They Also Flew
The Enlisted Pilot Legacy, 1912-1942
WHILE THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES Air Force as a separate and independent component of the Department of Defense did not officially begin until September 1947, its roots went back to August 1907, when its parent, the Army, began to concern itself with aeronautics.
Understandably proud of its new status, the Air Force had to look to its future. Only recently has it begun to reflect on its earlier, humbler beginnings-beginnings that included a small number of enlisted pilots.
Those of us who served their nation as enlisted pilots, even if for a little while, have found it humbling to learn that few ever knew we served. When the term enlisted pilot, or sergeant pilot, is introduced into any appropriate conversation today, and draws only a blank response, an accounting seems overdue.
I have undertaken this writing to place the legacy of this small number of pilots into the literature, and to inform its readers that from 1912 to 1942 enlisted pilots also flew.
I have chosen to use the terms aeroplane and airplane in their contemporary context, that is, aeroplane, 1903-17, and airplane, 1917-42.
A caveat in closing: Since I am neither a writer nor a historian, my reconstruction of the sergeant pilot story, drawn from documents forty-five to eighty-two years old as well as from the recollections of individuals years after the events, is bound to be flawed by time and bias. It is, however, as careful and honest an account as I can construct. Readers who discover such flaws would do this account a favor by bringing them to the author's attention. -Lee Arbon