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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Hale, CH-034500-01, -20, -40, reviewed by me 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.


"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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Willis Hale landed once at Tucson, Monday, July 25, 1932. He was solo in the Douglas O-38-B, 31-412. Based at San Diego, CA (probably Rockwell Field), he was westbound from Norfolk, VA (Langley Field) to San Diego. He recorded in the Register no purpose for his flight. The image below, courtesy of Hale's grandson, cited, right sidebar. The photo caption reads “Major Willis Hale, US Army, is seen in the Chief of Air Corps Office in Washington DC on Jan 25th, after he had brought the “Flying Wing” Boeing bomber from Dayton, O(Ohio), where it was tested and accepted by the Army.  The new plane, said to be the deadliest machine in aerial warfare, is capable of a speed of 190 miles an hour, carrying a ton of bombs and four of a crew.  The motors of the new plane are placed in the wings.  [credit 1/26/32]”  The plane was the Boeing YB-9.

Willis H. Hale, 1932 (Source: Nelson)
Willis H. Hale, 1932 (Source: Nelson)

An excellent, scholarly biography of pilot Hale provided by Mr. Nelson is at the link (PDF 15MB, 70 pages). His biography is balanced and much more detailed than I could derive from the NASM information. Nelson's heavily-footnoted biography includes early photographs of Hale, as well as photos of his assigned stations (Philippines, Brooks Field, TX, etc.) and aircraft, news articles, and mention of other Register pilots such as Elmer Adler, Hap Arnold, Carl Spatz, Hugh Elmendorf and others. Author Nelson cites on page 18 of the biography Hale's landing at Tucson. Hale is pictured very briefly during the 1930 NAR in a motion picture film available at the link. Look about 55 seconds into the film.

From the contents of his NASM file (cited, left sidebar), comes this biographical summary. Hale was born January 7, 1893 in Kansas and was a graduate of the Kansas State Normal School (a teacher's college). From June 26, 1913 to March 23, 1917 he was a lieutenant in the Philippine Constabulary. He served in the Philippines, China, England and France, affiliated with the 8th and 15th Infantry and with the 84th and 26th Divisions. He graduated from the 84th Division Signal School in 1918, and in the same year was an honor graduate of the Infantry School of Arms.

Willis H. Hale, March, 1944 (Source: NASM)
Willis H. Hale, March, 1944 (Source: NASM)

Hale moved through the ranks, from 1st Lieutenant (March 20, 1917), Captain (November 5, 1917), Major (December 1, 1929) and Lt. Colonel (temporary, March 2, 1935). He received a lot of schooling from the military, and held many executive positions through the years.

In 1920, he was graduated from the Army Signal School at Fort Leavenworth, KS, and prior to being assigned to the Air Corps for flying training, he was on duty as Assistant Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Yale University, in charge of the Signal Corps R.O.T.C. On July 1, 1922, he reported for duty as a student at the Primary Flying School, Brooks Field, TX.

Captain Hale completed the course of instruction on May 26, 1923, and transferred to the Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, TX from which he graduated on December 21, 1923. He was rated "Airplane Pilot" and "Airplane Observer" effective January 18, 1924.

Willis H. Hale, Date Unknown (Source: Nelson)
Willis H. Hale, Date Unknown (Source: Nelson)

He transferred to Langley Field, VA and served as Commanding Officer of the 20th Bombardment group until September 1, 1927. He performed various duties related to maneuvers and anti-aircraft tests.

Next, he became a student again at the Air Corps Tactical School at Langley Field. He graduated in June, 1928 and transferred to Washington, DC in the Inspection Division of the Office of the Chief of the AIr Corps. Later, he served on the Procurement Board. From March 20-April 30, 1930, he participated in the Air Corps Field Exercises at Mather Field, CA.

From Hale's NASM biographical file (cited, left sidebar), the Washington Daily News of February 27, 1932 carried an account of a forced landing made by Hale. The cowling of one engine came loose on a Boeing bomber he was flying on a demonstration tour around the country. He opted to land in an open field. His choices were limited, because some children had run in from the left to watch him land. Rather than ground loop into them, he chose to roll straight across the field, across a dirt road and into the next field. He noted a Ford automobile approaching on the road to the right.

The Ford did not stop and rolled under the right wing of Hale's airplane just as he crossed the road. When he stopped, he rushed back to find the Ford and its driver unharmed. The News states,

"... The Ford was sitting in the road undamaged. The man who had been in it, also undamaged, came running toward Hale.

"'Are you the driver of that thing,' he shouted, pointing to the plane. He said driver, not pilot. Hale said yes he was the driver.

"'Well,' said the man, in a voice of finality as he shook his finger in Hale's face, 'don't you ever do anything like that to me again!'

"Maj. Hale, wanting very much to laugh, assured the man that he had no intention of ever doing it again, and walked back to his plane."

Shortly, in August, 1932, he was assigned as a student at the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, KS, the month after he visited Tucson. He graduated the two-year course on June 16, 1934, following which he was again assigned to Langley Field where he served as Commanding Officer of the 2nd Bombardment Group. He was assigned as a student at the Army War College, Washington, DC from which he graduated in June, 1937.

When WWII began, Hale was thus an educated, experienced and valuable asset to the Air Corps. He was promoted to Brigadier General January 15, 1942 and assigned to the 7th Air Force in the Hawaiian area. The New York Times of June 24, 1942 announced his promotion to Major General and his assignment as commanding general of the 7th Air Force. This move took place after the disappearance of its past commander, fellow Register signer and Major General Clarence L. Tinker. Tinker was killed in action during a bombing raid on Japanese ships near Midway on June 7, 1942. Tinker became the first American general to die in WWII.

L-R, Delos Emmons, J. Lawton Collins and Willis Hale, After Hale and Collins Received Distinguished Service Medal in 1942. (Source: Nelson)
L-R Delos Emmons, J Lawton Collins and Willis Hale, after Hale and Collins received DSM in 1942. (Source: Nelson)

The New York Times of July 1, 1942 headlined "AIR LEADER WARNS OF 'LONG, HARD, JOB.'" Willis, then commander of U.S. Army Air Forces in the mid-Pacific, characterized the Japanese as, "...not a pushover." In his first statement since the battle of Midway and taking over Tinker's job, Hale stated, "Our real punches will tell their own story as our Army-Navy team delivers them. ... The Japanese at least must be trying to figure what is coming next." His mention of the "Army-Navy team" is revealing. In his biography linked above, there is mention that he endeavored to capture most of the credit for the success at Midway for Army air power.

At right, Hale and others in 1942. This photo, with descriptive text, is on page 37 of Hale's linked biography.

According to contributor Nelson, "Willis retired in 1952 after radical cancer surgery and moved to a beautiful hillside home above Sonoma CA.  He was active in San Francisco in the Bohemian Grove [an alleged elitist/occult secret society, a subject beyond the interests and bounds of this Web site].  He died in 1961, by choking on a sleeping pill which lodged in scar tissue from the surgery.  His wife, Frances Whiting, died in 1968."

Below, another image of Hale. Contributor Nelson describes the scene, "... Willis with Adm Nimitz and Gen Richardson apparently just after Willis was awarded the DSM and Air Medal, given that they are pinned to his uniform with his ribbons."

Willis Hale (C), Nimitz (L), 1942 (Source: Nelson)
Willis Hale (C), Nimitz (L), 1942 (Source: Nelson)


Dossier 2.2.95

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 05/21/10 REVISED: 09/30/10, 09/12/16

The Register
I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Hale and his airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me.

Thanks to pilot Hale's grandson, David Nelson, for sharing photographs and biographical information.


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 a 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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