(Clearfield, Pennsylvania, December 18, 1895 – Columbus, Ohio, March 8, 1971).1
Fulford was the son of a lawyer and insurance businessman in Clearfield, Pennsylvania. His parents apparently separated when he was young, and he lived with his father and his paternal grandmother; his father died in 1913.2 In the autumn of 1915, he entered Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania, with the class of 1919.3 When he registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, he was in an officers’ training camp at Fort Niagara, New York. He attended ground school at Cornell, graduating September 1, 1917.4
Fulford, along with most of his ground school classmates, chose or was chosen to continue training in Italy, so he was among the 150 cadets of the “Italian” or “second Oxford detachment” who sailed to England on the Carmania. They left New York for Halifax on September 18, 1917, and departed Halifax as part of a convoy for the Atlantic crossing on September 21, 1917. When the Carmania docked at Liverpool on October 2, 1917, the cadets 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. After initial disappointment, the cadets decided “Oxford isn’t such a bad place after all,” and discovered, inter alia, that there were ways around curfews. The entry for October 22, 1917, in War Birds, describes a Saturday night dance and how there was “a way of getting in late at night by climbing over a high wall with the assistance of a limb of a tree that hangs over from the inside. Fulford and I were coming in by that route and we heard a plaintive call for help. It was Brownie and he had tried to get over at the wrong place and had got hung by the seat of his trousers on a nail. We had a time getting him down and putting him to bed.”5
After a month at Oxford, most of the detachment, including Fulford, travelled to Harrowby Camp near Grantham in Lincolnshire to attend machine gun school. Not actually being allowed to fly was irksome, as recorded in another War Birds entry, this one for November 8, 1917: “Cal, Herbert, Fulford and Fry are sitting around the table now drinking port out of their canteens and writing home. Every one is fed up. I don’t see how we are going to stand three more weeks of this. Aren’t we ever going to fly?”
A week and a half later, on November 19, 1917, fifty of the men were sent on to flying schools, but the remaining eighty, including Fulford, continued their course at Harrowby Camp through early December. Finally, on December 3, 1917, according to a list compiled by Fremont Cutler Foss, Fulford was assigned to No. 31 Training Squadron at Wyton, about fifteen miles northwest of Cambridge.6
Sometime in January 1918 Fulford was apparently transferred to London Colney where Nos. 56 and 74 Training Squadrons were located. An anecdote recounted by Grider belongs to this period: “A machine ran away with no one in it and Jack Tulford [sic] grabbed on to the side of the fucilage [sic] to try and turn the thing to keep it from hitting the sheds. It got up about six feet before Jack turned loose. He has a slightly sprained ankle. Imagine falling from a bus going about sixty-five M.P.H. and spraining an ankle, things happen like that all the time!”7 Barksdale apparently witnessed the same incident: “While Jack Fulford & Reed were changing places in an Avro the engine was accidently switched full on & started off at full speed with Jack F. hanging on by one hand. As it was about to take itself off he dropped & we thot broke leg but not so. Is doing nicely. Machine crashed.”8 Elliott White Springs, in a letter to his stepmother dated May 7, 1918, indicates that Fulford had been “smashed up,” but there is nothing to indicate where this happened or the extent of the damage to him or the aircraft.9
Sometime in May, Fulford went to Marske-by-the-Sea in North Yorkshire, where the No. 2 School of Fighting was located. His fellow Oxford detachment member Marvin Kent Curtis describes Marske in a letter to his father as “the last school for service pilots before proceeding overseas”; Curtis goes on in this letter of May 19, 1918, to note that “I am rooming here with Fulford and Brown, both Cadets, as I still am. We qualified for commissions about seven weeks ago. Something must be wrong.” In fact, cables finally confirming their commissions had been sent, but the news had not yet trickled down to the men.10 At Marske Fulford presumably, like Curtis, trained on S.E.5s. Also like Curtis, he was next posted to No. 63 Training Squadron at Joyce Green Aerodrome at Dartford, Kent, where, according to his R.A.F. service record, he arrived June 19, 1918. At Joyce Green he also must have been switched from S.E.5 training to training on Camels; his next posting was to the B.E.F. as a Camel pilot.11
Fulford, along with Curtis, Linn Humphrey Forster, and Walter Burnside Knox of the second Oxford detachment, reported to the U.S. 148th Aero, a Camel squadron, on July 4, 1918.12 Like the nearby 17th Aero, the 148th was American in personnel, but stationed on the British front and under the tactical command of the R.A.F. (and thus the B.E.F.) until late in the war, when they were moved south to the American Front. A letter from Springs to his stepmother dated July 18, 1918, indicates that Fulford, along with Curtis, William Thomas Clements, and Forster, was in B flight, which he (Springs) was commanding.
Springs had health and vision problems and apparently did not fly between July 6 and July 29, 1918; he was running “my flight from my sidecar and my deputy leader leads the flight.”13 But he was hardly bedridden. Curtis recounts in a July 14, 1918, letter to his father how “yesterday . . . Elliot Springs, Jack Fulford and I got the C.O.’s touring car and a driver and were driven about thirty miles cross country to the –th Squadron R.A.F. . . and we had dinner with them. The ride was lovely—it was just before sunset. . . . A Hun raid was in progress just as we started back.” Driving without lights, they finally arrived back at the aerodrome in the early hours of the morning.14 They had probably dined at Springs’s former squadron, No. 85. R.A.F., at St. Omer.
During the first part of July, the pilots of the 148th got to know their machines and their territory. William P. Taylor, the squadron historian, describes their activities:
. . . line patrols were soon started and after careful study of the map showing this sector, from the coast at Nieuport down to Ypres, most of it flat, marshy country where the line had been permanent for four years, the patrol leaders took their charges up to the edge of that awesome place, “Hunland,” and let them look it over. As aerial activity was comparatively quiet on this front, few Huns were sighted and day after day the line patrols were practiced without an attempt yet at offensive work. . . . After a week or more of line patrols the first offensive patrol over lines was made on July 20th, that of escorting the British “De Haviland-9″ bombing planes far over the lines to bomb the Belgian coast cities of Zerbrugge, and Ostend and also Bruges, inland some distance and over twenty-five miles into “Hunland.” The first escorting trip across the lines was made to Bruges and to many of the pilots it was the baptism of fire as the “Archie” bursts were continuous during the entire trip.15
Assuming Fulford’s activities at the 148th resembled those of Clements, who was in the same B flight, he would have been on about eighteen patrols over the lines during his time with the 148th.16 Just a month after his assignment to the squadron, on August 5, 1918, Fulford was transferred out, apparently ordered to the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center at Issoudun to be an instructor.17 I have not been able to discover any record of his activities there or, indeed, during the remainder of the war. He sailed back to the U.S. from Marseilles, departing January 20, 1919, on the Duc D’Acosta and arriving at New York after a slow crossing on February 5, 1919.18
Fulford spent some time after the war back in Pennsylvania, but it appears that he did not return to Lebanon Valley College to complete his degree.19 In about 1941 he moved to Ohio, where he eventually became president of Jeffrey Manufacturing Company, which specialized in coal mining equipment.20
mrsmcq July 18, 2017
(For complete bibliographic entries, please consult the list of works and web pages cited.)
1 For his place and date of birth, see Ancestry.com, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, record for John Hartman [sic] Fulford. On his place and date of death, see “John H. Fulford.” The photo is one attached to the page for John Hurtman Fulford at Fulford, “Fulford Family Tree.”
2 On his father, George Montgomery Fulford, see pp. 380-81 of Swoope, Twentieth Century History of Clearfield County Pennsylvania. On his father’s death, see Ancestry.com, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963, record for John Hurtman Fulford [sic; sc. George Montgomery Fulford]. See also Ancestry.com, 1910 United States Federal Census, record for John H Fulford; and Ancestry.com, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951, record for Olive L Fulford (Fulford’s mother), for her remarriage in 1909 to Charles Russell Graham.
3 See The Quittapahilla Nineteen-Eighteen, p. 152, and “Students Enjoy First Banquet.”
4 See “Ground School Graduations [for September 1, 1917].”
5 In a letter of November 1, 1917, to his sister, Grider recounts this incident, but with Herbert (and perhaps Heater “from North Dakota”: the syntax of the transcription appears to be garbled) assisting. See Grider and Jacobs, Marse John Goes to War, p. 69.
6 Foss, “Cadets of Italian Detachment Posted Dec 3rd” (in Foss, Papers).
7 Grider and Jacobs, Marse John Goes to War, p. 76.
8 Barksdale, “The Diary of Lt. Eugene Hoy Barksdale 1917–1918,” entry for January 29, 1918.
9 Springs, Letters from a War Bird, p. 123; I find no R.A.F. casualty cards for Fulford.
10 Pershing had forwarded the recommendation for Fulford’s commission on March 29, 1918 (cablegram 811-S); the confirming cablegram (1337-R) is dated May 17, 1918.
11 The National Archives (United Kingdom), Royal Air Force officers’ service records 1918-1919, record for J. H. Fulford.
12 Taylor, A History of the 148th Aero Squadron, p. 62.
13 Springs to his stepmother, July 18, 1918 (Letters from a War Bird, p. 182).
14 Curtis, Letters written in 1917-1919.
15 Taylor, A History of the 148th Aero Squadron, pp. 26 & 27.
16 See Clements’s diary entries for July and August 1918.
17 Taylor, A History of the 148th Aero Squadron, pp. 62 and 78, for the date and transfer to 3 A.I.C. Sloan, Wings of Honor, p. 232, notes “Issoudon [sic] instr.” and gives the transfer date as September 5, 1918, but I suspect this date is an error. Taylor’s history includes both combat reports and ground target attack reports for the latter part of August and early September; Fulford’s name does not appear.
18 War Department, Office of the Quartermaster General, Army Transport Service, Lists of Incoming Passengers, 1917 – 1938, Passenger list for Casual Officers, on Duc D’Acosta
19 Ancestry.com, 1920 United States Federal Census, record for John H Fulford.
20 “John H. Fulford.” See Ancestry.com, 1940 United States Federal Census, record for John H Fulford, for his 1940 Pennsylvania residence; Ancestry.com, U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, record for John Hortman [sic] Fulford, for his 1942 residence in Ohio.