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Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92806).

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Arnold, Henry Harley (25 June 1886–15 January 1950), airman, was born in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, the son of Herbert Alonzo Arnold, a physician, and Anna Louise Harley. Arnold received a public education and in 1903 entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. A mediocre student, he graduated in the middle of his class in 1907 and was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry. He served four years with the Twenty-ninth Regiment in the Philippines and New York before volunteering for flight training with the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps. In April 1911 Arnold reported to Dayton, Ohio, and received instruction from the Wright brothers. Two months later he joined the army’s first cadre of military aviators. Arnold subsequently transferred to College Park, Maryland, as a flight instructor and on 1 June 1912 established a world altitude record of 6,540 feet. This act garnered him the first-ever Mackay trophy....

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Eatherly, Claude Robert (02 October 1918–01 July 1978), U.S. Army Air Force pilot, was born in rural north Texas near Van Alstyne, the son of James E. “Bud” Eatherly and Edna Bell George, farmers. At the age of seventeen Eatherly enrolled at North Texas State Teachers’ College in Denton but dropped out in his senior year. In December 1940 he joined the Army Air Corps. A skillful pilot, he entered bomber school and became a second lieutenant on 15 August 1941....

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Ferebee, Thomas (09 November 1918–16 March 2000), U.S. Army Air Forces bombardier who released the first atomic bomb used in warfare, was born Thomas Wilson Ferebee just outside Mocksville, North Carolina, the son of William Flavious Ferebee, a farmer, and Zella Ward Ferebee. Their third child, he was born just two days before Germany signed the armistice effectively ending World War I. The parents raised tobacco, cotton, and corn with the help of the eleven children they would eventually have on their 150 acres near Winston-Salem. The Ferebees and their neighbors were skilled hunters and students of the natural wonders of Davie County, but in spite of the pride and joy that Ferebee derived from these activities, he was determined to escape from farming. Sports were an important diversion for him early on and formed the essence of his exit strategy. During the summers of his high school days Ferebee pitched or played outfield for mill teams, and during the school year he played baseball, football and basketball, and ran track. He essentially maintained this pattern at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, but lamented that the price he paid for unending athletic activities was a very poor education. In 1939, one year before he graduated, he tried out for the St. Louis Cardinals in Albany, Georgia. Told that he needed more experience, he returned to school to take his degree. He journeyed to Charlotte to join the U.S. Army Air Corps (later, the U.S. Army Air Forces) in 1940....

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Kelly, Colin Purdie (11 July 1915–10 December 1941), army pilot, was born in Madison, Florida, the son of Colin Purdie Kelly, Sr., and Mary Mays. After attending high school in his hometown, Kelly spent a year at the Marion Military Institute in Florida before receiving an appointment to West Point in 1933. While there, he met Marion Wick, a stenographer, whom he wed in 1937, shortly after graduation; they had one son. Although commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry, Kelly requested to be assigned to the Army Air Corps, and in September he was sent to Randolph Field to receive his pilot’s training. In October 1939 he went to Texas for advanced training. In January 1940 formal induction into the Army Air Corps followed and Kelly was assigned to the Nineteenth Bombing Group at March Field, California. Kelly made captain on 9 September 1940. His career would have been similar to that of most young officer graduates in World War II had it not been for circumstances surrounding his death....

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Kenney, George Churchill (06 August 1889–09 August 1977), air commander, was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, the son of Joseph Atwood Kenney and Louise Churchill. His parents were visiting Yarmouth at the time of his birth; the family lived in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he was reared. He attended the civil engineering program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for three years but left without graduating in 1910 to take an engineering position with the Quebec Saguenay Railroad. He later worked as an engineer and construction manager with several companies, becoming president of Beaver Contracting and Engineering Corporation in 1916....

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Kurtz, Frank (1911–31 October 1996), athlete, military aviator, was born Frank Allen Kurtz in Davenport, Iowa, the son of Frank Kurtz, Sr., an insurance salesman, and Dora Kurtz (maiden name unknown). His parents divorced shortly after he was born. Kurtz ran away from home at the age of twelve to hawk newspapers in Kansas City, Missouri. Possessed of youthful dynamism, he was soon featured in the ...

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Lufbery, Gervais Raoul Victor (14 March 1885–19 May 1918), aviator, was born in Clermont, France, the son of Edward Lufbery, a stamp dealer, and Annette Vessieres. His father was probably an American citizen, although accounts vary; his mother was French. When his mother died in 1886, he was sent to live with a family in the Auvergne Mountains. In 1890 his father remarried and in 1891 moved to Wallingford, Connecticut, leaving Raoul and his two brothers with their grandmother in France. After his stepmother died in 1901, Lufbery went to work in a chocolate factory in Blois to help support his family....

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Gervais Raoul Victor Lufbery, c. 1916–1918. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-101970).

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Eddie Rickenbacker Standing on the steps of an Eastern Air Lines airplane, c. 1930. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100555).