The first commandant of new flying school at March

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Erik Figi
  • 452nd AMW Historian

On June 11, 1918, Maj. John C. P. Bartholf assumed command of March Field from Capt. William J. Carruthers. Carruthers had been in command of the post since March 11, 1918 and was instrumental in establishing the infrastructure of the installation. Bartholf also assumed command of the newly opened flying school, becoming its first commandant. A few days prior to the arrival of Bartholf, the school’s first training officer arrived, 1st Lt. James G. Ray.

Arriving nearly the same time as Ray, were 96 crated JN-4 Jenny aircraft. Following close behind the installations first training officer, were the aircrafts first mechanics. 1st Lt. Frederick I. Eglin reported soon after Ray and got about the task of organizing the enlisted mechanics to assemble the JN-4Ds. It should be noted that Eglin would rise through the ranks, eventually attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel prior to his death in a training accident on January 1, 1937. On August 4, 1937, Eglin Field (later Eglin Air Force Base) was named in his honor.

Lieutenant Ray conducted his first of many flight tests on June 15, 1918. A month later all aircraft and been properly tested and adjusted. While assembly and testing of the Jenny’s continued, cadets and instructors continued to arrive at March Field. The men were assigned to one of five aero squadrons, each comprising around 250 cadets and 19 aircraft. Bartholf and his Airmen graduated around 500 to 750 aviators in a three-month timespan. March Field would graduate its first class of cadets on July 6, 1918, less than a week after having commenced training. This was due to these aviators having completed most of their training prior to their assignment to March Field.