Reed McKinley Chambers

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Reed McKinley Chambers was a pioneer in the American Aviation industry, as a flying ace in World War I, as founder of an early airline, and as founder and chairman of America's first aviation insurance company.

Reed McKinley Chambers
TN ANG Reed Chambers.jpg
Major Reed McKinley Chambers, AEF 94th Pursuit Squadron, France, 1918
Born18 August 1894
Onaga, Kansas, USA
Died16 January 1972
Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands
Allegiance United States
Service/branchAir Service, United States Army
Years of service1914 - 1920
UnitAir Service, United States Army
Battles/warsWorld War I Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War I
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross with three Oak Leaf Clusters, French Legion d'Honneur and Croix de Guerre
Other workFounded aviation insurance business

Early life and military service[edit]

Major Reed McKinley Chambers was born August 18, 1894, in Onaga, Kansas. In 1914 he joined the Tennessee National Guard and served in the Mexican border campaign of 1916.[1]

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Chambers received a transfer to the Army Signal Corps as an aviator. He served in the 94th Aero Pursuit Squadron, along with American Ace of Aces Eddie Rickenbacker.[2] Chambers was credited with seven victories over German aircraft. Among his awards were the Distinguished Service Cross, the French Legion of Honor, and the Croix de Guerre.[3]

Later life[edit]

After the war, Chambers, along with Rickenbacker, founded Florida Airways, which in 1926 received the first private airmail contract awarded by the U.S. Government. After the airline's uninsured aircraft suffered a series of accidents and damage caused by hurricanes, the airline declared bankruptcy in 1927. As a result of this loss, Chambers teamed with David Beebe and the two founded the United States Aircraft Insurance Group, the nation's first aviation insurance company. The security provided by this company ensured the development and testing of such pioneering aircraft as the Douglas DC-3, the Boeing 707, the B-52 jet bomber, and the General Dynamics F-111A.[4]

While flying second seat in a Convair F-106 Delta Dart in 1968, Chambers broke the sound barrier.[5]

Reed Chambers died in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, on January 16, 1972.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Charles Woolley, The Hat in the Ring Gang: The Combat History of the 94th Aero Squadron in World War I, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, PA: 2001.
  3. ^ American Aces of World War I. p. 67.
  4. ^ He Helped Air Age Get Off the Ground, Bill Eaton, Oakland Tribune, Sunday, August 11, 1968.
  5. ^ American Aces of World War I. p. 68.
  6. ^ American Aces of World War I. p. 68.


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