Allison Henderson Chapin

(Washington, D.C., October 8, 1894 – Rockville, Maryland, July 17, 1977).1

Chapin’s grandfather was from Connecticut, but moved initially to Ohio and then to Iowa.2  Chapin’s parents left Iowa for Washington, D.C., not long before he was born; his father had served in the Iowa National Guard and worked for the census office in Iowa and Washington.3

Details of Chapin’s university attendance are sketchy, but he apparently attended Georgetown or George Washington University (or possibly both) for a time.4  He was working as a bank clerk at the Silver Spring (Maryland) National Bank when he registered for the draft on June 5, 1917.  He attended ground school at Ohio State University, graduating August 25, 1917.5  He was one of at least sixteen men from Maryland at the O.S.U. School of Military Aeronautics that summer. Frederick Joseph Seligman, who later became a White House press photographer, took a photo of the Marylanders, including Chapin, in early August 1917, and it was published in the Baltimore Evening Sun on August 7, 1917, under the title “Maryland Boys To Fly In France.” The rumor around that time was that the top men in the ground school classes would go to France for their advanced training, but not long afterward it was learned that advanced instruction was supposed to take place in Italy. Chapin was one of the eighteen men from his class who chose or were chosen for training in Italy.

As one of the 150 men of the “Italian” or “second Oxford detachment” Chapin sailed to England on the Carmania, departing New York for Halifax on September 18, 1917, and departing Halifax on September 21, 1917.  The Carmania docked at Liverpool on October 2, 1917, and the men proceeded not to Italy, but to Oxford, where they repeated ground school at the Royal Flying Corps’s No. 2 School of Military Aeronautics at Oxford University.

Newspaper clipping with a passage from Campbell's diary.
From Murton Campbell’s diary entry for November 2, 1917, in the version printed in The Norwalk Reflector-Herald in 1930.

At Christ Church and Exeter, Chapin roomed with Murton Llewellyn Campbell, Charles William Harold Douglass, and Roland Hammond Ritter.6  Like many of the cadets (and Oxford students), Chapin was not to be restricted by rules, as Campbell recounts.  “Went out with Chap to the theater tonight.  He had his regular girl and I had her friend.  I got in before 11 but Chap was about 3–4 hours late. Dug and I put out a ladder over the wall for his benefit.”

On November 3, 1917, Chapin, along with most of the rest of the detachment, left for machine gun school at Harrowby Camp, near Grantham, in Lincolnshire.  He and Murton Campbell continued to pal around together. On their second weekend, they took off for nearby Nottingham and double dates, returning late Sunday night.8  The next day, November 19, 1918, when fifty of the men, including Campbell were posted to flying schools, “Chap was left out, due I think to political reasons . .  . hated very much to leave old Chap behind.”9

The cadets at Grantham celebrated Thanksgiving in great style, with many of the men who were already at flying schools coming in to join them. Festivities included a lively football game; Chapin played for the winning team, the “Unfits.”10

Chapin’s R.A.F. service record indicates that on December 3, 1917, he went from Grantham to 31 T.S. at Wyton (Cambridgeshire); seven other members of the detachment were assigned to Wyton at the same time.11

The bottom portion of Foss's list of who was posted where on December 3, 1917, showing the men who went to Wyton.
This is from the list Foss drew up showing where cadets were posted on December 3, 1917. In addition to Chapin, Allen Tracy Bird,  John Hurtman Fulford, Temple Paul Hardin, Francis Kinloch Read, William Winslow Wait, Alfred August Gaipa , and Galloway Grinnell Cheston went to No. 31. T.S.  Earl Adams, Robert Alexander Anderson, Guy Maynard Baldwin, Thomas John Herbert, and Stanley Cooper Kerk were already there, having been posted in the middle of November 1917.

The machines available for flying at No. 31. T.S. were the Avro and the DH.6 (training aircraft), and the R.E.8 and the DH.9 (two-seater reconnaissance & bomber aircraft).12  By the latter part of February 1918 Chapin had completed enough flight training to be recommended for a commission, and Pershing’s cable forwarding the recommendation to Washington is dated February 28, 1918.  The confirming cablegram announcing his appointment as a first lieutenant is dated March 11, 1918.13 

The next station listed on Chapin’s sketchy R.A.F. service record is “3 (T) Grp” (presumably 3 Training Group, headquartered at Birmingham and renamed Midland Area on May 8, 1918); he was transferred from there to R.A.F. Station Buckminster about seven miles south of Grantham effective June 11, 1918.

On August 30, 1918, Chapin was assigned to the U.S. 85th Aero Squadron, which was stationed at Harlaxton a mile or so southwest of Grantham.14  In September, the squadron was ordered to France, arriving on September 9, 1918. From Cherbourg they went to Saint-Maixent (Poitou-Charentes) and then, at the end of September, to Chaumont.  At Chaumont the majority of the commissioned personnel, including Chapin’s fellow Oxford detachment members Robert Thomas Palmer (second Oxford detachment) and Winfield Earl Sisson (first Oxford detachment) joined the squadron; Chapin had up until then apparently been the only pilot.15  Towards the end of October, the 85th was assigned to the Second Army, and in early November they proceeded to Toul.  Although apparently well organized, the 85th had few planes (DH-4s) and flew at most two missions (November 8 and 10, 1918) before the armistice.16

Chapin remained with the squadron at Toul until February 1, 1918.17  At some point he had either been injured or fallen ill; he is listed among the “sick and wounded, walking cases who require no help or dressing” in documents related to the voyage of the Zeelandia.  The Zeelandia, with Chapin aboard, departed St. Nazaire February 28, 1919, and arrived at Newport News on March 13, 1919.18

After the war Chapin worked in real estate and insurance, briefly in New York, but mainly in the Washington, D.C. area.19

mrsmcq May 26, 2017; revised July 20, 2021, to reflect Palmer’s log book


(For complete bibliographic entries, please consult the list of works and web pages cited.)

1  For Chapin’s date and place of birth, see, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, record for Allison Henderson Chapin. For his date and place of death, see Deloneva, “Allison Henderson Chapin, Sr.”  The photo is a detail from a group photo of Squadron 7 at the Ohio State University School of Military Aeronautics.

2  “Salmon B. Chapin.”

3  Ames, Official Register, p. 741; Alexander, Report, p. 21.

4  The announcement of his engagement (“Engagements”) indicates he attended both Georgetown and George Washington University. The record for him in the 1940 census indicates two years of college; see, 1940 United States Federal Census, record for Allison H Chapin.

5  “Ground School Graduations [for August 25, 1917].”

6  Murton Campbell, diary entries for October 5 and 29, 1917.

7  Murton Campbell, diary entry for November 2, 1917.

8  Murton Campbell, diary entries for November 17 and 18, 1917

9  Murton Campbell, diary entry for November 19, 1917; see also Foss, diary entries for November 13 and 14, 1917; and Clement, diary entry for November 14, 1917, on the selection of the men for flying schools.

10  Ludwig, Diary, November 29, 1917.

11  The National Archives (United Kingdom), Royal Air Force officers’ service records 1918-1919, record for Allison H. Chapin; Foss, “Cadets of Italian Detachment Posted Dec 3rd” (in Foss, Papers).

12  This list of aircraft available is taken from p. 123 of A History of the Air Service in Great Britain..

13  Cablegram 660-S; cablegram 900-R, p. 3 (this is an addendum to a cablegram dated March 9, 1918),

14  Supplemental Histories for the 10th, 27th, 30th . . . , p.20.  Sloan, Wings of Honor, p. 387 gives August 22, 1918, as the date of his assignment.

15  Sloan, Wings of Honor, p. 387 (where for “Winfred E. Sisson” read “Winfield E. Sisson”), and roster on p. 20 of Supplemental Histories for the 10th, 27th, 30th . . . .

16  Sloan, Wings of Honor, p. 377.

17  See the roster on p. 20 of Supplemental Histories for the 10th, 27th, 30th, . . . .   The current (July 20, 2021) Wikipedia article on the 85th Aero has an account of the squadron relocating to Tours at the end of November that is almost certainly in error and that cannot be verified in the sources cited.  The log book of Robert Thomas Palmer indicates that the squadron remained at Toul through at least February 5, 1919.

18  See, U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939, record for Allison H Chapin.

19  See 1930 United States Federal Census, record for Allison H Chapin; and 1940 United States Federal Census, record for Allison H Chapin.