In 2017, the National Air and Space Museum is celebrating the centenary of World War I with the Artist Soldiers exhibition and the Hollywood Goes to War film series. While the National Air and Space Museum Archives collections feature many WWI materials, the Paul R. Stockton Scrapbook is available to view online in its entirety in slideshow mode. Stockton documented his experiences from training at Mineola, New York, and the Third Aviation Instruction Center in Issoudun, France, to life at the front in France, to the post-war occupation of Germany.
Paul Richard Stockton was born in Philadelphia on May 3, 1880. After two years at the University of Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Signal Corps in July 1906, serving in Cuba and Puerto Rico until July 1909. In 1916, he enlisted in the New York State National Guard, First Aero Company, training at Mineola, New York. At the time, the Guard’s equipment consisted of four Curtiss JN-4s, a Thomas, a Standard, and a Gallaudet. Many of the Mineola pages in Stockton's scrapbook feature variations on a common theme--crashed airplanes with alliterative captions.
Stockton first applied for a commission in November 1916. That December, he received orders to go to San Diego for advanced training as an enlisted man. He was issued a civilian pilot license by the Aero Club of America under the auspices of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), on July 11, 1917.
Stockton received his commission as a First Lieutenant in the Signal Officers Reserve Corps in September 1917, and was ordered to active duty at Mineola, where he was in charge of rating and shipping aviators overseas. On December 2, 1917, he was ordered overseas to the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) as the commanding officer (CO) of the 115th Aero Squadron. As the CO, he was ordered to the Third Aviation Instruction Center at Issoudon, France, for advanced flight training. Early in his time in France, he adopted a Belgian Malinois puppy, officially named “Diana de Beausijour,” but nicknamed Marie (most likely after his future wife, Marie Haywood).
Stockton captured the realities of daily life in France in the photographs and captions in his scrapbook: “My first wreck,” “In Flanders Fields the Poppies Grow - Between the Crosses, Row on Row,” “Troops going up to the front,” “French Hangar Under Bombardment,” “Our Garbage Collector,” and “The Squadron’s Barber.”
Stockton also chronicled the devastation the war left on the landscape of France. A series of aerial photographs show a fort in the Langres Region. The first image, taken on May 5, 1918, depicts an intact fort. By the third day, there is only rubble.
In addition to photography, Stockton’s scrapbook is filled with ephemera—materials, usually printed documents, created for a specific, limited purpose, and generally designed to be discarded after use. A part of the occupational forces in Germany after the end of WWI, Stockton amassed items such as a krankenzettel (a German military field casualty tag), train tickets, movie tickets, and lozenge camouflage fabric from a German airplane.
Paul R. Stockton returned from France in March 1919 and was discharged on April 26, 1919. After the war, he settled in San Diego, married Marie Haywood (who featured prominently in the scrapbook, not just as a namesake for his dog), and entered the advertising business. He maintained his aviation ties as a member of the Early Birds of Aviation.