Ben was born to George and Katherine Reisweber in Buffalo, New York on November 16, 1894. He was the eldest of six children, having two bothers and three sisters. Ben died in New Jersey on December 27, 1969. He left no heirs, except his wife and siblings. Ben's mother died when he was 16 and although father George tried to keep the family together, it was too much for him. In time, Ben and his brother Al lived with their father's sister Kate. Ben never completed high school, nor did any of his siblings.
When World War I came along in 1914, Ben joined the Marine Corps and was trained as a pilot. He subsequently became an instructor and never got to France. He and his squadron were on board ship in New York Harbor, ready to sail, on the day that the armistice was signed. My information is somewhat sketchy, but I remember my father Al telling me that Ben left the active service and went to work as a pilot for a business executive, during which time he had a serious accident. The doctors told him that he would probably never walk again, however, they were wrong. He fully recovered and returned to active duty with the Marine Corps as a reserve officer about 1922.
I found a picture of Ben in the collection of
my father-in-law, Walter E. Lees.
To see the picture
and read the anecdote, just click on:
The next bit of information we had came in 1932. He was a captain in the Marine Corps and commanding officer of the Marine Air Detachment at Floyd Bennet Field in New York. About this time he married the daughter of an influential family from Port Washington, Long Island. The marriage broke up and here there are two stories. One was that the young lady wanted to be in the social whirl, while Ben wanted to settle down. The other story is that the young wife wanted Ben to leave the Marine Corps and flying and go to work in her father's business. They were divorced and Ben remained single until after he retired from active service in 1950.
At the outbreak of WW II in 1942, Ben was commanding officer of a flying training squadron at Pensacola, but left there in early 1942 and reported for duty in San Diego, California. During his stay in San Diego, he was billeted in the famous Hotel Del Coronado and since his siblings lived in San Diego, visited with their families. I only remember being in his company a couple of times in the summer of 1942. I started the process to enlist in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet program. Uncle Ben urged me to investigate the Navy program, but I had done so already and had decided that I would rather go the Army route since that was a one year training program, whereas the Navy program was two years. He departed for overseas from San Diego. I heard very little about him, except that on one occasion, the Flight Surgeon caught him flying a fighter mission and because of his age and some lingering problem from the accident, threatened to ground him.
I next heard about him from members of my organization. At the time, I was operations officer for an Army Air Transport Command base in New Guinea. The war had ended, it was August, 1945. We were closing the base and sending plane loads of base material to Guam, via Pelelieu. Ben was now a colonel, a Wings Operations Officer, in the Marine Air Wing, stationed on the island. Since I was the only Ops officer left on the base, I couldn't take a flight and missed the opportunity to visit with Ben.
After the war, he was in San Diego for a very short time, then went to Washington. His last duty assignment was Director of Marine Reserve Flying Training. He retired in 1950, having completed 30 years of service. After retiring, he married a wealthy widow with houses in New Jersey and Florida. I understand they traveled quite a bit. My brother-in-law visited them once and commented about their life style, with maids, butler and cook. Ben died on December 27, 1969 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
Just one little anecdote. I was the housing director for the Navy in San Diego and had discussions with the District Commandants,(U.S. Navy). One of the commandants, Rear Admiral Filmore Gilkeson cornered me in his office. He asked me if I was related to Benny Reisweber. When I admitted to being his nephew, he had me sit down and told me this story.
Gilkeson, as a young Ensign out of the Naval Academy, was sent to Pensacola in 1940 for flight training and was a member of Ben's squadron. It was heard that if a fledgling pilot took the CO out for a steak dinner and brought along a bottle of Scotch, the said fledgling could talk him into giving the new pilot his first choice of operational aircraft. Ensign Gilkeson took Ben to dinner on a Friday night and looked forward to seeing his name on the "flight" list on Saturday. However, it seemed that Ben had made out the assignments on Wednesday and Ensign Gilkeson was assigned to observation type aircraft. In spite of this, the Admiral and I became friends and my wife and I were invited to the Farewell Party when he retired.
I have just one picture of Ben which I will send, taken with his sisters and two brothers in San Diego in 1942
I hope this information will help. I have a page from his flight log and will try to dig it out and send a copy of it also. I will send it by E-mail since I have a scanner.
October 27, 1997
|Ben Reisweber, sister Florence Reisweber Hardy & brothers Al & Ray, San Diego, 1942.|