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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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Kuroki, Ben (16 May 1917–1 Sept. 2015), aerial gunner, public speaker, and journalist, was born on a farm between Cozad and Gothenburg. Nebraska, the sixth of ten children of Shosuke (“Sam”) Kuroki and Naka Yokoyama, who immigrated from Japan in 1898 and 1906...

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

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

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Rickenbacker, Edward Vernon (08 October 1890–23 July 1973), aviator and airline executive, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of William Rickenbacher, a construction worker and bridge builder, and Elizabeth Baseler. The son of Swiss immigrants, “Eddie” Rickenbacker’s formal education ended when he was thirteen and in seventh grade, after his father was fatally injured in a construction accident. He dropped out of school and began working twelve-hour night shifts in a factory to help support his family. His only academic preparations after that came from correspondence courses in mechanical and automotive engineering. He worked in a machine shop, an automobile garage, and for the Frayer-Miller Company, which manufactured automobiles....

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Tinker, Clarence Leonard (21 November 1887–07 June 1942), major general in the U.S. Army Air Forces, was born on a farm in the Oklahoma Territory near Elgin, Kansas, the son of George Edward Tinker, a cattleman and newspaper publisher, and Sarah Anna Schwargete. A mixed-blood Osage, he learned to speak fluent Osage from his father and attended Haskell Institute for Indians, a secondary, federally run boarding school, in Lawrence, Kansas, leaving without graduating in 1906. Two years later he graduated from Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri. At that time, only West Point graduates could receive U.S. Army commissions, so Tinker obtained a commission as a lieutenant in the Philippine constabulary. In 1912, after the restriction to West Point graduates was dropped, he achieved his ultimate goal, a commission as second lieutenant in the regular army....

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Twining, Nathan Farragut (11 October 1897–29 March 1982), airman, was born in Monroe, Wisconsin, the son of Clarence Walker Twining, a banker, and Maize Barber. He attended public schools in Wisconsin until the family relocated to Portland, Oregon. As a member of the National Guard, Twining was first called to active duty in 1916 and served several months along the Mexican border with General ...

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Vandenberg, Hoyt Sanford (24 January 1899–02 April 1954), military officer, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of William Collins Vandenberg, a businessman, and Pearl Kane. Arthur H. Vandenberg, an influential senator from Michigan, was his uncle. Vandenberg entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1919. After graduating in 1923 with a class standing of 240 out of 261, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Service. In 1923 he married Gladys Merritt Rose; they had two children....