George Henry Mills (1895-1975), Naval officer and airship aviator, was a member of the U.S. Navy's inner circle of advocates of lighter than air (LTA) flight. Mills was born on August 5, 1895 in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, the son of John Craton Mills and Nora Poole Mills. He attended Bingham Military School in Asheville, North Carolina, and entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1914. Mills graduated from the Academy in June, 1918 and served in various fleet and shore assignments (a chronology of Mills' naval service will be found in the notes to Series I on page 2). He married Leonore Wickersham of Corning, NY in 1923; their daughter, Georgia Lee Mills, was born in 1928. Mills was assigned to LTA training at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1931. He completed his training in 1932 and served in the Navy's LTA fleet through the 1930's. Mills flew as an observer on board the Graf Zeppelin in 1934 and on the Hindenburg in 1936. In 1935, Mills survived the crash of the USS Macon off the California coast. Mills returned to Lakehurst, serving there in various assignments; he was made commanding officer of NAS Lakehurst in January, 1940. At Lakehurst, Mills organized blimp patrols as part of the Navy's Neutrality Patrol and helped coordinate the Navy's rapid buildup of the LTA program. When Airship Patrol Group One was formed in January 1942, Mills was named commanding officer; in December 1942 he commanded Airship Wing Thirty. In July 1943, Mills was assigned as the commander of Fleet Airships, Atlantic - the chief of the Navy's LTA forces in the Atlantic Theater. George Mills was promoted to the rank of Commodore in November 1943. In 1945, Mills returned to sea as the captain of the troopship USS Hermitage. Before retirement from the Navy in 1949, Mills served as the chief of the Naval Airship Training and Experimentation Command (CNATE) at NAS Lakehurst. After leaving the Navy, Mills settled in North Carolina and worked for the Equitable Life Insurance Company, and later for the National Securities and Research Corporation. Mills served one term in the North Carolina State Legislature from 1950 to 1952. George H. Mills died on October 24, 1975, the same day as his longtime LTA colleague and friend, Garland Fulton, whose papers are also part of the collections of the National Air and Space Archives. They were buried on the same day in Arlington National Cemetery.
This collection includes the following types of material documenting Mills' career: correspondence, maps, newspaper articles, magazines, photographs, memos, lithographs, pamphlets, scrapbooks, handwritten notes, reports, and manuals.
Mills, George H., 1895-1975
Georgia M. Head, Gift, 1994, 1994-0022, NASM
14.95 Linear feet
The George Henry Mills Collection was donated to the National Air and Space Museum in 1994 by Mills' daughter, Mrs. Georgia Mills Head.
No restrictions on access.
The George H. Mills Collection is arranged in the following series: Series I: Naval career of George H. Mills Series II: Correspondence Series III: General LTA Papers Series IV: General Naval Papers Series V: Publications, Articles, Clippings Series VI: Lectures, Speeches, Papers Series VII: Miscellaneous Papers Series VIII: Photographs Series IX: Scrapbooks; Oversized Material
The George Henry Mills Collection consists of 14.59 cubic feet (14.47 linear feet) of material collected from his naval career, 1918-1948. A large part of the collection is made up of records of Mills' service during World War II as the commander of the Atlantic Fleet's airship formations. The collection also includes records of his service as an official Navy observer aboard the German rigid airships Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg. Of particular interest are records of the period before and immediately after the entry of the United States into World War II: the pre-war build-up of the Navy's LTA program, the "Neutrality Patrols" as the Navy fought an undeclared war against Germany, and of the harrowing early days of the Battle of the North Atlantic as German U-boats roamed the eastern coast of the United States. Mills maintained an extensive correspondence with many of the leading figures of LTA: Charles E. Rosendahl, Garland Fulton, and Scott E. Peck --their letters provide a unique picture of the Navy LTA program during its most active and successful period. The collection also includes numerous technical reports on aspects of LTA flight, training material, photographs, clippings and articles on LTA. Note: The digital images in this finding aid were repurposed from scans made by an outside contractor for a commercial product and may show irregular cropping and orientation in addition to color variations resulting from damage to and deterioration of the original objects.
United States. Navy. Naval Airship Program
Mills, George H., 1895-1975
George Henry Mills Collection, Acc. 1994-0022, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
National Air and Space Museum Archives