Worthy Son: Harold Loud’s Military Training, Part 3

Part 3.  Advanced Flight Training, Ellington Field, Houston, Texas, January-March 1918     

Introduction 

The cold winter weather caused flying training activities at Selfridge, Chanute, and Wright Fields to be suspended in December, and all students were transferred to training bases in Texas or Louisiana.  Some were sent to the Taliaferro Field in Hicks (Fort Worth), Texas, some to Gerstner Field, Lake Charles, Louisiana, and some to Rich Field, in Waco, Texas.  Harold and many of his classmates were sent to Ellington Field, in Houston, Texas.  The facilities at Ellington Field had just been completed on 15 December, and they were among the first students to enter the training program there.[i]  Having soloed successfully at Wright Field, Harold was qualified to continue his flight training.

Initially he and his fellow flying cadets were not happy about conditions at Ellington Field, especially after the hospitable treatment they had received in Dayton.  Because it was a newly created field, the training and administrative routines at Ellington were slow in being established.  But after sufficient aircraft and instructors appeared, and he began to fly on a regular basis, Harold’s spirits improved noticeably.  His letters document in good detail his daily schedule as well as the classroom and flight instruction that he received at Ellington.

After his arrival at Ellington Field, he completed his remaining flight requirements, which included his solo high altitude and cross-country flights.  He indicates that he has completed his high altitude flight in a letter dated 27 January, and his final requirement, his cross-country flight, in a letter dated 4 February.  Once these requirements were completed, he was qualified to receive his Reserve Military Aviator (RMA) wings, which were awarded about two weeks later, on 13 February.  Having successfully completed his basic flying training program, he was also commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Aviation Section of the Signal Reserve Corps at the same time.  This was an important milestone, for as a commissioned officer in the aviation component of the U. S. Army, both his professional status and his pay increased significantly.  Until he completed his flying training, his rank was flying cadet, approximately the equivalent of a private.

His letters written in the last half of his time at Ellington Field show that he was increasingly pleased with the circumstances in which he found himself, both in the air and on the ground.  He took delight in his ability to operate an airplane and enjoyed flying to different locations around the airfield in a variety of flying conditions.  As a result of the increased time he spent in the air, he developed greater confidence in handling the training aircraft, and his flying ability increased significantly.  In addition to flying, Harold found time to socialize.  He soon discovered the pleasures of Galveston, especially the social life offered by the Hotel Galvez, located on the Galveston seawall on the Gulf of Mexico.  Built in 1911, it was designed to withstand hurricane force winds, and by 1918, when Harold Loud began to appreciate its amenities, it was capable of accommodating more than 400 guests a day.

In a letter home, he urged his parents to visit him, so that they might enjoy the warmer weather of Galveston.  They decided to visit Harold, but their progress was interrupted when they arrived in Dallas, where they discovered that Harold had been reassigned and then had become ill, probably as a result of overwork while completing his flying training program.  Because no definite follow-on assignment had yet been determined for him, Harold was able to obtain some leave in order to recuperate from his illness, and he and his family traveled to Galveston where they were able to spend some time together before he received his orders assigning him to his next training station.

After he completed his formal flight training program, Harold could have been assigned as a flight instructor, flying Curtiss Jenny or Standard aircraft, in Texas; or he could have been sent to pursuit aviation, flying small single-seat aircraft like Nieuport or SPAD aircraft; or he could have been sent to bombers, flying two-place aircraft like the De Havilland DH-4; all of these aircraft types were being flown in France.  Instead, he was assigned as a pilot of observation aircraft, also used in France.  Before being sent overseas, however, he was ordered to report for further training to the newly established observation school, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where pilots and observers practiced their observation and communication procedures as they flew together in a two-place aircraft.

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Ellington Field

Near Houston, Texas

December 21, 1917

Dearest Family:

We arrived at the Field last night after dark and were assigned to our barracks.  The barracks are the same here as at Dayton and I find the food very good.  This morning it was so foggy they could not fly and we were allowed to go to the town for the day.  We must be back at the Field by 5 PM.  We were told that this would be our last chance to get to town for a week or so and we may not even get Christmas day off.  Our officer, who came down with us, has been relieved and sent back and the one who is over us now is not much.  It is plain to be seen that we are going to lead a dog’s life and we are all pretty much disgusted with the whole thing.  Even the southern boys who were kicking so at Dayton say they wish they were back there again.  The people here welcome us about as cordially as they would a company of bums.  It will be a long time I am sure before we find a place where we will be treated as we were in Dayton.

Our trip down was not half as bad as we had anticipated.  We had Pullman cars and for a wonder the boys all kept in good humor and there was not a single scrap.

The Field is located about forty-five minutes out of Houston and about one hour from Galveston.  From what I have seen so far, it appears to be a wonderful field as far as flying goes.  You can go for miles without coming to a hill which is very different from the country about Dayton.  All the ships are new and that is one good thing.

The last two days at Dayton, we were allowed to be in town during the daytime.  I had a bully good time and found it very hard to leave such nice people.  We did not make our start South from Dayton, but boarded the train at Fairfield.  The girls came out to the Field to bid us good-bye and brought us cakes and cookies.  Let me tell you, we who were thus honored were envied by those who were less fortunate.  I have an invitation to a house party in Dayton just as soon as a few of us can get away.

It makes me feel pretty blue not to be with you at the coming Christmas time.  It is the first time that I have ever been away from you at this season and it will not seem like Christmas at all.  We hear that the boys in ground school are to have two weeks off and we do not even get the day off.  This moving around has broken up our Christmas shopping and I think I shall have to give it up.  I shall write as many Christmas letters as I can and let it go at that; it is the best I can do.

It is warm here in the day time and we need no coats at all, but at night it is cold and the sea-breeze comes in and makes it very damp.  One must cover up all his clothes or he will find them wringing wet in the morning.  There are several camps located just around Houston and the town is full of officers and men.

I received the Oscoda Press which contained the account of my first solo flight.[ii]  That flight seems ages ago and most of the excitement has left me.  It is now about the same as driving an automobile.  Today, when we went to town, we all wore our leather [flying] coats as usual.  The Major was there to greet us and ordered us not to wear them.  Some of the boys did not have a blouse on under their coat but that made no difference, they had to check their coats with the rest of us.

I do hope that you will have a merry Christmas and I do so wish I could be with you.  However, that being impossible, I shall be thinking of you all the time.

Always with love, Harold

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To his surprise, Harold was given a ten days leave of absence.  He left Houston on Christmas day and reached Detroit on December 27th.  He remained with his family until New Year’s Day.  The furlough was given because there were not ships enough to keep the boys, who had last arrived, busy and it was thought best to send them away until enough men had graduated to supply ships to the new arrivals. [Edward F. Loud Note]

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Ellington Field

January 7, 1918

Dearest Family:

I suppose you are wondering what has happened to me.   I have been so busy since I got back that I have hardly had time to turn around.  In the first place the trip down [returning from Detroit to Ellington Field] was terrible.  We were ten hours late at St Louis and missed our connection there.  I therefore remained in St Louis overnight and left the following morning.  Again my train was twelve hours late and when I reached Ellington my pass had expired about twenty-eight hours [earlier].  They made no fuss about it, however.

We are now working for fair and it looks as though we are to be here all winter.  You see we are to have our advanced flying here instead of abroad.  We must have about eighty hours of actual flying and thus far I have had only five.  Things have changed here considerably.  One of the boys preferred charges against the Major and in the court martial he won out.  Since then the Major has been pretty meek.[iii]  The weather here is pretty cool, and as I have a cold, I have thought it best to put on my woolen underwear.  My cold is somewhat better than it was.

When we have completed twenty-five hours flying we are recommended for a commission, probably a 2nd Lieutenancy.  They say that after we have had our advanced work we will be advanced to a 1st Lieutenancy.  I have my doubts as to this because if we are given a [rank of] second [lieutenant] I don’t believe we will get anything else.  The way things are going now, I shall be satisfied with whatever they see fit to give.

It did seem so good to be home and see you all and it was hard to come away.  I am hoping that you will be able to come down here some time this winter.  A little later on, so they tell me, the weather is very pleasant.

We have a regular stove league here now.  You see, during the cold weather, the only heat we have comes from the old stove and a crowd is always gathered around it discussing their grievances.  At present they are having a very heated discussion about our commissions.  There seems to be a lot of discontent here now but I think it will blow over in time.  It seems rather unfortunate, however, to have the men feeling as they do.  I am trying to look at the bright side and so long as they give me a ship to fly I shall be happy.

More ships are coming in every day and one hundred and twenty five more are on the way.  By the end of the month we should have three hundred ships here.  All [the] new ones [have] stick control, the same as used in foreign planes.[iv]

We have classes in guns, French, and telegraphy.  I am mighty glad to get the French again and I hope they continue it.  Tell Roxane that I am using the scarf every day and it is a great comfort.  Also I am wearing the heavy socks and find them very acceptable.  I appreciate them, I can assure you, and I thank you all again for them.

We have signed the payroll and I expect to get my pay in the near future.  When I got back here I found a box of tobacco sent from Oscoda, and I shall write to Mr. McGillivray,[v] who is Chairman, to thank them for it.

Do write to me soon, because I do love to hear from you.

With love always, Harold

HaroldLoudJenny

A World War I era postcard depicting the primary Air Service training aircraft, the Curtiss Jenny

 

Ellington Field

January 16, 1918

Dearest Family:

You are thinking, I know, that I have been very lax in writing to you.  It is not because I have not been thinking of you, for that I am doing constantly and [am] always longing to be with you.  It is because they keep us so busy that when evening comes we are ready for our little beds.  We get up in the morning while it is still dark.  Then we fly from eight to twelve forty-five.  We have mess at one, and at two we start classes which last until five-thirty.  At six we have dinner, and there is often a lecture from seven to eight-thirty.  Lights go out at nine o’clock.  You can see that we are kept pretty busy.  We get about three rides a day, and the time in the air runs anywhere from one to two hours.  There is something about it that makes one very sleepy and tired.

Now that we are flying every day and the weather is nice, the old feeling has left the barracks and we are all happy and contented.  We don’t know whether we are to get a 1st or 2nd Lieutenancy, but have made up our minds to accept whatever they give us and be cheerful about it.  Don’t you worry about me changing to the Royal Flying Corps.  Just as long as they need me, I shall stay where I am, but just as soon as it is over, I shall catch the first train for home.  The Army may be all right, but I don’t want any more of it than is necessary.

The laundry came the other day.  I do not think there was anything missing, although the box had been broken open.  You see it is a pretty long trip and the packages get none too gentle handling.

I am so sorry to learn that Cousin Harriette’s condition is so serious.  Uncle Will and Aunt Mary must feel terribly about it.  I do not remember ever to have heard of a family in which so many distressing things happened at the same time.  I surely hope that she may get better.[vi]

Mrs. Talley’s letter, that you sent to me, was very nice and it makes one feel good to have people say such things about them.  I hope that my work may always be such that she may have no reason to change her mind.

I wish I could hear a real good lecture on the war.  We do not have an opportunity to hear lectures of this kind.  I shall sure make the best of it if I do get a chance to hear one.[vii]

They are getting ready for night flying now.  They have the gasoline flares and electric searchlights and a couple of officers are out on the field now, practicing and arranging the lights to the best advantage.  It will be some time before I will do any night flying.

It was wonderful today to see so many ships in the air.  I counted thirty-eight at one time, all right near the field.  We have about seventy-five ships now in commission, and more arriving daily.  It looks as though they really want to fly here.  It is quite different from Dayton.  The days are comfortably warm here now and the nights are not so very cold.  The food is good and I am very comfortable.  I couldn’t expect anything better.

It is almost time for bed and I am pretty tired.  Write to me soon and often, for I do enjoy and long for the letters.  I will do my best.

Always with love, Harold

HaroldLoudEllingtonFld

A line of vehicles moves past Curtiss Jenny training aircraft, Ellington Field

 

Ellington Field

January 21, 1918

Dearest Family:

Everything is going fine now and most everyone seems to be satisfied.  Of course there will always be a few knockers.  We start flying now at 6 AM and fly until twelve forty-five.  I am getting lots of flying now and am beginning to feel more at home in the machine.  This morning it was cold and windy and only five of us turned up on the field.  I had a ship for a full hour and it was lots of fun.  Saturday I had the scare of my life.  About ten o’clock in the morning, the wind started to come up, and just then I was assigned to a machine.  The officer in charge said it was too windy to practice landings and so I was to go up high and fly around.  This I proceeded to do.  When I got up about five thousand feet, the air was quite smooth.  I was looking down when I noticed the white cross was out and that there was also considerable dust on the ground.

The white cross means to come in, so I shut off the motor and started to glide down.  The nearer I approached to the ground, the rougher and windier it got, and I had all I wanted to do to keep the machine level.  I landed safely, and to show how strong the wind was, the ship did not roll ahead at all after hitting the ground.  The mechanics ran out, and with two on each wing, we got the ship to the hangar.  The wind was blowing close to fifty miles an hour.  Let me tell you I felt a mighty sight easier when I got out of the ship.  It was as strong a wind as I ever hope to go up in.  The Lieutenant told me that I did well in making as good a landing as I did.  I did not even hit the wing skid.[viii]

We are having cold weather now and with nothing but the old stove to rely on, the barracks are pretty cold.  I am glad I have my heavy underwear with me, as I find it mighty comfortable.

I went down to Galveston for Sunday.  It is quite a place.  It has a beautiful hotel [Hotel Galvez] and the city reminds one of a foreign city with its narrow streets and rather picturesque buildings.  When the warm weather comes, I imagine that it will be quite gay.  At present the hotel seems almost deserted.

I hope the cold spell you are having in the North will soon be over.  It is too bad that the house is so cold.  It will be pretty bad if you run short of coal.

The classes take up all our afternoons and most of our evenings.  The lights are about to go out for now, so I must stop writing and make my bed.  I am enclosing a recipe for a wonderful fruitcake.  Mrs. Hopkins gave it to me.[ix]  Try it and send me a sample.  Put a white sugar frosting on it.

Always with love, Harold

HaroldLoudGalvezHotel

The Galvez Hotel, Galveston, Texas

 

Ellington Field

January 27, 1918

Dearest Family:

Again I realize I have been lax in writing, but I have been so busy that when night comes, I feel like doing nothing but go to bed.   We are surely getting time in the air these days.  I now have almost twenty hours to my credit, and by the end of the week I hope to have completed my tests for a commission.

Last week was rather an exciting one for me.  I was turned loose in two different types of machines.  Up to this time, I have driven nothing but a wheel control.  Now I can drive an American stick control and also a Canadian.  The latter is a wonder.  It is quite fast and climbs very quickly.  For the first time I went above the clouds yesterday.  I had a Canadian ship with a compass and altimeter.  It was windy and I thought that if I went above the clouds, it might be smooth.  It was, to some extent; but it was pretty bumpy going up through them.  It was beautiful up there.  The sun was shining brightly and it looked like a vast expanse of snow lying in great rolling drifts.  I climbed up to 8,000 feet in about seventeen minutes.  Here I lingered for half an hour, just cruising around by the compass.  When I came down from the clouds, I was about twenty miles from the field.

I start on my cross-country work on Wednesday of this week.  I am looking forward to those trips with a great deal of pleasure, as the people at the towns where we stop for gasoline are very nice to the boys.  The ladies often serve hot coffee and cakes, and I am sure that must be very welcome, for it is rather cold riding, especially high up.

Last Wednesday night, after quite a little trouble and red tape, several of us got a pass to go to Galveston for the evening.  This was to be an oyster bake and a dance.  It was a peach of a party and I surely did get my fill of oysters.  I took a very nice girl and had an exceedingly pleasant time.  She graduated from Smith College last year.  I not only had a good time, but I met a bunch of nice girls.  The people here remind me of those we met at Dayton, by the friendly way in which they welcome you.  They are not prejudiced against the uniform and try their best to make it pleasant for us.  Last night there was a nice little dance at the Hotel Galvez, and this afternoon Hopkins and I are going out to a young lady’s house for tea.  We had to refuse an invitation to stay to supper, because we wish to get back to the field early, in order to get to bed and make up our lost sleep.  I am beginning to like this place quite well now.

We have been having nice weather of late, and it has not been cold.  Although it has been windy, it was not disagreeable because the wind was warm.  If this weather continues, I must change to summer underwear.

Mother’s letter came and I was surely glad to get it.  I am sorry that you are having such cold weather and that you are suffering from colds.  My cold is about gone, and if this weather holds for a few days, I think I shall be rid of it for good.  I also received two copies of the [Oscoda] Press.  If not too much trouble, I wish you would send me the Saturday Night.

The question of our commissions is about settled and I am sorry to say that it looks as though we are to get a 2nd Lieutenancy instead of a 1st as promised when we enlisted.  They say that when we complete our advanced training, we will receive a 1st; but I don’t place much faith in this promise, as those which we have had to date have usually been broken.  The question is still being thrashed over in Washington, and one of the boys is up there now, seeing what he can do.

We are getting more ships every day and now there are about a hundred flying all day long.  It is a great sight for one who is not accustomed to seeing it.  It looks as though we would be here until April or May.  When the weather becomes a little more settled, I do hope you will be able to come down and see me.  I wish that Gordon might be able to come also.

I have dated this letter from Ellington, but as a matter of fact I am writing it at the Galvez Hotel in Galveston.[x]  From where I am sitting, I can look out on the Gulf.  The breakers are rolling in and the sun is shining brightly.  It is hard to realize that where you are, the snow is all about you.

Write to me soon, for I long for your letters, and give my love to all.  I wear my knitted socks and Roxane’s muffler every day.  They are a great comfort to me.  Please telephone Olive and thank her for the helmet.[xi]  Tell her I shall write her at my earliest opportunity.

With greatest love always, Harold

 

Ellington Field

February 4, 1918

Dearest Family:

I have completed my cross countrys and am now awaiting my commission.  These cross country trips finished up the RMA [Reserve Military Aviator] tests.  I have had more than twenty-five hours flying alone.  Today I had almost four hours, and it was beautiful.  We had a disagreeable fog all last week.  On the cross country trip that I took Saturday, I had to steer by compass, for I could not see the ground after I rose five hundred feet.  Today was a warm, sunshiny day, with only a very light wind.  You could not have asked for a better day in which to fly.  During the morning, I finished up the official trips and in the afternoon I secured a Canadian machine and, after taking a mechanic who wished to go with me, went for a little joy ride.  After climbing about five or six thousand feet we headed for Galveston.  We did not land there, but after circling out over the Gulf and about the city, returned, as our time was limited.  I had always expected to find that the air above the water would be smooth, but today I found it quite bumpy.

Two letters from Mother came today and one from Father came Saturday.  There was also another one from Mother about the middle of last week.  I am glad that Father had such a pleasant trip to Salt Lake City.  I was greatly interested in what he wrote regarding the possibility of transforming the cut-over [timber] lands of Michigan into sheep and cattle ranches.[xii]  If I were home, I believe I would be tempted to try it out in a small experimental way, as he suggested.  I am awfully sorry to learn that Mother has been ill.  The last letter says you are better and I am mighty glad of that.  My cold is entirely gone and I am feeling fine.

By this time next week, I expect to have my commission.  However, if my papers are in as much of a mess as those of some of the boys have been, it may take some time longer.

The girl that I took to the oyster bake some time ago is to give one this Friday.  I have been invited, but doubt very much if I can get away.  I would like to go all right, for it is a nice bunch of people who make up the party.  There is to be a big dance at the [Hotel] Galvez on Saturday of this week and on the Wednesday following comes the Galveston Mardi Gras.  I imagine the latter will be quite an affair; but it is next to impossible for us to get off during the week.

I am sorry that you are unable to get all the things necessary to make the fruit cake that I wrote you about, and for which I sent the recipe.  I hope you will be able to try it some time, for that cake was sure a wonder.

The Opera to be given by the Michigan Union seems to be causing quite a bit of excitement this year.  I don’t know just how I stand on letting the co-eds take part.  Things are so different at the University now than they used to be, that it is hard to judge present conditions by the past.[xiii]

This is a pretty punk letter, but I am pretty tired and need the rest, so I am going to bed.  Will try to write again soon.

Always with love, Harold

 

Ellington Field

Monday, February 11, 1918

Dearest Family:

When I came in from flying today, I found your letter telling me you would be down here in a couple of weeks.  That was just about the best news I have ever received in my life and I sure am a happy boy, and I can hardly wait for you to get here.  I shall answer your questions first, lest I forget them later on.  Yes, there is golfing at Galveston; guests of the Galvez can use the course at the Country Club, and I am sure that Harry can find someone to play with there.  Write or wire if you wish me to make reservations for you at the hotel, and I will attend to it.  If you take the “Sunshine Special” out of St. Louis, you will arrive at Galveston without changing cars.

The weather here is getting warmer and the Field begins to look a little green.  We have had considerable fog, but even with that, we find it a relief after the cold weather.

Since I last wrote, I have had quite a bit of flying and it was great fun, for I was sort of a free lance.  You see, I finished all primary training and had not been assigned to advanced flying.  I made two trips to Galveston and landed both times.  One of them was on a beautiful day, but the other was not so perfect, for we had to wait three hours for a fog bank to blow over.  It was quite exciting, flying out over the water and only about one hundred feet above it.  Friday morning the Lieutenant in charge of the cross country flying told me to go to Spring, about thirty-five miles away and one of the trips I had taken [a flight he had made earlier in the program], and to check up on the boys as they landed there.  I took a mechanic with me and started.  When I left the Field the clouds were rather low and I had to fly at an altitude of about 1000 feet.  Just before reaching Houston I ran into a fog but it was only about 1000 feet thick, and after getting my bearings, I rose above it and started to fly by sun and watch.  In about ten minutes I ran into another bank which I could not get above and which was so thick that I could not see the sun.

I had nothing now to steer by as there was no compass in the machine.  I decided the best thing for me to do was to come down and find out where I was.  My altitude registered 2000 feet as I started down.  I dropped rather swiftly until I reached 500 feet and then slowed up a bit for I could not see a thing.  The mechanic in front of me was getting rather nervous and so was I for that matter.  Finally I saw trees about thirty feet below me and, leveling off, I flew over the tops of them for a mile or so and landed in a field.  I was sure lucky; the field was very smooth and large and going to a telephone nearby I found that I was only a mile off my course.  I reported and after the fog lifted, about an hour later, I proceeded to my destination.  Two of the boys that day got lost and flew around in the fog until their gas gave out.  One of them had to land in the woods and while he fortunately escaped injury, his machine was smashed pretty badly.

It seems that I have written an awful lot about flying but I must tell you about a ride I had today and then I will stop.  It had been so foggy for most of the day that flying was called off, but about four o’clock this afternoon, two other boys and myself called up the Lieutenant and got a ship apiece.  There were two layers of clouds.  The lower one was thin and about 2000 feet up.  We all three left the ground and were soon above the lower strata.  We chased each other around for a while and then one of the boys started circling up through a rift in the clouds above.  The others followed and at an altitude of 7500 feet we were above most of the clouds and in bright sunshine.

It was beautiful; every now and then we would catch a glimpse of the ground and so kept our bearings.  Now and then we would run through little balls of clouds and come out wet and cold into the sunshine again.  We also dodged them.  Finally we became separated and I got into a cloud that I could not find my way out of, so I dove down.  I was about five miles from the field and my time being almost up, came in and landed.  The other boys came in about five minutes later.  They too had gotten lost in the cloud.  It was grand sport and flying in the clouds is excellent practice as you must fly by feel entirely, because there is nothing to line up your ship by [no ground references].[xiv]

I am sorry that you are having such cold weather and that so many of you are having colds.  If the weather we are having only holds good when you are here, it will be a welcome change for you.  The more I think of it, the luckier I am in being sent here.

Stowe seems to have gone every place except Texas.  He said he would make me a visit when he came to this state and I shall not forgive him if he fails to keep his promise.

I am still awaiting my commission.  However, I hope to be sworn in tomorrow or the next day.  Then I will have a picture taken for you with all the paraphernalia on.  They manage to keep us pretty busy here now.  Although I have finished the required flying and class work, the flying has increased and I am busy all day long.  When evening comes I am ready for bed.  I wish you would send this letter on to Esther.  I have not time to write her at length but will write her a short note in explanation.

Do write me more about your plans for coming here.  I am so excited over it.  Tell me the exact date of your arrival etc.  I shall count the days and hours until you are here.

The Lieutenant Colonel has given us permission to have a dance on the 21st, the 22nd being a holiday.  It is to be held at the Houston Country Club and promises to be quite an affair.

Albertine writes that she is to finish this year at school and then take a three years nursing course.  She is quite determined and already has her mother’s consent.  She seems to think that she is very impractical and believes the course would help her.  She says she is going overseas if the war keeps on long enough.  No doubt the training will be of benefit in many ways but I hate to see her do it.[xv]

Write soon.

With greatest love to all, Harold

 

Ellington Field

February 15, 1918

Dearest Family:

At last I have received what I have been working for and although it is not as much as I had been promised, there is nothing to do but be satisfied and work for more.  Yesterday I was sworn into [military] service as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Signal Service Reserve Corp, Aviation Section.  I have not received my commission but that will soon follow.  It does not make any difference, however, as I am now an officer and can wear the insignia pertaining to my rank.  Some of the boys are holding back on their commission as 2nd Lieutenant, hoping to get more.  If they do not accept soon they will be in a nice predicament.  On the desk before me is a wire from Squire[xvi] as follows: “Whenever flying cadets, upon graduation, decline to accept commissions tendered them in Signal Reserve Corps, Aviation Section, they will be discharged but retained and assigned for duty with the squadron.”  That means that they will be kept as a private and work with the men of that rank on the ships.

The cross country trips that I have taken are only the primary ones [those required to complete the primary flight training phase]; none longer than sixty miles.  They had planned longer trips in which we were to visit other camps but they were called off as now men were coming in too fast and such trips would take too much time.  As soon as I finish formation flying, I expect to go to advanced C.C. [cross country] and there we make some pretty long trips.  None of them, however, are so long that they cannot be accomplished in one day.

The formation flying is no fun but just hard work.  One must keep awake all the time as the ships are only 1000 yards apart.  Yesterday afternoon I had five hours in the air; the only time I was on the ground being that in which they filled the gasoline tank.  We flew until 6:30 and as soon as I had finished my supper I turned into bed for I was tired out completely.  It is not like straight flying for you must jockey the ship all the time.  Sometimes you stall along while at others you are racing ahead at full speed.  This is owing to the turns.  At this time the inside man must go very slow while the outside man must speed up because he has a much greater distance to travel.  We fly in triangle formation in groups of 3, 6, 9, or 18.

1

X

 

2                                                          3

X                                                         X

 

4

X

 

5                                                          6

X                                                         X

 

[Numbers] two and three are about fifty feet higher than number one who is the leader.  Number four is fifty feet higher than two and three and so on back.  When the ships keep good formation it is very pretty.

The [Detroit] News with the list of the Tuscania losses of Michigan men came.  I did not know the Harrisville man but I did know one of the Lieutenants who was saved.  He was a Detroit boy named Dan Smith.  The losses are not nearly so heavy as the first reports led us to believe they would be.  It seems a shame that the good record [of safe Atlantic crossings] had to be broken.[xvii]

I was very glad to learn of Lynn’s promotion.  He deserves it for he has worked very hard.  I can well imagine that he makes a splendid officer.  Please convey to him my congratulations.

About the photograph you are asking for.  I thought I spoke about that in my last letter.  As soon as pay day comes, and it is long past due, I shall have one taken.  I have some snaps being printed now that I took on my cross country trips.  You see we are not supposed to take any pictures at the Field.[xviii]

Do not worry over the possibility of my not being here when you arrive.  Unless present plans are materially changed, I shall be here for some time yet taking my advanced flying course.  The thing that bothers me is, that I can hardly wait until you get here.

I never thought that Father would be attending a surgical dressing class.  I might imagine Gordon at it and I’ll bet he is good at it too, but Father, no.  I do not mean that he is not good at it, but I cannot imagine him doing such things.

I hope that Donald Duncan’s illness is not serious.  His Grandmother must be happy to have him home with her even though his illness be the cause of it.

You ask about the weather in Galveston.  You must realize that Texas weather is a puzzle.  The last few days have been wonderful, warm and without much wind, but tomorrow we may have a cold norther.  I do not think it will be very cold and it may be quite warm, not hot but just pleasant.  The evenings are cool as a rule.

The clippings that Mother sent were very interesting.  The Liberty engines seem to be standing up well under the tests they are giving them.[xix]  I wonder if the school at Fort Wayne is for ground officers or flying officers.

Write soon and often and tell me all about your plans for your trip South.

Always with love, Harold

P. S. Letters from Father and Mother have just come.

———————————————————————————————————-

Special Orders

No. 51

 

War Department

Washington

March 2, 1918

 

  1. The appointments of the following-named members of the Officers’ Reserve Corps as second lieutenants in the Aviation Section, Signal Reserve Corps, are announced:

Charles Joseph Buckley

Lionel Petgrave Hopkins

Harold Edgar Loud

Oscar Sylvester Parmer

The above-named officers were placed on active duty at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas, on February 13, 1918.

BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR:

John Biddle[xx]

Major General

Acting Chief of Staff

 

OFFICIAL: H. P. McCain[xxi]

The Adjutant General

Cy: Lt. H. E. Loud

—————————————————————————————————————

Note by Edward F. Loud:

Harold’s mother and father with Mr. Pierson and his sister Roxane (Mrs. Pierson) had made plans and arrangements to leave Detroit for Galveston on February 27th.  Shortly before this date we received a telegram telling us that the lad had been transferred to Camp Dick which was located on the fairgrounds in Dallas.  The plans for Galveston were therefore modified and it was decided to make our principal stay at Dallas.  We arrived in Dallas on March 1st and found Harold was just out of the hospital after a few days illness.

Camp Dick was just being organized and very little work was being done.  There were no ships at this Camp.  It seemed to be a sort of clearing house where officers and cadets were sent until they could be assigned elsewhere.  Owing to this condition and to the fact that the Doctor thought a few days furlough would be beneficial to his health, Harold was given a ten days leave of absence.  This made it possible for us to go back to our original plan, and on March 4th we left for Galveston.  Harold joined us here on the 6th and remained with us until the morning of the 18th when he left for Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in accordance with orders received on the 15th.

————————————————————————————————–

 

Notes:

[i] Sweetser, The American Air Service, p. 107.

[ii] Unfortunately, the account of his first solo is not in the Harold Loud file.

[iii] “The Major” is not further identified.  It was probably John C. McDonnell, who was placed in charge of advanced flying instruction at Ellington Field in December 1917.  He later retired as a Brigadier General in 1943.

[iv] At Ellington Field Harold flew three variations of the Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” aircraft.  He refers to the different types in his letter of 27 January, when he mentions flying one aircraft with a stick control and another with a wheel control.  The wheel control had a miniature wheel with cables attached to the wheel; when entering a turn, the pilot turned the wheel, much like the wheel in an automobile.  There were separate controls for the rudder and elevator.  With a stick control, which became the standardized form of controlling an aircraft in flight, the pilot simply pushed the stick left to turn left or right to turn right.  The stick control was simpler, more logical, and less like to cause problems in flight.  Harold Loud also later (letter, 27 January) refers to the Canadian version of the Curtiss Jenny (also known as the “Canuck”), which featured two major design changes: greater wing surface area, and ailerons at the trailing edge of both the upper and lower wing surfaces instead of on the lower wing surface only.  As a result, the Canuck could turn more rapidly.

[v] James MacGillivray was formerly a Detroit newspaperman who was the editor of the Oscoda Press.

[vi] Harriet was the daughter of William Fairchild and Mary Blossom Loud.  She died of unknown causes on 12 April 1920.

[vii] “lecture on the war”: Because of their busy training schedules and relative isolation from nearby communities, the men involved in military training had little opportunity to learn about the latest events in the war or any assessment of war developments.

[viii] The wing skid was a curved piece of wood that extended below each end of the lower wing on the JN-4 Jenny.  It was designed to prevent damage to the fabric on the wing tip if the end of the wing should strike the ground on landing, which could easily occur when landing during windy or gusty conditions.

[ix] Mrs. Hopkins is the mother of a fellow flying student of Harold Loud, Lionel Petgrave Hopkins, whose name is listed on the special orders, dated March 2, 1918, promoting Harold Loud to the rank of Second Lieutenant.

[x] The Galvez Hotel was built in 1911, at the same time as the Galveston seawall was constructed.  These structures were designed to promote interest in Galveston as a resort area after a deadly hurricane devastated the area in 1900, causing the deaths of over 6000 people.  The Galvez was (and still is) one of the most attractive of the Texas Gulf Coast hotels.

[xi] Olive: not further identified.  Olive probably knitted a wool helmet liner for Harold to wear.  Most flying helmets were made of stiff leather and contained little if any interior padding or protection.  Knitted helmet liners would have provided additional comfort and warmth.

[xii] Edward Loud was exploring possibilities for use of the cut-over timberlands that the Loud family owned along the Au Sable River.

[xiii] Starting in 1904, in an effort to raise funds to construct the Union Building at the University of Michigan, the men students mounted comic musical productions, referred to as “operas,” and apparently Harold had participated in one the previous year.  In 1918, after World War I was declared, the scarcity of men on the University of Michigan campus resulted in women participating.  There was some discussion about the appropriateness of women participating in these activities.  In 1919 sufficient numbers of men were once again available to play the parts.

[xiv] This passage reminds us that early training aircraft had a minimum of instruments, and most of these provided information about engine operation only.  No instruments had yet been designed to help the pilot keep the aircraft steady in straight and level flight; the pilot was supposed to do so by use of visual cues (looking at the ground) and a sense of the “feel” of the aircraft.  But when the ground was not visible (as would be the case in or above a cloud deck), his visual and sensory cues were seriously restricted.

[xv] Albertine: not further identified.

[xvi] George Owen Squier was a native of Michigan.  He graduated from the U. S. Military Academy in 1877.  He initially joined the artillery but soon became a member of the Army’s Signal Corps, specializing in radio communications.  He was instrumental in the formation of the Aeronautical Division as a part of the Signal Corps; he wrote the first specifications for a flying machine and witnessed the trials of the first U. S. Army flying machine at Fort Myer, Virginia, in 1907.  Later the Aeronautical Division became the Air Service, a separate unit of the army.  He was appointed Chief Signal Officer of the U. S. Army in April of 1917 and was promoted to Major General in October of that year.  He retired in 1924.

[xvii] On the night of February 5, 1918, the S.S. Tuscania, which was carrying American troops to Europe, was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland.  Two hundred and ten of the 2,376 people on board, most of whom were soldiers, were lost at sea. This was the first sinking of a ship transporting American soldiers to the war zone.

[xviii] No photographs of Harold Loud in training at Ellington Field have survived.

[xix] The “Liberty Engine” was an aircraft engine based on the Packard Motor Car engine design.  In order to be successfully mounted on an aircraft, the engine had to be inverted, and there were some initial problems with the oil draining out of the engine.  Eventually a system was devised to maintain oil in a pressurized condition.  The Liberty Engine was intended to be the engine of choice for all aircraft made in America, especially the De Havilland DH-4, which was widely used by the Air Service during and after the war.  By the end of 1918, over 13,000 Liberty Engines had been produced.

[xx] Major General John Biddle was a Michigan native who attended the University of Michigan before graduating from the U. S. Military Academy in 1881.  He worked primarily in civil engineering projects in the United States and Europe.  He was superintendent of the U. S. Military Academy in 1916 and 1917.

[xxi] Henry Pinckney McCain was a Mississippi native who graduated from the U. S. Military Academy in 1885.  He was commissioned in the infantry and served in the Philippines during the Battle of Manila (1898).  He served as the Adjutant General of the U. S. Army from 1915 to 1918.