Dean Ivan Lamb

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Dean Ivan Lamb (January 25, 1886 – November 1955) was an American pioneer aviator and soldier of fortune.


Dean Ivan Lamb was born on January 25, 1886 in Cherry Flats, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.[1][2][3] In 1908 he was working on the Panama Canal [4]

He enrolled in the Curtiss flying school in Hammondsport, New York in 1912.[5] During the Mexican Revolution, according to a Lamb newspaper interview, he was hired as a mercenary pilot to fly for General Benjamín G. Hill's forces. Phil Rader, a mercenary pilot for opposing General Victoriano Huerta, had supposedly several times bombed the town of Naco, Sonora, Mexico, held by Hill's forces. The two pilots were reputed friends, and staged a mock pistol battle in the sky often labeled the first dogfight in history.[6][7]

Lamb purportedly joined the British military in World War I and transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as a sergeant pilot, supposedly becoming an ace with either five or eight victories.[2] Lamb was interviewed by Arthur Howden Smith of the New York Evening Post about his claimed downing of a German Gotha bomber over Hainault Forest, in which his gunner was killed and he himself was shot.[8] However, he goes unnoted by such aviation historians as Norman Franks and Christopher Shores, and none of his victories has ever been documented.[9]

Lamb supposedly was awarded Royal Aero Club Certificate No. 4543 on April 26, 1917, while an Air Mechanic, 1st Class. There is a Sgt. Dean Lamb (service number 8054) who joined the Royal Flying Corps on August 30, 1915, and was discharged on October 5, 1917. [10][11]This man is listed as suffering from neurasthenia, and his age is given as 31 years, 8 months (which agrees with Lamb's age on the specified discharge date). Lamb also married in England in 1917.[12]

Postwar, Lamb worked as an airmail pilot in New York, New Jersey and Maryland from December 9, 1918 to February 6, 1919. Lamb helped to establish the Honduran Air Force in 1921.[1][13]

According to Lamb in another newspaper interview, while in Buenos Aires, he was hired as the "commander of the federal air squadron of 11 planes" in a civil war underway in Paraguay. As Lamb related the tale, it turned out the rebels were also recruiting in the same city at the same time. An Italian friend named Mazzolini was selected to lead "the revolutionists' air squadron". The two got together, rounded up the unemployed World War I veteran pilots in the city, and split them up, with Lamb first choosing two, then Mazzolini one (as the rebels had only six aircraft). The two groups then set out for Paraguay on the same train, carousing together all the way.[6]

In that same interview, Lamb claimed that on one day, he and a loyalist colonel observed a dogfight over their airdrome. The non-flying colonel was impressed when the rebel plane went into a spin and "disappeared over the skyline", with federalist mercenary "Stewart on its tail, firing steadily." The colonel sent a case of champagne to celebrate the victory. When Lamb took Stewart aside to scold him, however, Stewart informed him that, like Lamb's own dogfight in Mexico, it was all a sham. By the time the rebels were defeated, Lamb's squadron had claimed 48 victories over the six enemy aircraft.[6][14]

On December 1, 1944, Lamb was jailed, accused of stealing either $19,000[15] or $38,000[16] worth of jewels.[17] He denied the grand larceny charge and was released on $5,000 bail.[15] According to an Early Birds of Aviation article, he was cleared of the charge in May 1945.[18]

A declassified memo dated April 15, 1949 from "John Edgar Hoover" to the Director of Intelligence, General Staff, Department of the Army, The Pentagon, reports that "Colonel Dean Ivan Lamb" was "recently interviewed" at the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York office.[19] In the interview, Lamb was asked about his information-gathering work for Alger Hiss (accused in 1948 of spying for the Soviet Union) in 1933.[19] Lamb claimed he reported his activity to "Colonel Thiele of G-2 in Washington, D. C. in about March 1934." The memo requests any records of this notification and the "present whereabouts of Colonel Thiele in order that he may be interviewed in connection with these allegations."[19]

He died in Tucson, Arizona, in November 1955.[20]


Lamb was a member of the Quiet Birdmen[21] and the Early Birds of Aviation.

Lamb wrote a book about his alleged exploits, The Incredible Filibuster. Adventures of Colonel Dean Ivan Lamb (Farrar & Rinehart, 1934, ASIN: B000QRALGU). Its ghost co-author was John Eoghan Kelly.


  1. ^ a b "Pilot Stories:Lamb, Dean Ivan". National Postal Museum. 2004. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Chapter 1: Dean Ivan Lamb, (1886 - 1956)". 
  3. ^ LDS family Search reports "Deen Lamb" age 14 in the US 1900 Census for PA
  4. ^ LDs family Search US Govt Records
  5. ^ "In Memoriam: Dean I. Lamb: 1886-1956". Retrieved April 10, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c "How the Flying Soldiers of Fortune Faked Their Air Battle". Sunday Morning Star. June 10, 1934. 
  7. ^ "This Week in USAF and PACAF History: 24 - 30 November 2008" (PDF). Pacific Air Forces. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 January 2013. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  8. ^ Arthur Howden Smith. "Fighting a Gotha Over London: Thrilling Experience of an American Airman: Battle 15,000 Feet Above the City". New York Evening Post. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  9. ^ Note: If Lamb were an ace, he should be listed on pp. 229-230 of the authoritative source Above the Trenches if he is a fighter ace; he isn't. Nor is he on the bomber and gunner ace lists on pp. 394-395 of that aviation encyclopedia. A check of the equally authoritative Above the War Fronts for a listing of Lamb as an ace gunner in two-seater fighters (p. 30), bomber pilot ace (p. 70), or bomber ace (pp. 88-89) is equally devoid of his name.
  10. ^ Early Aviators
  11. ^ LDs records show a Dean Lamb Born 1886 serving in 1915 with the Royal Engineers and the Royal Artillery; there is also a US World War I Draft Registration records showing Dean Lamb Born 1886 in "London, England"{!} resident of New York City
  12. ^ LDS Family Search Record
  13. ^ Beyer, Rick. The Greatest War Stories Never Told: 100 Tales From Military History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy. Harper Collins, 2005. 130-131.
  14. ^ LDS family Search has US Census Records showing Lamb as a resident of New York City 1920; 1930; 1940
  15. ^ a b "Canton Soldier Of Fortune Held In Jewel Theft". The Evening Times. Sayre, Pennsylvania. December 2, 1944 – via  open access publication – free to read
  16. ^ "Nab Flying Major In Theft of Jewels". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. December 1, 1944 – via  open access publication – free to read
  17. ^ Photograph of Lamb being arraigned in 1944 for jewel theft
  18. ^ Breen, Peter. "Chapter 3: Dean Returns to the U.S. - 1924-1956". Early Birds of Aviation ( Retrieved April 3, 2015. 
  19. ^ a b c "Memo to Director of Intelligence regarding Col. Dean Ivan Lamb's account". MPublishing, a division of the University of Michigan Library. April 15, 1949. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  20. ^ Early
  21. ^ "Owner: Lt. Col. Dean Ivan Lamb". National Air and Space Museum. Archived from the original on December 15, 2012. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 


  • Above the Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915–1920. Christopher F. Shores, Norman Franks, Russell Guest. Grub Street, 1990. ISBN 0-948817-19-4, ISBN 978-0-948817-19-9.
  • Above the War Fronts: The British Two-seater Bomber Pilot and Observer Aces, the British Two-seater Fighter Observer Aces, and the Belgian, Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Fighter Aces, 1914–1918: Volume 4 of Fighting Airmen of WWI Series: Volume 4 of Air Aces of WWI. Norman Franks, Russell Guest, Gregory Alegi. Grub Street, 1997. ISBN 1-898697-56-6, ISBN 978-1-898697-56-5.

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