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There is no biographical file for pilot Blessley in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.


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. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.


http://www.cafepress.com/content/global/img/spacer.gifThe Congress of Ghosts 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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.


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Rowland Blessley, Ca. 1931 (Source: Woodling)
Rowland Blessley, Ca. 1931 (Source: Woodling)

Unfortunately Rowland Blessley's flight through Tucson is not recorded in a lot of detail in the Register. He and his fellow pilots did not enter dates, destinations or information about their aircraft. From other nearby dates in the Register, we can determine he landed sometime between January 31 and February 10, 1932.

Portrait, right, is from a photocopied single-page article (PDF 817kB) from an unidentified publication that features Blessley entitled, "Freak Thrills of Uncle Sam's Sky Birds." If you download the article, you'll discover that Blessley's thrill was a parachute jump from his spinning airplane.

We do have some sources of information that confirm the reason for Blessley's passage through Tucson. On Register page 182 (q.v.), he appeared to be accompanied by seven, maybe eight, fellow pilots based at Selfridge Field, Detroit, MI. Blessley was flying a Boeing P-12-E. One companion may have been flying a Keystone B-3A. The others were probably flying Boeings in what appears to be a mass ferry of aircraft from the Boeing plant in Seattle, WA back to Selfridge Field.

Coincidentally, a similar flight, a little later in the month, was recorded in the Register by pilot George Brett and others. Please review Brett's page for examples of such ferry flights and for examples of the documentation thereof.

Likewise, the Air Corps Newsletter of January 25, 1932, below, reported Blessley's departure for the west coast ferry trip as follows. Note mention of other pilots listed with Blessley in the Register, among them Smith and Griswold in the Newsletter, and Kirby, Jesse Auton, Feldmann and Jacobs in the Register. These are short of the dozen or so pilots mentioned in the Newsletter.

Air Corps Newsletter, January 25, 1932 (Source: Web)
Air Corps Newsletter, January 25, 1932 (Source: Web)

Further yet, we have a news article from The Morning Oregonian for Tuesday, February 2, 1932 which documents the preparations and execution of the mass ferry. The photograph accompaning the difficult-to-read article is below.

The Morning Oregonian, Tuesday, February 2, 1932 (Source: Woodling)
The Morning Oregonian, Tuesday, February 2, 1932 (Source: Woodling)

The P-12-E was a handsome airplane. Pilot Wilson is not among the list of pilots accompanying Blessley in the Register, nor does he appear anywhere else in the Register.

The Morning Oregonian, Tuesday, February 2, 1932 (Source: Woodling)
The Morning Oregonian, Tuesday, February 2, 1932 (Source: Woodling)


The entire article from the Oregonian is at left. We discover that 15 airplanes were under Blessley's command; approximately 8-10 of which are referred to circumstantially in the Register.

The article states they came prepared for winter flying. Pilot "Lighthorse" Wilson was a celebrity because of his accomplishments as halfback on the Army football team. The group departed Pearson Field, Vancouver, WA at 10:40AM in five groups of three. Note in the last sentence that Register Pilot E.C. Whitehead was among the group also. Although not cited next to Blessley's signature in the Register, he did sign it elsewhere. Please direct your browser to his link for details.

Neither from these sources, nor from the Register, is it clear if any of the ferry pilots remained in Tucson overnight, or simply landed to refuel and rest and then got immediately back into the air.

In a broader sense, this logistical movement of aircraft is only one example of similar moves through Tucson performed by military pilots and recorded in the Register. The ones led by pilot Brett are linked above. Another one by Navy pilots is described in the links from Register pilot Homer Wick's biography page.

As well, civilian mass movements are typified by the 1928 National Air Races and the 1928 Edsel Ford Reliability Tour. Please direct your browser to those links to see many photographs of Register aircraft and pilots involved in those events.

Earlier, during WWI, Blessley was chosen to train with British instructors who had gained wartime experience in the air over Europe. The Air Service Journal  Sept 13, 1917 reported that he and 15 other U.S. Army pilots were assigned to the Royal Flying Corps in Canada for training. The coursework began with ground training at the University of Toronto, followed by formation, altitude and cross-country flying. These, together with bombing practice, artillery observation and air-to-air signalling completed the first phase of training. The last step was aerial gunnery, including aerial fighting. Blessley was severely wounded during WWI. I'm not sure how or where his wounds occurred.

Blessley was married February 5, 1921 to wife, Mabel Jackson. Right after their marriage they were shipped to the Canal Zone for duty. Son Rowland, Jr. was born November 28, 1922 and died February 28, 2009. The Blessleys had a daughter, Elizabeth, born May 22, 1924. Elizabeth passed away during 2011 at age 85. She was preceded in death by her brothers, Bill (aka Rowland, Jr., see below), and Jack.

Blessley progressed through the typical assignments of an Army officer of the interbellum, moving every few years to another station. As well as the Canal Zone, he was assigned to Maxwell Field, AL in 1938 to attend the Air Corps Tactical School near September 1st. He was promoted to Major while there. From Maxwell he was ordered to Hawaii according to The New York Times of September 2, 1939.

Two years later, Blessley was in Honolulu at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack and was apparently injured there. He returned to the U.S. in October, 1942 and, after recuperation, was assigned to Washington, DC then back to Hamilton Field, CA in charge of the Army Transport Command for the Pacific.

The Army Register for 1946, below, page 64, reviews Blessley's movement through the ranks. It also shows the record to-date for son Rowland, Jr. who joined him in a military career, graduating from the U.S. Military Academy in 1946.

Army Register, 1946, Page 64 (Source: Woodling)
Army Register, 1946, Page 64 (Source: Woodling)

The same year, Blessley retired with a "disability in the line of duty" on November 30, 1946. He held the rank of colonel, having been promoted just before the outbreak of WWII. He enjoyed a 30-year retirement.

Blessley, Sr. was born January 20, 1895. He died May 6, 1976.



The Register

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

Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.



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. ISBN 978-0-9843074-2-5.


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