Charles Ironmonger was born August 18, 1899. He landed once at Tucson, Monday, August 19, 1929. He flew the Boeing F2B identified as A-7428.Based at San Diego, CA aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga, he arrived amidst nineteen other naval aviators, each signed into the Register on the middle third of page 112. Other than the first six, including Ironmonger, who signed their own names, the rest were entered by an unknown hand all at once. Please direct your browser to the link and review page 112. There you'll see that signers Chourre through Wick comprise the group of twenty. They all remained overnight at Tucson, departing the morning of the 20th for El Paso, TX.
Below, courtesy of site visitor Jeffrey Welsh, in the foreground, is an image of A-7428 as it sat when the group landed at Kansas City, MO.
Boeing F2B, A-7428, Foreground, Ca. August 21, 1928 (Source: Welsh)
New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 31, 1929 (Source: Woodling)
What were twenty U.S. Navy pilots doing all at once at Tucson? They were on a grand cross-country flight headed from San Diego to Cleveland, OH and back to participate in the National Air Races (NAR) held August 24th-September 2nd at Cleveland that year. Lt. Cdr. Homer Wick was commanding officer of Squadron No. 1 based on the Saratoga.
Wick brought his entire squadron through Tucson on behalf of the NAR. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Navy ordered numerous activities by its personnel, ships and airplanes to build confidence in the naval force among the U.S. citizenry, to provide real-life training for personnel, as well as to encourage recruitment. Please direct your browser to Wick's page to see a tabulation of all the men in his squadron.
Ironmonger's job in the group was to participate in event No. 21 of the NAR, the Navy Pursuit Race. It took place on August 30th and covered 100 miles in ten, 10-mile laps. According to the Aircraft Yearbook for 1930, sixteen navy pilots competed. Ironmonger placed second with an average speed of 126.97MPH, about a half mile per hour behind the first place finisher, M.E. Arnold. Ironmonger and his navy colleagues are mentioned briefly in the fourth paragraph of the article at left from the New Orleans Times-Picayune of Thursday, August 31, 1929.
Besides the navy pilots, Register pilots Ivan M. Palmer, Charles Lindbergh and Lady Mary Heath are also mentioned in this article. Note that Lindbergh flew with the navy aerobatic team known as the "Nine High Hats," part of the group that passed through Tucson with Ironmonger.
The following genealogical information is puzzling, because it mentions nothing about the Navy or flying, and has Ironmonger identified as a U.S. Deputy Marshal as of early 1924. Does anyone KNOW about his Marshal duties?
Genealogical Information, Date Unknown (Source: Woodling)
Ironmonger entered naval aviation by a non-standard route (see Heiser book, left sidebar). While most of his fellow officers that passed through Tucson with him entered via the U.S. Naval Academy, he received his training through special programs set up by the Navy at local universities (below). The reason for this is that the ten squadrons and 31 divisions of the Naval Aviation Reserve remained undercomplemented, with the number of personnel as of May 1, 1928 totaling 641. Students completing the training were examined for commissions as ensigns.
Activities of Naval Reserve Aviation during the year were increased to a considerable extent. Ground school courses for prospective Naval Reserve Student Aviators were sponsored by universities thoughout the country. MIT, NYU, Temple, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, and the Universities of Michigan, Minnesota and Washington State, Seattle were among them.
Qualified students at these universities, together with a number of specially selected candidates with the proper qualifications were eligible for primary flight training during the spring. This training consisted of approximately 50 hours of flight time during 45 days of active duty. These Naval Reserve student aviators were enrolled as seamen, second class, given a uniform allowance and the pay and rating plus an additional 50 percent flight pay.
He received ground training (not sure which university, or if he was a candidate "with the proper qualifications") and then flight training at Pensacola, FL, according to the following information summarized from the BuAer Report for FY 1928.
Mr. Woodling (cited, right sidebar) states, "My best guess is that he did not qualify for the ground school training at the universities listed, but was a 'specially selected candidate with the proper qualifications.' I'm guessing that he received those qualifications from his first cousin, James Willard Ironmonger, who flew for the RAF during WW1, came home to the US and formed a barnstorming company named "A.E.F. Flying Corporation." The company was based in Norfolk but did flight demos in the Southeast. I think Ironmonger must have learned how to fly from his first cousin and parlayed that knowledge into an invite to the Navy Reserve training program."
As soon after completion of this primary training as practicable, students were sent to NAS Pensacola. instead of Hampton Roads or San Diego for advanced flight training. This training had been increased from 45 to 60 days, allowing student. to acquire 100hours of flight time in this phase of their training. Upon completion of the advanced training at Pensacola, if examinations were completed successfully, the newly commissioned ensigns were only eligible for an additional year of active duty with Fleet squadrons.
Ironmonger finished 17th in efficiency standings for FY1928, initially based at Norfolk, VA, then was assigned to the Saratoga at San Diego. As an indication of how very little flight experience he had when we saw him at Tucson, Reserve classes at Pensacola convened on February 15, April 1, July 15, and September 15, and consisted of 25 students each. The earliest he could have begun his training might have been July, 1928 (after the BuAer Report that May), giving him about a year of total experience before flying to Cleveland with Wick and company. Given his second place finish at Cleveland (cited above), he must have had an unusual aptitude for flight.
Ironmonger died in January 15, 1969 at at age 69 in Richmond City, VA. His grave marker makes no mention of his Navy service. He has no Web presence that I could find, and I have no other biographical information about him, or his military career after 1929. If you have any information, please let me KNOW.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 02/07/12 REVISED: 02/22/12