Alfred J. Croft
January 3, 1916 377

via email from Pete Jones, 8-31-10
Greetings Ralph,
A little info on Alfred J. Croft, the J if for John. He was born in Maidenhead Berkshire, England on September 23 1887 and died April 24 1970 Bay Shore , New York. I did some research on Findagrave and apparently found him but wasn't sure it was him cause it said he was a PVT(Private) in WW1 and I'm sure low ranking enlisted men didn't fly military aircraft back then. So I emailed Kent Mauk who did Croft's entry on Findagrave. Mr. Mauk quite kindly emailed me back:

'Thanks for your e-mail Pete. I am certain this is the same Alfred Croft. His daughter lives here in Oklahoma City and is a friend of mine. The family left Oakland for the Philipines in 1924. They were living in Manila when the Japanese overran the island at the start of World War II and the entire family spent the war in prisoner of war camps. He flew, I believe, the China Clipper for Pan Am.

I agree with you on the rank and can't explain why the headstone says private. I haven't been able to find any additional information from the databases to explain what the story is.

Are you doing independent research on him? If so will you give me your contact information, I will pass it on to his daughter so she can contact you if you wish.

Cheers from OKC, Kent Mauk"
Very Kind of Mr Mauk to identify Alfred J Croft as Alfred John Croft

via email from Avelino Zapanta, 8-28-06
Dear Ralph,
     The first flyers in the Philippines were actually Americans led by Frank Lahm, Jr. the first flying student of the Wrights and first in the US. He was tasked by the US Army to set up a flying school in Corregidor using Burgess-Wright aircraft and taught some American soldiers how to fly.
      The first batch of 25 Filipino flyers were trained by Joseph Stevenot and Alfred Croft in 1920 under the Curtiss Flying School to become the pilots of the country's first private airline, Philippine Airways Service, Inc. and the first government airline, the Philippine Air Service.
     Some of those 25 had very colorful exploits like flying from Manila to Madrid in the 1930s, a first for any Asian pilots.
     It's a long story, but it will be in my forthcoming History of Philippine Aviation.
Best regards,
Lino Zapanta

     If you search for "Frank J. Croft +aviation", using the Google search engine,
(8-6-10), you will find about links! Among the most helpful are the following.

1920 - 1921
     This superb article on the Philippine Philatelist website offers a very comprehensive and detailed history of The Phillipine Air Service and is richly illustrated with unique and precious photographs. If time permits, I think you will want to read the entire article, which you can access by clicking on the title above.

The First Filipino Birdman
     This article recounts the story of Alfredo Carmelo y Casas, an extract of which can be seen immediately below:

"He enrolled in November 1919 at the Philippine School of Aviation of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation at Camp Claudio, Rizal, as a civilian, not a military, trainee. Among his classmates were Capt. Zablan and Lt. Fernando after whom two airfields have been named, together with Lts. Juan Calvo and Leoncio Malinao. They received intensive ground instruction before they were allowed to fly solo. After riding in a Curtiss Seagull with his instructor, Alfred Croft, on November 9, 1919, he was allowed to make his first solo flight exactly two months later, making him the first Filipino pilot to accomplish the feat. He made his first solo flight in January 1920 in a Curtiss Seagull in two rounds above Manila Bay and thus qualified as the first licensed civilian pilot in the Philippines.".

     You can read the entire, fascinating story of this pioneer by clicking on the title above.

     You will find a brief but interesting story which involves "Renowned American aviators Maj. Joseph E.H. Stevenot and Alfred J. Croft."

     John's entry on the Find A Grave website offers a brief, but important, biography and a very nice photograph of his headstone.

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