|Clarence D. Chamberlin|
Chamberlin in 1927
|Born||November 11, 1893
|Died||October 30/31, 1976
|Resting place||Lawn Cemetery
|Known for||Piloted The First Transatlantic Passenger Flight|
Wilda Bogert (1919-1936, divorced)Louise Ashby (b. 1907-d. 2000) (1936-1976, his death)
|Children||Philip (b. 1925-d. 2011), Clarisse (b. 1940), and Kathy (b. 1942)|
|Parents||E.C. Chamberlin (b. 1870-d. 1938) and Jesse Duncan|
Clarence Duncan Chamberlin (November 11, 1893 – October 30/31, 1976) was the second man to pilot a fixed-wing aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to the European mainland, while carrying the first transatlantic passenger.
He was born on November 11, 1893 in Denison, Iowa to E.C. Chamberlin, the local jeweler, and his wife, Jesse Duncan.
After graduating high school in 1911, Chamberlin went on to attend college the following fall. He enrolled at the Denison Normal and Business College before eventually being accepted to Iowa State College with hopes of earning a degree in engineering. He found work operating an electric sub-station on the Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern Railway where he'd work the midnight shift, riding the train back and forth from school to work and back. Chamberlin would end up dropping out of school in favor of starting up his own Harley-Davidson shop.
Upon the United States's entry into World War I, Chamberlin enlisted in the Army Air Service, but, before he would be able to see any action, the Armistice was declared, on his 25th birthday as he awaited deployment in Hoboken, NJ.
Chamberlin spent only a little amount of time back home in Iowa before he purchased his first airplane. It was a Giuseppe Mario Bellanca-designed model and Chamberlin would barnstorm up and down the northeastern coast for several years after before finally settling in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, opening up a small shop at what would become Teterboro Airport.
Aviation of the 1920s & Chasing the Orteig Prize
After Raymond Orteig announced the $25,000 prize for the first successful non-stop flight from New York to Paris, France, aviators from all around scrambled to make the attempt. Chamberlin, convinced that Bellanca was the key to winning, got him hired on at Wright Aeronautical where they eventually oversaw the construction of the Wright-Bellanca WB-2. However, due to complaints from competitors in the aircraft building industry, the whole line of planes was canceled and the WB-2 was sold to Charles Albert Levine in February 1927.
The monoplane, now christened Columbia, was altered, per Levine's orders, to make it ready for a long distance flight. In a showing of its capabilities, Chamberlin, along with Bert Acosta, took off on April 12, 1927 from Roosevelt Field, carrying 375 gallons of gas. The endurance record, as it stood, was just over 45 hours. Two days later, the Columbia landed, smashing the previous record with having been up in the air for 51 hours, 11 minutes, and 25 seconds.
After that success, Levine hired on Lloyd W. Bertaud to pilot the plane, along with Chamberlin, across the Atlantic. The two men could not see eye-to-eye and on the morning of May 20, 1927, the day of both their proposed take-off and Charles Lindbergh's, Bertaud filed an injunction against Levine, citing his wish for more money in the event that he and Chamberlin would arrive in Paris first. A sheriff's department detail was sent to the Columbia's hangar on Roosevelt Field, Long Island, barring anyone from even stepping foot into it. Chamberlin would watch Lindbergh take off for Europe unchallenged.
The Transatlantic Flight
Two weeks after Lindbergh's flight, Levine fired Bertaud and offered Chamberlin $20,000 of his own money if he would fly him to Paris. Chamberlin, not wanting to duplicate what had already been done, decided that in order to show that his Columbia had what it took for a long distance flight, opted to make Berlin, Germany his intended target. They took off on the morning of June 4, 1927 and a few minutes before six on the morning of June 6, 1927, Chamberlin brought the Columbia down just outside the town of Eisleben, Germany. He and Levine had been in the air for over 43 hours and had flown 3,905 miles, breaking Lindbergh's mark by 295.
After a detour to the town of Cottbus, Chamberlin and Levine arrived at Berlin's Tempelhof Field, with thousands of spectators amassed at the airdrome. What followed was a touring of the city, autograph sessions, photo ops, and many a luncheon and dinner with every dignitary, club, and organization imaginable, including a private meeting with President von Hindenburg.
After spending the summer in Europe, Chamberlin returned home on the SS Leviathan. Before arriving into port, however, he would go on to perform another first in aeronautics. Upon the construction of a wooden plank runway, Chamberlin took off in an airplane from the deck of the ship, performing the very first ship-to-shore mail run. He arrived home to crowds of admirers and a ticker-tape parade alongside Charles Lindbergh and Richard E. Byrd, the third man to make it across the Atlantic non-stop.
Later Years and Death
Through the 1930s and 1940s, Chamberlin barnstormed again, but, as World War II broke out, he opened flight and technical schools throughout the New York City area, training thousands of men and women in the construction and operation of airplanes.
During the 1950s, he became involved in real estate sales before retiring to a little farm in Connecticut.
In 1973, Chamberlin was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame of New Jersey, and, three years later, he found himself enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. Later that year, he suffered a heart attack and was admitted into a hospital. Sometime during the night of October 30 and early morning of October 31, 1976, due to complications from a routine flu shot, Chamberlin died. He was buried at Lawn Cemetery in Huntington, Connecticut.
Chamberlin married Wilda Bogert of Independence, Iowa on January 3, 1919. They would remain married until 1936. Later that same year, Chamberlin married Louise Ashby, a young teacher, who he had met during a barnstorming trip up to Maine. He'd go on to adopt her son, Philip (b. 1925), and the family welcomed two new additions with the births of Clarisse (b. 1940) and Kathy (b. 1942).
Aviation Records (selected)
- April 14, 1927 - Endurance Flight...51 hours, 11 minutes, and 25 seconds
- June 4–6, 1927 - First Transatlantic Passenger Flight (Charles A. Levine, passenger)
- June 4–6, 1927 - Distance Flight...3,905 miles
- Summer 1927 - First Ship-to-Shore Flight off of the SS Leviathan
- Fly First & Fight Afterward: The Life of Col. Clarence D. Chamberlin, a documentary by independent filmmaker Billy Tooma, covers, in great depth, Chamberlin's life and historic transatlantic flight. The film saw its World Premiere on April 21, 2011 at the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival and was nominated for the National Aviation Hall of Fame's 2011 Combs-Gates Award.
- Clarence Chamberlin bibliography
- Air Racing History: Clarence Chamberlin
- Early Aviators: Clarence Chamberlin
- Des Moines Register: Clarence Chamberlin
Richard E. Byrd