Display Status This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Benjamin Scovill "Ben" Kelsey (1906-1981) completed instruction at the Curtiss Flying School in Garden City, New York in 1921 at the age of fifteen. He flew extensively, both commercially and privately, before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U. S. Army Air Corps in 1929. Kelsey was initially assigned to Mitchel Field, New York where he worked with the Guggenheim Fog Flying Laboratory. In 1934, Kelsey was transferred to the Materiel Command at Wright Field, Ohio where he served as fighter project officer in the Engineering Section and worked on blind landing and instrument flying development. Kelsey served as assistant military attaché for air in London, United Kingdom for a short time in 1940 and then returned to Wright Field as chief of the Pursuit Branch, Production Engineering Section. In 1942, Kelsey was attached to the Eighth Fighter Command at Dow Field, Maine during which time he served as a Lockheed P-38 Lightning pilot as part of Operation Bolero, the movement of U. S. forces across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom in preparation for the opening of a "second front" in northwest Europe that involved a group of P-38 aircraft following a B-17 Flying Fortress pathfinder aircraft across the North Atlantic. In September 1942, Kelsey returned to Wright Field and in 1943 was named chief of the Flight Research Branch, Flight Test Division. Later that year, Kelsey returned to the United Kingdom as the deputy chief of staff of the Ninth Fighter Command and in 1944 was appointed chief of the Operation Engineering Section of the Eighth Air Force Headquarters. In July 1945, Kelsey again returned to Wright Field and was named chief of the All-Weather Operations Section. In December 1946, Kelsey served as assistant deputy commanding general for personnel at Wright Field moving up to be the chief of personnel and administration before leaving for Air Force Headquarters in early 1948 where he served as chief of the Control Group in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Materiel. Kelsey entered the National War College in August 1948, graduating in June 1949, and then staying on as an instructor. Kelsey was appointed Deputy Director of Research and Development in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Development at Air Force Headquarters until retiring from active duty in December 1955. Kelsey was the recipient of numerous awards and honors and was involved in the development of, and/or test flew, numerous aircraft including the Bell XFM-1 Airacuda, Bell P-39 Airacobra, Curtiss P-36A Hawk, and Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Kelsey was also a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, holding a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering (1928) and a master of science degree in aeronautical engineering (1931).



Processing Information

Arranged, described, and encoded by Melissa A. N. Keiser and Jessamyn Lloyd, 2019.


Kelsey, Benjamin Scovill, 1906-1981





General Benjamin S. Kelsey, Gift, NASM.XXXX.0026.


0.65 Cubic feet (2 boxes)


This collection consists of a photo album and a scrapbook kept by Benjamin Scovill "Ben" Kelsey to document his life and aviation career. The collection also includes Kelsey's U. S. Army Air Forces "Air Route Manual: United States to Great Britain," dated May 25, 1942, prepared for use by the first flights of military aircraft across the North Atlantic in support of Operation Bolero.


No restrictions on access


Collection descriptions

Archival materials


Arrangement note

The collection materials are grouped into two roughly chronological scrapbooks and one military document.

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a photo album and a scrapbook kept by Benjamin Scovill "Ben" Kelsey to document his life and aviation career. The photo album measures approximately 12.25 by 9.5 inches and documents Kelsey's early flying career and other aviation activities he was involved in from the period of about 1920 to 1932. Many of the photographs were taken around Garden City, New York or in and around Connecticut. Aircraft depicted in the album include the Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, Standard (NJ) J-1, Bellanca WB-2 Miss Columbia, Dayton Wright DH-4 Mailplane, Irwin Meteorplane C-C-1, Alexander Eaglerock Biplane, Waco ASO, Martin (Glenn L.) MB-2, Ford 2-AT Air Pullman, Air Transport John Wanamaker, Sikorsky Standard-Sikorsky SN-1, Avro 504, Sikorsky S-31, Sperry Messenger, Burnelli (Remington-Burnelli) RB-1, Curtiss Oriole, Curtiss CR-1 Racer, Udet U 12 Flamingo, as well as numerous other models by manufacturers such as Fokker, Curtiss, Boeing, Stinson, and Sikorsky. Besides Kelsey, other notable aviators pictured in the album include Laura Bromwell, Charles S. "Casey" Jones, Lloyd W. Bertaud, Walter E. Johnson, Earl W. Fleet, Robert Stevens Fogg, Gus Graff, Bertrand Blanchard Acosta, Harold T. "Slim" Lewis, Harry Bradford Chin, Thea Rasche, Richard H. Depew, and Leigh Wade. The album also contains aerial photographs. The scrapbook, which measures 11 by 16 inches, is mainly composed of newspaper clippings, but also includes magazine articles, photographs, correspondence, certificates and other ephemera. It covers the period of approximately 1934 to 1947 and documents Kelsey's military career during this period. Aircraft seen in the scrapbook include the Curtiss P-36 Hawk, Curtiss P-37 (Hawk 75I), Lockheed XP-38/P-38 Lightning, Douglas XB-19 (XBLR-2), Curtiss CW-21 Interceptor-Fighter, Bell XFM-1 Airacuda, and the Douglas C-54 Skymaster. The collection also contains a U. S. Army Air Forces document, "Air Route Manual: United States to Great Britain," prepared by Air Movements Unit, Operational Intelligence Section AFDIS – A2, May 25, 1942 (Second Revision). This publication is a pilot's briefing document prepared in support of Operation Bolero. It was designed for use by a Lockheed P-38 Lightning pilot and provides detailed radio and navigational information for all airfields en route (U. S. and Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and the British Isles) including aerial photographs, prepared strip maps marked with the magnetic course to be flown, and general information. It also contains eight large sectional maps, two American Airlines Radio Range and Mileage Charts, and six Ordnance Survey of Great Britain Aeronautical Maps.




Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.


Acosta, Bert

Johnson, Walter E.

Kelsey, Benjamin Scovill, 1906-1981

Topics Aeronautics
Aeronautics, Military
World War, 1939-1945
Curtiss JN-4 Jenny Family
Dayton Wright DH-4
Alexander Eaglerock Aircraft Family
Bellanca WB-2 "Miss Columbia"
Bell XFM-1 Airacuda
Lockheed P-38 Lightning Family
Curtiss P-36 Hawk Family
Technical manuals


General Benjamin Kelsey Scrapbooks, Acc. NASM.XXXX.0026, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Archival Repository

National Air and Space Museum Archives

Finding Aid Online Finding Aid