Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. 375 pages with black & white photographs and extensive tables


The Congress of Ghosts (available as eBook) is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link.


Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936 is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.


Art Goebel's Own Story by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is written in language that expands for us his life as a Golden Age aviation entrepreneur, who used his aviation exploits to build a business around his passion.  Available as a free download at the link.


Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race (available as eBook) is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.


Clover Field: The first Century of Aviation in the Golden State (available in paperback) With the 100th anniversary in 2017 of the use of Clover Field as a place to land aircraft in Santa Monica, this book celebrates that use by exploring some of the people and aircraft that made the airport great. 281 pages, black & white photographs.


the register


I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Donaldson and his airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.






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John Donaldson was born May 14, 1898 (other sources say 1897) at Fort Yates, ND. The 1900 U.S. Census, his first, cited him at age two living with his father, Thomas (35), mother Mary E.W. (28), older sister, Mary (4) and brother Thomas, Jr. (3) and a younger infant brother, Augustus. The Census did not specify his father's occupation, but the family had two servants living with them, Bertha Luthi (20) and Lydia Cauble (56). They lived at Ft. Riley, KS, so his father was probably with the military (see below).

The 1910 Census placed Donaldson's (age 12) family living on the Fort Leavenworth Military Reservation, KS. His father was listed as a captain in the U.S. Army. They now had a cook named Jane Jackson (25) living with them.

On June 20, 1915, Donaldson was recorded with the rest of his family on a U.S. Department of Commerce immigration form. The form listed the names of passengers on the ship S.S. Minnewaska, which sailed from Southhampton, England to the Port of New York, arriving on June 29th. At age 16 he was traveling with the rest of his family, probably in conjunction with his father's work. According to the form, his father was employed by the War Department in Washington, DC.

Donaldson Family on Shipboard, June 20-29, 1914 (Source:
J.O. Donaldson, Passport Photo, 1918 (Source:






In 1917 he entered the U.S. Army. He went to Europe via Canada. His passport photo is at left, from his passport application dated October 25, 1918. Note the celluloid shirt collar. He learned to fly in Canada, then when the U.S. entered WWI, he was transferred to the U.S. side and assigned to Europe.

His WWI flying in Europe was exemplary, earning him the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC. The citation for his DSC follows.

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to John Owen Donaldson, Second Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Mont-Norte-Dame, France, July 22, 1918, when, on patrol, he attacked a formation of 20 Fokker enemy biplanes. Singling out one of the hostile machines Lieutenant Donaldson engaged it from behind, firing a short burst at close range, the plane bursting into flames and crashing to the ground. On August 8, 1918, he engaged 5 enemy scout planes over Licourt, France; singling out one and diving on it, he opened fire at close range, causing it to crash to the ground. On August 9, 1918, over Licourt, France, observing a British plane being attacked by three enemy scout planes, he immediately engaged one of the enemy, firing a long burst at very close range, the enemy plane bursting into flames and crashing to the ground. On August 25, 1918, over Hancourt, France, he attacked four Fokker enemy planes, diving into their midst and firing a short burst at one of them from a short range, destroying the plane, the pilot of which descended to safety in a parachute. On July 25, 1918, over Fismes, France, he drove down out of control an enemy Fokker plane; on August 10, over Perrone, France, one Fokker biplane; and on August 29 over Cambria, France, one Fokker biplane. In all these engagements Lieutenant Donaldson displayed the greatest devotion to duty and gallantry in the face of the enemy. 

And for the DFC follows.

For gallantry. On July 22, 1918, Lt. Donaldson, when on a patrol, attacked a formation of 20 Fokker biplanes over Mont-Notre-Dame. He singled out one of the hostile machines and engaged it from behind, firing a short burst at close range. The EA side-slipped to the right and then to the left, finally bursting into flames and crashing. On August 8, he engaged five enemy scouts over Licourt. He singled out one and diving on it from behind, opened fire at very close range. The EA immediately went into a straight dive and crashed into the ground between Licourt and Morchain, becoming a total wreck. On August 9, he observed a British machine being attacked by three hostile scouts over Licourt. He immediately flew to the scene of the encounter and engaged one of the EA, firing a long burst at very close range. Almost at once a white stream of escaping petrol was observed and a little later the EA burst into flames. On August 25, he attacked, single handed, four Fokker biplanes over Hancourt, diving into their midst and firing a short burst into one machine at close range. The EA went down in a side-slip dive and having fallen about 2,000 feet the left wing broke off. The pilot descended in a parachute and shortly after leaving the machine the other wing was observed to crumple up. In addition to the above this officer has driven down out of control three enemy machines as follows: July 25, 1918, one Fokker biplane over Fismes; August 10,, one Fokker biplane over Péronne; August 29,, one Fokker biplane over Cambrai. 2nd Lt. Donaldson also did magnificent work attacking ground targets with machine gun fire and bombs during the recent retreat on the Somme in August. He invariably showed the greatest devotion to duty and gallantry in the face of the enemy. 

The 1920 Census, counted soon after he returned from Europe, placed Donaldson (age 22) living at Kelly Field, Bexar, TX as a captain in the Army. He lived in a barracks with 24 others. Three of his roommates were Davis-Monthan Register pilots Harry A. Johnson, Malcolm S. Lawton and Harry Weddington. A neighbor was Earl S. Hoag.

At some point during the 1920s he left the military. Nearly a decade later, Donaldson signed the Santa Monica Register once, on Sunday, August 18, 1929 at 10:15AM. He flew solo in the Travel Air 2000 he identified as NC629H, S/N 899. He arrived at Clover Field from the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. Although he arrived from Tucson, his signature never appeared in the Tucson Register. He cited his destination as Oakland, CA. His Travel Air was owned by the Newark (NJ) Air Service (see below). NC629H is also signed once in the Grand Central Air Terminal (GCAT) Register on April 1, 1931. No information was recorded in the GCAT Register regarding the pilot's name, point of origin or destination.

Donaldson was killed about a year after he visited us in Santa Monica, on September 7, 1930 near Philadelphia, PA. The September 8, 1930 issue of the DuBois Courier Express (PA) reported the crash that resulted in Donaldson's death.

Philadelphia, Sept. 7. - (U.P.) - CAPT. JOHN O. DONALDSON, 34, fourth ranking American ace in the World War and president of the Newark Air Service was killed today when his plane failed to come out of a spin and crashed during the American Legion air meet at the municipal airport.

He died about two hours after he had been taken to Mercy Hospital with two fractured legs, fractured ribs, a fractured skull and internal injuries.

DONALDSON was giving an exhibition in a travel air biplane owned by Mrs. Opal Logan Koontz [sic; her name was spelled Kunz], former wife of a vice president of Tiffany's, New York society jewelers. He put his plane through a barrel roll, a wing over and some loops at an altitude of 2,000 feet. Then he put his ship into a spin. It had made four turns when, at an altitude of 1,500 feet, he tried to bring the plane out of the spin.

The plane refused to respond, turned over on its back and fell to the ground. DONALDSON was pulled from the wreckage unconscious and was taken to the hospital. At 7:25 P.M. he succumbed to the multiple injuries.
The flier was born at Fort Yates, N.D., son of General T. Q. Donaldson, of the United States Cavalry. He is survived by his father, his mother, who is believed to be in New York, and a brother, T.Q. Donaldson, Jr.
A month before the United States entered the war, DONALDSON went to Canada and joined the Dominion Air Corps. He received his flight training in Canada and when the United States joined sides with the Allies, he was transferred to the A.E.F. Flying Corps.

He shot down six German planes before he himself was winged behind the German lines. He was captured and sent to a German prison camp where he made two attempts to escape. The first time he failed but on the second occasion he made his way into Holland and thence to England and rejoined the American Air Force.
Three more enemy planes and two balloons fell before his gun. For his feat in downing nine German planes he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Belgian and French Croix de Guerre and the British Flying Cross.

A biographical sketch for Donaldson appeared, along with his photograph, below left, at The biographical sketch follows.

John O. Donaldson, WWI (Source: findagrave)
John O. Donaldson, WWI (Source: findagrave)


The son of General Thomas Quinton Donaldson, John Owen Donaldson attended Cornell University before he enlisted a month before the United States entered the war. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in Canada but transferred to the American air service when the United States entered the war. Attached to the Royal Air Force, he was posted to 32 Squadron on 3 July 1918 and claimed seven Fokker D.VIIs in less than two months whilst flying the S.E.5a. Captured on 1 September 1918, Donaldson was shot down by Theodor Quandt of Jasta 36. The following day, while being held in a temporary prison camp in the village of Conde, he and a fellow prisoner escaped. Attempting to steal a two-seater from its hangar at a German aerodrome, they were discovered by a guard. In the struggle that followed, Donaldson received a bayonet wound in the back before the two men overpowered the German soldier and fled into the countryside. On 9 September 1918, the unlucky duo was recaptured while attempting to swim a stream between the Allied and German lines. Three days later, Donaldson, together with his former companion and three other prisoners, escaped again and made his way to safety in the Netherlands. After the war, he received the Mackay Gold Medal for winning the U.S. Army's transcontinental air race in October 1919. Resigning his commission in 1920, he later became president of Newark Air Service in New Jersey and continued to participate in air races. He was killed in a crash while performing stunts near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

















J.O. Donaldson Grave Marker, 1930 (Source: findagrave)


Donaldson flew West in 1930 with Transport pilot certificate T3499. He is buried at Atlanta, GA. His grave marker is at right. I found no U.S. Census information for Donaldson for 1930.