1928 AIR CORPS AIRSHIP DOCUMENT WILLIAM KEPNER
MAY 26, 1928 AIR CORPS DOCUMENT ORDERING OFFICER TO AIRSHIP BOARD MEETING
FROM THE PERSONAL PAPERS OF AIRSHIP AND BALLOON PILOT LT. GEN. WILLIAM E. KEPNER
DURING WORLD WAR II KEPNER COMMANDED ALL 8TH AIR FORCE FIGHTERS AND THE 8TH AF 2ND BOMB DIVISION.
SIZE: 5 X 8 INCHES
VINTAGE ITEM - NOT A REPRINT
ORDERS KEPNER TO REPORT FOR U. S. ARMY AIRSHIP BOARD MEETING: "IN COMPLIANCE WITH LETTER FORM TEH CHIEF OF THE AIR CORPS,D ATED MAY 21ST, 1928, PURSUANT TO AUTHORITY CONTAINED IN ARMY REGULATIONS 35-4890, CAPTAIN WILLIAM E. KEPNER, AIR CORPS, WILL PROCEED BY RAIL TO WASHINGTON, D. C., REPORTING JUNE 5, 1928, TO THE CHIEF OF THE AIR CORPS FOR THE PURPOSE OF ATTENDING MEETING OF BOARD OF OFFICERS, OF WHICH HE IS A MEMBER, TO CONSIDER THE RETENTION OF LIGHTER-THAN-AIR CRAFT IN THE ARMY, AND UPON COMPLETION RETURN BY RAIL TO HIS PROPER STATION, SCOTT FIELD, ILLINOIS..."
CONDITION: Acceptable, normal aging for this type of Army document.
OTHER RARE ITEMS FROM LT. GEN. KEPNER'S PERSONAL PAPERS ON EBAY THIS WEEK - DIRECT LINK
National Geographic - U. S. Army Air Corps Explorer I Balloon
1934 the NGS and Air Corps co-sponsored the Explorer, a manned
high-altitude balloon capable of stratospheric flight.Army captain
Albert Stevens, captain Orvil Anderson and major William Kepner were
selected to fly the Explorer. Kepner and Anderson, experienced
balloonists, were in charge of locating a suitable launch site.
According to Kepner, an ideal site would be a crater or canyon, a clear
grassy valley encircled with rocky ridges high enough to shield the
tall balloon from any wind. Ideally, the launch site it would have a
high-voltage electric line, road and rail access, "and a trout stream".
Kepner and Anderson eventually located their dream canyon near Rapid
City, South Dakota. City officials, fascinated by the expected
publicity campaign, agreed to build a road and electric line.
directed construction of a temporary village, housing over a hundred
personnel, with the help of the South Dakota National Guard and the
army's 4th Cavalry Regiment. The central pad, 200 feet in diameter, was
cushioned with sawdust to protect the fabric of the balloon as it was
spread on the ground prior to inflation. Preparation for flight was
regularly reported by the national press. Explorer lifted off at 6:45,
July 28, 1934, an event broadcast live over the radio and watched by
30,000 spectators on site. After 7 hours in flight the pilots noticed
holes torn in the bottom of the gas bag; quickly losing gas, the
balloon plunged into an uncontrolled dive, its gas bag disintegrating
as the balloon picked up vertical speed. At 5 thousand feet the
remaining hydrogen exploded, sending the gondola in a free fall.
According to Ryan, the pilots managed to bail out after the explosion,
Kepner at a bare 500 feet altitude according to Shayler, they bailed
out before the explosion; all three survived uninjured. Later it turned
out that the Explorer missed a world record by 624 feet. The accident
was linked to folds in the balloon's fabric that put it under extreme
stress as the balloon expanded in stratosphere.
Thomas W. McKnew (1896-1990)
New York Times obituary:
Thomas W. McKnew, Geographic Figure, 94
Thomas Willson McKnew, chairman emeritus of the National Geographic Society, died Friday at Carriage Hill, a nursing home in Bethesda, Md. He was 94 and was a resident of McLean, Va.
Mr. McKnew died of pneumonia, said Joy Aschenbach, a spokeswoman for the society.
Mr. McKnew joined the National Geographic Society's staff in 1932 as its assistant secretary. He was elected vice president in 1954, vice chairman in 1962 and chairman in 1966. He was named chairman emeritus in 1987.
As a member of the society's committee for research and exploration, Mr. McKnew participated in the financing of hundreds of research projects in geology, archeology, anthropology, botany, astronomy and related sciences.
A native of Washington, D.C., Mr. McKnew joined the George A. Fuller Construction Company in 1915, and served as the company's construction superintendent from 1922 to 1925 while it was involved in building the Washington National Cathedral. From 1925 to 1931, he was vice president of the James Baird Construction Company.
A year later, he joined the geographic society and in 1935 served as project officer for the first human flight into the stratosphere, in which two men ascended 72,395 feet in a giant balloon. During that flight, the curvature of the earth was photographed for the first time.
Mr. McKnew is survived by his wife, Lenore.
OFFICIAL U. S. AIR FORCE BIOGRAPHY:
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM E. KEPNER (1893 - 1982)
Famed pioneer balloonist: born Miami, Ind., in
1893. William Kepner's leadership of the 8th Fighter Command was a key
factor in the World War II destruction of the German Air Force.
He served from 1909 to 1913 in the Marine Corps and by 1916 was a
second lieutenant in the Indiana National Guard. He served with the
28th Infantry on the Mexican Border and in 1917 was commissioned in the
Cavalry. He transferred to the Infantry, with rank of captain in August
1917, and in World War II commanded a company at Chateau-Thiery. He
lead the 4th Infantry's 3rd Battalion in the Meuse-Argonne offensive,
and also participated in the Aisne, Champagne, Marne, and St. Mihel
combat actions. After the war he stayed in Germany for Infantry
assignments at Plaidt and Coblenz.
Kepner was a 27-year-old captain when he entered the Air Service in
October 1920 and he was not promoted to major until 10 years later. By
then he had become outstanding in balloons, qualifying as balloon
observer and dirigible pilot after attending many service schools
including those at Ross Field, Calif., and Langley Field, Va., as well
as the Naval Ground Course at Lakehurst, N.J., which he completed in
1925. He commanded several airship school detachments and from 1927 to
1929 flew in four national and international balloon races.
He placed first in both the National Elimination Balloon Race and the
International Gordon Bennett Race. He finished third and second in
similar faces at Akron, Ohio, and St. Louis. Mo. Promoted to major in
October 1930, he went to Wright Field as chief of the Materiel
Division's Lighter-than-Air Branch. He learned to fly conventional
aircraft at March Field, Calif., and Kelly Field, Texas, in 1931-32;
went back to Wright Field as chief of the Purchase Branch, and entered
more balloon races.
In the summer of 1934 Kepner was at Rapid City, S.D., as pilot and
commander of the National Geographic Society - Army Air Corps
Stratosphere Flight. He took the course at Air Corps Tactical School,
Maxwell Field, Ala., and then escorted Major Ira C. Eaker in an
experimental all-instrument flight of 2,600 miles across the United
States. In June 1937 he graduated from the Command and General Staff
School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and went to Langley Field as
commanding officer of the 8th Pursuit Group.
He commanded all defense aviation during the Fort Bragg Maneuvers in
1938 and was advanced to lieutenant colonel in June 1939. In February
1940, he went to Mitchell Field, N.Y., as executive officer of the Air
Defense Command and promotion to colonel. He organized and commanded
the 1st Air Support Command and during the Carolina Maneuvers in the
fall of 1941 he commanded all aviation under the First Army.
In February 1942, he was promoted to brigadier general, and became
commanding general of the 4th Fighter Command and then the 4th Air
Force in the San Francisco area. He was promoted to major general in
April 1943, and in September took over the 8th Fighter Command in the
European Theater. As escorts for the strategic bombers, the fighter
planes under him provided protection and also bombed and strafed the
enemy, equipment and communications. During and following the Normandy
Invasion, the 8th Fighters established a circular protective screen
around the beachhead to prevent German counterattack.
In August 1944, Kepner became commanding general of the 8th Air Force's
2nd Bomb Division and a year later headed the 9th Air Force. He
personally flew 24 combat missions in fighter and bomber planes and
earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, Distinguished
Flying Cross, three Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Service Medal,
Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal and decorations from Great Britain,
Belgium, France, Poland and China.
After the war he took over the 12th Tactical Air Command. In January
1946 he returned to Headquarters Army Air Force, Washington for duty
with Joint Task Force 1 as deputy commander for Army and Navy Aviation
with Operation Crossroads in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Six
months later he became commanding general of Air Technical Training
Command at Scott Field, Ill., and went back to Headquarters U.S. Air
Force as chief of its Atomic Energy Division. He also served as chief
of the Special Weapons Group and in July 1948 was named assistant
deputy chief of staff, operations for Atomic Energy. Next month he
became commanding general of the Air Force Proving Ground at Eglin Air
Force Base, Fla.
On June 14, 1950, Kepner was promoted to lieutenant general and named
commander in chief of the Alaska Command, with headquarters at Fort
Richardson. The holder of six ratings - command pilot, combat observer,
senior balloon pilot, zeppelin pilot, semirigid pilot, and metal-clad
airship pilot - he retired from active duty Feb. 28, 1953.