Stanley Mitchell Ames – First Lieutenant, United States Army Air Service

Two Civilians, Five Army Flyers Victims near Indian Head, Maryland
Congressman Walsh Had Left Plane Shortly Before Crash in Storm
Dead in Plane Crash
Lieutenant Colonel Archie Miller, U.S.A. M. H., Washington
Maurice Connolly, Dubuque, Iowa, Ex-Congressman
A. G. Batchelder, Washington, Chairman of the Board of the American Automobile Association
Lieutenant Stanley M. Ames, U.S.A., Washington and Walpole, Massachusetts, pilot of wrecked plane
Lieutenant Cleveland W. McDermott, U.S.A., Langley Field, Virginia
Lieutenant John M. Pennewill, U.S.A., Langley Field
Sergeant Mechanic Richard Blumenkranz, Washington

WASHINGTON, May 29, 1921 – Seven men, five of the Army and two civilians, were killed in the wreck of a Army Curtiss-Eagle ambulance airplane near Indian Head, Maryland, 40 miles southeast of Washington, last night in a terrific wind and electrical storm.  The dead are: Lieutenant Colonel Archie Miller, U.S.A., M.H., Washington, D.C.; Maurice Connolly of Dubuque, Iowa, formerly a member of the House of Representatives; A. G. Batchelder of Washington, chairman of the Board of the American Automobile Association; Lieutenant Stanley M. Ames of Washington, pilot of the wrecked plane; Lieutenant Cleveland M. McDermott, Langley Field, Virginia; Lieutenant John M. Pennewill, Langley Field, Virginia; and Sergeant Mechanic Richard Blumenkranz, Washington.

Army Air Service officers said the accident was the worst in the history of aviation in the United States and that it was one of one of the few in which all of the passengers in a falling plane had been killed almost instantly.

The ship struck the ground nose first and the impact was so great that the big 400-horsepower Liberty motor in the front end of the craft was torn from its chassis and thrown back into the cockpit on top of the pilot and the passengers.  All the bodies were mutilated.

The Curtiss-Eagle was returning from a trip to Langley Field, near Newport News, Virginia, and had just crossed the Potomac River, when it ran into the storm which had passed over Washington an hour before.  The exact cause of the accident probably will never be known as those in the machine were dead when witnessed from Morgantown, a little village near Indian Head, reached the scene.

An official investigation of the accident will be ordered.  At that investigation it is possible an inquiry will be into the general design and practical use by the Army of such a machine, the only one of its type in the Army service fitted with ambulance equipment.  Air Service officers said today that when the plane left Langley Field it was apparently in perfect operating condition and had been functioning properly during several hours in the morning and afternoon.

Captain DeLavergne, Air Attaché of the French Embassy, who made the trip in the Eagle from Washington, said tonight that in his opinion the Eagle was unbalanced.

“The machine was badly unbalanced,” Captain DeLagergne said. “It had a small motor or only 100 horsepower.  The weight was too much; the pilot could not control it.  I declined to return in it and came back by boat.”

Representative Philip P. Campbell of Kansas, chairman of the House Rules Committee and Joseph Walsh of Massachusetts, who went to Langley Field in the Eagle, also returned to Washington by boat.  Mr. Campbell said tonight that the element of safety had not entered into their decision not to return in the Eagle; that both of them were seasick and that the air in the closed plane was bad.

“If the ship had been open we would have returned in it.” Said Mr. Campbell.  “I suggested to Walsh that we return by boat.  He was seasick and I didn’t feel very steady.  We have been more than two hours at sea in a Martin bomber observing bombing experiments.  On the way down to Langley Field the air was rough and very bumpy.  We had a wonderfully good pilot.  He would run into an air bank like it was a hillside and then the machine would drop, sometimes more than 100 feet.”

Brigadier General Mitchell, Assistant Chief of the Army Air Service, who accompanied the Eagle to Langley Field, and who had an exciting battle with the storm during the return flight, said Lieutenant Ames, piloting the Eagle, was considered one of the best pilots in the service and that his ship was apparently in perfect condition.  We felt no concern for his safety,” said the General, “and when the Eagle circled over the field a couple of times before straightening out on the northerly course for Washington it was running perfectly.  We waved goodbye from the field, expecting that the big ship would be in Washington before we were ready to leave Langley.”

The Eagle left Langley Field at about 4:30 yesterday.  The time of the wreck is placed at 6:25 p.m., the hour at which a watch carried by Mr. Connolly was found to have stopped.

Naval Officers at Indian Head who saw the plane go down declared that Pilot Ames tried to bring his machine down before the full force of the storm struck, but that he was prevented from making a landing at the first attempt by a grove of trees.  The airship crossed over the trees safely and appeared to put on power in an effort to reach an open field a short distance away.

Apparently either the motor failed to respond or the high wind checked the ship’s flight, for it was seen to turn over and fall nose first.  It then was only a few hundred feet in the air.  Officers at Indian Head sent a detachment to the scene, but it was some time before they arrives, and word of the accident die not reach Bolling Field until 11 last night.

Officers at the field had been awaiting the arrival of the Eagle, but when she failed to appear early in the evening they assumed that she either had landed somewhere to escape the storm or had turned back to Langley Field.  Mrs. Ames, wife of the pilot, was waiting for her husband at the landing field, and when the report of the accident came she started for Morgantown in her automobile, arriving after midnight and remaining there throughout the night.

The bodies of the dead were taken out of the plane by the naval detachment and early today were started to Washington on Navy motor trucks.  Meantime officers in charge of Army ambulances had been sent from Washington and the bodies were transferred to them and carried to the Walter Reed Hospital.  The families of the dead have been notified and their wishes with regard to the funerals will be carried out.

For the trip to Langley Field from Washington, which began yesterday morning, the plane was stripped of its hospital equipment and seats provided for the passengers who were taken to the Virginia Aviation Grounds to witness a review of the Army Air Fleet which is to participate in the Naval bombing tests off the Virginia capes in June and July.

Suggestion that the wrecking of the plane was caused by a bolt of lightning was scouted by Army Air Service officials, who declared that there was no record of lightning hitting a plane.  They said that even had a bolt struck the Curtiss-Eagle it could have done little if any damage as the lightning could not have affected grounding necessary to cause damage.

The theory of some officers is that an unusually heavy blast of wind struck the ship on one side and unbalanced it, banging it into a nose dive from which it could not recover because of the short distance to the ground.

In preparation for the official inquiry, Lieutenant Paul C. Wilkin went to the scene of the accident today to take photographs of the wreck and to obtain from eye witnesses and others any possible information that might be of use in solving what is now a mystery.

Statements of Naval officers at Indian Head that the plane fell only a short distance caused surprise to Army Air Service officials who examined the personal effects of the passengers which were brought to Bolling Field today.  A stick of shaving soap and its nickel-plated container was found mashed almost as flat as a knife blade.  A heavy black leather handbag was ripped and torn, while a straw hat which one of the civilians had worn was torn to shreds.

Lieutenant Stanley M. Ames of Washington, who came here from Walpole, Massachusetts, had served in aviation for a number of years.  He enlisted in the British Army at the outbreak of the World War and later was transferred to the American forces in France.  He was testing and engineering officer at Bolling Field and was regarded as an authority in aero engineering and testing.  He was married about three weeks ago.

Lieutenants McDermott and Pennewill were stationed at Langley field, to which they recently were transferred from Kelley Field, Texas, for the bombing tests with the Navy next month.

Lieutenant Colonel Archie Miller, killed in the wreck, was born in Illinois and appointed to the Army from Missouri, August 4, 1898.  He served in the Spanish-American War, where he won the Congressional Medal of Honor, and in the World War.

He was executive officer of the Aviation Division of the Army when the United States declared war on Germany and later was assigned to command of Mitchell Field, Long Island.  He was 43 years old and is survived by his wife and several children.

The action which won for him the highest decoration within the gift of the American Government took place on Tina Island, July 2, 1909.  The Americans were opposing hostile Moros and Colonel Miller, under heavy fire with the assistance of enlisted men, placed a machine gun in advance of its former position, at a distance of about 20 years from the enemy.  In accomplishing this he was obliged to splice a piece of timber to the leg of the machine gun’s tripod.

He was made a First Lieutenant in the 6th Missouri Infantry upon appointment to the Army in 1898.  May 10 of the following year he was honorably mustered our.  July 5 of the same year he reenlisted with the rank of Second Lieutenant with the 32nd United States Infantry.

September 1, 1900 he was raised o the rank of First Lieutenant and May 8, 1901 he was honorably mustered out.

February 11, 1901 he was made a Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Cavalry.  A few weeks later he was appointed a First Lieutenant.  April 13, 1911 he was appointed a Captain.  May 2 of the next year he was made Quartermaster.  December 9, 1915 he was assigned to the 2nd Cavalry.  August 9, 1917 he was made a Major temporarily and August 5, 1917 he was given the rank of Lieutenant Colonel temporarily.

October 1, 1917 he enlisted for the third time.  He was accepted five days later with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel temporarily in the Signal Corps.  On March 11, 1918 he was made a Colonel temporarily in the Signal Corps.

A. G. Batchelder was formerly a newspaperman and was a native of Attica, New York.  He was 41 years old and was one of the organizers of the American Automobile Association and had made his home in Washington for seven years, or since the Association opened its national headquarters there.

Lieutenant Cleveland W. McDermott had been decorated by both the French and American Governments for valor in the World War.  He was a student at Syracuse University when he left in the summer of 1917 and joined the Royal Flying Corps at Toronto.  He later was assigned to the 147th Aero Squadron.  He was officially credited with bringing down two German planes.  The French awarded him the Croix de Guerra and the American Government gave him the Distinguished Service Mead.

Maurine Connolly was formerly United States Congressman from Iowa and was prominent in politics and business as well as in aviation.  He was a member of the 63rd Congress, from 1913 to 1915, and was the first Democrat elected from the 3rd District, called the “monkey wrench” district.

He was born in Dubuque, Iowa in 1877, the son of Thomas and Ellen (Brown) Connolly.  The graduated from Cornell in 1897 and graduated with high honors from the New York University Law School in 1898.  He did much research work abroad, studying at Balliel College, Oxford, England, and the University of Heidelberg.

In Dubuque he was identified with many big business interests, being president of the Connolly Manufacturing Company and vice President of the Dubuque Fire and Marine Insurance Company.

In 1914 he was chairman of the Iowa State Democratic Convention and was delegate-at-large to the Democratic National Convention at St. Louis in 1916.  He became interested in aviation early in its development and when the war opened he immediately enrolled in the aviation section of the United States Army.  He was promoted to the rank of Major in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, October 23, 1917, and was put in temporary command at the Wilbur Wright Aviation School, Fairfield, Ohio.  He was made a reserve military aviator in 1918 and flew for the Liberty Loans.  In 1919, Lieutenant Connolly because recruiting officer at Hazelhurst Aviation Field.  He was prominent in the affairs of the Aero Club of America and the American Flying Club.

He was the Washington representative of the Curtiss Airplane Company.

General Chamberlain Instructed to Make Full Report on Which Further Action Will Depend
Board Exonerates Pilot
Investigation by Bolling Field Officials Finds No Structural Faults
Funeral of Victims

WASHINGTON, May 31, 1921 – Secretary of War Weeks today ordered that Major General John L. Chamberlain, the Inspector General of the Army, make a searching investigation into every phase of the wreck of the Eagle ambulance plane on Saturday at Morgantown, Maryland, in which seven persons were killed while returning to Bolling Field from the review of Army Air Brigade at Langley Field, Virginia.

The instructions for the investigation were transmitted to the Inspector General by Major General Peyton C. Marsh, Chief of Staff.  On the character of the report to be made by the Inspector General will depend any further action to be taken by the department.

A formal report on the accident by the Bolling Field Board appointed by Major M. F. Scanlon, Commandant of that Aviation Station, was submitted this morning exonerating Lieutenant Stanley M. Ames, pilot of the plane, from any blame in connection with the tragedy. The Board consisted of Captain William C. Oker, who was himself caught in the edge of the same storm while returning to Washington; Lieutenant Paul T. Wilkins, who was the first Aviation Officer to go to the scene of the wreck, and Lieutenant Leroy Wolfe of Bolling Field.

The first of the funerals for the seven men who lost their lives in the accident took place this afternoon from St. John’s Episcopal Church when Lieutenant Ames was buried with full military honors.  It was in this church that Lieutenant Ames was married on March 28 last to Miss Josephine Boynton of this city.  Rev. E. S. Dunlap officiated at the funeral.  The pall bears were Captain Vernon T. Scott and Lieutenants Courtney Whitney, Talcott Smith, Leroy Wolfe, Clayton Shrangraw and Theodore Van Beghtan, all comrades from Bolling Field.  Internment was at Arlington.

Funeral services for the late Lieutenant Colonel Archie Miller will be held at the same church tomorrow at 3 o’clock with the Rev. Roland Colton Smith officiating.  Internment will be at Arlington.

The funeral of Sergeant Richard C. Blumenkranz, mechanic of the ill-fated plane, will be held at Arlington at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning with full military honors.

Rites for the late Amos G. Batchelder, one of the prominent civilians killed in the crash, will be held at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning.  The body will be taken to Buffalo, New York, and placed in a receiving vault.  Later it will be removed to Mr. Batchelder’s native home in Attica, New York.

The body of former Congressman Maurice Connolly, the other civilian killed in the accident, has been shipped to Dubuque, Iowa, where his two sisters reside.  It was accompanied by President Keyes of the Curtiss Aeroplane Corporation wich which Mr. Connolly was associated.

Fought in Philippines and Commanded Flying Fields during the World War

News of the airplane accidents with their attendant fatalities was received with great sorrow yesterday at the Aero Club of America in this city and at Mitchel Field, near Garden City, where Colonel Archie Miller and Maurice Connolly were particularly well known.  In a branch of the military service in which fatalities are numerous, the sudden death of Colonel Miller and his companions on the flight saddened the officers and enlisted men at the Air Service Field.  Colonel Miller was one of the most popular men in the Army, especially among the enlisted men, who idolized him.

In the minds of the general public Colonel Miller is chiefly remembered for the part he played in the aeronautical service during the World War and in such recent events as the New York-toToronto and return air race, the trans-continental race and the reception to the visiting British R-34.  In charge of all these affairs, be became a familiar sigh to many thousands of who went to the Long Island air fields as spectators.  Overly modest, he rarely spoke of his exploits in the Army during a period which began when he enlisted in the Spanish-American War, and last night even some of his best friends at local air fields and at the Aero Club did not know that he was a Medal of Honor man, a decoration given to him by the Government in 1909.

The action which won for him this honor, the highest within the gift of the American Government, took place on Tian Island on July 2, 1909.  The American were opposing hostile Moros, and Colonel Miller, under heavy fire, with the assistance of enlisted men, placed a machine gun in advance of its former position, at a distance of about twenty yards from the enemy.  To accomplish this he was compeleed to splice a piece of timber to one leg of the machine gun’s tripod.

Colonel Miller was born in Chicago on September 23, 1878.  He attended the public schools of the city.  He was an A.B. man of St. Mary’s College, Kansas, and St. Louis University.  At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War he enlisted with the state volunteers and saw service in Cuba, reaching the rank of first Lieutenant.  In 1899 he went to the Philippines for a year, transferring later to the Regular Army Cavalry.

When the United States entered the World War, Colonel Miller was assigned to the Air Service with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was sent to Kelly Field as commanding officer.  He subsequently was commanding officer of the aviation camp at Waco, Texas, and Camp Greene, North Carolina.  In July 1918 he as put in charge of all Air Service activities at the several training camps established on Long Island.

Hundreds of young American aviators who fought overseas received their sailing orders from Colonel Miller, and it was to him that those who survived first reported on their return home after the armistice.  It was said of Colonel Miller that he never failed to recall the name of an officer who had been under his charge.  Another fact which those who spoke of him last night emphasized was that he was always approachable and never seemed to accentuate his rank.  Enlisted men told of his many thoughtful acts for their comfort.

After the armistice Colonel Miller was appointed as Assistant to the Director of Military Aeronautics and among his duties was the task of staging the aerial contexts which placed this country in the forefront of aeronautical post-war activities.  In February 1920, he returned to his old post at Kelly Field, Texas, for a time.  At the time of his death he had just completed a course at the General Staff College in Washington in which he graduated with high honors.  He is survived by a widow and several children.  He was a member of the Aero Club of America.

Maurice Connolly was special representative of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation in Washington.  During the war, he was a Major in the Air Service, being assigned at various times as executive officer at Wilbur Wright Field, Fairfield, Ohio, recruiting officer at Hazelhurst Field here and to the office of the Chief of Staff of the Air Service.  He was graduated from Cornell University and took post graduate courses at Oxford College, England, and the University of Heidelberg.  He was born in 1877.  He was unmarried.

Mr. Connolly was defeated for the United States Senate in 1914 by Senator Cummins.

Lieutenant Stanley Ames had been an aviator for several years.  Enlisting in the British Army at the outbreak of the World War, he later transferred to the American forces in France.  In June of last year he made a forced landing on Mexican territory and was held by the Mexican authorities at Matemoros.  His release was ordered by General P. Elias Calles, Mexican War Minister.  Lieutenant Ames was testing officer at Bolling Field, just outside of Washington, and was regarded as an authority on aero engineering and testing.

Mrs. Frank T. Ames of Walpole, Massachusetts, mother of Lieutenant Ames, was informed of his death yesterday and will go to Washington today.  Besides his parents, Lieutenant Ames is survived by a sister, Mrs. William L. Berdsell, and by three brothers, Clinton D. Ames of Providence, U. Wesley Ames, a student at the University of Maine, and Wallace B. Ames of Panama.  He married on March 26 Miss Josephine Boynton, daughter of Mrs. Margaret Boynton of Washington.

Lieutenants McDermott and Pennewill were stationed at Langley Field to which they were recently transferred from Kelly Field, Texas, for the forthcoming joking Army and Navy bombing tests in June.  Lieutenant McDermott, who came from Syracuse, fought in Franc and was officially credited with bringing down three German planes.  The French awarded to him the Coix de Guerra.  He likewise received the Distinguished Service Medal.


  • DATE OF DEATH: 05/28/1921


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