By Ms. Esther Garcia (IMCOM)March 6, 2009
(FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas) -- At approximately 11 a.m. March 2, under clear blue skies, a vintage Stearman PT-17 and a Fairchild PTY-26 flew over the grounds of Fort Sam Houston commemorating the 99th anniversary of the first military flight made by then 1st Lt. Benjamin Foulois.
Sponsored by the Stinsons Flight No. 2, Order of Daedalians and the Jack Dibrell/Alamo Chapter, Army Aviation Association of America, the ceremony was held at the Foulois marker located at the post flagpole.
Near this spot on March 2, 1910, Foulois, Signal Corps, U.S. Army, began the series of flights that demonstrated the value of the airplane as a military weapon. This was the first military flight in Texas. Foulois started the flight at 9:30 a.m., and ended at 9:37 a.m. attaining the height of 200 feet and circling the area at a speed of 30 miles per hour. This was the first flight in the first government owned airplane by the first military trained pilot.
A static display of helicopters that included a Chinook (CH-47), courtesy of III Corps, Fort Hood, the Apache (AH-64), provided by the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, Texas National Guard and a Kiowa (OH-58), courtesy of Alan Bloxsom, Fort Apache Power, Bulverde, Texas, provided the perfect background for the ceremony.
The guest speaker, Keith Ferris, aviation artist, unveiled his painting, "Gallant Beginning," which is a depiction of the first military flight by Foulois here at Fort Sam Houston.
Ferris, the son of a career Air Force Officer, grew up with military aviation.
Ferris has flown more than 300 hours in jet fighter aircraft and has flown in most all jet aircraft types in the Air Force inventory while documenting the Air Force mission with art. He deployed across the Pacific, to South East Asia as a civilian back-seater with the first squadron of F-4E Phantoms in 1968 where he participated in missions of the F-4E, the F-105F and the B-52D. He spent a total of eight weeks over a 25-year period flying with the USAF Fighter Weapons Schools experiencing the employment of aircraft ranging from the F-100 to the F-15 and F-16. He holds five United States patents for deceptive aircraft paint systems. He has 60 major paintings in the Air Force Art Collection.
His art has served the advertising, editorial, public relations, and historical documentation needs of the aerospace industry, publications, the military services and air and space museums for 62 years. Ferris created the 25 foot high by 75-foot wide mural in oil "Fortresses under Fire" in the World War II Gallery of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and the 20-foot by 75-foot Evolution of Jet Aviation mural in the museum's Jet Aviation Gallery.
In his remarks, Ferris recounted Foulois' history making in military aviation and recalled his experience when painting "Gallant Beginning."
Using old photographs of the post from the early 1900's to 1910 and sight maps from 1922, Ferris was able to place in his painting where buildings were located at that time.
The painting, "Gallant Beginning" was commissioned in 1975 by the National Bank of Fort Sam Houston, now called the Bank of America. It still hangs there and is in "good hands" said Ferris.
Following remarks, Ferris, Lt. Col. Daniel Clark, president, U.S. Army North, and president, Dibrell/Alamo Chapter, Army Aviation Association of America, and retired Air Force Col. Frederick A. Pillet, master of ceremonies, placed a wreath in the shape of a propeller in front of the Foulois marker in honor of the 99th Anniversary of the first military flight.
Cora Wilkerson, with Watts Elementary School, Cibolo, Texas, sang the "National Anthem" and "High Flight."
The U. S. Army Medical Command Band, led by Chief Warrant Officer One Jeffrey Price, executive officer for the band, provided patriotic music.
Army pilots from World War I founded the Order of the Daedalians in 1934. It remains a fraternity of military aviators from all services who promise to place nation above self and to be worthy of the trust and confidence of fellow members. It supports programs to improve flight safety and aeronautical careers. There are sixty-five flights and more than 14,000 pilots in the order. Its national headquarters is at Randolph Air Force, Texas.
Stinson Flight No. 2 is the largest flight in the order of the Daedalians with more than 450 members. It has hosted the Foulois ceremony every year since 1978.
The Army Aviation Association of America was founded in 1957 to bring together all individuals and corporations engaged in the Army Aviation community. Its purpose is to support Aviation Soldier and Family. The association achieves it array of scholarships and awards programs, and supports lifelong recognition of aviation professionals through the Army Aviation Museum and Army Aviation Hall of Fame.
The Jack Dibrell, Alamo Chapter of AAAA is named for Col. Jack Dibrell, master army aviator, killed in 1977. At the time of his death, Dibrell was responsible for training and readiness of all Army Reserve and National Guard Aviation units throughout the thirteen states then covered by Fifth Army.
In 1910, Benjamin D. Foulois was sent to Texas with a Wright Pusher to establish the embryo of what developed into the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was ordered to teach himself to fly with the assistance from the Wright Brothers, whom he communicated with by correspondence. From this rather dubious beginning, the Army Air Corps grew into a mighty weapon. In a career that spanned six decades, Foulois designed the first airplane radio receiver, scouted Pancho Villa's rebels from an open-cockpit Curtis JN3 and demonstrated that the airplane was no longer an experiment or novelty, but a practical tool with many use military applications.
Arriving at Fort Sam Houston in February 1910, Foulois and his detachment of seven enlisted men and one civilian built a temporary wooden hangar at one end of the mounted drill ground with materials furnished by the post quarter master. The detachment was billeted in the hangar. For rations, the enlisted men ate with the troops of the 3rd Cavalry until that unit departed they then messed with the 22nd Infantry. This change doubled the distance that they had to walk to and from meals to more than a mile, and it seriously interfered with Foulois' flying program. Here the cumbersome nature of the Army logistical system became apparent. When Foulois submitted a formal request that the men be authorized 75 cents per day to spend for meals at civilian homes located close to the detachment, the request had to go all the way to the Secretary of War for approval, collecting as it traveled up and down the chain of command, a total of nineteen endorsements.
Foulois participated in the Billy Mitchell affair, met with Herman Goering in post-World War I Berlin for purposes of espionage, and made close friends of Douglas MacArthur and Curtis LeMay. Foulois championed enlightened government policy of total air and space preparedness. He was an authentic American hero.
An event that took place later in his life typifies the characteristics that endeared Foulois to flyers and to the public, but not always to his civilian and military superiors. President Lyndon Johnson, who was running against Senator Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential campaign, was persuaded that a special medal should be struck for the eighty-five-year old warrior.
President Johnson held a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, complete with distinguished guests, speeches honoring Foulois, and presentation of the medal. Foulois responded with a few remarks on the state of the nation and the world, then pointing to the paneled entrance said: "I hope to see President Barry Goldwater walk through that door next year." There were no late departures from the ceremony.
Foulois served as the Chief of the Air Service in 1931. He retired in 1935 as a Major General and in 1963 became the sixth person named to the Aviation Hall of Fame. Foulois Road and Foulois House are named in his honor
(Source: Fort Sam Houston Museum website)