People

The members of the First Yale Unit were among the first soldiers and sailors to fight for the United States after the declaration of war in 1917. They were among the first because they had the foresight and ability to prepare for their nation's call. Some came from wealthy families, some did not, but they all shared a common goal: vanquish the axis powers and have a grand adventure while doing so. Presented here is a brief summary of the wartime contributions by members of the First Yale Unit, with greater biographical detail provided for select pilots.

 

Allan W. Ames


Allan Ames

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 67
  • Nickname: Alphy
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale Sports: Y in football
 

About

Allan “Alphy” Ames won his Y in football at Yale and was one of the original twelve members of the First Yale Unit in 1916. Ames served at Bayshore, NY, Fort Worth, Texas, and Hampton Roads, VA, where he trained in H-12 and H-16 aircraft. In Washington, D.C., Ames helped reconnoiter supplies for the Northern Bombing Group and reviewed the U.S. manufactured DH-4 at the Wright Factory. There he flew the Hispano JN, DH-4, the Vought, and the 220 Spad. Ames served overseas at Naval Operations HQ in London and conducted a broad survey of air stations in Europe.

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C.F. Beach

C.F. Beach

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 75
  • Nickname: Freddy
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • WWI Medals: Navy Cross
 

About

Freddy Beach was with the third group from the Unit to ship overseas. He served at Moutchic, then Dunkirk, France, under Gates. He flew DH-9 bombers with the 218 Squadron and worked with MacLeish testing Liberty-powered aircraft at Paulliac. He was flying a SPAD with Gates’ formation with l’Escadrille de Saint-Pol when Gates was shot down.


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Graham M. Brush

Graham Brush

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 79
  • Yale Class: Sheffield Scientific School, 1917
 

About

Graham Brush had previous experience flying with the First Aero Co. Signal Corps. of the N.Y. National Guard before joining the Unit. He served as a technical expert in the Bureau of Steam Engineering in D.C. Brush made the second ever flight (with Dave McCullogh) in a Liberty powered aircraft. Due to his technical expertise, Brush served on a Board of Inquiry sent to U.S. air stations in Europe by F.D.R. 

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Reginald G. Coombe

Reginald Coombe

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 92
  • Nickname: Reg
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale Sports: Captain of 1918 Freshman Crew
  • Letter of commendation from Navy
 

About

Reginald G. Coombe was captain of freshman crew at Yale. He was in the third group of Unit members, including Walker, Smith, McIlwaine, Landon, Ingalls and Beach to sail for Europe. Coombe served at LeCroisic coastal air station in France and, with ‘Hen’ Landon, piloted the first U.S. naval air patrol over European waters. Coombe was with Sam Walker on furlough in Tours when he was devastated to learn of the death of Albert Sturtevant in a newspaper article. Coombe trained to fly the notorious Caproni bombers at Malpensa, Italy, along with fellow unit members Walker and Landon. He piloted Capronis from Italy to France over the Alps for the Northern Bombing Group.

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Frederick Trubee Davison

F. Trubee Davison

Vital Stats

  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale Sports: Freshman hockey team, Manager of crew
  • Received Navy wings in 1966
 

About

F. Trubee Davison was the founder of the Yale Aero Club and the volunteer Aerial Coast Patrol Unit No. 1.  Though severely injured on his flying test for the Navy, Davison remained the titular leader of the Unit as they were mustered in as the U.S. Navy’s first air reserve squadron, the First Yale Unit.  As such, they helped pioneer U.S. naval aviation in WW1.

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Henry P. Davison

Henry Davison

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 72
  • Nickname: Harry
  • Yale Class: 1920
  • Yale Sports: Baseball, Football, Squash teams
  • WWI Medals: Navy Cross
 

About

Henry P. “Harry” Davison was on the baseball, football and squash teams at Yale. The younger brother of Unit founder Trubee Davison and best friend of David S. Ingalls, Harry was an original Unit member. After service in the U.S., Davison went overseas and helped deliver the notorious Caproni bombers over the Alps, from Italy to France, for the Northern Bombing Group.

 

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Albert J. Ditman

Albert J. Ditman

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 108
  • Nickname: Al
  • Employee of J.P. Morgan’s office
 

About

Albert J. Ditman was one of only two non-Yale men who were original members of the Unit. Ditman, an employee at the offices of J.P. Morgan & Co., had previous flying experience before joining the Unit. He served at Bayshore, Long Island, Rockaway, NY, Cape May, NJ, and Anacostia, Washington, D.C., in capacity of test pilot, flying instructor and ordinance officer. 

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John V. Farwell

John Farwell

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 76
  • Nickname: Johnny
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale Sports: Captain of Freshman track team University track team of 1916 and 1917
 

About

John V. Farwell was captain of the freshman and varsity track teams in 1916 and 1917. One of the original 12 Unit members, Farwell later served with the Second Yale Unit at Buffalo and became a Squadron Commander at Pensacola NAS. He also served as an ordinance officer at Trojan, France, and was in Paris among massive jubilant French crowds that flooded the Place de la Concorde for four days after the Armistice was signed. 

 

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Artemus Lamb Gates

Artemus L. Gates

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 65
  • Nickname: Di
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale Sports: Freshman Football and Track. University Football 1916. Track 1916, 1917 Captain elect of Yale 11
  • WWI Medals: Distinguished Flying Cross (British)
  • Distinguished Service Medal (U.S. Navy)
  • Letter of commendation from U.S. Navy

 

 

About

Artemus “Di” Gates was a star athlete at Yale in both football and track.  One of the original Unit members, Gates and fellow member Bob Lovett were the first two ranking naval aviators from the Unit and the first to ship overseas in 1917.  Gates commanded the heavily bombarded air station at Dunkirk, made a heroic water rescue under fire and was captured by the Germans after being shot down in a SPAD fighter.  He became the most highly decorated aviator of the Unit.

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Erl Clinton Barker Gould

Erl C.B. Gould

 

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 68
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale Sports: Capt. Freshman Hockey. University Hockey team 1916, 1917
 

About

One of the original twelve, Erl C. B. Gould served as flight instructor and officer in command of flying at Naval Air Station Bay Shore, NY, in the summer of 1917 and test pilot for the Davis anti-sub gun.  Posted to NAS Key West, FL, he became the youngest officer to command a primary training station.

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David Sinton Ingalls

David Ingalls

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 85
  • Nickname: Crock
  • Yale Class: 1920
  • Yale Sports: Freshman Football. Captain of Freshman Hockey team. Captain of University Hockey team 1918,1919
  • WWI Medals: Distinguished Flying Cross (British)
  • Distinguished Service Medal (U.S. Navy)
 

About

Known as the “Baby Ace,” Dave Ingalls was the youngest and wildest member of the Unit.  Seemingly fearless, he took to the air with the same bravado and high-pitched laugh with which he crashed cars and courted women in London and Paris.  With five confirmed kills, Ingalls was the only Naval Ace of WWI.

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R. Livingston Ireland

R. Livingston Ireland

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 84
  • Nickname: Liv
  • Yale Class: Sheffield Scientific School, 1918
  • Yale Sports: Willis Brook Cup 1916, 1917, Meadowbrook 1917 Freshman Relay & Track, University Relay
  • Letter of commendation from Navy
 

About

R. Livingston Ireland served at Hampton Roads, VA, where he became a squadron commander. He was then given command of Naval Air Station Morehead City, North Carolina. 

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Oliver B. James

Oliver James

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 80
  • Nickname: Olie
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale Sports: Freshman crew, four against Harvard
 

About

Oliver B. James served in Washington, D.C., with Lt. E. F. Johnson who was in charge of the Navy flight schools. He was then ordered overseas to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he served as flight instructor. 

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Henry H. Landon

Henry Landon

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 93
  • Nickname: Hen
  • Yale Class: 1917
  • Yale Sports: Jr. Hockey, Class Crew, Manager of Hockey Team
 

About

Henry H. Landon was in the third group from the Unit shipped overseas. He served at LeCroisic NAS in France and, with Reg Coombe, flew the in the first U.S. naval air patrols over European waters. He delivered aircraft to fellow unit member Chip McIlwaine at Moutchic. Along with Ken Smith, Landon served at Ile Tudy where he racked up a record 69.5 flight patrol hours in a single month. He was ordered to Paris, then Malpensa, Italy, to train on Caproni bombers, then delivered a Caproni to the Italian navy at Gioja del Colle. Landon took in special instruction at the Caproni factory and the Isotta-Fraschini aircraft motor works. He then served with Lovett’s Northern Bombing Group at Saint-Inglevert, France, and temporarily took command there following the Armistice. After the Armistice, Landon delivered Capronis with Walker to Issoudun before returning to the U.S.

 

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Wellesley Laud Brown

Wellesley Brown

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 65.5
  • Nickname: Wells
  • Employee of J.P. Morgan’s office
 

About

Wellesley “Wells” Laud-Brown was working at the offices of J.P. Morgan & Co. when he was invited by Trubee Davison to become one of the original twelve unit members. One of only two non-Yale men in the Unit, Brown served at New London, CT, Bayshore, Long Island, and Rockaway, New York. Brown’s voice was heard in a 1941 NBC radio broadcast, “Wings Over America,” which told the story of the Unit in their own words. 

 

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George Francklyn Lawrence

George Lawrence

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 89
  • Nickname: Lotta
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale Sports: Freshman crew, University crew
 

About

George “Lotta” Lawrence, served first with the Yale Battery before joining the Unit. He served at Squantum and Rockaway, NY, before being sent to Fort Worth, Texas, for advanced training, then on to Hampton Roads, VA. Lawrence served overseas at Killingholme, England, where he participated in bombing runs on U-boats and chased zeppelins.

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Robert Ambercrombie Lovett

Robert Lovett

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 66
  • Nickname: Bob
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale activities: Manager of Drama Association, Floor Manager of the Jr. Prom
 

About

Along with F. Trubee Davison, Bob Lovett was a leading light of the First Yale Unit.   Ostensibly the most brilliant and capable member of his Yale class, once overseas, Lovett was quickly promoted to a commanding officer, for a time in charge of all U.S. naval aviation operations in Europe.  Based on first-hand experience as a gunner on bombing runs over enemy territory, Lovett developed the first U.S. strategic bombing force, which would become the model for U.S. military aviation for the rest of the century.

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Frank R.V. Lynch

Frank Lynch

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 88
  • Nickname: Frank
  • Yale Class: Sheffield Scientific School, 1918
  • Yale Sports: Freshman football and track. Capt. Of Freshman baseball. University football 1916, Baseball 1917
  • WWI Medals: Navy Cross
 

About

Frank R. V. Lynch served at Squantum NAS then Rockaway NAS in New York. He received advanced training at Ft. Worth, Texas, and was then detailed to Hampton Roads, VA. Lynch, along with Unit mate ‘Lotta’ Lawrence, was sent overseas to serve at Killingholme, England, where he did sub patrol work and tested the first U.S. made H-16 at Killingholme. In October 1918, Lynch and Kenny MacLeish ferried DH-4s from Eastleigh, England, to Lafraine, France. He returned to the U.S. just after the Armistice with fellow Unit mates Harry Davison, Graham Brush, Reg Coombe and ‘Shorty’ Smith aboard the Balmoral Castle.

 

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Kenneth MacLeish

Kenneth MacLeish

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 74
  • Nickname: Kenney
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale Sports: Freshman and university track (pole vault), university water polo
 

About

Kenneth MacLeish, brother of Archibald MacLeish, was perhaps the most talented of all the Unit pilots. By July 1918 he had flown, by his own count, 12 different types of machines. MacLeish served with both U.S. and British squadrons, and was serving as chief pilot and aeroplane tester at Eastleigh, England, when Bob Lovett requested him as a squadron commander of the Northern Bombing Group. Though honored by the offer, MacLeish asked Lovett directly to help him get to the front to fly in a fighter squadron. In October 1918, less than a month before the Armistice, MacLeish took the place of David Ingalls in No. 213 Squadron, RAF and, on his second combat air patrol, was shot down and killed over Schoore, Belgium.

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Archibald G. McIlwaine

Archibald McIlwaine

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 82
  • Nickname: Chip
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale Sports: Member of Hockey and Class crew. Won University Golf Championship in 1914
  • WWI Medals: Navy Cross
 

About

Archibald, ‘Chip’ McIlwaine shipped out with the third group of unit members headed for the front. He served at Moutchic, France, from December 1917 to May 1918. A month later, he received special flight training at Clermont-Ferrand and in July participated in the raid on the Zeebrugge Mole with the 217 Squadron. He served at the Northern Bombing Group HQ at Saint-Inglevert, France, until the Armistice.

 

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Curtis S. Read

Curtis Read

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 83
  • Nicname: Curt
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale Sports: Played baseball. Asst. Mgr. Of University Football team. Manager in 1917
 

About

Curt Read served at Hampton Roads, VA, and in November 1917 shipped out with his brother Bartow on the S.S. New York. He trained at Moutchic, France, until February 1918 when he was ordered to Dunkirk. Read was killed when the Donnet-Denhaut he was piloting on a training run made a sudden nose dive into the waters off Dunkirk. 

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R. Bartow Read

R. Bartow Read

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 78
  • Nickname: Bart
  • Yale Class: 1920
  • WWI Medals: Navy Cross
 

About

R. Bartow Read served with his brother Curt at Hampton Roads, VA. He headed for Europe in November 1917 with his brother on board the S.S. New York. He served at Moutchic, then LeCrosic, France, and was subsequently detailed to Pauillac then Porto Corsini, Italy. In August, 1918, Bart was sent with Unit mates Smith, Walker and Coombe to Italy to fly Capronis. Later that month he was sent back to Porto Corsini where he was Chief Pilot in charge of flying. In October he flew bombing raids on the Austrian naval forces at Pola, Austria-Hungary.

 

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William A. Rockefeller

William Rockefeller

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 81
  • Nickname: Bill
  • Yale Class: 1918
 

About

William A. Rockefeller participated in sub-spotting exercises at New London, CT. He was at Bayshore, NY, then trained in night bombing at Pensacola, FL. He served at Miami Naval Air Station before being ordered to Europe where he served at Killingholme NAS in England. 

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Kenneth R. Smith

 Kenneth R. Smith

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 87
  • Nickname: Ken
  • Yale Class: Sheffield Scientific School, 1918
  • Yale Sports: Freshman Football
  • WWI Medals: Croix de Guerre (France)
    Navy Cross
 

About

Kenneth R. Smith was on board with Walker, Coombe, Landon and Ingalls when they shipped out for Europe. He was serving at LeCroisic coastal air station in France when he crashed and spent 52 hours adrift on the high seas due to engine trouble – finally being rescued by a French torpedo boat. In February 1918, while serving at Ile Tudy with fellow Unit member ‘Hen’ Landon, Smith sank a submarine near the famous lighthouse of Penmarche, France. In August 1918, he was ordered to Italy to learn to fly Caproni bombers and piloted a Caproni from Italy over the Alps to France, delivering it to the NBG. Smith flew night bombing raids in Handley-Page bombers with Unit mate Harry Davison. While together, Lovett sent them to investigate Di Gates’ crash site and look for his remains. At the end of the war, Smith was sent to the U.S. to be an instructor.

 

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Charles M. Stewart

Charles Stewart

 

Vital Stats

  • Nickname: Charlie
  • Yale Class: 1917
  • Yale Sports: University Track
 

About

Charles M. Stewart, ‘Charlie’ to his friends, was a member of the Wag Crew while training in Palm Beach, Florida. However, he was listed as ineligible for flying when it was determined that he lacked the temperament necessary to be an aviator. Stewart was said to be too high-strung and nervous by nature and therefore left the unit prior to taking his naval test. 

 

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Albert Dillon Sturtevant

Albert Sturtevant

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 77
  • Nickname: Al
  • Yale Class: Sheffield Scientific School, 1916
  • Yale Sports: Freshman crew 1913, University Crew 3 years Capt. 1915
  • WWI Medals: Navy Cross (awarded posthumously)
 

About

Albert Sturtevant was the third U.S. naval aviator deployed to Europe in WWI.  While serving at Felixstowe, England, he flew “spider web” patrols over the North Sea in concert with John Vorys.  After asking Vorys’ permission to fly in his stead, Sturtevant became the first U.S. Naval Aviator killed in action in WWI.

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William P. Thompson

F. Trubee Davison

Vital Stats

  • Yale Class: Sheffield Scientific School, 1918
 

About

William P. Thompson, Jr., was the nephew of Unit business manager Lewis Thompson. He had learned to fly at the Curtiss School and was a licensed pilot prior to joining the Unit. Thompson then became an executive officer at the ground school at MIT. He was injured and remained on inactive status until September 1918 when he became a personnel officer at Hampton Roads, VA. 

 

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John Martin Vorys

John Vorys

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 73
  • Yale Class: 1918
  • Yale Activities: Freshman Football, University Football, Y in track, Ten Eyck Speaking Prize, 1917
 

About

One of the original twelve, John M. Vorys shipped out with Al Sturtevant and together they served overseas at Felixstowe, England, where they flew in “spider web” patrols over the North Sea.  At the war’s end, Vorys was flying experimental aircraft out of Philadelphia.

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Samuel S. Walker

Samuel S. Walker

Vital Stats

  • Naval Aviator No. 86
  • Nickname: Sam
  • Yale Class: 1917
  • Yale Sports: Sophomore crew, Jr. Captain of squash
 

About

Samuel S. Walker shipped out with six other Unit mates in the third group to sail for Europe. He was stationed at LeCrosic coastal air station in France. In December 1917 he served a stint at Colonel House in Paris as an aide for the Inter-Allied War Conference. In January 1918 Walker commanded a boat rescue of a downed seaplane crew out of LeCroisic. In May 1918, Walker wrote to Bob Lovett seeking an assignment with the Northern Bombing Group, and in June he was sent to Italy to learn to fly the Caproni bombers. Walker was one of the Unit pilots to fly a Caproni from Italy to France over the Alps. His flight ended in a crash landing in France, but he escaped unhurt. 

 

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Charles D. Wiman

Charles D. Wiman

Vital Stats

  • Yale Class: Sheffield Scientific School, 1915
 

About

Charles D. Wiman was one of the original twelve men selected by Trubee Davison to be a member of Ariel Coast Patrol, Unit No.1. He was injured while flying Army machines in training on Governors Island, NY, in September 1916. Due to his injuries, Wiman was no longer able to participate as a member of the Unit. 

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