25th Aero Squadron
|25th Aero Squadron|
|Active||7 May 1917-17 June 1919|
|Branch||Air Service, United States Army|
|Part of||American Expeditionary Forces (AEF)|
World War I
|Maj. Reed G. Landis|
|25th Aero Squadron Emblem|
|Fighter||Royal Aircraft Factory SE-5A, 1918-1919 |
The squadron was assigned as a Day Pursuit (Fighter) Squadron as part of the 4th Pursuit Group, Second United States Army. Its mission was to engage and clear enemy aircraft from the skies and provide escort to reconnaissance and bombardment squadrons over enemy territory.
The squadron saw limited combat, and with Second Army's planned offensive drive on Metz cancelled due to the 1918 Armistice with Germany, the squadron returned to the United States in June 1919 and was demobilized .
A detail of men from the 3d Aero Squadron at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, was assigned to the new Kelly Field on 7 May 1917 to erect tents for the First Provisional Recruit Regiment. The next day, after a sufficient number of tents were put up, what became the 25th Aero Squadron began being quartered in Row "G". On 10 May, the first formation of men was held. Between 11 May and 13 June, the men of Row G went though the usual recruit training, a minute allowance of drill and a large portion of fatigue, such as digging ditches, latrines, excavation for road-building, erection of wooden barracks and performing guard duty on what became Kelly Field #1. Quite a few of the buildings erected on the field were the handiwork of the squadron. On 13 June, the unit was formally organized and given the designation of "20th Aero Squadron", however, due to a clerical error, the designation had been allocated to another unit, the squadron was re-designated as the "25th Aero Squadron" on 22 June.
On 1 July, equipment of all kinds was issued to the men, including uniforms, rifles, ammunition belts, but no rifles. On the 15th, an old Curtiss RE-2 aircraft was parked in front of the squadron. Training was held on repair and rigging this aircraft, and on the 26th, the squadron was moved from their row of tents into one of the new wooden barracks which they had helped to erect. Further instruction on aircraft maintenance continued, and on 15 September, several crews from the squadron were sent over to the airfield to take charge of some Curtiss JN-4As and LWS, which were flying daily from Kelly Field #1.
Training continued though the months of October and November at Kelly Field. On 9 December, the squadron was ready to be sent overseas and was ordered to proceed to the Aviation Concentration Center, Garden City, Long Island. The squadron, however, did not depart Kelly Field until 28 December, arriving in New York on 3 January 1918. The time spent in Garden City was short, as on 9 January, the squadron took a short train trip to Hoboken, New Jersey and boarded the RMS Carmania, bound for Liverpool, England. The voyage across the Atlantic was uneventful, the squadron arriving in Liverpool on 24 January. A train was taken south to Winchester, where the 25th Aero Squadron was assigned to the Romsey Rest Camp.
Training in England
At Winchester, it was learned that the squadron would be assigned to the British Royal Flying Corps for advanced training before being sent to the front in France. It boarded a train, first proceeding to London, then changing there, took another train to Scotland, arriving at RFC Ayr at 9:00am on 31 January. At Ayr, the squadron was assigned to the #1 School of Aerial Fighting. After several weeks of intense training by the RFC, the British trainers determined that the squadron was perfectly capable of doing the work they were assigned. The men were divided into different flights, and were given the assignments of maintaining Sopwith Pups, Sopwith Camels, SE.5s, Sopwith Dolphins, French SPADs, Avro 504s, Bristol Fighters and Bristol monoplanes. Also a captured German Albatros was sent there for instructional purposes. On 23 April, the squadron was ordered to proceed to the #2 School of Aerial Fighting, RFC Marske-by-the-Sea, England for further training. There, given the scarcity of British aircraft mechanics, a large majority of the men of the 25th were pressed into service to support the station's operations. Finally, in early August, the squadron, being eager to get to the front, was ordered to proceed to France, leaving on 7 August for the Romney Rest Camp at Winchester. However, due to delays, the 25th did not reach the port of Le Havre until the afternoon of 16 August.
After several days at Rest Camp #4, the 25th Aero Squadron boarded a French troop train bound for the Replacement Concentration Center, AEF, St. Maixent Replacement Barracks on 18 August for equipping, and personnel processing. Then on the 27th, it moved again to the Air Service Production Center No. 2. at Romorantin Aerodrome, arriving on the 29th. There, the squadron went back to performing the same work it was doing at Kelly Field, that of ten hours of fatigue work each day, unloading steel from cars and placing it in piles. It continued this until 16 September when they departed for the 1st Air Depot at Colombey-les-Belles Airdrome.
At Colombey the squadron was finally classified as a Pursuit Squadron, and also began to receive pursuit pilots. Many of the pilots had been trained in England and had been attached to British squadrons, flying Royal Aircraft Factory SE-5s over the lines. During its time in England, the 25th had gained much experience in maintaining SE-5s, and it was delighted to learn it would be the first American Squadron to be equipped with the British aircraft. However, the SE-5s which it would be equipped were intended to be fitted with American license-built Hispano-Suiza 8 engines manufactured by Wright Aeronautical. The planes were being assembled by the Austin Motor Company, in Birmingham and Coventry, England and several flying officers were sent to England to ferry the planes to the front. However, this did not proceed as quickly as was hoped, as delays in the delivery of the aircraft in England and with one aircraft being flown to the American Air Acceptance Park #1 at Orly Field, it was held for an engine overhaul, a thorough examination and it needed to be equipped with armament.
On 24 October, the squadron was moved to Gengault Aerodrome, near Toul, where the squadron was assigned to the Second Army Air Service, 4th Pursuit Group. The 141st Aero Squadron of the group was already operating over the lines with SPAD XIIIs, but the 25th was still awaiting aircraft. The next ten days were spent on camp duty awaiting the problems with its aircraft being sorted out. Finally, on 1 November, the first SE-5 was delivered to the squadron, with the second aircraft being delivered the next day. Deliveries of the planes continued, although at a slow pace though November until the full complement of twenty-one planes was received by the end of the month.
On 10 November, the 25th Aero Squadron made its first flight over the lines, joining with the 4th Pursuit Group in a hunting expedition in front of Metz, with many of the 25th's S.E. 5as missing their "overhead" mount Lewis machine guns. No enemy aircraft were seen, but this patrol qualified the squadron as an aerial pursuit unit operating on the front. The morning of the 11th saw another patrol being made over the front, being in the air at the time of the Armistice with Germany. However, again no enemy aircraft were seen, no bombs dropped and no rounds were fired by the squadron. One of the 25th's new pilots flying on the 10th and 11th was Philadelphia-born Joseph E. "Child Yank" Boudwin, the former wingman of Royal Air Force ace pilot Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor, when both men flew with No. 84 Squadron RAF in the summer of 1918.
After the signing of the Armistice and the conclusion of the war, flying continued on a limited basis to keep the pilots proficient in their skills. However, the main endeavors of the squadron were infantry drill guard duty, and Army administrative paperwork. Although the squadron did not destroy any enemy aircraft, it was granted the privilege of placing the squadron emblem on its aircraft in view of the fact that the pilots that made up the squadron had shot down over thirty enemy aircraft with their service in with the British.
Owing that the squadron had come late to the front, it remained at Toul until 15 April 1919 when, with the demobilization of the Second Army Air Service, orders were received from Second Army for the squadron to report to the 1st Air Depot, Colombey-les-Belles Airdrome to turn in all of its supplies and equipment and was relieved from duty with the AEF. The squadron's SE-5 aircraft were delivered to the Air Service American Air Service Acceptance Park No. 1 at Orly Aerodrome to be returned to the British. There practically all of the pilots and observers were detached from the Squadron. 
Personnel at Colombey were subsequently assigned to the Commanding General, Services of Supply and ordered to report to one of several staging camps in France. There, personnel awaited scheduling to report to one of the Base Ports in France for transport to the United States and subsequent demobilization.
In June, the 25th Aero Squadron returned to Mitchell Field, New York where its men were demobilized and returned to civilian life.
- Organized as 20th Aero Squadron on 13 June 1917
- Re-designated 25th Aero Squadron on 22 June 1917
- Re-designated 25th Aero Squadron (Pursuit) on 10 September 1918
- Demobilized on 17 Jun 1919
Combat sectors and campaigns
|Meuse-Argonne Offensive Campaign||24 October-11 November 1918|||
- 25th Space Range Squadron AFHRA Factsheet
- Series "H", Section "O", Volume 29, Weekly Statistical Reports of Air Service Activities, October 1918-May 1919. Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917–1919, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
- Series "E", Volume 6, History of the 25th-27th Aero Squadrons. Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917–1919, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
- Maurer, Maurer (1978), The US Air Service in World War I, The Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF Washington
- Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the First World War, Volume 3, Part 3, Center of Military History, United States Army, 1949 (1988 Reprint)
- Series "D", Weekly Statistical Reports of Air Service Activities, October 1918-May 1919. Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917–1919, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
- Military Times Hall of Valor Search, 25th Aero Squadron
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