James W. Warner (aviator) (Radioman) Radioman on the first Trans-Pacific Flight, The "Southern Cross" 1928, with Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Pilot.
James W. Warner was born near Lawrence, Kansas in 1891. Around 1893 or 1894, his mother and father for whatever reason, decided to divorce. He had two sisters and two brothers. The mother took the two sisters and father took the three boys to an orphanage in Wichita, and left them. When he was about five years old, he was adopted by a German family by the name of Oswald. In those days, the only reason they adopted a boy was for an extra hand on the farm. There was quite a German community there and had a German school. So he went to German school, and English school through the eighth grade. He read, wrote and spoke German, At that time better than English. At some time in this period, the Oswalds sold the farm and went back to Germany and took him with them. They stayed for about a year, and then returned to Kansas and bought another farm. My dad told me that one time they were taking some hogs to market in a wagon. He fell off the wagon and landed in a rut, which kept him from being cut in half by the wagon wheel. Also, in this time frame. He was kicked in the head by a horse, and you could always see the scar on his forehead. He told me that his adopted father would beat him, and he would go out in the Cornfield and hide and have a good cry. He finished the eighth grade in this area, and apparently had quite a few friends. When he got to be about 14, he decided leave. He went to Wichita, and he got a job in a butcher shop and his adopted father found that he was there and came to try to talk him into coming back. But he didn't want to come back. After a while, he saved enough money to buy a donkey and a little cart, and somebody taught him how to make harness dressing with lard and lamp black, And he took off making harness dressing and selling a can for $.50 or three for a dollar. He made his way to Denver. I know he got a job in Denver, in a bowling alley, setting pins. At some point, he got up around Boulder, Colorado and got a job driving a team with a road-grader. When he was around 17 or 18. The got a job on a dairy farm, and I know he milked 50 cows twice a day, which resulted in very large forearms, which he had for the rest of his life. He bought a dairy route from the farmer with the wagon and horse and delivered milk every day. When he had it about paid off, he got into an argument with the farmer and the farmer ran him off swinging a two by four. So he lost the almost $600 that he had invested. I think that this time is probably when he rode the rails, and lived in Hobo camps for a while. Someplace along the line he acquired a pistol. And he told me that he got into an argument with a guy and he was really tempted to pull the pistol and shoot, but he didn’t. Then he left the camp. And he threw the pistol away. I don't think he ever owned a gun after that. By this time. He was 19 or 20 years old and decided to go in the Navy. So he went to Denver and enlisted in 1911. He was sent to Goat Island for boot camp. Goat Island is now known as Treasure Island, and is located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay with the San Francisco -- Oakland Bay Bridge connecting to it. This was in 1911, and he had not heard from his mother or sisters or brothers, at all. After boot camp, he was sent to the western Pacific and. then to China. Where he served on gunboats on the Yangtze River. During this time, he advanced his rate to Quartermaster first class, and then in 1916, he dropped his rate and trained in a brand new Navy rating, “Electricians Mate, Radio”. By 1919, he had become one of the first Chief Radiomen in the Navy. During this time, He spent time on the Destroyer ”Parker” in the war. Based in Ireland. And, He was stationed on the Cruiser St Louis, which was the Flagship for the Pacific Fleet. I believe this is where he ran into Harry Lyon, Who was a Lieutenant in the reserve. Also, I read a book during High school, I believe, that was written by the First officer on the German Submarine that Sank the “Britannia”. Jim told me that the destroyer he was on threw depth bombs at the Sub, but with no success. At the end of the War, The Author wrote, that he was in Hamburg (?) And the first American ship came into the port, When the Captain came ashore, he had an interpreter with him. Jim Warner. After the war, he spent time on destroyers, and taught radio in San Diego. At one point, he was in charge of the compass station at Point Reyes in Northern California. On Mar 30 1928 he was transferred to Fleet Reserve (Inactive). He took his retirement in San Francisco, and I believe a friend of his “Packy” must have lived there. Packy told him that Harry Lyon was considering going with Kingsford smith across the Pacific. The story is that he got hold of Harry, and tried to talk him out of it. The rest is history. This was the first sucessful use of Radio on a long distance flight. When They returned from Australia, they were each presented a 4 oz gold medal, and $10,000 from the Citizens of Oakland and William Randolph Hearst. Jim Bought 2 airplanes, and started training to do a flight to Japan. They were refueling in the air, trying to set an endurance record, when the pilot of the single engine craft fell asleep and landed upside-down in the mud flats near San Mateo. The refueling consisted of a 55 gal. Drum of gas in one plane and a hose hanging in the windstream. The second plane (with open Cockpit) would fly under the first, and the pilot would grab the hose, and insert it into the fuel tank, then they would pump the gas into the plane. The flight to Japan never got out of the planning stages. Later, around 1930, Jim went to Los Angeles, and opened a Radio Shop. He hired an engineer, and they designed and manufactured a Super-Hetrodyne kit to install on all of the heterodyne radios in use at that time. He also told me that he was experimenting with building an Electronic organ. During this time, he was contracted by W.R. Hearst, to install a sound system at San Simeon, The Hearst Castle. Later in the 30’s he moved to Fresno, and was working with A Water Softener Co. traveling in California’s Central Valley. That is when He met my Mother, who owned a roadside Diner in Highway City, north of Fresno. In August of 1940 he was recalled by the Navy, and sent to Hawaii. In 1941 he was transferred to Washington DC, and the Navy’s central receiving station. In Mar 1943, he was transferred to College Station Texas (Texas A&M) where he taught radio for the balance of the War. He passed away in 1970:
References:· “The Trans Pacific Flight” Liberty Magazine April 19, 1930 pg17 James W Warner · American Aviation Historical Society Journal, Volume 28 # 2 Summer 1983 pg140, “Jim Warner- Radioman” –Tom Warner · American Aviation Historical Society Journal, Volume 24 # 4 Winter 1979 pg279, “Harry Lyon and The Southern Cross”-Lloyd S. Gates · “Milestones of Aviation” The Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Crescent Books 1991, pg 59-61 · “Great Aircraft and Their Pilots” New York Graphic Society, Roy Cross, 1971 pg70 · “Famous First Flights That Changed History” Doubleday 1968-Lowell Thomas & Lowell Thomas Jr. pg 184 · “ Smithy” A.S. Barnes & Co. 1971, Ward McNally, · “The Flight of The Southern Cross” The National Travel Club 1929, C.E.Kingsford –Smith & C.T.P. Ulm, Especially chapter XX1 · “Smithy” Little Brown & Co. 1998, Ian Mackersey · “Hidden Heroes” Wilmer Bros Limited, 1971 Trevor J. Constable Chapter 10 · “Our Conquest of the Pacific” The National Geographic Magazine, Oct, 1928
Kingsford-smith & Ulm
· “Smithy, The World’s Greatest Aviator” Summit Books. 1977 Pedr Davis Pages 45-65