AKA Henry "Dick" Merrill
Dick Merrill
Harry Richman & Dick Merrill
Collection of Dave Quigley, 7-22-05
via email from Jack Backstreet, 1-1-05
     Henry "Dick" Merrill (1893-1982) piloted 2 transatlantic flights in '36-37 (the first with millionaire singer Harry "Puttin' on the Ritz" Richman and the other with Jack Lambie), Ike's personal pilot during the '52 election and retired from Eastern AA in 1961.
     Both Jack Lambie, Harry Richman and Dick Merrill are mentioned in the Internet Movie Database. Richman was specifically sought out by Dick since he owned one of the few planes in civilian hands that could make a transatlantic flight (and even then he had to get Eddie Rickenbacher involved to swap the tanks and radio gear). Richman ended up accidentally dumping fuel on the return leg and was responsible for the plane going down in a Nova Scotia bog... Dick--- normally even tempered--- had to be pulled off Richman. I have photos of him obviously P.O.'d at Harry afterward at a celebratory dinner.
     Harry sold autographed ping pong balls and told the flight story until he died--- reports say he really only sold about 450 of them and I've seen them pop up on eBay ocassionally.
     Dick's second co-pilot, Jack Lambie was a pro--- I think he was a military brat born in the Philippines and ended up his career at EAL as a training executive.
     I believe Dick flew with the Ivan Gates Air Circus briefly in the mid-20's before joining up with the Air Mail Service--- and I think he held the record number of air miles in 1930.
     He even starred in a movie (1937's ATLANTIC FLIGHT--- a cheapie for Monogram with Jack Lambie) along with a early '50's promo film produced by Arthur Godfrey in a Constellation. He married to actress Toby Wing in 1938 (despite a 22 year age difference ,they remained together the rest of his life).
     Dick never flew in WW1 but I'd think he'd rate being described as a pioneer aviator of some kind.

Dick Merrill
Harry Richman, Dick Merrill & John L. Quigley
"Vultee Lady Peace" in the background
Associated press photo dated August 20, 1936;
Collection of Dave Quigley, 7-22-05
     "August 1936 flight from New York to London flown by famous entertainer, Harry Richman, and early pioneer, Dick Merill. John Lewis Quigley, metorogist, shown going over navigation and weather charts prior to flight. "Harry Richman wrote songs like" Puttin On the Ritz" and was one of the highest paid entertainers in the 1930. "Richman led an adventurous life offstage. His most famous feat was flying the Atlantic in 1936 with a plane stuffed with table tennis balls. He reasoned the plane would stay afloat if downed at sea. He and pilot Dick Merill made the flight to London but were forced down in Newfoundland on the return trip. The trip cost me 340,000 dollars but it was worth it."
     This photo shows Harry Richman, Dick Merrill and my dad John L. Quigley getting ready for the flight to England.
     My dad was a pilot in the military, then spent a couple of years with Eastern AirLines as a pilot and meteorologist, two years at Pan Am in South America and about a year as the head of American Export Airlines international operations prior to WWII. A couple of years ago I spoke to a person who was a pilot for American Export Air Lines and he told me that prior to the war they were like Air America, doing a lot of special flights for the government. A fully restored Sikorsky flying boat is in the aerospace museum at Badley field in CT. that had been an American Export aircraft.
     He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1939, where he spent six months as air attache in Brazil. In 1940 he was on a special assignment with the British and Australians in the Pacific. After the start of the war he was with the first group of US aircraft assigned to England and spent a year in North Africa with the 12th troop transport wing. After being injured he left the service and returned to San Diego. In 1945-1947 he flew with China Air Lines until the communist takeover. After 1947 he and my mother returned to San Diego where he worked for several aviation companies.

Vultee Lady Peace
from the AeroFiles website
     "Harry Richman, a well-known entertainer, and an aviation enthusiast and part-time pilot, sponsored the first round-trip flight between New York and London. He chose Henry T "Dick" Merrill, chief pilot of Eastern Airlines, to captain his V1-A [NC16099]. Extra fuel tanks and a 1000hp Wright Cyclone with a constant-speed, two-blade prop were installed, and some 41,000 Ping-Pong balls were stowed in the hollow recesses of wings and fuselage - if forced to ditch, the airplane would certainly float! With war looming in Europe, Richman christened the Vultee Lady Peace."
     To read the complete story, click on the title above.

Vultee Lady Peace
Corrected version of story
by Jack Backstreet, 10-19-05
     The info from Aero Files says that Richman CHOSE Dick... hmmm... not exactly the way it went down. Dick knew that Harry, a millionaire entertainer/amateur pilot, was the practically the only civilian that owned a plane capable of making the transatlantic flight and flew down to Miami to spring the idea on Richman. Harry Richman was a gregarious blowhard and Dick instinctively knew that he'd be up for a challenge. The Vultee required extensive modifications in order to make the trip (swapped fuel tanks, electronics, etc.), that Dick wrangled his boss, Eddie Rickenbacker to finance. The ping pong balls were Harry's idea...

Airmail Cover, 1937
     Air mail cover that was signed and flown by him on the May 1937 Anglo-American Goodwill Coronation Flights that he made with Jack Lambie, between New York and London.
Photo & caption courtesy of Roy Nagl, 1-3-05

A Tribute from Merton Meade, 2-6-06
Dear Mr. Cooper,
     I was digging around the Internet and came across your website regarding my late friend Captain Henry T. "Dick" Merrill.
     I was fortunate to have shared an office with The Captain when the two of us managed the Shannon Air Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia during the late 1970's and early 1980's. Dick was the titular head of the Museum, but in reality he was our most important "display." He was an absolute gentleman and just coming to work every day was a pleasure just because I knew I was going to spend the time with Dick. My job was assistant curator and chief pilot...I flew all the aeroplanes in the Shannon collection, including the only Vultee V-1A left in the world, NC 16099, Serial Number 25. We had the ship painted to resemble the #8 machine that The Captain and Harry Richmond flew to England in '36. We renamed the aeroplane "Lady Peace II." Dick often flew with me to various antique aeroplane fly-ins around the country. I recall one particular trip I made with the Vultee to the Antique Airplane Association fly-in at Blakesburg, Iowa. In the right seat on that trip was the late General Benjamin S. Kelsey, P-38 test pilot and safety-pilot when General Doolittle made the first instrument take off and landing. Ben lived in nearby Culpepper, Virginia at the time and often stopped by the museum for a visit...usually flying his Cessna 180. At the time of his death, Ben was building a Pitts Special.
     In 1978, Eastern Airlines celebrated their 50th anniversary and they contracted with us to fly their anniversary flight from New York (Newark, actually) to Miami, retracing as closely as possible the original Pitcairn Aviation ("grandfather" of Eastern Airlines) mail route. Since at the time the Shannon Air Museum had the only airworthy Pitcairn PA-5 Mailwing, and it was painted in Pitcairn livery, we agreed to make the flight. I flew the Mailwing to Newark in comapny with a Cessna 150 being flown by the late Lou Davis of Airline Pilot Magazine. We left Newark and flew to Philadelphia and then on to Washington. From there it was on to Richmond, South Boston....etc, etc, etc...finally landing at Miami for an enormous reception. Captain Merrill met us at many of the stops along the way.
     Bringing the Mailwing back from Florida, the #8 inlet valve broke, punched a hole in the piston, and I landed the thing on Interstate 95 about 19 miles south of Savannah. No damage to the ship nor to myself. No amount of planning can ever overshadow pure dumb luck! That was my 11th forced landing....I'm now waiting for #17!
     Regarding luck, Dick often said he'd rather be lucky than good. When Eddie Rickenbacker owned Eastern he always insisted on Dick flying the aeroplane whenever he had to travel. Dick always told this story: "But Captain, you've got a hundred pilots on the line better than me." "I know, Merrill, but you're the luckiest son of a bitch I've got, and I'd rather fly behind a lucky pilot than a good one any day!" Typical self-effacing comment by Dick...I doubt there ever WAS a better airline pilot than Dick Merrill.
     I worked a wee bit with Jack King when he was writing THE WINGS OF MAN; Jack was often at the museum talking to Dick and getting material for the book. I think Sid Shannon may have put a bit of money into the project, as well. Wonderful man, Jack King.
     I recall the day in 1978 I was to be initiated into the Anciente and Secret Order of Quiet Birdmen. I was sitting at my desk in the museum and something landed in front of me. I picked it up to discover it was a pair of QB wings. I looked around at the Captain.
     "When Tom Selby pins you tonight (Tom was one of my early flight instructors and my primary QB sponsor...Dick was also one of my sponsors), have him put these wings on you." That was Dick in a nutshell...always doing something nice for someone. I still wear those QB wings proudly.
     As you know, of course, Dick went west in '82. I had left the museum the year before to go back to my first love, primary flight instructing. I'll always remember that 3.5 year period when I worked with this wonderful man...and will always be saddened by his loss. If only I could have known him during the '20's and '30's.
     I hope I haven't bored you with this impromptu tribute to one of my own personal heros.
Merton Meade
Leesburg, Virginia

Lady Peace Wales
Lady Peace Wales
Lady Peace Landing Site - Wales
     Here are 2 photographs of the field in which the Lady Peace took off from (left to right); the hedge in the centre distance was dug up overnight to give the LP a longer t/o run. The missing section of hedge is apparent in the picture.
Photo & legend from Steve Jones,. 5-31-06

Request via email from Steve Jones, 5-2-06
Hi Ralph
     Saw your address via a web link to the above. I'm researching the incident in which Dick Merrill and Harry Richman force-landed in a field in my neck of the woods (South Wales) in 1936. I've come across some newspaper cuttings of the event and am in the process of tracking down a picture of the a/c taken at the time in the field.
     I'm writing a book about such events which happened in the county (Carmarthenshire) and hope to include a chapter on 3rd Sept 1936 incident. Any ideas on where I could get a copy of some pictures related to the forced-landing, HTM or HR.
Best wishes,
Steve Jones
South Wales.
Editor's Note: Because I don't have any more information regarding this incident on my own website, I did make a search of the net. Sadly, I was not able to find any more details, including any photographs, which might help Steve in his quest. I hope someone may find his request on this page and make contact with him, through me. My best guess is that Steve will be his own best source as he researches the event in the newspaper archives. Hopefully he will alert us to the availability of his book when it is completed.

Lady Peace Wales
Lady Peace
     Here's a photograph belonging to Terry Williams. Terry is in the photograph, on his mother's knee in the front row (blonde hair) - the lady just left of centre with the dark coloured hat.The photograph was taken by a local photographer, a Mr. DL Harries. I'm currently trying to tracking down other photographs in his collection, held at an archives in mid Wales.
Photo & legend from Steve Jones,. 5-31-06

Max Schmeling & Joe Lewis
via email from David Margolick, 2-12-05
      I thought you'd like to know that Dick Merrill flew Max Schmeling from his training camp to Newark in June 1938, right before Schmeling's famous fight with Joe Louis. I'm writing a book about the Louis-Schmeling fights and came across your helpful website while looking for more information on Merrill. I gather that he never wrote his memoirs.
David Margolick

     If you search for "Henry T. Merrill" using the Google search engine, (1-2-05), you will find about 9 links. Several of the most helpful are the following.
Bwrdd Neges - Messageboard
     I was alerted to this very helpful website by Greg Powers. He wrote the following description of the page:
"Steve Jones of South Wales who wrote to you (and you put his e-mail on your Merrill web page) was looking for info, particularly photos of the Wales crash site. On this Messageboard, not quite half way down the page., you will find a contribution by Terry Williams. It includes a nice big group photo of all the villagers w/ Merrill, Richman & Quigley in front of the plane, and another farewell at the plane’s door. Also you will find some very interesting personal remembrances of relatives of people who were there, and at least one account. It is a Wales webpage. "
You can access the webpage by clicking on the title above. If time permits, I think you will enjoy getting to know more about the town by clicking on the "HOME" label on the upper left hand corner of the page.

Captain Henry T. Merrill
First Pilot To Make A Commercial Round-trip Flight
Over The Atlantic, 1937
     This page on the First Flight Society website offers a resumé of his exploits, with special emphasis on his trans-atlantic flights. It also displays his portrait in full color. You can access the page by clicking on the title above.
     If time permits, I recommend that you visit the homepage of the society and enjoy the stories of some of the many other notable pioneer aviators who are featured.

     This page on the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum website lists the recipients of the Harmon Trophy in tabular form. The name of Henry T. Merrill will be seen as being the winner of the trophy in 1937. There is also a photograph of the Trophy which can be enlarged for easier viewing. You can access the page by clicking on the title above.

     This page on the Signature House website describes a document which is being offered for sale as of January 2, 2005. It is found in the "Aviators and Explorers" section and is located a little more than halfway down the page. You may want to use the FIND function on "Merrill" to locate it most easily. The description is introduced by the following extract.
" 378 [HENRY T. MERRILL] Chief pilot of Eastern Airlines chosen to captain the first round trip flight between New York and London. Stowed aboard were some 41,000 Ping-Pong balls in the hollow recesses of wings and fuselage, so if forced to ditch, the airplane would certainly float! With war looming in Europe, the plane was christened the Vultee Lady Peace."
     You can read the rest of the description, and perhaps consider buying the document, but clicking on the title above.

     This page on the Internet Movie Database offers a very nice "mini biography" of Dick Merrill. It tells of his early career as a barnstormer and air mail pilot before joining Eastern Airlines as their chief pilot. You can find details of the film in which he starred, Atlantic Flight (1937), by clicking on:
Atlantic Flight
     You can find a similar mini biography of his wife, Toby Wing, which is accessable by a link located a bit lower down the page. You can access the page by clicking on the title above.

by Jack King
Product Details
Hardcover: 404 pages
Publisher: Aviation Book Co (June, 1981)
Language: English
ISBN: 0911721916
Mid Atlantic Aviation on the Web
     You will find a complete description of the book, with illustrations, on this website. You can access the page by clicking on the title above.
     In addition, you can find a link to a biography of the author, Jack King.

Dick Merrill
                       1978 AP file photo
Flier Dies ----- Henry
  Tindall "Dick" Merrill, a
pioneer flier and aviation
record-holder who spent
five years of his life in the
air, died Sunday in Lake
Elsinore, Calif. He was
88. Merrill piloted the
first commercial flights
across the Atlantic Ocean
in the 1930s.
News clipping Oct. 31, 1982

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