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Easterwood, Jesse L. (1888-1919) | Cushing Library

Name: Easterwood, Jesse L. (1888-1919)
Variant Name: Red
Fuller Form: Jesse Lawrence Easterwood


Historical Note:

Jesse Lawrence Easterwood (1888-1919), known as "Red,"a veteran World War I aviator, and pioneer in military aviation, was born 5 Dec. 1888 in Wills Point, Tex. In 1905, he enrolled in Texas A & M College, now Texas A & M University, as a member of B Company Infantry. Very popular with the other cadets, Easterwood also played second base on the college baseball team.

Easterwood left college in 1909 to become a businessman in Mexia, Tex. In 1917, however, on the day the United States declared war on Germany, Easterwood sold his business and volunteered as an aviator. He received his early training at Pensacola, Fla., and was one of the very first Americans to qualify as a naval aviator. He served as an instructor at Pensacola briefly, then was transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for engineering training.

On 12 March 1918 Easterwood set sail for Europe with the first group of American pilots going overseas to serve in World War I. During his tour with the Royal Flying Service, flying one of the first ten Handley-Page bombers, Easterwood completed 16 missions deep behind German lines. He also served with the French air force and the Italian air force, ferrying the first Caprioni bomber from Italy to France.

Surviving World War I, after many perilous missions, Easterwood remained with the U. S. Navy, flying experimental airmail flights. By 1919, having achieved the rank of lieutenant, Easterwood was transferred to Coco Solo, in the Panama Canal Zone. Preferring to fly the planes in his unit which had the worst mechanical problems himself, Easterwood was killed 16 May 1919 while attempting the emergency landing of such a plane with severe engine trouble.

Easterwood was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously, for his heroism during World War I.

Texas A & M University also sponsored a tribute paid to Easterwood's memory. At the urging of Easterwood's high school friend from Wills, Tex., Gibb Gilchrist, who had established a Department of Aeronautical Engineering during his first year (1937) as dean of the School of Engineering at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, the new college flying field in College Station, Tex. was dedicated as the "Jesse L. Easterwood Airport" 22 May 1941. Developed first as a facility for insituting a flight-training program at Texas A & M University, the airport was later expanded to serve major carriers to and from Dallas/Fort Worth, Tex. and Houston, Tex. airports.

Sources:

1) Chapman, David."Jesse Easterwood '09: WWI Hero and Pioneer in Naval Aviation!" Reprint article from Texas Aggie.College Station, Tex.: Association of Former Students, Texas A & M University (June 1994). [Last viewed: 02/05/2003]

2) "Gilchrist, Gibb."The Handbook of Texas Online.[Accessed Wed Feb 5 15:49:41 US/Central 2003 ]






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