Leslie P. Arnold, ca. February, 1924
"To be thru with the worry and the strain of it all."
-- L. Arnold September 28, 1924
Les Arnold visited Tucson at least four times, but he signed the Davis-Monthan Register only twice. His first visits, on September 21-22, and November 4-5, 1924, were not recorded in the Register, because the Register did not exist at the Airfield at that time. He was there as part of the U.S. Army World Flight team that completed their global mission westbound from Seattle back to Seattle.
At right, Arnold is seen in 1924. The black armband is in mourning for President Wilson who passed away February 3, 1924.
Four of the Douglas World Cruisers (DWC) aircraft landed at Tucson. Although not recorded in the Register, we do have images of the airplanes on the ground at Tucson on September 21-22. They are available here as part of the THE CORNELIUS BURTON COSGROVE, JR. PHOTOGRAPH AND DOCUMENT COLLECTION. Arnold was co-pilot and mechanic for the DWC-2 "Chicago" (23-1230). Take a few minutes to browse through the 45 images at the link above and you'll see some views of Arnold, his airplane and other crew members. His command pilot was Lowell Smith. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force provides a great summary of the World Flight at the link. Take some time to explore the individual reports made at the stopping points for the Flight. Arnold's report is specifically linked for the El Paso, TX to Tucson leg. By the time they reached Tucson, they had vovered 23,650 miles westbound around the Earth.
Below, Arnold stands and looks at the camera from the rear cockpit of DWC-2. Date and location unknown. The flying weather was not very good!
Lt. Leslie Arnold (standing) in DWC-2 "Chicago", 1924
Arnold's first visit recorded in the Register was on Wednesday November 4, 1925 at 5:15 PM. He stayed overnight, departing the next day at 8:15 AM. He was westbound from El Paso, TX to San Diego, CA carrying passenger W.O. Lochner. They were flying in 25-83, a deHavilland DH-4M1.
His second recorded visit was on Friday January 7, 1927 at 4:00 PM. He carried Lt. Ted Munchaf. They remained overnight in Tucson. They departed the next morning at 7:00AM in a Douglas O-1, 26-12. They were eastbound to Hartford, CT in what was termed in the Remarks column of the Register a "Ferry".
Arnold's NASM biographical file is uniquely rich with copies of information related to the World Flight. Many of the originals are stored in the locked and climate controlled Ramsey Room of the NASM Archives (specific link), only yards from where the following copies can be found and handled by the general public. You might ask, what was carried on the "Chicago?" Below is a listing, in Arnold's handwriting, of what they had on board, along with individual and total weights.
All totaled, the "Chicago" weighed roughly 5,586 pounds including a pound of malted milk, two pounds of aircraft dope and four pounds of linen. By any measure, this is sparse equipment for a journey of 28,945 miles, completed in 371h:07m, at an average speed of 78 mph (cited at aerofiles.com).
Leslie Arnold was born August 26, 1893 at New Haven, CT. He joined the Army in 1917 and served for eleven years. He showed early aptitude for flying and was assigned to an early class at the Military School of Aeronautics at Princeton University, where he received his ground instruction. WWI was underway and he was shipped to France where he completed his flight training in aerobatics and advanced flying.
He was among the first pilots to experiment with aircraft attack weapons, aerial photography, crop dusting and dropping smoke screen bombs. In 1921 he was a member of Gen. Billy Mitchell's group that conducted tests off the Virginia Capes to prove that battleships could be sunk by aerial bombardment (Register pilot Clarence E. “Dutch” Shankle was also a member of the group).
Priscilla Dean, Ca. 1920s (Source: Web)
Concurrently he was assigned for special training in Air Service photography. He graduated that school in 1922. Soon after he was chosen for the World Flight training at Langley Field, VA. He had accumulated about 1,500 flight hours, of which 800 were cross-country flights. This made him eminently qualified for the World Flight, and he flew many miles as pilot of the "Chicago."
He married actress Priscilla Dean (November 25, 1896 – December 27, 1987), right, ca. October 7, 1928. A short article in the Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette of October 8th, courtesy of site visitor Mr. Zalusky, summarized their Mexico wedding as follows, left.
Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, October 8, 1928 (Source: Zalusky)
"Four years ago Pricilla Dean, film actress, was 'mascot' for the around-the-world fliers. Lieutenant Leslie P. Arnold was pilot of one of the planes that completed the circuit of the globe. Yesterday Miss Dean and Lieutenant Arnold were married at Agua Caliente, Mexico, where they made the trip by air."
Two more photos of Ms. Dean can be found on dmairfield.org here. Period studio photo postcards of her are here.
After military service, Arnold, in 1928, became assistant to the president of TAT-Maddux Air Lines, which became TWA. In 1936 he became vice president of Pennsylvania Central Airlines, which became Capital Airlines. He joined Eastern Airlines in 1940, becoming assistant to Eddie Rickenbacker who was then president of the company.
During WWII, Arnold reenlisted as a colonel and organized the 39th Air Freight Wing and later became commander of the Ferry and Transport Services in Europe. He returned to Eastern after the war and was elected vice president in 1946. He died March 21, 1961. Priscilla would outlive him by a quarter century.
You also might ask what were the places visited by DWC-2, "Chicago", as it made its way around the world with the others? The answer, from three contiguous pages of Arnold's diary, is below, with dates and flight times neatly annotated. The official start date was April 6, 1924.
On this third page you can see where Tucson (or Tuscon as Arnold spelled it!) was visited on September 21-22. Note that a new motor was installed there. The images from the Cosgrove Collection linked above show the DWC aircraft at Tucson on those days.
It is interesting to note above that they finished their voyage in Seattle, as planned, on September 28th. Arnold notes it took them 371 hours and 11 minutes, which differs by four minutes from, say, the 371 hours 7 minutes cited at aerofiles.com or by eight hours from the 26,445 miles in 363 hours 7 minutes cited in this book. This is a discrepancy which, at this late date, makes little difference: many people have flown around the world more quickly since 1924. There was only one "first time", however.
Regardless, after reaching Seattle, Arnold's record for the "Chicago" shows they flew around on the west coast until November when they headed east again. They passed through Tucson a second time on November 4-5 on their way to Dayton, OH. A new engine was installed again, it appears, at Tucson.
Arnold maintained a prose diary of his flight with the "Chicago." Below are three pages from it. The first page captures the first day's flight from Seattle (on pontoons) to Prince Rupert Island in 8 hours 10 minutes. The second page documents their approach to Washington, DC on the way back, and their meeting with President Coolidge. The third page documents Sunday, September 28, 1924 as they returned to Seattle, WA.
Arnold's dark pilot humor shows on the first page as he describes the 40-foot waves on the Pacific soon after departure. "Great sport" he says, "to watch them dash against the shore -- greater yet to imagine a forced landing." They landed at Prince Rupert at 4:55PM in a blinding snow storm. DWC-1, "Seattle", broke the outside left struts upon landing. Arnold's final synopsis in the lower right-hand corner: "Hell of a day."
The second page covering September 9, 1924 describes every pilot's nemesis, head wind. Upon (delayed) arrival at Bolling Field in Washington, DC at 4:55PM the crews were complimented to discover that President Coolidge and his entire Cabinet had been waiting in the rain since 11AM. This was in marked contrast to Coolidge's response to the flyers before they had left in April. He had said to General Patrick at a photo op, "Who are these men?"
His final entry in Arnold's diary on Sunday September 28th is, "The best part of the whole trip -- the finish, to have it all over with, to be thru with the worry and the strain of it all."
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 02/09/08 REVISED: 01/08/09, 07/02/10, 10/09/12, 05/20/14