Tag Archives: Officier de la Légion d’honneur

1 April 1921

Adrienne Bolland, Femme Chevalier de la légion d'honneur. (1895–1975)
Adrienne Bolland, Femme Chevalier de la légion d’honneur. (1895–1975)

1 April 1921: Adrienne Bolland, a pilot employed by René Caudron to demonstrate his airplanes in South America, flew a Caudron G.3 from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, across the Andes Mountain Range.

Mlle Bolland’s route followed the Paso de Upsallata, passing south of Aconcagua, at 6,960.8 meters (22,837 feet), the highest mountain in the Andes, and north of Volcan Tupangato, 6,570 meters (21,580 feet). The duration of the flight was 4 hours, 17 minutes.

Adrienne Bolland is greeted on her arrival at Santaigo, Chile, 1 April 1921.
Adrienne Bolland is greeted on her arrival at Santaigo, Chile, 1 April 1921. 

Bolland was awarded a gold medal by the Argentine League of Patriots at Buenos Aires.

FLIGHT reported:

Mdlle. Bolland Crosses the Andes

From a Daily Mail report Mdlle. Bolland, the French aviatress, on April 1, left Mendoza, Argentina, at 7.30, and flew over the Andes Mountains, arriving at Santiago in Chile, just three hours later.

This the second time Mdlle. Bolland has flown over the Andes.

The distance Mdlle. Bolland covered was about 112 miles. There are heights of more than 20,000 ft. in the neighborhood of the point at which she crossed the range.

We are just wondering whether the journey was a “non-stop” one, with strong headwinds, or whether a halt was made en route, and if the latter, where.

FLIGHT The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 641 (No. 14, Vol. XIII.), 7 April 1921, at Page 250, Column 2

Satellite image of the Andes Mountains in the region crossed by Adrienne Bolland. Her departure point, Mendoza, Argentina, is at the upper right edge of the image. The Upsallata Pass is in the upper center area, with Aconcagua near the top of the image, just left of center. Bolland’s destination, Santiago, Chile, is in the lower left corner. (Google Maps)

Adrienne Armande Pauline Boland was born at Arcueil, a suburb of Paris, France, 25 November 1895. She was the youngest of seven children of writer Henri André Joseph Boland and Marie Amélie Elisabeth Françoise Allonie (Marie Joséphine) Pasques. Her father died in 1909, and her mother sometime later.

At the age of 24, she decided to learn to fly and enrolled in flight training at Société des Avions Caudron (the Caudron Airplane Company), Le Crotoy. She started training 16 November 1919 and was awarded her pilot’s license 29 January 1920. An error on the certificate spelled her surname with two “l”s, and she retained the name “Bolland” for the rest of her life.

Chilean dignataries congratulate Adrienne Bolland at Santiago, Chile, 1 April 1921.
Chilean dignataries congratulate Adrienne Bolland at Santiago, Chile, 1 April 1921.

Mlle Bolland was employed by René Caudron to transport airplanes to and from the factory. She told Caudron that she wanted her own airplane. He told her that if she could perform a loop in a Caudron G.3, a pre-World War I scout plane, that she could fly it for the company. She did, and was then asked to fly it across the English Channel, which she did, 25 August 1920.

Adrienne Bolland flew this Caudron G-3 from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, 1 April 1921.
Adrienne Bolland flew this Caudron G.3, F-ABEW, c/n 4902, from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, 1 April 1921.

Caudron sent her to Argentina to demonstrate his airplanes. Once there, she planned to fly across the Cordillera de los Andes (the Andes Mountain Range) to Chile on the western coast of South America. The mountains were higher than the airplane was capable of flying, so she had to fly through valleys to find a way across. Departing Mendoza, Argentina at 6:00 a.m, she headed across the 400-kilometer (250 miles) wide mountain range. Most of the flight was at an altitude of 4,500 meters (14,764 feet) and it was extremely cold. Without maps, she succeeded: “Suddenly I saw a break in the mountains. . . and in the distance, the plain of Chile. I was saved.”

Adrienne Bolland with her Caudron G.3, 19 May 1921. (Air France)
Adrienne Bolland with a Caudron G.3, 19 May 1921. (Air France)

The airplane was sold in Santiago and Bolland returned to Buenos Aires by train.

After returning to France, Mlle Bolland was a frequent participant at air meets, displaying her skills in aerobatics. She flew two Caudron C.27s, G-AGAP (c/n 5533.7) and F-AGAQ (c/n 5534.8), both registered in her name 27 February 1924. At the Aérodrome d’Orly, Paris, on 27 May 1924, she took off at 4:12 p.m., completed 212 consecutive loops, then landed at 5:25 p.m. (The Caudron C.27 was redesignated C.127 in late 1924.)

Adrienne Bolland with her Caudron C.27, F-AGAQ (c/n 5534.8). (Unattributed)

In 1924, France named Adrienne Bolland Chevalier de la légion d’honneur for her flight across the Andes.

Ernest Jean Baptiste Charles Vinchon married Mlle Bolland in Paris, 15 March 1930.

After the surrender of France to Nazi Germany in 1940, M. and Mme Vichon remained in occupied France and became agents of the Confrérie Notre-Dame (CND, or Brotherhood of Notre Dame, later called CND-Castile), an intelligence organization of the Forces françaises libres (Free French Forces).

For her services during World War II, in 1947 Mme Vichon was advanced to the rank of Officier de la Légion d’honneur.

Adrienne Bolland Vichon died at Paris, France, 18 March 1975 at the age of 79 years. She was buried in Donnery, Loiret.

Caudron G.3 (Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace)

Adrienne Bolland crossed the Andes in a Caudron G.3, c/n 4902, registered F-ABEW. The Caudron G.3 was a World War I reconnaissance airplane and flight trainer manufactured by Société des Avions Caudron. It is called a sesquiplane because the lower wing is significantly shorter than the upper. The G.3 was a single-engine aircraft that was built in single- and two-place variants. The engine and cockpit are contained in a very short fuselage, supporting the wings and landing gear. Tail control surfaces are mounted on an open framework tail boom.

The Caudron G.3 was 6,40 meters (20 feet, 11.6 inches) long with an upper wingspan of 13,40 meters (43 feet, 11.6 inches). The height of the aircraft was 2,60 meters (8 feet, 6.6 inches). The G.3 had an empty weight of 355 kilograms (783 pounds) and maximum gross weight of 630 kilograms (1,389 pounds).

Caudron G.3 two-view illustration. (Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft,at Page 87. Published 1913 by Fred T. Jane)

The G.3 was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 10.910 liter (665.791 cubic inches) Société des Moteurs Gnome et Rhône 9C nine-cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5:1. It was rated at 70 cheval vapeur (1 ch = 0.99 horsepower) at 1,100 r.p.m., and 80 cheval vapeur  at 1,200 r.p.m., but able to produce a maximum 92 cheval vapeur (90.77 horsepower) at 1,300 r.p.m. It drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The 9C was 0.810 meters (2 feet, 7.9 inches) long, 0.930 meters (3 feet, 6.1 inches) in diameter and weighed 119 kilograms (262 pounds).

The Caudron G.3 had a cruising speed of 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour) maximum speed of 95 kilometers per hour (59 miles per hour) at 100 meters (328 feet) and service ceiling of 4,300 meters (14,108 feet).

On 1 April 1921 in Santiago, French pilot Adrienne BOLLAND on board her Caudron G-3 after she succeeded in crossing the Andes. It is a signed photo: the pilot's signature is at the centre. (Getty Images/Keystone France)
“On 1 April 1921 in Santiago, French pilot Adrienne BOLLAND on board her Caudron G-3 after she succeeded in crossing the Andes. It is a signed photo: the pilot’s signature is at the centre.” (Getty Images/Keystone-France)
Aconcagua viewed from the south. (Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, via Wikipedia)
Tupungato, a 21,560-foot (6,570 meters) strato volcano, located just to the east of the Argentina/Chile border. On 2 August 1947, the British South American Airways Avro Lancastrian, R.M.A. Star Dust, crashed into the eastern slope at the 15,000 foot (4,572 meters) level. The wreck was buried by an avalanche and was discovered in 1998. The peak at the upper right may be Cerro Mercedario, 22,050 feet (6,620 meters).(Diode via Wikipedia)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 December 1944

Brigadier General Frederick Walker Castle, United States Army Air Forces. (Photographed circa 1943, as a lieutenant colonel.) (U.S. Air Force)

          The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to

BRIGADIER GENERAL (AIR CORPS) FREDERICK WALKER CASTLE

UNITED STATES ARMY AIR FORCES,

for service as set forth in the following

CITATION:

         “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 487th Bombardment Group (H), 4th Bombardment Wing, Eighth Air Force.

Brigadier General Castle was air commander and leader of more than 2,000 heavy bombers in a strike against German airfields on 24 December 1944. En route to the target, the failure of one engine forced him to relinquish his place at the head of the formation. In order not to endanger friendly troops on the ground below, he refused to jettison his bombs to gain speed maneuverability. His lagging, unescorted aircraft became the target of numerous enemy fighters which ripped the left wing with cannon shells, set the oxygen system afire, and wounded two members of the crew. Repeated attacks started fires in two engines, leaving the Flying Fortress in imminent danger of exploding. Realizing the hopelessness of the situation, the bail-out order was given. Without regard for his personal safety he gallantly remained alone at the controls to afford all other crewmembers an opportunity to escape. Still another attack exploded gasoline tanks in the right wing, and the bomber plunged earthward, carrying General Castle to his death. His intrepidity and willing sacrifice of his life to save members of the crew were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.”

/s/ HARRY S. TRUMAN

War Department, General Orders No. 22 (February 28, 1946)

Colonel Frederick Walker Castle, U.S. Army Air Corps (center) and Lieutenant Colonel Elliot Vandevanter, Jr. (left), speaking to Brigadier General Curtiss E. LeMay, 10 November 1943. (IWM, Roger Freeman Collection)

Brigadier General Frederick Walker Castle, commanding officer of the 4th Combat Bombardment Wing, Heavy, was flying the lead bomber of the 487th Bombardment Group, on Air Force Mission No. 760, which was an attack against German air fields. This was a “maximum effort” involving three air divisions—a total of 2,046 B-17 and B-24 bombers, escorted by 853 fighters. The 487th was leading the 3rd Air Division. The Group’s target, with a total of 96 bombers, was the airfield at Babenhausen, Germany.

As the Wing’s commander, General Castle flew as co-pilot aboard the lead ship, B-17G 44-8444 of the 487th, with pilot 1st Lieutenant Robert W. Harriman and his lead crew of 6 officers and 3 sergeant/gunners. As the leading Pathfinder, Treble Four carried three navigators.

The combat crew of “Treble Four.” Front row, left to right: Lt. Wilkinson, (not aboard for Mission 760); S/SGT Lowell B. Hudson, Waist Gunner; T/SGT Quentin W. Jeffers, Flight Engineer, Top Turret Gunner; T/SGT Lawrence H. Swain, Radio Operator, Top Gunner; Standing, left to right: 1st Lt. Robert W. Harriman, Pilot, Aircraft Commander; 1st Lt. Claude L. Rowe, Co-Pilot (Tail Gunner, Formation Observer for Mission 760); 1st Lt. Bruno S. Procopio, Radar Navigator; 1st Lt. Henry P. MacArty, Pilotage Navigator; 1st Lt. Paul L. Biri, Bombardier. Not included, Captain Edmund F. Auer, Navigator. Lt. Harriman, Lt. Rowe, T/SGT Swain, were killed in action 24 December 1944. (487thbg.org)

The group began taking off from RAF Lavenham at 0900 and assembled at 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) in what was described as “perfect weather.” En route to their target, the B-17s continued climbing to 22,000 feet (6,706 meters) and leveled off at 1223.

B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers of the 487th Bombardment Group, Heavy, circa 1944. (American Air Museum in Britain, Roger Freeman Collection FRE 6772)

At about this time, Treble Four‘s number four engine, outboard on the right wing, began losing oil and could not produce its normal power. As the bomber slowed, it dropped out of the formation, with General Castle relinquishing the lead to a second Pathfinder B-17. The airplane, now on its own, was quickly attacked by Luftwaffe fighters, putting two engines out of operation and setting the bomber on fire. Two crewmen were wounded in the first attack.

The Battle of the Bulge, a major land engagement, was under way, and Castle’s bomber was overhead American 1st Army formations. The General did not want it to come down among the friendly lines with its full load of bombs.

Lieutenant Harriman and General Castle continued to fly the disabled airplane as the crew was ordered to abandon ship. Six men bailed out. One man was machine-gunned in his parachute by an enemy fighter and was killed. Another lost his parachute and also died. A third died of his wounds at a hospital.

At about 12,000 feet (3,658 meters) the B-17’s right wing came off and Treble Four entered a violent spin. The fuselage broke into several sections. The largest remaining part of the airplane, the forward fuselage, including the bomb bay, left wing and inboard right wing, crashed approximately 300 yards (275 meters) from Chateaux d’Englebermont in Belgium. The wreck was on fire and bombs exploded.

Lieutenant Harriman and General Castle, still in the cockpit, were killed.

Lockheed Vega B-17G-65-VE 44-8444 Treble Four crash site
The wreckage of General Castle’s Lockheed Vega-built B-17G-65-VE Flying Fortress 44-8444, Treble Four. (U.S. Air Force)

Treble Four was a B-17G-65-VE Flying Fortress, built by the Vega Aircraft Corporation (a subsidiary of Lockheed) at Burbank, California. It was delivered to Dallas, Texas, 14 September 1944. After crossing the continent, the new bomber departed Bangor, Maine, 16 October 1944, and headed across the North Atlantic Ocean for England. On 20 November, 44-8444 was assigned to the 836th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 487th Bombardment Group (Heavy), at Air Force Station 137 (RAF Lavenham), near Sudbury, Suffolk, England.

The airplane was a “Pathfinder,” equipped with H2X ground-mapping radar which allowed a radar navigator to locate a target through cloud cover. The rotating antenna replaced the bomber’s ventral ball turret.

The two B-17s in this photograph, both Lockheed-Vega B-17G-20-VE Flying Fortresses, 42-97627 and 42-97555, are equipped with H2X ground-mapping radar. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Frederick Walker Castle (fourth from left) joins Major John J. McNaboe  during the debriefing of 1st Lt. James A. Verinis and his combat crew of the 324th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy). Verinis had previously served as co-pilot of the B-17F Memphis Belle. (U.S. Air Force)

Frederick Walker Castle was born at Fort William McKinley, Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 14 October 1908. He was the first of three children of 2nd Lieutenant Benjamin Frederick Castle, United States Army, and Winifred Alice Walker Castle.

Castle attended Boonton High School, in Boonton, New Jersey, and the Storm King School at Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York.

Castle enlisted in the New Jersey National Guard in 1924. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, as a cadet in 1926. Upon graduating, on  12 June 1930, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers, United States Army.

Transferred to Air Corps, 1931, trained as a pilot at March Field, near Riverside, California.

12 September 1936, 1st Lt., Air Corps, 27th Division Aviation

Recalled to active duty at the rank of captain, January 1942. He was assigned to the staff of Major General Ira Eaker, engaged in forming Eighth Air Force in England. He was promoted to colonel, January 1943. He served as chief of staff for supply.

From 19 June 1943, Colonel Castle commanded the 94th Bombardment Group, Heavy, at RAF Bury St. Edmunds (USAAF Station 468), and in April 1944, took command of the 4th Combat Bomb Wing, Heavy. Castle was promoted to the rank of brigadier general, 20 November 1944.

Brigadier General Frederick W. Castle receives his insignia of rank from his staff, 14 December 1944. (IWM, Roger Freeman Collection)

General Castle’s remains was buried at the Henri Chapelle American Cemetery near Welkenraedt, Belgium.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Brigadier General Castle was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters (four awards), and the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics awarded him its Орден Кутузова (Orden Kutuzova, the Order of Kutuzov); Belgium, the Croix de Guerre avec palme; France appointed him an Officier de la Légion d’honneur and awarded its Croix de Guerre avec palme.

Merced Army Airfield was renamed Castle Field, 17 January 1946, in honor of General Castle.

NOTE: A detailed analysis of “The Crash of B-17 44-8444 Treble Four” by Paul M. Webber can be found at: https://web.archive.org/web/20170127032552/http://www.geocities.ws/pmwebber/castle_treble4.htm

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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