In 2019, we commemorate several transatlantic firsts, including the 100th anniversaries of the first transatlantic flight by the Navy NC-4 in May and the first nonstop transatlantic flight by John Alcock and Arthur Brown. June 28 marks the 80th anniversary of the inaugural Pan American Airways transatlantic passenger flight in 1939. For William John Eck, it was a voyage for which he had waited eight long years. Finally, he was “Passenger Number One”!
May 2, 2019, marks the United States’ Days of Remembrance, the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. Today the National Air and Space Museum remembers Dezsö Becker, a Hungarian aviator who served in World War I and died in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in January 1945.
In May 1919, the U.S. Navy sponsored three Curtiss flying boats—the NC-1, NC-3, and NC-4—each with a crew of six, in an attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Lt. Commander Albert C. Read commanded the NC-4, the only aircraft to succeed in its mission. As we prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NC-4’s historic transatlantic flight, the materials in Read’s collection are available to transcribe in the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center.
In the wake of the Black Sox Scandal, Baseball was looking to restore its integrity with a leader with his feet firmly on the ground. They elected Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the first Commissioner (or “Czar”) of Baseball. A long-serving jurist from Chicago, Landis was known for his decisions against big businesses, such as Standard Oil, and for slipping out to Cubs and White Sox games. But Landis also had his head in the clouds, a true aviation enthusiast!
In 1917, the United States Army Air Service established an aviation engineering section at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio. In 1927, the Engineering Division, as it was then known, moved to nearby Wilbur Wright Field and there remained as the Air Force Material Division (AFMD) and Air Material Command (AMC). Throughout the years, those stationed at Wright Field celebrated the holidays.
Even though we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Armistice on November 11, 2018, the effects of World War I can be felt to this day. In the Archives, there are still so many stories left to tell. Many of our World War I collections are now digitized (some in their entirety) and you can continue to explore these stories on your own.
On July 14, 1918, Quentin Roosevelt, son of President Theodore Roosevelt, died outside of Chamery, France, his Nieuport 28 shot down by a German pilot. To American aviators and soldiers, the grave of Quentin Roosevelt became a shrine, his death a touchstone for service and sacrifice, appearing in many World War I era scrapbooks and collections held by the National Air and Space Museum Archives.
Letters home from the front reveal the personal side of wars. On Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, marking the end of World War I, many American soliders serving abroad were instructed to write victory letters to their fathers. As we move towards the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, a pair of victory letters from France and Connecticut illustrate a different understanding between home and the front, armistice and peace.