again next week and out to a girl’s house for Sunday night supper.  There is to be a big charity bazaar on Saturday and I think I will go to that.

The old place here is beginning to seem like ground school under the new Major.  He has cut down our flying time and we are having intensive training in the class room.  We have courses in gunnery, gas engines, airplanes, and telegraphy.  The same old stuff we had at ground school, only a good deal more thorough.

Mother’s letter came this morning and I was surely glad to get it.  I was awfully sorry not to have you with me at Thanksgiving time, but the next best thing is to hear from you.

We are having the usual fall weather; cold gray days, usually with considerable wind.  However, the wind is very steady and so it does not bother us any.  We are still hearing rumors that we are soon to go South.  A different one every day.  We don’t get much out of them, as each one differs from the other; still everyone seems to think that we shall leave here by the middle of the month.  Quite a number of the instructors are already ordered South and are only awaiting their transportation.

It is getting on towards taps and as I am rather tired, I think I shall turn in.  I have my new suit and it fits fine.  I never realized how poorly the other one fitted until I got this one.

Always with love, Harold

 

Wilbur Wright Field

December 7, 1917

Dearest Family:

Just a little note tonight to tell you that the blankets and boots and socks and nuts have arrived.  They came this morning and were surely needed.

All day yesterday it snowed and now we have about five inches.  I have had my first experience in flying over snow-covered ground, and I find it makes quite a difference; you can hardly tell how high you are.  On my first trip around the field today, I cut the motor and started to glide in.  I was so much higher up than I thought that I was across the field before I knew it, and I had to give it the gun and go around again before I could make a landing.  It is a beautiful sight to fly over the snow-covered ground; everything looks so white and level.  When you are up any distance, the towns are hardly discernible.  It was five below zero up there this morning, but one pair of the wonderful socks you sent me kept my feet perfectly warm.  They are surely wonders and I thank you ever so much.

The meats of the nuts were awfully good and, believe me, I did not give many away!  Even at that, they did not last long because they were so good.

We are getting new rumors every day, but it sure does look as though we are going and mighty soon at that.  I do hope we will be able to get home before we go.  I would so love to be home for Christmas, but if that cannot be, I do hope you will be able to come where I am.  I don’t know that I told you, but there is a possibility of our going to Miami, Florida. Write to me soon.

Always with love, Harold

 

Wilbur Wright Field

December 13, 1917

Dearest Family:

Your letters were received and they certainly did cheer me up.  Am I downhearted?  NO! but I hate to think of moving before Christmas and we have just received orders that we are to leave for Ellington Field, Houston, Texas, this coming Monday.  There is some talk that we may get a furlough for Christmas but I am not planning on it.  One part about the order is very good and that is: we go to Houston.  If we must go to Texas I do not know a nicer place.

Since I wrote you last I have only flown a couple of times.  The snow is so deep that it makes landing difficult.  I had good luck and did very well.  Some of the boys had small crashes but no one was even scratched up.  The weather here has been terribly cold, keeping close to zero most of the time.  The snow is about ten inches deep and drifted.  Our barracks, however, are nice and warm and we are very comfortable.  Some of the southern boys seem to be having quite a hard time keeping warm when outside and some have frozen their ears.  This cold spell seems to have been quite wide spread because everybody who writes says it is very cold and much snow.

We were paid yesterday and I drew $300.  This with what I have left from last payday makes about $400.  I enclose a money order for $200.  That pays $100 for my Liberty Bond, $80 that I owe Stowe,[15] and the balance you can deposit for me.  When I get to Texas, if I find I have more than I need I shall send more home.

When we heard about going South there was so much noise and excitement in the barracks that it was impossible to write there and I came over here to the YMCA to write my letter.  We are to get Saturday off to pay bills and make calls.  I shall pay all my calls as well as my one bill before I leave.  A special train will take us to Texas.

Gordon wrote me a wonderful letter.  He says that the house is very cold.  I hope the cause may soon be remedied and that you will be comfortable.  It is too bad that you had such severe weather when you went to visit Uncle Bill.[16]

I spent last weekend in Dayton and had a peach of a time.  I am going there tonight for dinner at a young lady’s home.  I surely have been fortunate in meeting so many nice people and I doubt very much if we shall be treated as well in Texas as we have been here.

Should it turn out that I cannot get home for Christmas I hope that you will be able to come where I am.  I fully realize that it means a great expense to do this but it will be a very strange Christmas for me if I cannot be with you.  It will be the first time that I have ever been away from you on that day.  However, in these times we must put up with many things.  One of the boys, who lives in Beaumont, Texas, has asked me to spend Christmas with him.  That was very nice of him and it will be far better than being alone in camp.  The boy who asked me is Carroll Roberts[17] and I am sure you will recall my speaking of him.  We went through ground school together and you met him when you were there.  He was the tall, rather slender boy with the moustache.

Tell Gordon to remember me to all the young people and that I hope I may be able to attend his birthday party.  The pipe that Father sent has arrived but unfortunately the stem was broken in transit.

Our beloved Major is not going with us.  A Lieutenant is in charge.  He is a peach although very strict.  However, if we meet him half way he will treat us squarely.

We have had two exams in our class work thus far.  In gas engines I got 94 and in machine gun 96.  That was pretty good as the passing mark was only 50.

Write to me soon.  When we get to Texas I shall write and tell you about our trip down and our new Camp.

Always with love for all, Harold

 

Footnotes: 

[1] Sweetser, The American Air Service: A Record of its Problems, its Difficulties, its Failures, and its Final Achievements p. 56

[2] Sweetser, pp. 56-57.

[3] For a description of the training aircraft used at Wilbur Wright Field during this period, see David K. Vaughan (ed.), Flying for the Air Service: The Hughes Brothers in World War I (Popular Press: Bowling Green, Ohio, 1998), pp. 47-48.

[4] Sweetser, pp. 109-111.

[5] The first commanding officer at Selfridge Field was Captain Byron Q. Jones.

[6] The Duncans: Oscoda neighbors.

[7] “Little Bille” was a Java monkey that Harold brought in Singapore while they were on their round-the-world cruise in 1913 [Edward Loud’s note].

[8] Harold intended to eventually change this old car into a car for his own use.  It was not disturbed or disposed of until after his death, although it was very much in the way [Edward Loud’s note].

[9] This is probably Walter Edwin Lees, who was a civilian flight instructor before he joined the U. S. Air Service.

[10] Major Arthur Christie, who had been the Wilbur Wright Field commander since it had opened on July 6, was reassigned on September 27; he was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel George Bomford.  Bomford was replaced as field commander by Major Leo Heffernan on December 19; Heffernan was replaced by Major Walter Weaver on December 24, who was replaced in turn by Major Arthur Wilbourn on December 30; Wilbourn remained field commander until June 28, 1918.  Apparently the rapid changeover in field commanders in December 1917 was due to reassignments to flying fields in Texas and elsewhere (Lois Walker and Shelby Wickam, From Huffman Prairie to the Moon: The History of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base [Office of History, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, 1988], p. 36).

[11] Drs. Haass and Ballin: Detroit doctors who treated Harold Loud.

[12] Charles Grimm: a flying cadet from Dayton; not further identified.

[13] Harold Loud was hosted for a Thanksgiving dinner by Frank Stuart Patterson, son of Frank Jefferson Patterson, co-founder, with John H. Patterson, of the National Cash Register Company, one of the most important twentieth century business firms, which had its start in Dayton, Ohio.  Although he did not meet either of the senior Pattersons, he and the other flying cadets were entertained by Frank Patterson, who was himself in the process of undergoing flight training at Wright Field.  Lieutenant Frank Patterson was killed the following year as he was testing an aircraft at Wright Field; the Patterson Field area of today’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is named in his honor.

[14] Mr. Hall: a civilian flying instructor at Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio; not further identified.

[15] Stowe: a flying cadet at Wilbur Wright Field; not further identified.

[16] Uncle Bill: William Fairchild Loud, Harold’s father’s youngest brother.

[17] Carroll Roberts: a flying cadet from Beaumont, Texas; not further identified.