Terrell County Memorial Museum
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90th Aero Squadron

"Flying low o'er Verdun's trenches,

'Midst the shot and shell,

A pair of dice our lucky emblem.

Give the Huns more hell.”

   So goes the first verse of the unofficial anthem of the 90th Aero Squadron, Flight B, stationed at Sanderson from 1919 to 1921.

 

 

Proud doughboys posed with their De Havilland DH-4 bomber at the 90th Aero Squadron Aerodrome in Sanderson, Texas, ca 1920.

A pair of dice our lucky emblem.

Give the Huns more hell.

 

Brought in as reconnaissance aircraft to patrol the desolate southern border of the United States from California to the tip of Texas, the sturdy DH-4s were successful in discouraging forays onto American soil by marauding bands of Mexican insurrectos, who were bent on carrying off anything of value to benefit their revolutionary efforts.

 

Created by Army Special Order 104 at Kelly Field in San Antonio on September 25, 1917, the group was made up of detachments of Washington and Kansas boys, previously gathered at Kelly as a provisional squadron.

 

On the 30th, they shipped out to Mineola, Long Island, for three weeks of preparation and organization for eventual overseas duty.

 

On October 26, two officers and 157 men boarded the HMS Orduna, embarking on a two-week voyage to England.

 

By the 12th of November, the men found themselves standing on French soil on the beach at Havre.

A few months later, though, it was reorganized for US border patrol duties and divided into two flights, Flight A being stationed at Eagle Pass and Flight B at Sanderson.

 

November 8, 1919, the 464th Aero Construction Squadron arrived in Sanderson to do basic groundwork on the new aerodrome.

 

The group consisted of about 110 men, and they quickly graded the landing strips and cleared the property for the hangars and barracks. The hearts of all the young ladies in town were aflutter with the massive injection of available husband material!

 

 

 

 

 

 

On November 26, 1919, a large rail convoy with about 70 men and officers and their equipment arrived at the Sanderson rail yards, in sight of the hill that would one day become the rock quarry west of town.

 

Men and equipment were off-loaded and began the short journey to a spot west of Sanderson on the road to Fort Stockton, about where the Terrell County Highway Department is located today on US 249.

 

 

Photos courtesy of http://www.lcwpost1.org/

Boarding the famous "Hommes 40, Chevaux 8" railroad box cars (maximum capacity of 40 men or eight horses,) they were shipped to Colombey les Belles for what they thought would be immediate deployment to the front.

 

But, to their great disappointment, they were given the assignment of road and barracks construction work.

 

This work was profitable, though, and their skills would be useful throughout the war and later. These US efforts created the great American Aviation Field at Colombey.

Later that year, the 90th and other squadrons were in the thick of battle, both in aerial combat and aerial reconnaissance photography .

 

Due to ever-present low clouds and rain, the flyers were forced to drop dangerously close to the ground to carry out their missions, usually in the worst conditions.

 

One plane was shot through the radiator and, with wheels practically bouncing on the ground, skipped through the craters and pockmarked fields trying to get back to the American side...with a mob of angry Germans chasing after them on foot!

The group’s lucky “Seven Up” emblem of red dice with white dots reading “7” no matter which way it was tallied, proved prophetic, for they lost only one plane over enemy lines.

 

The 90th distinguished itself throughout the war, suffering only four casualties in a day when German planes literally drug cables with grappling hooks through the air, snagging wings and ripping off tails.

 

At war’s end, the 90th was sent home in 1919 to Kelly Field with many honors, medals and commendations, only to be promptly decommissioned.

Malincourt
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