Pages 21 & 22
After a few weeks with Lieut. (Gink) Doherty he was transferred and I suddenly found myself in command of a Station with more than 100 personnel and much flying equi[pment. In spite of my ignorance of Navy regulations and proceedures the men and I got on famously together and upon my departure that summer on assignment as test pilot at the Navy Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia Navy Yard, they presented me with a very handsome inscribed Waltham watch which I deeply appreciated and value. The family was with me in Washington and moved with me to the only house I could find in downtown section, nothing else being available.
There at the Factory were all types of planes, motors, guns, ammunition, bombs, instruments, props and gadgets to be tested which kept me busy. But while at Anacostia testing a Lewis gun synchronized to fire through revolutions of the propeller the mechanism went wrong, the "prop" likewise. In a pusher flying boat, the empty ejected shells from a nose gun flew into the "prop" creating quite a situation. Again, while testing a bomb rack slung under the fuselage of a pontoon job with release handle at the pilot's seat, it released itself while taxiing over rough water and the 150 pound Mark IV bomb, set to explode at a determined depth, failed to do so - fortunately. In all I dropped 21 of those bombs in seperate trips on the Potomac near Indian Head Proving Grounds and none functioned properly when dropped in the water. Two did explode when dropped on land rocking my plane at 1500 feet altitude. We were not prepared for World War I.
While doing much test work at the Navy Aircraft Factory with two motored large flying boats my main problem was testing a freak designated as the N-1, a strange looking affair resting on long stilt-like struts from two pontoons and with an outrigger tail section a pusher type. Up in the nose cockpit was a new Davis one pounder having a discharge of bird-shot to act as recoil damper.
A pilot had been killed testing the first N-1 built and the second one was not looked upon with much enthusiasm. After making numerous flights with it, during one of which the motor caught fire extinguished by the observer and me, I made recommendation against further development and it was scrapped. Another queer one was dropping a torpedo from a two motored flying boat at low altitude with the idea it could be used against vessels, known as the Fisk torpedo. While dropping one at too low an altitude, alongside the Hog Island Shipyard ways, it ricocheted striking out the tail section of the plane and nearly causing an accident.
We had family troubles in Philadelphia: Young Vic was playing with matches in our basement when accidentally igniting excellsior left after unpacking. The fire department arrived en masse before much damage was done, mainly from smoke. He also became sick at a time when scarlet fever was epidemic and doctors insisted he be sent to a quarantine hospital which was done in an ambulance with two scarlet fever cases. The poor kid was found not to have measles, but had to stay at the hospital the required time. We were enraged, but helpless.
That same winter, following the Armistice, there was a terrible epidemic of Asiatic Flu. Hundreds were dying daily in Philadelphia and unfortunately I caught it. After a long wait Charlotte finally got me to a hospital, coughing blood, and the next morning I was arbitrarily moved to the Navy Yard hospital, but my fever had subsided and the crisis passed. However, had to spend two weeks in the hospital with insufficient dure to nurses shortages and resulted from my being plagued with intestinal troubles since. When the opportunity for release came in the Spring I waived physical examination in my anxiety for release which I have since regretted.
The Curtiss Company offered me managership of its flight opeerations as we moved to New York City in May, 1919. There I had conferences with officers of the American Express Company in an effort to sell them on plans I'd developed for a passenger and express airline between New York Pittsburg, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and Cleveland which they finally turned down as too visionary. I still have the papers and maps.