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Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Cummings, CC-821500-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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

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CHARLES MILTON CUMMINGS

ALSO A FLOYD BENNETT FIELD REGISTER PILOT
Charles Cummings, ca. 1940(?) (Source: NASM)
Charles Cummings, ca. 1940(?)  (Source: NASM)

According to information he placed in his biographical file at the Smithsonian (cited, left sidebar), Charles Cummings was born June 10, 1892 in Ohio. The 1900 U.S. Census, his first, placed him at age 7 living in Sullivan, OH with his father Lewis Q. Cummings (age 37) and his mother Mary Holbrook (39). Living with them was older sister Lois R. (10), and younger brothers John H. (6) and Arichibald B. (2). The household also included Mary's brother William F (48). Cummings' father was a farmer.

At the 1910 Census, the family was still totally together and living in the same place. Cummings at age 17 was now coded as a "Farm laborer." It appears he entered advanced schooling late, since he entered college in 1914. He attended college for three years at Wisconsin and Ohio State (1914-18). After that, he was educated in the U.S. Army. He learned to fly with the army in San Diego CA in 1918.

Surprisingly, the 1920 Census coded the family still together except for sister Lois. Cummings, age 27, was listed as a "Soldier" "Aviator." His father and uncle were "Retired Farmers." They had moved to Oberlin, OH.

Cummings was logged five times in two of our Registers. Four times in the Davis-Monthan Register and once in the Floyd Bennett Field Register. His first visit at Tucson was on Thursday, July 28, 1927 at 12:00PM. He flew an unidentified Douglas C-1 Transport with five passengers aboard. His passengers were J.A. Rogers, General Winans, Herman Robbi, Loren Parmlee and frequent Register signer Lt. Lloyd E. Hunting. Based at San Antonio, TX Kelly Field, the party arrived at Tucson from Ft. Huachuca, AZ. They remained on the ground for an hour and departed eastbound for El Paso, TX. Photograph, right, is from his NASM biographical file. This photo appeared to be a copy of a badge identification photograph (the original was 3 x 3 inches).

Harrisburg Telegraph (PA), July 16, 1935 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

His landing on Tuesday, February 19, 1929 at 2:20PM was in the Douglas O-2H 29-344. Based at Cleveland, OH, he and his single passenger, a Lt. Taylor, arrived at Tucson from San Diego, CA eastbound to El Paso.

His third landing was on Tuesday, June 25, 1929 at 4:00PM. He flew the Douglas O-2H 29-379 carrying a Mrs. Christian. Based at Cleveland, OH, they arrived at Tucson from San Diego, CA Rockwell Field. They remained overnight, departing the next morning at 7:00AM for El Paso. He noted in the remarks column of the Register, "Hot 110 degrees."

Cummings' final visit at Tucson was on Wednesday, October 16, 1929 at 11:45AM. He was solo in the Douglas O-2H 29-344. Based at Cleveland, he was westbound from El Paso. He remained on the ground for just over 2 hours before departing for San Diego, CA Rockwell Field. No purpose was cited for this or any of his other flights.

The 1930 Census placed him (37) living with his wife Vesta (28) in the greater Cleveland area at 11835 Clifton Boulevard, Lakewood City, OH. They lived in a home rented for $95 per month.Their address today is a 3-storey brick apartment building that could be 1930 vintage. His occupation was listed as "Lieutenant, Air Corps" in the "U.S. Army." Cummings had married Vesta Kelling ca. 1927.

Winnipeg Tribune (CN), January 24, 1942 (Source: newspapers.com)
Winnipeg Tribune (CN), January 24, 1942 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

Cummings also signed the Floyd Bennett Field Register once, on Monday, April 10,1933 at 11:30AM. He appeared to carry a single passenger named Savage whose initials are unreadable. Savage's signature is in the Register just below Cummings'. They flew in an unidentified Douglas aircraft owned by the army. They arrived from Washington, DC and remained on the ground for 2.5 hours before departing to an unidentified destination.

In July, 1935, left, as a captain he was flying with a General Leach when their airplane caught fire. Reports of the resulting parachute jumps and rescue appeared in newspapers across the country, including the Harrisburg Telegraph (PA)

The 1940 Census placed the couple living at Fairfield, OH. His occupation was coded as "Chief, Office of Applied Engineering" working for the "Air Corps, Wright Field." This could be the assignment he was in when he was photographed, above. His salary was coded as "over $5,000" per year. Living with them in their home were butler Eugene Thomas (29) and maid Leola Thomas (27). Eugene was paid $520 and Leola $390 per year.

With the approach of WWII, Cummings was upgraded in rank. The Salt Lake Tribune, January 11, 1941, cited him as a major being transferred to London. An information sheet found in his biographical file at the Smithsonian, completed by him May 28, 1941, identified his rank as Lt. Colonel. He was based at the American Embassy, London, England. To this point in his career, he had accumulated 7,500 flight hours. He carried pilot certificate 1707 (not specified whether a civil or military certificate). He identified his marital status as single, having divorced Vesta sometime in 1940 after the date of the Census (May 21st).

Seattle Times, December 3, 1941 (Source: Woodling)
Seattle Times, December 3, 1941 (Source: Woodling)

Cummings and Vesta are pictured in the article above from the Seattle Times, December 3, 1941. The unusual thing about this article is that it describes their mutual deaths, within 24 hours of each other, on two sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

The circumstances surrounding their deaths were suspicious at the time, owing to Cummings' duties as London air attache based in Lisbon, Portugal with Europe being at war and the U.S. on the brink of entering WWII in four more days. At some point he and Vesta had divorced before the date of this article. Note the article states, "...Cummings was [leaving Lisbon] on his way to New York for a reconciliation with his wife."

The political context around Cummings' death is hinted at in the article, right, from the Winnipeg Tribune (CN), January 24, 1942. There was the rumor that he was poisoned for some reason not divulged by the press or the government. Vesta's death was reported in the Oakland Tribune, December 3, 1941, below.

 

Oakland Tribune, December 3, 1941 (Source: newspapers.com)
Oakland Tribune, December 3, 1941 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

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Dossier 2.2.64

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 12/30/16 REVISED:

 
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I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Cummings 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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