World War I Through the Eyes of Paul Stockton

Posted on Wed, August 16, 2017
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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.

Scrapbook cover

Front cover of Paul Stockton's World War I scrapbook.

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.

Scrapbook of airplane crash photos

“Wheaton Wondered Why.” Four photographs depict a Curtiss JN-4 after a hard landing.

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.

Pilot's License

Aviator's certificate (pilot license) no. 774 issued by the Aero Club of America, Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), to Paul R. Stockton, dated 11 July 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).

Photos of dog

“Marie at the Front” – According to Stockton, his Belgian Malinois, Diana de Beausijour aka Marie, seen as a puppy in the bottom insets, was quite famous in her own way.  He noted that she was in pictures with Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, Wallace Reid, and others.  In the upper right inset, Marie holds a German Artillery model Luger (Lange Pistole 08) in her mouth.

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.”

French Hangar Under Bombardment

“French Hangar Under Bombardment.”

Photos of French Camp Life

Camp Life in France.  (Top Left) “Our Garbage Collector,” a civilian woman with a donkey cart.  (Right) “The Squadron’s Barber,” a soldier giving another soldier a haircut. (Bottom Left) “The only water supply for a town over eight hundred,” a woman standing by a pump and barrel.

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.

French Fort Destroyed

“Two days were enough to wipe it off the map.”  Three aerial photographs of an unidentified fort (possibly Fort Douaumont, Verdun), showing it undamaged by shelling or bombing, and then after one day's bombardment, and after the second day. 

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.

French and German Ephemera

French and German ephemera.  (top left) A krankenzettel (German military field casualty tag), captioned: “These tags were tied to wounded German soldiers. And noted the seriousness of their wounds. Both borders on - very bad. Green off bad. Yellow off not bad.” (Lower left) Two French banknotes.  (Center) A movie ticket stub from Trier, Germany. (Top center) photograph of Stockton with his dog Marie, captioned: “In Germany.” (Top right) A French train ticket, captioned: “All dogs had to have a first class railroad ticket. It cost $1.70 from Tours to Angers.” (Bottom right): Photograph of an American soldier, captioned: “Sergt Earl Epperly who rusele [sic - rustle?] more food than many in France.”

American prisoners

Photograph of captured American soldiers.  Original caption in German: “Gefangene Amerikaner [American prisoners].”  Stockton's caption: “More American prisoners.”  Stockton used German printed lozenge (buntfarbenaufdruck) camouflage aircraft fabric as a border for the photograph, captioning: “This border is fabric from a German plane."

Discharge Papers and portrait of a woman

Caption: At the war’s end, Stockton’s scrapbook looked towards to the future.  (Left) Paul R. Stockton's discharge from the U.S. Army, dated April 26, 1919.  (Top right) Portrait of Marie Hayward, later Marie Hayward Stockton.  (Bottom right) Bank deposit slip made out to Marie Hayward.

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.