HISTORY OF THE ORDER OF DAEDALIANSWhen war broke out in Europe in 1914, the airplane was hardly more than a dangerous plaything employed at fairs and circuses. Its potential was regarded lightly, when not contemptuously dismissed. Yet, in less than three years, it had gained such a measure of military respectability on the fighting front that when the United States entered the war, the Allies requested the United States furnish five thousand combat pilots on the Western Front by early spring of 1918!

This was a gigantic order. In military aviation, the United States had lagged far behind. Only forty military pilots had been trained in this country and eleven of those had been killed. Twenty-eight airplanes had been purchased by the government of which sixteen had been wrecked. In the then recent Mexican operations, the entire equipment of the Air Unit of the Army, which consisted of the 1st Aero Squadron, had been almost completely demolished. From this very meager nucleus of military airman, five thousand pilots had to be trained in one year!

The call for volunteers went out, for then as now, no one would be required to fly against his will. From all walks of life and all parts of the country, some 40,000 young men answered our country’s call for pilots. By the time the Armistice was signed, some eleven thousand had received their wings in the Army and another two thousand in the Navy and Marine Corps. All were motivated by a patriotic desire to serve their country in its hour of need.

After the Armistice, many attempts were made to form organizations to solidify the bonds of aerial comradeship that had been molded in crisis during World War I. Several groups were formed by those whose foundations were purely social and retrospective gradually faded into obscurity. In 1921, while speaking to WW I pilots, who had just flown for him to sink the Ostfriesland off the Virginia coast, Gen. Billy Mitchell urged the creation of an organization that would honor the W. W. I military pilots as the first to fly their country’s airplanes in time of war.

Concurrently, in the military establishments, small groups of officers informally discussed the formation of similar organizations, but seldom was any sizable number stationed in the same locality to take action. Nevertheless, at some of the larger bases, organizations were established, but they soon expired. This mass demise was due not to any erosion of friendship but rather to the inevitable transfers which overwhelmed organizational unity. Additionally, for the military pilots dedicated to building a military air arm of the future, it was not enough to gather together for the principal of reliving the past.

In 1932, new impetus was given to the idea of establishing a formal organization of WW I military pilots. War clouds had begun to gather in Asia and Europe as nations began their retreat from powerful aggressors. The fear that apparently guided their decision seemed to penetrate our own national psychology. What was needed was some sort of standard, some solid reason that would remind us all and proclaim to the world that in the United States there was unity, patriotism, courage, and the spirit of self-sacrifice that placed service to the Nation above personal safety. Furthermore, there was also in this country, in the form of our growing air power, the means to preserve the freedoms which our forebears had established.

In 1933, a representative group of WW I military pilots stationed at Maxwell Field, Alabama consolidated these ideas which had long been forming. The result was that on 26 March 1934, there was formally instituted the Order of Daedalians composed of those commissioned officers who, no later than the Armistice of 1918 held ratings as pilots of heavier-than-air powered aircraft. These W. W. I military pilots, in the preamble to the constitution of the Order, stated as their purpose: “. . . to perpetuate the spirit of patriotism and love of country . . . and the high ideals of self-sacrifice which placed service to the nation above personal safety and position, and to further cement the ties of comradeship which bound us together at that critical hour of our nation’s need . . .”

Since, according to legend, Daedalus was the first person ever to accomplish heavier-than-air flight, it was considered the name “Order of Daedalians” was both fitting and proper for an organization composed of those who were the first to fly their country’s airplanes in time of war.

The Charter Members who organized the Order of Daedalians on 26 March 1934 are: 

Capt Banfill, Charles Y.

Capt George, Harold Lee

1st Lt McReynolds, Edwin R.

Capt Barker, John D.

Capt Gothin, Oliver P.

Capt Meloy, Vincent J.

Capt Beau, Lucus V.

Capt Hamilton, Arthur G.

Capt Moon, Odas

1st Lt. Birnn, Roland

1st Lt Horton, Clarence F.

Capt Moore, John I.

1st Lt Blackburn, Lloyd C.

1st Lt Howard, Charles H.

Capt Palmer, George M.

Capt Carter, Warren R.

Capt Kenny, Cornelius J.

Capt Patrick, John B.

Capt Curry, James T., Jr.

Capt Kiel, Emil C.

Capt Ramey, Howard K.

1st Lt Dawson, Leo H.

1st Lt Landers, Sigmund F.

Capt Skow, Charles T.

Capt Eaton, Samuel C., Jr.

Capt Ligget, Arthur G.

Capt Sweeley, William R.

Capt Eglin, Frederick I.

Capt Martenstein, Austin W.

Capt Thompson, Bernard S.

Capt Gardner, John H.

1st Lt McGregor, Kenneth C.

1st Lt Whitten, Lyman P.

1st Lt Gates, Byron E.

Capt McMullen, Clements

The Charter Members elected Captain Harold Lee George as the first Wing Commander of the Order. Elected to serve with him on the first Daedalian Wing Staff were:

Wing First Vice Commander

Capt Odas Moon

Wing Second Vice Commander

1st Lt Roland Birnn

Wing Adjutant

Capt Charles Y. Banfill

Wing Treasurer

Capt Charles T. Skow

Wing Provost Marshal

1st Lt Clarence F. Horton

Wing Staff Member

Capt Frederick I. Eglin

Wing Staff Member

Capt Austin W. Martenstein

(Historical note: In the 1950s, the terms National Commander and National Staff replaced Wing Commander and Wing Staff.)

Maxwell Field was chosen as the initial home for Wing Headquarters because it was the place where the Order of Daedalians came into being. National Headquarters was later located at Kelly AFB, Texas for 40 years. In 1994 a new National Headquarters building was built at Randolph AFB, Texas.

The original constitution limited members of the Order to those commissioned officers in the U. S. Army who held a rating of pilot of heavier-than-air powered aircraft no later than the Armistice of 1918, and their male descendants. It further provided for three categories of members: Active, Associate, and Honorary. Active membership was limited to that small group who, in addition to meeting the above membership qualifications, were subsequently commissioned officers in the Air Service and Air Corps of the Regular Army. Associate Members were those who were otherwise eligible for membership but had not been commissioned in the Regular Army.

At the beginning of World War II there existed a Wing Headquarters in Washington, D. C. the time. During the hectic days of WW II while members of the Order fought the war, the Order floundered. This was consistent with the Order’s creed of service. Many Daedalians died or retired from active service. Most Flights became inactive.

After the cessation of hostilities, new life was breathed into the Order. Through the persistent efforts of the wartime Wing Commander, Charles H. Dowman, and the assistance of William H. Welsh, the Order was resurrected. Replacements to fill vacancies on the Wing Staff were appointed by the Commander. On 28 January, 1950, a national business meeting was held at Bolling AFB, Washington, D. C. New Wing Officers were elected. The new Treasurer-Secretary was instructed to gather in the funds and records of discontinued Flights. New Flights could be established or old ones reestablished where desired by local members. At the same meeting the category of Associate Members was abolished and all WW I aviators who were commissioned officers and rated as military pilots no later than the Armistice became eligible for active membership. Early in the 1950s, Major General Clements McMullen, then in command of the San Antonio Air Materiel Area at Kelly AFB, Texas, invited the Daedalians to an informal and unofficial get-together at that base. So great was the response the National Headquarters (previously Wing Headquarters) was relocated on Kelly AFB.

During the 1950s, all WW I aviators who were commissioned and rated as military pilots no later than the Armistice were designated as Founder members; subsequent commissioned military pilots were deemed eligible to be admitted as Named Members to perpetuate their Founder’s membership. In the mid 1970s female commissioned military pilots became eligible to join the Order.

These changes established new categories of members and eligibility. At present, they are: (1) Founder Members – those who no later than the Armistice on 11 November 1918 were commissioned officers and held the rating of pilot of heavier-than-air powered aircraft in any component of the U. S. Military Services; (2) Named Members – those commissioned officers and rated pilots of heavier-than-air powered aircraft selected from currently active or retired personnel of any component of the U. S. Military Service to perpetuate Founder memberships; and (3) Hereditary Members – descendants of Founder Members. In addition, up to fifteen Honorary Members may be elected to membership in the Order for exceptional reasons. Named Member applicants must be nominated for membership by a Daedalian and their applications endorsed by three other Daedalians.

  • In 1959, the Daedalian Foundation was chartered.
  • In 1976, the Order of Daedalians was incorporated in the state of Texas.
  • In 1994, the new National Headquarters building was opened at Randolph AFB.
  • In May of 1996, the Founder Member Memorial, an 8′ X 12′ bas relief, was dedicated at the National Headquarters building at Randolph AFB.
  • In 2002, membership eligibility of WW II WASP as named members was approved.

From the Order of Daedalians