64th Service Squadron, Air Corps at March Field, Riverside California

From July 19, 1931 to July 19, 1934, Keith was serving with the 64th Service Squadron of the Air Corps at March Field in Riverside, California.

March Field, Riverside California 1932 - Wikipedia

March Field, Riverside California 1932 – Wikipedia

“As March Field began to take on the appearance of a permanent military installation, the base’s basic mission changed. When Randolph Field began to function as a training site in 1931, March Field became an operational base. Before the end of the year, the 7th Bomb Group, commanded by Major Carl A. Spaatz, brought its Condor B-2 and Keystone B-4 bombers to the picturesque field. The activation of the 17th Pursuit Group and several subordinate units along with the arrival of the 1st Bombardment Wing initiated a period where March Field became associated with the Air Corp’s heaviest aircraft as well as an assortment of fighters. In the decade before World War II, March Field took on much of its current appearance.

It also became more than a place hard to find on aerial maps of Southern California. Lieutenant Colonel Henry H. (Hap) Arnold, base commander from 1931 to 1936, changed this. Through well-publicized maneuvers to Yosemite, Death Valley and other sites in California, a visit by Governor James Rolph in March 1932, numerous visits by Hollywood celebrities including Bebe Daniels, Wallace Beery, Rochelle Hudson and others, and visits by famous aviators including Amelia Earhart, March Field gained prominence. Articles in Los Angeles newspapers kept March Field in the news and brought to it considerable public attention. The completion of the first phase of permanent buildings in 1934 added to the scenic quality of the base. This was also a period of outstanding achievements in test flights and other contributions to the new science of aviation. Dusty March Field had come a long way in one decade.”

Taken from March Field Air Museum website:  http://www.marchfield.org/about-the-museum/march-air-reserve-base-history/

Another website about March Field:  http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/aviation/mrc.htm

My father would tell a story about a famous actor that he met, however, I never knew where or when.  I believe this encounter was at March Field.  This was the time that Gary Cooper came into the plane Dad was working on and looked around. My Dad gave him space and didn’t bother him, being the polite man he was.  I do not know if he was a fan at the time or became one after, but we watched many of Mr. Cooper’s films together.

Here are a couple more airplane photos in his collection dated Nov. 1931.

MAirplaneonFieldNov1931 MAirplaneNov1931onfield

Here is a brief summary of his experience at March Field:

Location and title of work: Airplane Operations and Maintenance under Supervisor Technical Sgt. Nels F. Swanson.

Classification: Private, First Class, Specialist 3rd – $21 to $50 per month.

The photo below is presented here as a guess.  I think this was at March Field because of the palm tree but I don’t know for sure.  I am not familiar with the uniforms. He was to be stationed later at Shreveport, LA and after that at Rockwell in California?  I have quite a few photos of him during this time period and figuring out when they occurred has been difficult.

Keith in Uniform by a Palm Tree.

Keith in Uniform by a Palm Tree.

Service Card

Service Card

Squadron Duties – painting, landscaping, construction work, house renovating, furniture and freight moving, truck driving, station fireman, permanent K.P.

In 1932 they held a Thanksgiving Dinner at the base. Keith is listed under privates on the first page, right column.


1932 Thanksgiving Dinner March Field, Riverside, CA 64th Service Squadron

1932 Thanksgiving Dinner March Field, Riverside, CA 64th Service Squadron

Guard Squadron Hanger duties: gas and oil supply, hanger supply helper, squadron Operation Clerk’s stooge and hanger Guard.

NOTE:  You can see his humor coming out in the description of his duties.

Assistant Crew Chief on:  C-14, C-6-A, C4-A-C-27, BT2B, B-4-B-2. Engine R-1340 R1520. Hornet & Curtiss Conqueror.

Crew Chief on PT 3A-Wright S-5.

Work performed:  routine 20 and 40 hour inspections. servicing pre-flight preparations and run up, engine and component replacement, flight mechanic on XC’s, aero repair, changing cylinder banks on Conquerors, and wing and surfaces replacement, minor repairs, fabric and dope repairs.

Other airplanes he mentions and some we have seen before are: CShips – P-12-P12-6, BT2, Sikorsky Amphib, Ford Trimotor, B72B-C4-A-C-6-A-B2 & B4, C14-C27, Fokker Trimotor, Fokker C-14, American Pilgrim, Curtiss Condor & Keystone Bombers, Douglas Basic Trainer, Boeing 12-12 & P-26.

Here is the menu and roster for the 1933 Thanksgiving Dinner for the 64th:

64th Service Squadron Thanksgiving Dinner 1933

64th Service Squadron Thanksgiving Dinner 1933

Image990 - Copy


Eligible for AM Rating – Engines 95% and eligible for Air Machines Rating, Engine 9590 repair & replacement of components, preflight of engine, preparation of aircraft for flight, and Crew Chief on flights.

Reason for leaving – completion of enlistment and expiration of service term. He received an Honorable Discharge on 19th of July, 1934 from the 64th Service Squadron Air Corps.

Honorable Discharge 1934

Honorable Discharge 1934

Typed on his discharge paper it reads

Chanute Field, Rantoul Ill. Aug. 3, 1935 Re-enlisted by me this date in GR of PVT for Air Corps, Chanute Field, For Three (3) years. Signed by Robert. W. Harper, Capt. AC Recruiting Officer. 

Here Keith is a little more relaxed

Here Keith is a little more like him…note the palm bush in the background…

He was on his way to Air Corps Technical School.  I think this was his goal.  He was heading for Illinois, he had to report by August 15, 1935.

Posted in 64th Service Squadron Air Corps March Field, California, Illinois, Keith B. MacDonald, Rantoul, Riverside | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Beginning of Military Service: The National Guard, 116th Observation Squadron, 1930-1931

This post is the beginning of the series on Keith’s military experiences.  It is why this blog was named: The Man Who Lived Airplanes.  He loved airplanes, airplane engines and just being a mechanic.  His interests covered fixing anything with an engine including automobiles, boat engines and more…

It has been difficult to piece together the timeline for my Dad’s, military career. There is very little information written on the photos in his collection.  So I am doing a lot of guessing. We start with 1930 to 1931 when he served in the National Guard with the 116th Observation Squadron, 41st Division.

Keith by an airplane circa 1931

Keith by an airplane circa 1931


National Guard Document

National Guard Document

Keith B. MacDonald was appointed Corporal of the 116th Observation Squadron, 41st Division Aviation of the Washington National Guard on the 5 day of May, 1931 to discharge the duty of Corporal. Given under my hand at Camp Murray, Fort Lewis, Washington signed the 5th day of May, 1931 by Maurice Thompson, Brigadier General W.N.G., The Adjutant General.

Note:  I am pondering that the date of 5 May 1931 (underlined above) is not quite right but this is how the document reads. I think the next document is more accurate regarding his service.

He was Honorably Discharged July 16, 1931.

Honorable Discharge National Guard 1931

Honorable Discharge National Guard 1931

This is to Certify that Keith B. McDonald, Corporal 116th Observation Squadron 41st Division Aviation as a Testimonial of Honest and Faithful Service is hereby Honorably Discharged from the National Guard of the United States and of the State of Washington by reason of PP1 S.O. No. 90 A.G.O. 7-16-31 to enlist in Regular Army. 

Said Keith B. McDonald was born in International Falls in the state of Minnesota.  When enlisted he was 19-10/12 years of age and his occupation was apprentice machinist. He has Blue eyes, Brown hair and ruddy complexion and was five feet six inches in height. Given under my hand at Spokane, Washington this 16th day of July one thousand nine hundred and thirty-one by Edward J. Robins, Major 116th Infantry Commanding.”

On the back side of his discharge paper is his Enlistment Record:

He (Keith) enlisted January 5, 1930 at Felts Field, Parkwater, Washington. He served 1 year, 6 months and 12 days.  He had no prior service.  

Under marksmanship and gunner he is not qualified, and under Horsemanship he is not mounted.  No battles or engagements are listed.  His vocation was given as apprentice machinist, no wounds while in service, physical condition good, single, character: Excellent. Signed by Warren N. Wadsworth, Captain 116th Obsn Sq. 116th Obsn Sq. 

According to his many employment applications, Keith serviced airplanes with names like Ford & Fokker Trimotors, American Pilgrims, Douglas Basic Trainers, and Curtis Condor Bombers.  He was living his dream of becoming an airplane mechanic.

Here are some pictures of airplanes in his collection with the date of 1931 written on them. He was in several places in 1931 either Felts Field in Spokane, or Camp Murray, Fort Lewis, Washington which is south of Seattle. They might have been taken at March Field in California later in his service?  I am leaning toward Washington for these photos.  I have tried to identify these airplanes but I am not an expert on this subject. I do believe they are probably one or several of the ones he lists above.  I just think the photos are very cool. I have also tried to figure out the buildings in the background, because you can place events by doing that.  The two photos below looks like the same aircraft from different angles but maybe not?

MAirplane413USArmy1931 MAirplaneManwalking1931

There is no way for me to know the exact models that he worked on.  Following is a bit of trivia about some of these airplanes that he mentions in the above description.

Ford Tri-Motors – See History of the Ford 4-AT-E Tri-Motor, at EAA the Spirit of Aviation webpage: https://www.eaa.org/en/eaa/flight-experiences/fly-the-ford-eaa-ford-tri-motor-airplane-tour/ford-tri-motor-history

Henry Ford mobilized millions of Americans and created a new market with his Model T “Tin Lizzie” automobile from 1909 to 1926. After World War I, he recognized the potential for mass air transportation.

Ford’s Tri-Motor aircraft, nicknamed “The Tin Goose,” was designed to build another new market, airline travel. To overcome concerns of engine reliability, Ford specified three engines and added features for passenger comfort, such as an enclosed cabin. The first three Tri-Motors built seated the pilot in an open cockpit, as many pilots doubted a plane could be flown without direct “feel of the wind.”

Fokker Trimotor at Acepilot web site:


American Pilgrim airplanes – the 1931 Fairchild American Pilgrim was restored and is on display in the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.


Douglas Basic Trainer Airplane: You will need to scroll the following webpage link to this plane:


Here is the Virtual Aircraft Museum:


Curtis Condor Bombers:


Source: Aviation in the U.S. Army 1919-1939, online at Google Books page 430.

General White commanded some 7600 Guardsmen at camp. His aviation included the 116th Photo Section as well as the 116th Observation Squadron. Major Day and 12 other pilots moved with these units from Felts Field, Spokane, Washington, to Fort Lewis. They brought with them all 6 of the squadron’s airplanes (1 O-38, 2 O-38Bs, and 3 O-38Es) and borrowed 1 from the California National Guard. Six planes carried radios for working with infantry and artillery.  To avoid interfering with daytime operations, the squadron performed 20- and 40-hour checks on its aircraft at night. Since Fort Lewis lacked lighting for night flying, soldiers set highway pots to outline the field at night so the flyers could participate in operations with infantry…


About General White:


Keith writes another version of his experience with the 116th:   

Jan 1930 to July 1931: 116th Observation Sqdn. Washington, National Guard – Air Service Felts, Fld., WA. Operating of military aircraft, Supervisor: Maj. C.V. Haynes Commanding Officer. Left to enlist in Regular Army. Title: Corporal, salary $21.00 to $40/mo. Duties: Assistant Crew Chief, Wing, Wiper, Student Mech. [ ] Ground School, Passenger in Aerial flights, Military training.  

Source: Personal military papers of K.B. MacDonald

Here is a Wikipedia article on a Caleb V. Haynes the man Commanding Officer, scroll down to Air Corp duty on the webpage:


Another photo from the collection:

1930 Airplane

1930 ?? Airplane

More to come…

Posted in 116th Observation Squadron 41st Division, Camp Murray Tacoma, Felts Field Spokane WA, Keith B. MacDonald, Keith B. MacDonald's Military Service, Spokane County, Spokane the city, Tacoma Pierce County, WA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The year is 1930 in Spokane…

Miriam, Keith, Ronald, Vivian and Eddie 1930

Miriam, Keith, Ronald, Vivian and Eddie 1930

The photo above is wonderful, Miriam is wearing pants.  Why Vivian and Eddie are dressed so fancy I do not know.  Grandpa Ronald always dress carefully and well.

The 1930 U.S. Federal Census shows that Keith was still at home in Spokane with his father and family.  The house they were living in still stands as of 2002.

Lines 14, 15, 16 and 17, Nora Ave, house #15, 222, 239, McDonald, Ronald, head, renting, $28.00 in personal value, they have a radio. They are not living on a farm. Ronald is male, white and 63 years old, married at age 28, Canadian-English and parents are Canadian English, immigrated in 1871 and is naturalized, profession is “scaler” at a lumber mill, not employed at this time, not a veteran.

McDonald, Nellie, sister-h, female, white, 58 years old, single, born Canadian-English and parents are Canadian-English, immigrated in 1891, Alien status, profession – none.

McDonald, Edna, daughter, female, white, 23 years old, single, born in Minnesota, parents are both Canadian-English, occupation is trained nurse, working at hospital, currently employed.

McDonald, Keith, son, male, white, 20 years old, single, born in Minnesota, Canadian-English, occupation is listed as Assistant Machinist, Railway Shop.

Source:  1930 U.S. Federal Census, Spokane, Spokane Co., Washington, District 34, Pg. 25, Nora Ave, Block 1102, ED 32-34, SD 5, Sh#13-A, #133, April 17, 1930. 

Miriam, Keith, Nellie and Ronald about 1930

Miriam, Keith, Nellie and Ronald about 1930

The children of Ronald and Grace had grown up and now they would go out on their own and make a life for themselves.  Eddie was following the nursing path, Miriam was teaching, Vivian was not allowed to teach as a married women but that would change in time.  Jean and Gordon were in Minnesota at this time both working.  All the money that each of the children were making came back to the family to support Nellie and Ronald who were aging.

Ronald and Nellie were Canadian-English, Grace was born in Minnesota so the census is a little off on the information.  I also think that Ronald emigrated to the United States much later than he has indicated here, more like 1895.

Posted in Eddie L. McDonald & her Collection of Junk, Gordon McDonald, GRACE & RONALD MCDONALD, Jean McDonald Davis, Keith B. MacDonald, Minnesota, Miriam McDonald, Nellie McDonald (Ellen Elizabeth), Spokane County, Spokane the city, Vivian McDonald McKanna, Washington State | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Summer and Fall of 1929 – McGoldrick Lumber Company and the Great Northern Railroad

Apparently, graduating from high school did not slow Keith down.  He took a job even before he graduated and he also went to night school.

About May of 1929, he was working as a mill hand with the McGoldrick Lumber Company. His duties were tail sawyer on the gang saw, edger saw and sweeper. He worked there for $3.50 a day from May 1929 to about September of 1929 and then was let go because of a “reduction in the work force.”

There is a book about this company:  The McGoldrick Lumber Company Story, 1900-1952, by Jim McGoldrick.  I have not read it but it does sound interesting.

An article appeared in the Spokesman-Review dated September 15, 2014:  “Then and Now: McGoldrick Lumber mill,” with pictures of the buildings which are gone now. The mill was on land that was part of the Gonzaga University campus.


After the mill hand position he moved on to another job at a railroad company.

The Tower in Spokane

The Tower in Spokane 2002

He worked as a machinist’s helper for the Great North Railroad at Hillyard, Washington for $3.60 up to $4.60 a day. He was there from September 1929 to May of 1931 and again he left because of a “reduction of the workforce.” His duties were locomotive overhaul which included dismantling and assembly, repair and overhaul of diesel engines, steam shovels, cleaning, painting, roustabout, acetylene torch operation (cutting torch), drill press operation, and crane operation. It looks like he was getting engine maintenance experience.

Spokane Historical has a great article about the Great Northern Railroad in Spokane. http://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/95  Apparently the tower in the park in the middle of downtown Spokane was part of the Great Northern Railroad complex of buildings which are all gone now.

While he was working at the railroad he attended school at the Lewis & Clark Night School and his course was Shop Sketching for a total of 44 hours.  He received a certificate on December 12, 1929 for his work.

Lewis and Clark certificate

Lewis and Clark certificate

Posted in Genealogical Research Trip Spokane & Yakima 2002, Keith B. MacDonald, Spokane County, Spokane the city | Tagged , , | Leave a comment