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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

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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 www.dmairfield.org 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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I'm looking for information and photographs of Willingham 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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Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.

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GEORGE HERBERT WILLINGHAM

 

Oakland Tribune, April 4, 1929 (Source: newspapers.com)
Oakland Tribune, April 4, 1929 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

George Willingham signed the Clover Field Register once, on Saturday, February 9, 1929 at 5:10PM. He flew NX7713, a Sierra BLW-2, S/N 2. He carried one unidentified passenger. He noted that his airplane was owned by "Aircraft Industries."

The photograph, right, is from the Oakland Tribune, April 4, 1929. His nickname refers to his slight stature. He was 5'6.5" and weighed 125 pounds according to information on the back of his 1942 draft registration card. He was the perfect weight for a pilot, or for a long-distance runner.

His airplane was rare, being only one of two produced. It was manufactured by Aircraft Industries, Ltd., Modesto CA. Aircraft Industries was founded in 1929 and ended operations in 1930. NX7713 was named "San Francisco." It appears below from aerofiles.com.

Sierra BLW-2, NX7713, 1929 (Source: aerofiles.com)
Sierra BLW-2, NX7713, 1929 (Source: aerofiles.com)

 

 

Willingham was born September 25, 1894 in Stanford, IL, a small agricultural village southwest of Bloomington. The 1900 U.S. Census, his first, placed him at age six with his family at 825 Coates St., Moberly, MO. That address today is an abandoned two-storey home.

Willingham's father (47) was coded as a "Preacher." Living with them was his mother, Clara (39), another son,James (12) and a 16 year-old servant named Lulu Johnson. In 1910, the Census placed him at age 15 living with his parents in Hobart, OK. His father's occupation was coded as "Minister" in a "Church." His brother, James, now age 22, was a school teacher.

In 1917, with WWI in progress, he was, at age 22, registered for the draft. His draft registration card is below, from ancestry.com. At the time of his registration, he was living in Oklahoma and working at a zinc smelter. We learn that he was of medium build and height (but see his height, documented above), had blue eyes and light brown hair. He also suffered from variocoele, a condition sometimes developed during puberty.

 

G.H. Willingham, WWI Draft Registration, June 5, 1917 (Source: ancestry.com)
G.H. Willingham, WWI Draft Registration, June 5, 1917 (Source: ancestry.com)

 

Willingham Biography, 1928 (Source: Link)

 

As with many things, the details are in the fine print. If you look carefully at the diagonal printing at the lower left of this card, the text says, "If person is of African descent, tear off this corner." Some things change; some things remain the same.

He was not disabled by variocoele, because the 1920 Census placed him at age 25 living at the Fort Sill Military Reservation, OK shortly before his discharge. His occupation was coded as "Officer" in the "U.S. Army." The biographical sketch at right is current to 1928 and can be found in this REFERENCE.

Aviation Magazine, December 22, 1928 (Source: Aviation via Woodling)
Aviation Magazine, December 22, 1928 (Source: Aviation via Woodling)

 

Besides his occupation as a flight instructor as documented in the biographical sketch, he was also affiliated witht the Zenith Aircraft Corporation as secretary-treasurer. His affiliation was documented in an article that appeared in Aviation magazine, December 22, 1928, left.

"Additional Cast" in Howard Hughes' "Hell's Angels" (Source: Reference)
"Additional Cast" in Howard Hughes' "Hell's Angels" (Source: Reference)

 

The 1930 Census placed him at age 35 living in Cheyenne, WY as a "Lodger" with a family of four. He was single. His occupation then was coded as "Pilot" for the "Air Mail." Indeed, he flew contract air mail (CAM) for Boeing Air Tranport. His signed postal cachets are documented and priced online, like this one for CAM-18.

Near this time, he was in California, because he was a flyer for fellow Register pilot Howard Hughes' classic movie "Hell's Angels." From this Reference, the text at right lists the participants in flight scenes as "Additional Cast." Many of these pilots signed one or more of Delta Mike Airfield's Registers.

He was married ca. 1932 to Olette Hasle, a stewardess for Boeing Air Transport. A retrospective article featuring Mrs. Willingham appeared in the Seattle Times, May 22, 1955, below.

Seattle Times, May 22, 1955 (Source: Woodling)
Seattle Times, May 22, 1955 (Source: Woodling)

The 1940 Census placed Willingham, age 45, living at 2972 El Monte, Alameda, CA. According to Google Earth, that address today shows a sturdy, white stucco home in a well-populated neighborhood. The home could be 1940s vintage. He lived with his wife, Olette Hasle (34; d. 1971), son, George David (4; 1935-1994) and daughter, Sarah Lee (2). Sarah Lee was probably Sally in the photo above.

Willingham Biography, 1942 (Source: Link)

 

The Census stated that he and Olette lived in the same place as of April 1, 1935. This is curious, because the city directories for Cheyenne, WY, 1936 and 1937, cite them as residents of that city during those years. Regardless, his occupation was coded in Alemeda as "Pilot" on an "Airliner." His income was $4,700 per year. He worked for United Airlines in Cheyenne. Further, the Cheyenne city directory for 1942 placed him and Olette living there again.

The biographical sketch at right is current to 1942 and can be found in this REFERENCE. In 1942, like most men, Willingham was registered for the draft again during WWII. The front of his draft registration card is below.

G.H. Willingham, WWII Draft Registration, April 26, 1942 (Source: ancestry.com)
G.H. Willingham, WWII Draft Registration, April 26, 1942 (Source: ancestry.com)

 

Seattle Times, October 10, 1963 (Source: Woodling)
Seattle Times, October 10, 1963 (Source: Woodling)

 

The Seattle Times, October 18, 1943, reported that Willingham was a part of a pilot team testing Boeing B-17s. His job was to perform the primary production test flights on aircraft fresh off the assembly line. You can see a copy of the Times article by scrolling down about halfway at Peterson Field Register pilot R.P. Tucker's Web page at the link.

 

Willingham flew West during October, 1963. He flew with Transport pilot certificate T677, a relatively low number. He was in the flying game for a long time.

Seattle Times, October 17, 1963 (Source: Woodling)
Seattle Times, October 17, 1963 (Source: Woodling)

 

The circumstances surrounding his passing, however, were grim. An article in the Seattle Times, October 9, 1963 quoted his three companions as saying he became separated from the group with no food or rain gear.

The article at left from the Seattle Times, October 10, 1963, states that he went missing during a hunting trip to Yukutat, AK.

The article at right from the Seattle Times, October 17, 1963, states that the search was called off. A similar article in the Times of of October 12th corroborated that the quarry of the hunt was moose.

 

G. Willingham, Ca. 1917 (Source: Web)
Daily Sitka Sentinel (AK), November 27, 1963 (Source: newspapers.com)
Daily Sitka Sentinel (AK), November 27, 1963 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

 

At left, a memorial service was held a month after his disappearance. To my knowledge, he was never found.

The photograph at right was cropped from a group portrait of his flying class at Ft. Sill, OK ca. 1917.

While other Register pilots have gone missing without resolution, e.g. Amelia Earhart, Millard F. Harmon, adding another only increases the discomfort. Willingham signed no other Registers.

 

 

 

 

 

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