James Peck (pilot)

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James Lincoln Holt Peck (September 8, 1912 – May 1996) was an American pilot who served in the Spanish Republican Air Force during the Spanish Civil War.


Peck was one of the few African-American aviators in the Air Force of the Spanish Republic He was born in Stoops Ferry, Pennsylvania. Despite obtaining a commercial pilot's license and having done two years of University studies, Peck was turned down when he applied to join the U.S. Air Corps and Navy flying school.[1]

He went to Spain during the Civil War in 1936 and joined the Spanish Republican Air Force, eventually earning rank of first lieutenant.[2] Peck was credited with shooting down 5 aircraft, 2 Heinkel He-51s from the Legion Condor and 3 Fiat CR.32 Aviazione Legionaria fighters,[3] becoming one of three American aces in Spain, having also made friendship with Ernest Hemingway while there.[4]

Peck left Spain when the International Brigades and all foreign fighters were ordered to withdraw from the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War by the Non-Intervention Committee. He returned to the United States.

On returning to the US, Peck attempted to join the various US military services but was refused due to his involvement in the Spanish Civil War and instead joined the US Merchant Marine as an officer.


During World War II, Peck authored many articles on warfare technology. One publication Peck wrote extensively for was Popular Science a well known monthly. And in late 1945, the editors of Popular Science in an act of journalistic bravery, printed an extensive and detailed article by Peck explaining how radar worked,[5] but also on the contents page had his photo in a prominent placement on that page and also included short bio on Peck, so that the long time readers of Popular Science, knew at last that the author whose articles they were impressed by was an African-American.[6]

Peck's aviation and warfare technology articles were also featured in several other works including Harper's Magazine, The New York Times, Scientific American, Science Digest, and leading aviation magazines such as Aero Digest, Popular Aviation, The Sportsman Pilot, and Air Trails. Peck also has a militant column, Plane Talk, distributed to more than 100 weekly newspapers through the Associated Negro Press of which Peck was the Aviation Editor.


Peck is author of two books, Armies with Wings published in 1939 and So You're Going to Fly? published in 1941. With his first book, The New York Times magazine called the final chapter "one of the best descriptions of a test pilot's job ever written."[7]


Peck was also a member of The National Aeronautic Association and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. He was also Pennsylvania's Secretary of the National Airmen's Association and Progressive Negro Organization.


James Peck died in May 1996 in San Diego, California.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Abraham Lincoln Brigade - James Peck
  2. ^ Peck, James (December 1940). "When Do We Fly?". The Crisis. 47 (11): 376–378.
  3. ^ Broadnax, 2007. Pages 15-16.
  4. ^ Buckley, 2001. Chapter 7.
  5. ^ "How Radar Sees The Invisible" September 1945, Popular Science
  6. ^ " Popular Science, September 1945 contents page"
  7. ^ Peck, James (December 1940). "When Do We Fly?". The Crisis. 11. 47: 376–378.


External links[edit]