Pancho Villa
Pancho Villa and the Early Birds
     In the early morning hours of March 9, 1916, Pancho Villa's guerrillas swept across the border and sacked the little town of Columbus, NM. Although the raid was small compared to the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, it holds a special significance in the annals of the American defense establishment.
     Early Bird Benny Foulois brought his 1st Aero Squadron to Columbus to provied the "eyes" for General Black Jack Pershing's Punitive Expedition, which had been ordered to pursue Villa and bring him back, dead or alive. (They never caught him.)
Pancho Villa
       Foulois had 10 other aviators with him, including two who also became members of the Early Birds, Herbert Dargue and Edgar Gorrell. They first flew Curtiss JN3s, actually modified NJ2s, then Curtiss N-8s and finally Curtiss R-2s. None proved suited to military operations in the arid southwest, however.
     While the exercise appeared to be a disaster in one sense, it marked a turning point in military aviation. It was the first time ever that an American tactical air unit would be tested in the field under combat conditions.
     The 1st Aero, then the Army Signal Corps' only flying arm, flew hundreds of reconnaissance, photo and courier missions. And when it ended, Benny had demonstrated that the airplane was no longer an experiment or novelty, but a practical tool with many use military applications.
     Each year Columbus commemorates the battle. This year they invited me to speak. It gave me the chance to set the record straight in several areas.
     I focused on the fact that Columbus is undeniably the cradle of military aviation. The effective air strikes in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm can trace their roots back to Columbus. It is there that the U.S. Air Force we know today had its earliest operational beginnings.
     I also pointed out that in the judgement of some historians, Benny Foulois was one of the most under-rated individuals ever to command the U.S. Army Air Service (later Air Corps).
     Foulois first envisioned the concept of military airpower when he was the Army's only aviator, long before Billy Mitchell had even learned to fly. And it was Foulois and Gorrell who came up with the idea of strategic bombardment, not Mitchell.
     Frequently those who write history alter it at the expense of those who made it. We won't let that happen when the story of the original Early Birds is finally told in book form.
Jim Greenwood
Vice President

From The Early Birds of Aviation CHIRP
March 1992, Number 93

Bixler Store
Collection of Beverly Bixler-Ashworth, 4-25-04

Bixler Store
Bixler Store

A. Hartman

     On the back of this post card can be seen two handwritten notes. One is simply "A. Hartman." The other is, "John's plane."
     According to an entry on KO Eckland's AEROFILE website:
Hartman, (AKA Burlington);
"1938 = 1pOlwM; 45hp Szekely. Loose representation of a Blériot with open wood-frame fuselage; ff: 5/10/10; [286Y] c/n 1910-1. Arthur J Hartman, and possible privately built by him. Stored 1920-55. Completely rebuilt with a steel-tube fuselage in 1955 as [N286Y]. Hartman reportedly later also built a mid-wing, as well, in this general style."
     There is no picture of the plane, so a direct comparison is impossible. However, as can be seen in the enlarged portion of the photograph just below, the plane does resemble a Bleriot.
     In the light of the few clues which are available, I suggest that the plane was built by Hartman and purchased by Bixler. It is reported that he wanted to buy a plane of his own. You can visit the Hartman page on this website by clicking on:
Arthur J. Hartman
     Whatever the facts are, I think the photograph is beautiful.
Collection of Beverly Bixler-Ashworth, 4-25-04
A. Hartman

BackBack Home