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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year—33rd Division Aviation

Army Aviation, page 32, 1958 issue / Editied by Mark Albertson The article below was contributed by Lieutenant Colonel Frank O. Grey, Jr., Aviation Officer, 33rd Infantry Division.

“I thought that Army Aviation readers might be interested in the accompanying photo.  Knowing the editor’s fondness for reducing the large photo to the small and the small to the microscopic, I’ll decipher the white ink scrawl in the lower center of the photo.  It says, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year—33rd Division Aviation.

“Taken in 1927, it proves that Army aviation is much older than we thought.  In order to find out more about the picture, I called on the oldest Air National Guardsman that I know, Major General Wilson Newhall, who is still on duty with the Air National Guard here in Illinois.  He told me that the aircraft were Douglass O-38s, powered by Pratt & Whitney engines of 535 hp.  The O-38s were operational with the Illinois National Guard from 1932 until 1935 and I do not know where the ‘1927’ in the upper right hand corner [of the photo] came from.”

“This particular formation was led by Colonel, then Major MacElwain, since retired, and General, then Captain Newhall, who was flying No. 6.  The planes were used in observation support of the 33rd Infantry Division and of further interest, this picture was taken over Hammond, Indiana, some 3 miles from the present location of the 33rd Division Aviation Section.  Need I mention that the outfit eventually became the 126th Fighter Wing and now employs F-86L’s.  Although the picture may be over 25years old, the sentiments for a Happy Holiday Season are still current.  Now please don’t ask me how often we clean out our files here.  Obviously never.”

Editor’s note:  With regards to the “1927” scribbled on the upper right side of the accompanying photo, it is certainly at odds with the production numbers of the Douglas O-38.  The first 44 were ordered in 1930.  According to the Air Force, some 156 were built for the United States Army Air Corps.  As monoplane observation aircraft became available, the O-38 was phased out; yet, were still utilized by National Guard units following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, such as for target-towing duties.

Sources:

  1. Douglas O-38F, Fact Sheet, National Museum of the United States Air Force, Published April 7, 2015.  www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Museum-Exhibits/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/197394/douglas-o-38f/
  2. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons and Warfare, Vol. 19, Norg/P.L.15, page 2027, Columbia House, New York, 1978.