Frank Wead

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Frank Wilber Wead
Frank Wead.jpg
Nickname(s) Spig, Sparrow
Born (1895-10-24)October 24, 1895
Peoria, Illinois, U.S.
Died November 15, 1947(1947-11-15) (aged 52)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Buried at Springdale Cemetery and Mausoleum, Peoria, Illinois
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1916–1926, 1941-1944
Rank Commander

Frank Wilber "Spig" Wead (born October 24, 1895 – died November 15, 1947) was a U.S. Navy aviator turned screenwriter who helped promote United States Naval aviation from its inception through World War II.[1]


Frank Wilber Wead (pronounced "weed") was the son of Samuel De Forest Wead[2] and Mrs. Grace (Bestor) Wead.[3] Frank was born on 24 October 1895, in Ward No. 5 of Peoria Township, Peoria, Illinois. Frank graduated from Peoria High School (Peoria, Illinois). The Wead family was prominent in Illinois during the 19th and 20th centuries- politics and law.[4] One branch of the Wead lineage settled in Ohio; one of whom actually founded the United States Sanitary Commission.

On 6 Dec 1846, Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter to Hezekiah M. Wead of Springfield, Illinois, regarding his forthcoming case involving two parties: Nicholas versus Herbert.

On Monday, 6 November 1916, Lieutenant (j.g.) Frank Wead married Mrs. Minnie Lou (Bryant) Hutchinson, in San Diego, California.[5] From this marriage they were blessed with three children: (1) Frank Wilber Wead Jr.,[6] (2) Mrs. Lila Dorothea "Dorothy" (Wead) Berman,[7] and (3) Mrs. Marjorie Doris (Wead) Copley.[8] One year following the marriage of Frank and Minnie, he was temporarily appointed in rank to Lieutenant, effective 15 October 1917.[9]

Military career[edit]

Twenty year old Midshipman Frank Wilbur Wead, Class of 1916 yearbook photograph taken by the United States Naval Academy photographer.

Frank Wilbur Wead was admitted into the United States Naval Academy on 16 July 1912, at age 16 years.[10] Together with John D. Price [11] and Calvin T. Durgin,[12] they graduated with the Class of 1916 on 29 May 1916; Captain Edward Walter Eberle, USN, Superintendent, officiating.[13] Wead began to promote Naval Aviation after World War I through air racing, speed competitions and several naval aviation articles he submitted for publishing in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings magazine. This competition, mainly against the United States Army Air Service (and its leading racer, Jimmy Doolittle), helped push U.S. military aviation forward. These competitions would give naval aviation a much-needed spotlight in the public eye. The public attention that it generated helped push Congress to fund the advancement of military aviation. During World War I, Wead served on a minelayer in the North Sea.[14] After World War I he was a test pilot for the Navy.

Surface Navy[edit]

Following graduation, Ensign Wead departed, on 2 June 1916, for leave and traveled to his first sea-duty assignment. Ensign Frank Wead is indicated in the decklog of USS San Diego (ACR-6)[15] (homeported: San Diego, California), reporting aboard 28 June 1916, while the cruiser was in anchorage off Guaymas, Mexico.

Aboard USS Pittsburgh (CA-4) was Commander George Brown Bradshaw, USN;[16] Executive Officer was Commander Zeno Everett Briggs, USN.[17] Ensigns Frank W. Wead and John D. Price began this Latin cruise departing out of San Francisco Bay, 25 April 1917. As pollywogs, they participated in the time-honored naval tradition of the Line-crossing ceremony and were initiated into the royal Kingdom of King Neptune's realm and became crusty shellbacks when the armored cruiser crossed the equator at 0°0′0″N 36°05′00″W / 0.00000°N 36.08333°W / 0.00000; -36.08333, on 10 June. The ship reached Rio de Janeiro where with several other officers they departed the Pittsburgh, on 21 September. They were booked for passage to the Port of New York aboard SS Zeelandia. She departed Rio de Janeiro on 25 September and arrived in New York on 17 October. Whereupon, Ensigns Wead and Price reported to the Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, for sea duty orders.[18]

Ensign Frank Wead received orders to report aboard USS Shawmut (CM-4) to assist in preparing the vessel for war. The USS Shawmut departed New York Harbor in June 1918. For the duration of its overseas assignment, Mrs. Wead would send her mail to "Care of Postmaster, New York City" for delivery to USS Shawmut.

The USS Shawmut operated in the area of the North Sea Mine Barrage. Following the Armistice with Germany, Shawmut returned stateside to the Boston Navy Yard, Massachusetts, with Lieutenant Wead aboard. A kite-balloon division of six balloons under the command of Lieutenant (j.g.) John Gile Paul, RF, USN,[19] were staged on various ships and aboard the USS Shawmut. All units were assembled by 15 February, and began operations with the fleet. They participated in long-range spotting practice giving practical demonstration of aircraft and balloon capabilities, and of the advantages to be derived from the coordinated employment of air and surface units.[20] The experiences gained from these fleet maneuvers had historical significances not only for Air Detachment, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, but also for Lieutenant Wead. It was during these fleet maneuvers that Wead became more interested in the new post-war naval aviation career than as a gunnery or submarine officer.[21]

In 1919, the influence provided by both Lieutenant Commander Marc Mitscher, USN, and Captain George Washington Steele Jr., USN,[22] Commander, Air Detachment, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and commanding USS Shawmut (the first U.S. naval aircraft tender), was enough to convince Wead that the new field of naval aviation would become a promising naval career. With the knowledge that the Naval Aviation Division was seeking naval officers with a strong aptitude in naval engineering, having a desire to accept projects with a certain amount of risk, and with the combat-proven ability to lead naval personnel by example, Lieutenant Wead began the process for obtaining endorsements to his application for flight training.

Naval Aviation- the "Brown Shoe Navy"[edit]

Following the World War, all temporary appointments were cancelled and Lieutenant Frank Wead reverted to the rank of Lieutenant (j.g.). At this time period, he requested orders for naval aviation flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. His request was approved. The orders stated to report for "Class 1" (the first class of regular officers sent to NAS Pensacola after the commencement of World War I), on 15 September 1919. Lieutenant (j.g.) Wead reported to NAS Pensacola and was billeted in a two-man room with Lieutenant (j.g.) Ralph Eugene Davison.[23] Wead and Davison got along just fine; both came from the Class of 1916.

Frank Wead was assigned to a training flight team comprising three students: (1) Lieutenant (j.g.) Frank Wilbur "Sparrow" "Spig" Wead, USNA-1916; (2) Lieutenant (j.g.) Robert Morse "Jerry" Farrar, USNA-1916;[24] and, (3) Lieutenant (j.g.) Calvin "Cal" "Pansy" Thornton Durgin, USNA-1916). The three aviators (Wead, Farrar, Durgin) learned the basics of flight and advanced flying and navigating. Their training involved flying, navigating, radio time.

Lieutenant (j.g.) Wead was designated a United States Naval Aviator on 17 April 1920. On that date, his wife, Mrs. Minnie "Min" Wead, pinned his golden wings just above his two decoration ribbons: Mexican Service Medal and World War Victory Medal. Both Farrar and Durgin received their aviation wings on 27 May 1920. NAS Pensacola commandant Captain Harley H. Christy, USN,[25] officiated at the ceremonies.

alt text
The Wings of Eagles movie poster. Dated: 22 Feb 1957.

On 21 April 1921, a newly promoted Lieutenant Frank Wead reported aboard USS Aroostook (CM-3), homeported at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California. Aboard Aroostook, Wead was assigned aviation duties involving flying: Aeromarine 39-B (two-seater seaplane used as a "scout plane") and Felixstowe F5L (flying boat that carried a crew of four); reporting to Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Air Squadrons Captain Henry Varnum Butler, USN,[26] and Executive Aide Lieutenant Commander Patrick N. L. Bellinger, USN.

Many changes were occurring within the naval aviation community. In the summer of 1921, LT Wead took part in the round-trip, long distance flight operation involving twelve F-5-L flying boats departing from NAS North Island to the Coco Solo Canal Zone and back. Additionally, LT Wead took part in tests involving dummy torpedoes dropped from F-5-L aircraft. Also, in accordance with an Act of Congress, United States Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby issued orders for the establishment of a Bureau of Aeronautics to begin operations, 1 September 1921, with Rear Admiral William A. Moffett as chief of the bureau.

The experience gained aboard USS Aroostook involving F-5-L flying boats was instrumental in LT Wead being selected as commanding officer Combat Squadron No. 3 (re-designated, Fighting Plane Squadron 3, on 17 June 1922), U.S. Pacific Fleet; serving in this capacity for over a year until the spring of 1923.

During the period of 1921 - 1923, there was a great interest among state governors and congressional leaders to send Government aeroplanes to all parts of the country to participate in patriotic celebrations, municipal and state functions, conventions, air meets, including international air races. In an era of aeronautic cooperation and coordination with the taxpayers, the two services (United States Army Air Service headed by Major General Mason Patrick and the Bureau of Aeronautics headed by Rear Admiral Moffett) wholeheartedly approved at the 14th Annual Banquet of the Aero Club of America[27] to compete for the Pulitzer Trophy, Mackay Army Trophy, Collier Trophy, Wright Trophy, Larsen Efficiency Trophy, Curtiss Marine Trophy, Detroit Aviation Country Club Trophy, Liberty Engine Builders Trophy, Detroit News Aerial Mail Trophy, Inter-service Championship Meet, including the two foreign races- the Coupe Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe and the Coupe Jacques Schneider for seaplanes and flying boats.[28]

In the spring of 1923, Wead reported to NAS Anacostia, Washington DC (today, known as the Naval Support Facility Anacostia) for shore duty assignment. Assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics- Flight Division,[29] LT Wead worked closely with the Philadelphia Naval Aircraft Factory[30] and three contractors (Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, Wright Aeronautical, Glenn L. Martin Company) in the development of seaplane airframes and new engines, and testing the seaplanes in duration flights above the Potomac River.[31] Based upon his experience and technical expertise, LT Wead submitted several articles for publication that pertained to known issues concerning aircraft design, power plant problems, and future naval aviation.[32]

Convinced that the Flight Division was ready to compete in the international seaplane races, and with the full support of the Bureau of Aeronautics, LT Wead led a team of pilots and won the Schneider International Seaplane Race on 28 September 1923, at East Cowes, Isle of Wight, Great Britain. Receiving international publicity and national fame, LT Wead was now recognized not only as a leading advocate for naval aviation, but also for inter-service aviation cooperation and coordination.

alt text
Official Navy Department (National Archives) photo of Vice Admiral John Dale Price, USN, Naval Aviator. Date of photo: 1954.

During the period 22–23 June 1924 just off-shore of NAS Anacostia, LT Wead and LT John Dale Price, using a Curtiss CS-2 with a Wright T-3 Tornado engine, set new Class C seaplane records for distance (963.123 miles), duration (13 hours 23 minutes 15 seconds), and three speed records (73.41 mph for 500 kilometers, 74.27 mph for 1000 km, and 74.17 mph for 1500 km). Lieutenants Wead and Price struck again 11–12 July 1924, with new Class C seaplane records for distance (994.19 miles) and duration (14 hours 53 min 44 sec) using a CS-2 with a Wright Tornado engine. In order to set these records, Wead and Price had to exchange positions at the controls, as the aircraft had only one set of controls. One of the pair would leave the navigator/spotter position, climb out of the plane and slide along the hull on a small rail. The two would both occupy the pilots seat as one slid into place and the other slid out and exited the aircraft and moved to the navigator's position.

Following his successful assignment at NAS Anacostia, LT Wead was assigned staff duty involving flying at NAS North Island where he served as Flag Lieutenant to Captain Stanford Elwood Moses, USN- the flight project commander at NAS North Island.[33] One big event Wead was involved with during 1924–25 was the planning for the San Francisco to Hawaii endurance and navigation tests to comprise two Naval Aircraft Factory PN-9 flying boats, and one Boeing PB-1 flying boat.

In early April 1926, LT Frank Wead received a naval message at his headquarters, NAS North Island, that he was selected for promotion to Lieutenant Commander, USN; promoted ahead of his fellow naval aviators Class of 1916; and, one of the Navy's youngest squadron commanders.


Lieutenant Wead would have continued his career as a naval aviator had it not been for a serious accident. The accident: tragedy struck Wednesday morning, 14 April 1926, during heavy electrical storm over the city of San Diego and Coronado community. In the two-story home rented by Lieutenant Frank Wead (600 9th Avenue, Coronado) the Wead family were sleeping. While resting in the upstairs master bedroom Frank heard his 5-year old daughter (Marjorie) crying. He rushed from his bedroom and with the combination of power outage and hurrying in the darkness, Frank accidentally tripped, falling head-long down the dark stairway, fracturing his neck. The events that unfolded were carefully captured in the John Ford directed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film The Wings of Eagles.[34]

The injury resulted in paralysis. Lieutenant Frank Wead was immediately taken to the U.S. Naval Hospital, Balboa Park (today's Naval Medical Center San Diego) where the Commandant of the U.S. Naval Hospital Captain Raymond Spear, (Surgeon) Medical Corps, USN, was briefed on Wead's condition and ordered the surgery for this young naval aviator.[35]

According to an article written by a San Diego Union Tribune staff writer:

"Lieut. Frank Wead Slips on Stairway of Coronado Home; Operated Upon. Lieut. Frank Wead, one of the best known aviators in the naval service, was operated on for a fractured neck at the naval hospital yesterday morning. Wead sustained the injury which came near costing his life when he slipped and fell from the top of the stairway of his home in Coronado late Wednesday night. The aviator had just moved into the home and was unfamiliar with the staircase. Physicians, following the operation yesterday, said that Wead will recover but it is doubtful if he will be able to fly again. Wead's outstanding exploit since entering the naval flying corps was his flight against British pilots in the international seaplane races off the Isle of Wight in 1923, when American naval fliers took all the honors."[36]

While convalescing in the hospital he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander, USN, on 16 July 1926. At the encouragement of his fellow naval officers, LCDR Wead put to work his writing skills and started sending manuscripts to pulp book and magazine companies. Due to the seriousness of his injury, LCDR Frank Wead was placed on the retired list, 28 May 1928,[37] and began his second career- Screenplay writing.

World War II and retirement[edit]

Wead returned to the Navy during World War II and helped integrate the use of escort carriers to support the main battle line and beach landings. In his syndicated column In Hollywood, on 13 January 1942, Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) service staff correspondent Paul Harrison released an article on a recent interview with Spig Wead titled "No Weeds Growing Under Wead’s Feet" (NEA supplied daily features to many newspapers; United Media).[38] Paul wrote:

Early Offer. "On the fateful afternoon of December 7, Wead sent a wire offering his services to Rear Admiral J. H. Towers, Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics. A reply of acceptance came next day, along with assurance he needn’t worry about his physical disability…And so Lieut. Comdr. Frank Wead now is special assistant to Capt. Ralph Davison, head of the Plans Division, which deals with the organization and tactical operation of all naval aviation...When I used the word 'sacrifice' in reminding him that he was leaving a $2,000-a-week berth for one paying $460 a month, he just snorted. It was a very eloquent snort."[39]

At 11:00 am, Sunday morning, in Beverly Hills, California, Lieutenant Commander Frank Wead, USN (Ret.) tuned-in to listen to KNX (AM) 1070 radio program "Spirit of '41" when shortly after the program was interrupted with a news bulletin that the American naval base at Pearl Harbor was under attack.[40] Here is what Frank heard announced by CBS news reporter John C. Daly at precisely 11:31 am on KNX 1070(AM) station:[41]

"The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by air, President Roosevelt has just announced. The attack also was made on all naval military activities on the principal island of Oahu. The news came in just after the two Japanese envoys in Washington made the appointment to call at the State Department, and follows reports from the Far East that Japan was ready to launch an attack on Thailand."[42]

During the next several hours Frank Wead listened as bulletins interrupted regularly scheduled radio programs with updated details of the Pearl Harbor bombing. And, during this time Frank made that important long-distance phone call to the Bureau of Aeronautics to speak with Rear Admiral Towers. Frank called from his large paneled library within a rented, voluminous two-story gated estate (rebuilt in 1987, it sold for $7,252,000 on 18 March 2013; lot size: 0.32 acres) located at 715 North Rexford Drive, City of Beverly Hills, Los Angeles County, CA.[43] The phone call was followed-up with a Western Union telegram to Captain Ralph Davison, USN.

It was a chance to serve his country, again. Lieutenant Commander Frank Wead flew from California and arrived at Naval Air Station Quonset Point (Quonset Point Air National Guard Station) where he worked as special aide to Captain Ralph Davison. Also, at NAS Quonset Point was Rear Admiral Calvin T. Durgin and his naval aide Captain John Madison "Johnny" Hoskins, USN.[44] All these naval aviators communicated closely together in working out the details for the manning and training of carrier air groups for the newly commissioned aircraft carriers. With the approval from Captain Ralph Davison, Frank was promoted to the temporary rank of Commander, USNR, on 28 September 1942.

The story of CDR Wead's sea-duty during World War II began in the air flying from Port of San Francisco and landing at Honolulu Harbor aboard NC18605 Boeing 314 Clipper Dixie Clipper,[45] arriving at Oahu Island on 21 November 1943. From the Port of Honolulu CDR Wead reported to Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet Headquarters (World War II) as head of the Plans Division for Commander, Air Force, Pacific Fleet, Vice Admiral John Henry Towers. This shore-duty assignment was to await return of USS Yorktown (CV-10). On the afternoon of 9 December 1943, CDR Wead reported aboard USS Yorktown where he met with his old Naval Academy buddy Captain Joseph J. Clark, USN [46]- skipper of the Yorktown. Representing the Plans Division, CDR Wead's orders aboard USS Yorktown; to monitor and report on carrier aviation combat operations, most especially obtaining first-hand knowledge in the ability of consolidated CVs in a task force to readily replace their lost/damaged aircraft with replacements from close-by CVLs.

Having completed an earlier successful operation, USS Yorktown (assigned to Task Group 58.1, commanded by Rear Admiral John W. Reeves, Jr., USN) departed Pearl Harbor with CDR Wead aboard on 16 January 1944. CDR Wead took part in the attack on Kwajalein Atoll-Operation Flintlock (World War II); an operation that involved four carrier groups. The USS Yorktown then steamed to the newly established Pacific Fleet anchorage at Majuro Atoll, arriving about 4 February 1944. It was during this short eight-day anchorage period amongst the Pacific Fleet that CDR Wead was transferred from Yorktown to a destroyer, and then to Essex (CV-9).[47]

The commanding officer of Essex was Captain Ralph A. Ofstie, USN.[48] While aboard Essex, Wead saw action against Truk Island (17–18 February), now called Chuuk, and against Saipan, Tinian, and Guam (23 February). After these operations, Essex received orders for overhaul and CDR Wead remained aboard Essex as it steamed to San Francisco Bay. The carrier arrived at Naval Air Station Alameda on or about 16 April 1944 for a much-needed overhaul. It was at NAS Alameda, aboard USS Essex (pier-side), that Wead was given an official send-off from active duty just prior to his retirement. CDR Frank Wead was relieved of active duty on 21 July 1944, and was processed through the Personnel Department at NAS Alameda receiving his discharge papers and a train ticket for Los Angeles, California. CDR Wead was placed on the retired list, 11 May 1945.


Pulp writings[edit]

Following his release from Balboa Naval Hospital, Lieutenant Commander Wead, USN (Ret.), moved to Los Angeles County, California, to reside in Santa Monica where he purchased a beautiful small home at 1417 Ocean Avenue (an ocean front view). It was at this residence that Lieutenant Commander Wead wrote:

Screenplay writings[edit]

Frank A. Andrews's book Dirigible (New York: A.L. Burt Co. 1931), is based on the Columbia picture screenplay by Wead. Frank Wead's publishers released another book in 1931. This was Wings For Men.[50] Writing would become a second and even more important career for Wead, and a means of promoting naval aviation.

The injury to his neck left Frank Wead with an incredulous ability to endure hours of pain sitting upright in a chair typing away on manuscripts for possible publication. Known to outsiders as being "belligerent, brave, eccentric visionary; a man of fanatical dedication...doomed to be alone", his love for his daughters and their well-being could not be matched.[51] Frank sent his daughter Dorothea to attend the prestigious Smith College;[52] she graduated with the Class of 1939. Thus, this Naval Academy grad and record-breaking naval pilot was able to succeed as a screenplay writer and to earn a comfortable income to support his daughters in their life-style and college education.

Frank Wead's second unexpected career became far more important than his work as a pilot. His talent for writing grew during the years as a naval officer involved with the daily administrative papers, submitting detailed reports, completing flight schedules. One of his interests was reading stories and poetry written by Robert Louis Stevenson. Frank Wead would later use the Requiem inscribed on Stevenson's tomb as script material for several screenplays. For example, They Were Expendable and The Wings of Eagles.

Wead's writing led him to Hollywood and the eventual friendship and collaboration with director John Ford. Wead received two Academy Award nominations in 1938, one for Best Original Story for Test Pilot and a second for Best Screenplay for The Citadel. Wead also wrote for leading magazines (The Saturday Evening Post and The American Magazine), and he wrote at least two books: Ceiling Zero (1936), and Gales, Ice and Men, A Biography of the Steam Barkentine Bear (1937). He later adapted Ceiling Zero into both a Broadway play and a feature film.


On 17 November 1947, the Associated Press reported Frank Wead's death.

Santa Monica, Calif. Nov. 17- (AP) – "Frank Wead, 52, of Los Angeles, naval aviator in World War I who became a film writer died Saturday night in Santa Monica hospital[53] which he entered Nov. 1 for surgery ... Wead, who was born in Peoria, Ill., fell at home in 1926, fracturing his neck and sustaining paralysis after which he retired from the Navy. He is survived by two daughters, Mrs. Doris (William) Copley of San Diego, Calif., daughter-in-law of the late publisher, Col. Ira C. Copley, and Mrs. Lila Ployardt of North Hollywood, Calif.; by his divorced wife, Mrs. Minnie Wead, La Jolla, Calif., and by two brothers DeForest Wead of Peoria, and David Wead, Oswego, Ill. [also survived by a nephew-DeForest W. Meehleib of Peoria, Ill.]. After funeral services Tuesday the body will be taken to Peoria for burial."[54]

John Ford directed The Wings of Eagles in 1957, portraying Wead's contributions to Naval aviation. John Wayne was cast as Wead, Ken Curtis as John Dale Price, and Ward Bond played director Ford in the thinly-disguised pseudonymous character of John Dodge. Maureen O'Hara held the role of Mrs. Minnie "Min" (Bryant) Wead (9 December 1891 in Colorado-21 January 1952 in Los Angeles), Frank's wife.

On Monday evening, 4 February 1957, Maureen O'Hara was proclaimed Miss Naval Aviation of 1957 at the annual Naval Aviation Cadet Recruiting Officers' Convention by Commander Tom Cates, USN (left), and Lieutenant Commander C. G. Hathaway, USNR (right).

For her part in the MGM film "The Wings of Eagles", Maureen O'Hara was crowned "Miss Naval Aviation of 1957" at the annual Naval Aviation Cadet Recruiting Officers' Convention at the Lafayette Hotel, in Long Beach, California, on Monday evening, 4 February 1957.[55] Presenting her this award were Commander Thomas Willard Cates, USN,[56] and Lieutenant Commander Carmrid Glaston Hathaway, USN.[57] Shortly after two other events were held honoring Ms. O'Hara. One MGM publicity event was held in Norfolk, Virginia, naval cadets of the Aviation Cadet Barracks crowned Ms. O'Hara as "Miss Valentine". O'Hara in turn presented the NavCad Victory Cup to Commander Thomas W. Cates, USN, for outstanding cadet procurement during Fiscal Year 1956.[58] The other MGM publicity event took place on Saturday evening, 16 February 1957, that involved the crowning of Ms. O'Hara as "Miss Naval Aviation Cadet of 1957" by Lieutenant Commander Anthony Joseph Kampmann, USN,[59] and Lieutenant Gerald Thaine Bird, USNR[60]- both naval aviation cadet officers at Naval Air Station Oakland, California.

Harvey M. Beigel provided an article that was published in the "American Aviation Historical Society Journal" [1] (winter 1997) describing further details of "Spig" Wead's aviation exploits and screenwriting abilities.[61]

Military awards and certifications[edit]

Legion of Merit[edit]

According to a Navy Department Office of Public Relations and Office of War Information radio and press notice of Tuesday, 29 August 1944, CDR Frank Wead received the Legion of Merit. The citation read as follows: "Commander Frank W. Wead, United States Navy, is awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Head of the Plans Division on the Staff of Commander Air Pacific, from November 1943 to June 1944."[62]

Mexican Service Medal[edit]

Ensign Frank Wead earned the Mexican Service Medal aboard USS San Diego (ACR-6) between 7 July 1916 through 12 February 1917. This Navy warship was previously commissioned as USS California (ACR-6).

World War I Victory Medal[edit]

LT(j.g.) Frank Wead earned this medal while serving aboard USS Shawmut (CM-4) during mine laying operations in the North Sea's Northern Barrage, 1918.

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal[edit]

World War II Victory Medal[edit]

Aviation certification[edit]

Civilian honors[edit]

Schneider Trophy (1923)[edit]

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Bronze replica of the Schneider Trophy.


The American team under the leadership of LT Frank Wilbur Wead, USN (team captain) won the Schneider International Seaplane Race and were awarded the Schneider Trophy (Europeans refer to it as the Schneider Cup[63]) on 28 September 1923, at East Cowes, Isle of Wight, Great Britain. The American team comprised LT Frank Wead, LT David Rittenhouse,[64] LT Rutledge Irvine,[65] LT Adolphus Worthington Gorton,[66] and several naval aviation mechanics. It was managed by team captain LT Wead. The Schneider Cup (or Schneider Trophy), named for the French aviation enthusiast, started in Monaco in 1913. This seaplane racing cup resided in Europe until 1923 when Lieutenant David Rittenhouse won the race and brought the cup home to the United States for the Navy team. The Schneider Cup is an Art Nouveau styled sculpture representing Zephyrus, Greek God of the West wind, kissing the Spirit of the Waves.

Official U.S. photograph of LT David Rittenhouse, USN (center image)

Ceiling Zero[edit]

The film Ceiling Zero (1936) received critic's choice recognition as a Broadway play and film production; a film based upon the stage and screen play by LCDR Frank Wead, USN (Ret.), and the technical advice of Paul Mantz.

Test Pilot[edit]

The film Test Pilot (1938) earned 4 Academy Award nominations: Outstanding Production, Writing, Film Editing

The Citadel[edit]

The film The Citadel (1938) earned 4 Academy Award nominations: Outstanding Production, Best Actor, Directing, Writing-Screenplay

They Were Expendable[edit]

They Were Expendable (1945) earned two Academy Award nominations for Sound Recording and Special Effects.



  1. ^ The American Magazine, volume 109, # 5, sale 25 cents, May 1930
  2. ^ The Saturday Evening Post, volume 202, # 47, page 54, sale 5 cents, 24 May 1930
  3. ^ Submarine Stories, volume 4, # 12, page 36, sale 20 cents, July 1930
  4. ^ The American Magazine, volume 111, # 3, page 74, sale 25 cents, March 1931
  5. ^ Liberty, page 37, sale 5 cents, 27 August 1932
  6. ^ The Saturday Evening Post, volume 205, # 40, page 12, sale 5 cents, 1 April 1933


  1. ^ "Frank Wead (1895 - 1947) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  2. ^ "Samuel De Forest Wead (23 December 1852 - 3 January 1931) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-22. 
  3. ^ "Grace Bestor Wead (9 February 1871 - 17 February 1944) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-22. 
  4. ^ Frank Wead's grandfather (Hezekiah M. Wead) was a prominent lawyer & Republican who raised the Wead family in Lewistown, Fulton County, Illinois, during the 1840s - 1850s. Mr. Hezekiah Wead's law practice association in the Lewistown's Fulton County Courthouse periodically met with Republican lawyer Abraham Lincoln, and made acquaintance with Judge William Kellogg (Illinois). The Wead family were present at the 17 August 1858 U.S. Senate candidacy speech made by Mr. Lincoln at the Courthouse, and Hezekiah voted in favor of a resolution that Mr. Lincoln be elected to the U.S. Senate. This resolution went to the "Republican State Convention" to be held at Springfield, Illinois. Additionally, Mr. Lincoln corresponded with Mr. Wead. Refer to: "Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 2." p. 610 (New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 1953). Furthermore, the personal diary of Hezekiah M. Wead is maintained at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
  5. ^ "Minnie Lou Bryant Hutchinson Wead (1891 - 1952) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  6. ^ "Frank Wilber Wead, Jr (6 February 1919 - 28 February 1920) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-22. 
  7. ^ Mrs. Lila Dorothy (Wead) Berman was born on 3 November 1917, in New York. She died on 20 April 2011, in the city of Sebastopol, Sonoma County, California.
  8. ^ Mrs. Marjorie Doris (Wead) Copley Starrels was born on 21 December 1921, in Los Angeles County, California. She died on 30 October 1986, in the city of Venice, Los Angeles County, California.
  9. ^ "Who's Who Among the Young Men of the Nation". Vol. 2, p. 595 (Richard Blank Publishing Company- 1936). This publication provided date and location of marriage.
  10. ^ Assigned to Third Battalion, Ninth Company. Midshipman Wead participated in the Naval Academy Practice Cruise aboard USS Missouri (BB-11), summer 1915. For sports, Midshipman Wead was active in the basketball team (Lieutenant W.F. Halsey, USN- in charge) and in the lacrosse team (Lieutenant J.R. Beardall, USN- in charge).
  11. ^ "ADM John Dale Price (1892 - 1957) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  12. ^ "ADM Calvin Thornton Durgin (1893 - 1965) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  13. ^ United States Naval Academy. Yearbook: Lucky Bag 1916.
  14. ^ "Mr. Wead Comes Out of the Clouds" - New York Times - May 5, 1935
  15. ^ "USS California/San Diego, ACR-6, WWI". Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  16. ^ "George Brown Bradshaw (1870 - 1936) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-18. 
  17. ^ "Zeno Everett Briggs (1876 - 1972) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-18. 
  18. ^ Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897 - 1957 (National Archives Microfilm Publication, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, National Archives, Washington DC; T715_2548; Year: 1917; lines 12, 19; sheet 83A).
  19. ^ "John Gile Paul (1895 - 1959) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  20. ^ The History of Naval Aviation. Part 2: Test of Strength, 1917–1919. p 38, web site
  21. ^ Naval Aviation News. 1 October 1944. "1919: First Fleet Air Detachment. Shawmut Converted to Carrier in Guantanamo Bay Winter Maneuvers." p. 20.
  22. ^ "Capt George Washington Steele, Jr (1879 - 1955) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  23. ^ "Ralph Eugene Davison (1895 - 1972) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  24. ^ "Lieut Robert Morse Farrar (1894 - 1923) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-21. 
  25. ^ "Harley Hannibal Christy (1870 - 1950)". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  26. ^ "Henry Varnum Butler Vice Admiral, United States Navy (1874 - 1957) - Arlington National Cemetery Website". Retrieved 2015-07-21. 
  27. ^ The 14th Annual Banquet of the Aero Club of America took place on Monday evening, 9 January 1922 at the Commodore Hotel (re-opened in 1980 as the Grand Hyatt New York), New York City.
  28. ^ During 1921 - 1922, the four senior naval aviation advocates who clearly saw the demise of the battleship (expensive ships doomed by modern weapons) and the requirement for a "Three-Plane-Navy" (a three idea Navy; submarines, aeroplane carriers, aeroplanes) were: Rear Admiral William Fullam, Vice Admiral William Sims, Rear Admiral William A. Moffett and Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske.
  29. ^ The Bureau of Aeronautics was divided into four divisions and a USMC Aviation headquarters: Administration, Plans, Flight, and Material divisions.
  30. ^ During the 1920s, the Philadelphia Naval Aircraft Factory furnished a place where repair, overhaul, and emergency work were promptly handled; where confidential experimental development were undertaken with the supervision of naval personnel; and, where the manufacture of standardized aircraft could be undertaken in order to obtain reliable information as to cost. It was the opinion of both the Army Air Service and the Bureau of Aeronautics to take aircraft construction out of the arsenals and into the hands of the civilian aircraft builder who had the capacity to produce Government planes, designs and engineering facilities and equipment more economically than the Government.
  31. ^ For example, on 7 May 1922, Secretary of the Navy Denby authorized an announcement that the Glenn L. Martin Company had undertaken the development for the Bureau of Aeronautics of a number of seaplanes to be constructed of duralumin, and to be used by the fleet for spotting gunfire at long ranges. LT Wead's involvement was during this transition from the previously constructed airframes of "wood, linen and wire" to the new "duralumin" for all naval aircraft.
  32. ^ Wead, Frank W. (LT, USN). "Naval Aviation Today". U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 50, No. 4 (April 1924): 561-74.
  33. ^ "Capt Stanford Elwood Moses (1872 - 1950) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-20. 
  34. ^ Details of the accident were later discussed in private between Frank Wead and John Ford, and in letter correspondence with John Dale Price and Calvin T. Durgin.
  35. ^ "Raymond Spear (1873 - 1937) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-17. . Captain Raymond Spear, MC, USN, was listed in the "Official San Diego City and County 1926 Directory" (Frye & Smith, Publishers; p. 825).
  36. ^ The San Diego Union. "Daring Aviator Fractures Neck" (Friday morning edition), 16 April 1926, Editorial Page, page 4, column 4.
  37. ^ Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, 1 July 1944. NAVPERS 15.O18. United States Government Printing Office, Washington:1944
  38. ^ Paul Harrison (1904, Kansas - 1982, California)
  39. ^ Harrison, Paul. "No Weeds Growing Under Wead's Feet" (13 January 1942, NEA: Hollywood CA).
  40. ^ The radio program Spirit of '41 was a new program series in the interest of national defense. This program was designed to bring radio listeners dramatic first-hand information about all the fighting units of the United States forces. Each week the program would single out one unit of the Army, Navy or Marines and in dramatic form, trace its history and development up to the present time. At 11:31 am, the program was interrupted by a news bulletin given by John Daly (radio and television personality).
  41. ^ "John Charles Daly (20 February 1914 - 24 February 1991) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  42. ^ Bliss, Edward. "Now the News: The Story of Broadcast Journalism" (Columbia University Press: 1991). p. 135. John Charles Daly was at the CBS studio, Madison & 52nd Street, New York City, NY, when he first made this news bulletin announcement at 2:31 pm EST. Also, an excellent reference as to how Americans first learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor is found at website Retrieved 2015-07-27.
  43. ^ Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  44. ^ "Adm John Madison Hoskins (22 October 1898 - 27 March 1964) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-24. . Also, Life magazine. "Our Peg-Leg Admiral." August 14, 1950. Vol. 29, No. 7. pp. 72-77. An excellent published article on Admiral John M. Hoskins, USN.
  45. ^ Pan American Airways, Inc., Transpacific Division. Passenger List. Page 247. PT 52-B.43-1100. Aircraft Identification No. NC18605. Station of Embarkation San Francisco. Date of Embarkation November 21, 1943. No. 10: Frank Wead, Cmdr, USN.
  46. ^ "Adm Joseph James "Jocko" Clark (1893 - 1971) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  47. ^ U.S.S. Essex (CV-9) List of Nonenlisted Passengers of U.S.S. ESSEX, Date: 28 February 1944. List no. 14, (column 1) Names: Long, Dwight S.; (column 2) Rank, Title, etc.: Lieut. A-V(S) USNR. List no. 27 (column 1) Names: Wead, Frank W.; (column 2) Rank, Title, etc.: Comdr. (Retired) USN.
  48. ^ "Adm Ralph Andrew Ofstie (1897 - 1956) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  49. ^ W. L. River and Frank Wead (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1935). 285 p.
  50. ^ Wead, Frank W. Wings For Men. The Century Company: New York and London, 1931. Illustrated. Includes extensive reference to the Wright Brothers. Frank Wead's hypothesis in this book that in any future war, aircraft will prove the determining factor in guiding a nation either to victory or to defeat.
  51. ^ Dan Ford. Pappy: The Life of John Ford (Da Capo Press: 1998). 324 pp.
  52. ^ Lila Dorothea Wead resided at Smith College's Northrop House- a Georgian Revival styled, five-story, red brick building.
  53. ^ "Welcome to Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center & Orthopaedic Hospital: Santa Monica, CA". 2006-09-30. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  54. ^ "Death — Frank Wead" (17 November 1947, Associated Press article). The Santa Monica Hospital address: 1250 16th Street, City of Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California.
  55. ^ On Monday evening, 6 February 1956, Ms. Marcia Valibus (18-years old) was chosen "Miss Naval Aviation of 1956" at the Miami Beach Convention of Naval Aviation Procurement Officers. She was also recognized as "Miss Miami Beach of 1956", and later as 1st Runner Up for "Miss USA 1958".
  56. ^ "Thomas Willard Cates (24 February 1918 - 9 December 2001)". Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  57. ^ "Carmrid Glaston Hathaway (8 February 1922 - 6 March 2001)". Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  58. ^ This cup was originally presented to the Navy by the Chance Vought Aircraft Corporation to be awarded to the top NavCad procurement team in America.
  59. ^ "Anthony Joseph Kampmann (12 April 1922 - 24 December 1960)". Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  60. ^ Lieutenant, U.S. Naval Reserve (20 May 1923 - ).
  61. ^ Beigel, Harvey M. American Aviation Historical Society Journal (vol. 42, pp 302-309). "'Spig' Wead: Naval Aviator and Screenwriter" (winter 1997).
  62. ^ Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 364 (June 1947)
  63. ^ "Schneider Trophy (Cup) Races Seaplane Competition The Rolls Royce Aero Engines and Spitfire and Hurricane | The Bluebird Electric Land Speed Project". 1912-12-05. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  64. ^ "CDR David Rittenhouse (1894 - 1962) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-20. 
  65. ^ "Rutledge Irvine (1896 - 1976) - Find A Grave". Retrieved 2015-07-20. 
  66. ^ Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register. Website Retrieved 2015-07-20

External links[edit]