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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.

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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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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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WILLIAM HYDE McMULLEN

The Evening Tribune of Albert Lea, MN reported that William McMullen was born May, 1909 at Grand Rapids, MI. He entered military service in 1928 and was in the U.S. Naval Reserve on active duty. He died February 25, 1930, age 21 years, 8 months and 27 days. Details of his life and death are below. This classic mother-son portrait is from his family's album, ca. 1910.

William Hyde McMullen & Ruth A. McMullen, Ca. 1910 (Source: Barnes)
William Hyde McMullen & Ruth McMullen, Ca. 1910 (Source: Barnes)

Below, the written annotation on the back of the photograph above.

William Hyde McMullen & Ruth McMullen, Ca. 1910, Caption (Source: Barnes)
William Hyde McMullen & Ruth McMullen, Ca. 1910, Caption (Source: Barnes)

Below, a portrait of McMullen at age 18.

William Hyde McMullen, Age 18 (Source: Barnes)
William Hyde McMullen, Age 18 (Source: Barnes)

The caption penciled on the back of the photograph.

William Hyde McMullen, Age 18, Caption (Source: Barnes)
William Hyde McMullen, Age 18, Caption (Source: Barnes)

McMullen landed once at Tucson, Monday, August 19, 1929. He flew an unidentified Boeing F2B. 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 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.

W.H. McMullen, August, 1929 (Source: Barnes)
W.H. McMullen, August, 1029 (Source: Barnes)

 

McMullen was an astute photographer and took hundreds of black & white pictures during his brief service with the Navy. These are available for you to view on this Web site at the William Hyde McMullen Naval Aviation Photograph Collection. Please direct your browser to his Collection to enjoy a broad and candid view of U.S. Naval Aviation during the late 1920s.

To continue, what were twenty Navy pilots doing at Tucson all at once? 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.

Caption, Back of Portrait, August, 1929 (Source: Barnes)
Caption, Back of Portrait, August, 1929 (Source: Barnes)

 

McMullen''s job at the NAR was to participate with the aerobatic team named the "Nine High Hats." In the portrait above, courtesy of William Barnes (cited, right sidebar;see additional images below), McMullen wears an A-2 jacket with a high hats squadron logo on the left breast. His helmet was red leather (see the Wick link). The annotation on the back of the portrait, made by McMullen's sister-in-law, is at left.

Below, McMullen is circled and shown with the rest of his section (the two officers immediately in front and to his left) and the entire 9-man team just three days before he landed at Tucson. He also participated 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. McMullen placed sixth with an average speed of 125.07MPH. Please direct your browser to Wick's page to see a tabulation and identification of all the men in his squadron.

The "Nine High Hats," August 16, 1929 (Source: NHH via Woodling)
The "Nine High Hats," August 16, 1929 (Source: NHH via Woodling)

McMullen was commissioned on November 24, 1926. His Naval Aviator number was 4451. I have no information around how he learned to fly and joined the precision High Hats in so short a period. If anyone knows how he did this, please let me KNOW.

Soon after his participation in the 1929 NAR, McMullen was posted to Panama, Canal Zone. There we find the reason for his death. Based on the Saratoga, he and his squadron mates "attacked" sister carrier, U.S.S. Lexington. Below, left, from the Springfield (MA) Republican of March 6, 1930, is notice of the accident that caused him his life.

From the sounds of the last seconds of this accident, the G-forces or flying debris probably rendered him unconscious and unable to close the throttle or abandon the aircraft and use his parachute. A search for his body was unsuccessful.

Below is a view of his memorial marker at the Oakhill Cemetery in Grand Rapids, MI. I have modified the brightness and contrast of this image so that the text in the deep shadow is more readable. He remains "lost February 25, 1930 in the South Pacific."

W.H. McMullen Grave Marker (Source: Web)
W.H. McMullen Grave Marker (Source: Web)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grave marker was photographed by site visitor Richard Howell.

About a year after his death, McMullen had an airport named after him in Michigan, according to the following news article, left.

Ludington Daily News, Ludington, Michigan, Friday, May 2, 1930

GAYLORD—Five naval reserve
planes from Detroit and three
from the U. S. S. Saratoga will
be flown here tomorrow afternoon
for the dedication of the
new naval reserve airport here.
The port is on Lake Tecon and
is to be named McMullen airport
in honor of William H. Mc-
Mullen, Detroit naval officer,
who was killed during maneuvers
in the Caribbean last winter.

A quick Google search shows no McMullen airport in Michigan today. There are McMullen airports in Texas and Kansas, however. Below is a Google Earth view of Lake Tecon taken during 2012. There is no sign of an airfield there, unless the shaded area at the lower left, paralleling Tower Road, is the remnants of a runway. Does anyone KNOW the location of the cited Naval Reserve airport?

Airport Memorial to Pilot

Grayling, Mich. — (AP)— Grayling air
field has been re-named in honor of
Ensign William H. McMullen; naval
reserve aviator, who was killed during
active duty with a fighting squadron.

He had another airport named after him at Grayling, MI. At right, the Sioux City Journal, Sioux City, IA, Thursday, July 17, 1930, describes the renaming. While this airport is still in operation, it is designated an Army airfield and is no longer identified with McMullen's name or the Navy.

Lake Tecon, 2012 (Source: Google Earth)
Lake Tecon, 2012 (Source: Google Earth)

 

In Memoriam William McMullen, '29

Word has been received of the tragic death of Ensign William McMullen, '29, who was killed on February 25, when his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Panama. "Bill" left the University at the end of his junior year, after completing the ground course in aviation offered by the University, enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve, and was assigned to the naval base at San Diego. He had previously spent summers at the Great Lakes Training School and at Hampton Roads, studying aviation.

Last summer he attracted nation-wide attention when he flew with Colonel Lindbergh at the National Air Races held in Cleveland. "Bill" was a member of the crack air squadron of the navy, the "High Hats," officially known as the fighting squadron VF1B.

A short time ago Ensign McMulIen was cited for bravery as the result of risking his life to prevent possible injury to a woman and child who were standing on the beach near San Diego. His motor had stalled, and he was gliding toward the beach, the only safe place to land, when he saw that it was occupied, and rather than risk an accident which might kill or injure them, he swerved and made a dangerous landing in the water.

At the time of his death McMulIen was attached to the airplane carrier, S. S. Saratoga, but had planned to abandon the navy and return to Michigan to enter the Law School next fall.

Below is a period photograph of McMullen's childhood home. Contributor Barnes says about this photo, "The house in Grand Rapids, MI shown below is still there.  I found it on Google Maps."

William Hyde McMullen Childhood Home, Date Unknown (Source: Barnes)
William Hyde McMullen Childhood Home, Date Unknown (Source: Barnes)

Below, the caption penciled on the back of this photograph.

William Hyde McMullen Childhood Home, Caption (Source: Barnes)
William Hyde McMullen Childhood Home, Caption (Source: Barnes)

Likewise, the Perfect Pictures Shop address is still viewable with Street View in Google Earth. It appears to be a neat private home today on a vintage, brick-paved street.

Finally, below, a portrait of McMullen, probably checking last-minute cockpit details. Note the gunsight in front of him.

W. H. McMullen, Ca. 1928-30 (Source: Barnes)
W. H. McMullen, Ca. 1928-30 (Source: Barnes)

Although these photographs do not shed light on how he joined the Navy and learned to fly and rise to the High Hats in such a short time, they, and the 200+ images in his William Hyde McMullen Naval Aviation Photograph Collection, provide a great window into the day-to-day life of Golden Age Navy pilots. They add priceless perspective to their cross-country flight through Tucson.

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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 02/10/12 REVISED: 04/29/12

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

Thanks to site visitor William Barnes for sharing photographs with us. He is the nephew of pilot McMullen.

Some of the images come from the Naval History and Heritage Web site (NHH) via site visitor Bob Woodling. Thanks to Bob for help researching this page.

OTHER BOOKS FOR YOU

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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