A tribute ceremony is observed every year, by the ol' Kunnel's proclamation, marking the anniversary of the death of Lieutenant Selfridge as the first military officer to pilot an airplane, and the first fatality of powered flight. Having flown several early aircraft that he had helped to build and also having made free balloon ascents and flights in dirigibles, he asked permission to fly with Orville Wright on September 17, 1908 at Fort Myer, Virginia.
The plane crashed, killing Selfridge and putting Orville Wright in the hospital for several months. Thomas Selfridge is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.
In July, 1917, after the government leased an aviation field near Mount Clemens, the field was named in honor of Lieutenant Selfridge...
Annually, the ol' Kunnel hoists a few drops of a toasting beverage in memorial to this first American aviation hero. You are cordially invited to do the same whether in the ol' Kunnel's vicinity or not. I hope that you will be lifting your glass in honor of Lieutenant Selfridge along side of himself at 3:00 P.M. E.D.T., September 17th.
Wherever you are, face in the direction of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Standing at attention, with your glass held high, give your vocal salute at the appointed hour. The salute is:
"To those who fly!"
--The honor ceremony was designed by
a very old friend of the Old Kunnel.
An earlier posting of this event by the Ol'Kunnel:
SELFRIDGE, Thomas Etholen. First Lieutenant. First Army
officer to fly an airplane and first fatal military casualty
of powered flight, for whom Selfridge AFB, Mount Clemens,
Mich., is named: b. San Francisco, Calif., Feb. 8, 1882; d.
Fort Myer, Va., Sept. 17, 1908. Thomas Selfridge was
graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1903, the year
Samuel Langley and the Wright Brothers were preparing for
their initial attempts at powered flight. He was commissioned
a second lieutenant, with assignment to the 5th Regiment of
the Field Artillery. He served the Army until the spring of
1907 when he met Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the
telephone, who then was experimenting on aerial flight. With
President William Taft's blessings, Selfridge became an
official observer to a flight demonstration in Sept. 1907
where he met Glenn H. Curtiss. Together they helped found
the Aerial Experiment Association. Lt. Selfridge designed the
group's first airplane, called the Red Wing because of the
color silk used on the wings. The plane flew for the first
time in Mar. 1908. A White Wing plane followed, with
Selfridge flying it six times that Aug. Having also made
free balloon ascents and flights in dirigibles, he asked
permission to fly with Orville Wright on Sept. 17 1908 at
Fort Myer, Va. The plane crashed, killing Selfridge and
putting Orville Wright in the hospital for several months.
Thomas Selfridge is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The base at Mount Clemens was named in his honor in June
- The Wright Flyer.
- Douglas Craft 4.
- Swiss Air MD-11.
- First Military Aviation Fatality.
On December 11, 1940, at the age of nineteen, John Gillespie
Magee, Jr., was shot down over England. Born in Shanghai,
the son of an American missionary, he was educated in England
and in 1940 joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. This sonnet
inspired Allied airmen throughout World War II and is Magee's
legacy to aviators everywhere.
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds -- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -- wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
-- John Gillespie Magee, Jr.