Charles Danforth was probably one of the older military aviators to sign our Register. He was born in February 5, 1876. He attended the Bliss School of Electricity in Washington, DC for three years. He enlisted in the 4th U.S. Infantry in on June 16, 1898. He fought in the Spanish American war as an enlisted man (1st Sgt. and Sgt. Major). He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on January 9, 1903, to Captain June 6, 1911, and to Major August 8, 1917. He married Adelaide White on January 1, 1910. They had no children.
On January 21, 1918 he was detailed to the Aviation Section, Signal Corps with the rank of Lt. Colonel and assigned to duty at Kelly Field, San Antonio, TX where he served as executive officer of the field. At the link you'll find a PDF download about the history of Kelly Field.
During 1920-21 he trained and graduated from the primary and advanced flying schools at Carlstrom Field, Arcadia, FL and Kelly Field. In July, 1921 he qualified as an Army aviator when he was in his forties. An interesting find in his NASM biographical file (top, left sidebar) is the following photograph of him and fellow students.
Danforth & "Crew," Carlstrom Field (?), Ca. 1920 (?) (Source: NASM)
The NASM description of this photograph is as follows:
""THE HARDEST WORKING CREW IN THE WORLD'
Left to right Capt. W.F. Donnelly (sitting)
Capt. J.A. Summersett (sitting)
Capt. W.B. Wynn (standing) formerly Lt. Col.
Lt. Col. C.M. Danforth (sitting) formerly Colonel
Lt. Col. A.S. Perkins (standing) formerly Colonel
Lt. Col. P.W. Beck (standing) formerly Colonel
The machine shown is one that came from the salvage pile for a complete overhaul. The students shown with the aid of the enlisted instructor completely rebuilt the ship."
There is no better way of learning a machine than by disassembling and reassembling it. This level of mechanical training was part of the curriculum for Army pilots of the era.
After he gained his wings, he went through a flurry of assignments in short order. He commanded Langley Field from 1921 to 1924, was Air Officer, 4th Corps Area, Atlanta, GA until 1928, commanded Selfridge Field, Mt. Clemens, MI to 1930, and was appointed Brigadier General (a temporary rank he held for four years) July 1, 1930 and assigned command of the Air Corps Training Center, San Antonio.
Danforth signed the Register twice during 1931, which would have made him 55 years old. His first visit at Tucson was Saturday, January 24, 1931 at 11:15AM. He carried as passenger Lt. P.W. Douglas, Jr. They flew in the Douglas BT-2B they identified as 31-10. Based at San Antonio, TX, they were northwest bound from El Paso, TX to Phoenix, AZ. He was flying in support of his duties at San Antonio.
His second landing was six months later on Tuesday, June 16, 1931 at 3:15PM. Based again at San Antonio, he flew the same airplane with the same passenger. This time they were eastbound from Yuma, AZ to back to San Antonio. Shown below is a photograph of Danforth (on the right) from The Charlotte County (FL) History Collections Online (CCHC) at the link. Although undated, it was taken sometime in 1920-21 (see below).
Charles Danforth (R) With Jack Wills & "Major von Hagen," Date Unknown (Source: CCHC via Woodling)
Von Hagen was a major in the German Army. He appears in the Register as a passenger on a ferry flight with pilot Ralph A. Snavely on Thursday, August 16, 1928. The description for the photo, from the link above, is:
"This undated photo shows three men posed by an airplane. Left to right: Jack Wills of Detroit, 'Major von Hagen,' (identified as a WWI German flying ace) and Col. Charles H. Danforth. Danforth was a lieutenant colonel with the Army Air Service in 1920, when he was sent to Carlstrom Field in Arcadia to train as a pilot. During that tour, Danforth noticed a geographic landmark in the Peace River, known locally as Shell Point. After retiring in 1936, Danforth returned to the area and bought the property, building a large home patterned after the Officers' Club at Panama. He called it Shell Point Ranch. Danforth sold the ranch in 1953. It was resold in 1955 to developers who dug canals, converted Danforth's home into a clubhouse, built an Olympic-sized pool and began selling lots. The subdivision is now known as Harbor Heights and Danforth's Shell Point Ranch home (a.k.a. the Harbor Heights clubhouse) is now a Charlotte County park facility. The pool was later filled in and replaced with tennis courts."
In a photograph dated about six months after his last visit at Tucson, below, we see at Randolph Field, TX the private airplane of then Brigadier General Danforth. The photograph is part of the University of North Texas Portal to Texas History (UNT) at the link. It is dated January 10, 1932. Note the single star of the Brigadier on the vertical stabilizer.
General Danforth's Boeing P-12E, January 10, 1932 (Source: US Army via UNT via Woodling)
The photograph below shows the ship formation gathered for Danforth's 1934 departure from Randolph Field, TX. This photograph is also part of the UNT Collection at the link.
Danforth Departs Randolph Field, TX, June 7, 1934 (Source: US Army via UNT & Woodling)
If you look carefully at the original photograph linked above, you'll be able to see spelled out on the fuselages of the airplanes, "GOOD BYE GEN DANNY GOOD LUCK."
At the end of 1934, he reverted to his permanent rank of Colonel and for the next two years commanded Langley Field, VA. Danforth retired March 31,1936 at age 60. He retired to his Punta Gorda, FL home, Shell Point Ranch, cited in the photo caption above. He practiced his hobbies of archaeology and dog breeding. He passed away September 23, 1958 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Other than his sparse dossier at the Smithsonian (see top of the left sidebar), I don't have a lot of information about pilot Danforth or photographs. If you can help fill in the blanks, please let me KNOW.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 01/21/14 REVISED: 01/24/14