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Cpl. Edward Ward: First Enlisted Airman

Corporal Edward “Eddie” Ward’s leadership, talent, and technical skills played an essential part in creating American air power. Ward’s service embodies the critical role played by the millions of enlisted Airmen who followed him.

In July 1907, the Army sent Ward and PFC Joseph Barrett to learn the basics of balloon maintenance from the pre-eminent American balloon manufacturer. A month later, Brig. Gen. James Allen ordered Ward and Barrett to the newly created Aeronautical Division under the command of Capt. Charles Chandler. In September, Barrett, who had previously served eight years in the US Navy, deserted the Army to go back to the Navy (Barrett continued to serve with the Navy to an honorable retirement).

In the early years of Signal Corps aviation, Ward could be found at nearly every turn. He assisted at the Fort Myer, Virginia, airplane demonstrations, became a licensed balloon pilot, learned how to fly and maintain the Aeronautical Division’s first and only dirigible, maintained aircraft at the flying school in the Philippines, and served in the Signal Corps’ First Balloon School Squadron.

Ward excelled throughout his long Army service. As a master electrician, he supervised the laying of cables across Tampa Bay, and as a master photographer, he oversaw the aerial mapping of the Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks. Ward ended his Army career assisting in the installation of the NACA’s (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) first wind tunnel at Langley Field, Virginia.

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Creation of the Aeronautical Division