Brigadier General W.R. Wolfinbarger, ca. 1950s
Second Lieutenant W.R. Wolfinbarger signed the Register at Tucson on Friday September 7, 1928 at 1:30 PM. He recorded in the Register that he was solo in a Keystone LB-5A, apparently part of a flight of eight. It might seem reasonable that he probably carried at least a copilot, as well as a mechanic to help on this large aircraft. However, a site visitor comments on this by saying,
"Lt. Wolfinbarger most likely was flying that Keystone solo. A common economy practice to save on flight pay payroll. Sometimes no one was flying the plane (there are fotos!) as the pilot was below and aft working the wobble fuel pump!"
Interwar military budgets were not generous. Regardless, westbound and based at Langley Field, Hampton, VA, Wolfinbarger remained in Tucson overnight, departing for Los Angeles, CA the next morning. Perhaps he stayed at the Pioneer Hotel. We hope he had at least a per diem living fund!
An unusual aspect of Wolfinbarger's landing at Tucson was that it was filmed. You may view the film of his and the other Keystone bombers landing and standing on the ground at Tucson in September, 1928 at the link.
Wolfinbarger was in the infantry during WWI and wounded in action. After the war he joined the Air Corps and graduated flight training in 1925 (first solo May 2, 1924). It is not clear whether he left the service, but between 1926 and 1928 he worked with a civilian photo operation and flight school. Besides Air Corps pilot ratings, he held Department of Commerce Transport license number T279.
Wolfinbarger went on to a prestigious career in aviation with the Air Corps and with the US Air Force, achieving at least the rank of Brigadier General.
His NASM record is sparse, containing only a couple of news articles from the late 1920s. The first one from the New York Times of May 5, 1929, cites his affiliation with Charles Lindbergh as a member of the Brooks and Kelly Field Cadet Class of 1925. As of the date of the article, Wolfinbarger was a member of the 2nd Bombardment Group based at Langley Field.
It seems that nineteen cadets finished the class of 1925 and Wolfinbarger, indicating perhaps a tendency toward gregariousness, initiated a system of "pass-it-on" letters. The Times states, "In these letters each man writes 'To the Gang' and tells what he is doing and how, and this letter is put with the others and forwarded to the next man."
From Wolfinbarger's initiation, the letters were passed to class members around the U.S. The completed set reached Wolfinbarger in about four months. Nothing was mentioned on how, or if, the rest of the addressees ever saw the completed set. How times change. Today, this exercise could be executed in seconds via email through a distribution list. Does anyone KNOW the whereabouts of any of these letters today?
The second article in his NASM file, from the New York Times of Thursday June 27, 1929, celebrated his wedding to Olga Imperatori in Pleasantville, New York. The aviation theme emerged when an airplane flew over the ceremony broadcasting Mendelssohn's Wedding March played on a phonograph. The article went on to describe the usual attendance of families and dress styles of the wedding party. It ended with, "After the wedding trip Lieutenant Wolfinbarger and his bride will go to Langley Field to live."
UPLOADED: 01/26/08 REVISED: 01/27/08, 10/14/11