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Hero of the Angry Sky

Hero of the Angry Sky: The World War I Diary and Letters of David S.Ingalls, America's First Naval Ace

Edited by Geoffrey L. Rossano
Foreword by William F. Trimble
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Ohio University Press
Pages: 350
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  • Book Info
    Hero of the Angry Sky
    Book Description:

    Hero of the Angry Sky draws on the unpublished diaries, correspondence, informal memoir, and other personal documents of the U.S. Navy's only flying "ace" of World War I to tell his unique story. David S. Ingalls was a prolific writer, and virtually all of his World War I aviation career is covered, from the teenager's early, informal training in Palm Beach, Florida, to his exhilarating and terrifying missions over the Western Front. This edited collection of Ingalls's writing details the career of the U.S. Navy's most successful combat flyer from that conflict. While Ingalls's wartime experiences are compelling at a personal level, they also illuminate the larger, but still relatively unexplored, realm of early U.S. naval aviation. Ingalls's engaging correspondence offers a rare personal view of the evolution of naval aviation during the war, both at home and abroad. There are no published biographies of navy combat flyers from this period, and just a handful of diaries and letters in print, the last appearing more than twenty years ago. Ingalls's extensive letters and diaries add significantly to historians' store of available material.

    eISBN: 978-0-8214-4438-2
    Subjects: History, Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    William F. Trimble

    Curiously, given the scale and drama of the U.S. Navy’s World War I aviation effort, there are no published biographies of navy combat aviators. Now, thanks to Geoffrey Rossano, a skilled and knowledgeable historian whose recent works include a comprehensive study of the navy’s air arm in Europe, we have a fine-grained, up close and personal glimpse into the wartime career of David Sinton Ingalls, as told in his own words. The navy’s first and only World War I “ace,” credited with six victories while attached to an RAF pursuit squadron, Ingalls was still a teenager when he dropped out...

  5. Series Editors’ Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    David J. Ulbrich and Ingo Trauschweizer
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Geoffrey L. Rossano
  7. A Note on the Text
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xx)
  9. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    In 1925, Rear Admiral William S. Sims, commander of U.S. naval forces operating in Europe during World War I, declared, “Lieutenant David S. Ingalls may rightly be called the ‘Naval Ace’ of the war.”¹ Of the twenty thousand pilots, observers, ground officers, mechanics, and construction workers who served overseas in the conflict, only Ingalls earned that unofficial yet esteemed status. In contrast, by November 1918, the U.S. Army Air Service counted more than 120 aces.²

    The Cleveland, Ohio, native’s unique achievement resulted from several factors. Unlike their army peers, few naval pilots engaged in air-to-air combat. Instead, most patrolled uncontested...

  10. 1 Training with the First Yale Unit March–September 1917
    (pp. 21-42)

    David Ingalls spent his initial months in the navy training with the First Yale Unit in Florida and on Long Island, New York, a process directed by Lt. Edward McDonnell, a 1912 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA), where he became a champion boxer. McDonnell served at Vera Cruz, Mexico, in 1914 and received the Medal of Honor for heroism under fire. He began flight instruction at Pensacola a few months later and earned his designation as “Naval Aviator #18” (NA #18) in September 1915. In the spring of 1917, the navy ordered him to Palm Beach to direct...

  11. 2 Early Days in Europe September–December 1917
    (pp. 43-86)

    During the summer and early fall of 1917, several members of the Yale Unit received orders to proceed overseas, where the navy had begun creating an extensive system of patrol stations, flight schools, and supply bases from scratch. With aviation officers in very short supply, the Yale gang offered nearly the only available source of additional trained personnel. In fact, the navy had not yet dispatched a single flying officer to Europe for combat duty. A small force of 122 enlisted men, the First Aeronautic Detachment, reached France in early June, their exact training and mission yet to be determined....

  12. 3 With the RFC at Gosport, Turnberry, and Ayr December 1917–March 1918
    (pp. 87-140)

    Of the American naval air stations established in France in 1917, only Dunkirk on the English Channel coast near the Belgian border exposed aviators to encounters with enemy aircraft. Lumbering flying boats conducting antisubmarine patrols proved easy prey for German warplanes and thus required armed escorts—fast, maneuverable, single-seat chasse (pursuit) machines. To obtain the trained pilots necessary to fly these aircraft, the navy made arrangements with the American army to instruct a dozen enlisted aviators at their new school at Issoudun, France.¹ Others were recruited from among American pilots then serving with French escadrilles. The RFC took three additional...

  13. 4 On Patrol—At NAS Dunkirk and with the RAF in Flanders March–May 1918
    (pp. 141-182)

    With months of instruction behind them and a massive German attack on the Western Front about to erupt, Ingalls, MacLeish, and Smith hurried down from Scotland, crossed over to France, and made their way to NAS Dunkirk, the navy’s lonely outpost on the shore of the English Channel, just a few miles behind the front. They arrived on March 21, the very day the enemy began its climactic assault. Eminent military historian John Keegan called this and the events that followed “the crisis of war in the West.”¹ When German forces broke through British lines, the commanding officer (CO) at...

  14. 5 The Navy’s Big Show—The Northern Bombing Group May–August 1918
    (pp. 183-214)

    For many months, the navy had been analyzing the failure of its aerial patrols to intercept enemy submarines entering and exiting their lairs in Zeebrugge, Ostend, and Bruges. Patrolling was tedious, sporadic, and ineffective. Military planners had the same reservations and endured the same frustrations as Ingalls and other pilots, observers, and personnel at Dunkirk. After considerable debate on both sides of the Atlantic, the Department of the Navy decided to implement a vast new program to attack the U-boat bases through sustained heavy bombing, operating both day and night squadrons. Planners initially envisioned a force of twelve squadrons and...

  15. 6 Hero of the Angry Sky—Serving with No.213 Squadron August–October 1918
    (pp. 215-284)

    Between early August and the beginning of October 1918, David Ingalls served with his old mates at No.213 Squadron, flying Sopwith Camels over Flanders. His stay coincided with the final Allied push of the war. During a fifty-six-day period, he compiled a combat record unequaled by any other American naval aviator in World War I, performing the feats that earned him the British Distinguished Flying Cross, the American Distinguished Service Medal, and the French Légion d’Honneur. By his own accounting, he flew 108 hours, 45 minutes; conducted sixty-three flights over the lines; engaged in thirteen plane-to-plane combats; and carried out...

  16. 7 Eastleigh and Home October–December 1918
    (pp. 285-312)

    In early October, an exhausted David Ingalls departed No.213 Squadron to take up duties as flight officer and head of the Flight Department at Eastleigh, the Northern Bombing Group’s massive supply, assembly, and repair facility situated a few miles from Southampton on the southern coast of England. He replaced Ken MacLeish in this job, the latter headed to Flanders to fill Ingalls’s old slot with the British. Ingalls spent the next month decompressing from his recent combat tour, testing aircraft assembled at Eastleigh, teaching several enlisted men to fly, and happily pursuing a very active social life. He also met...

  17. 8 A Glance Back June 1924
    (pp. 313-326)

    During the 1920s and 1930s, surviving members of the First Yale Unit and their friends gathered for a series of reunion dinners—opportunities to renew friendships, toast lost comrades, cement social and business relationships, and reminisce about events that now seemed to reside in a surprisingly distant past. At each dinner, a number of the young veterans marched to the podium and recounted various aspects of their military experiences, whether in the air, in Washington or Hampton Roads, in Key West, or “over there.” For their June 14, 1924, gathering, held at the Brook Club in New York City, the...

  18. Afterword
    (pp. 327-336)

    David Ingalls reached New York in early December 1918 after nearly fifteen months overseas and twenty-one tumultuous months since he and the rest of the Yale gang traveled to New London to enlist in the navy. The voyage home proceeded more joyously than the one heading into the war zone in October 1917. And Ingalls was still two months short of his twentieth birthday. He went back to Yale, where he roomed with Harry Davison and captained the varsity hockey team. On a postwar visit to the United States, the Prince of Wales presented Ingalls with the Distinguished Flying Cross...

  19. Appendix 1: David Ingalls’s Victories with No.213 Squadron, RAF
    (pp. 337-338)
  20. Appendix 2: David Ingalls’s Technical Notes, Turnberry, Scotland
    (pp. 339-362)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 363-368)
  22. Index
    (pp. 369-378)